June 3, 2023

Pitcher Chases Deflected Ball

Who has to get out of the way when a ball is deflected off a fielder?

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Pitcher Chases Deflected Ball

The Red Sox and D’backs played at Chase Field on May 27, 2023. Gabriel Moreno led off the bottom of the eighth facing Kutter Crawford.  Moreno hit a shot that caromed off Crawford’s ankle. The ball rolled toward the first base line. Crawford chased the ball and shoveled it to first baseman Pavin Smith for the putout.

D’backs manager Torey Lovullo raised the possible issue with plate ump Dan Bellino that Crawford had obstructed Moreno while pursuing the ball. Bellino had no obstruction and the game continued with the Red Sox winning, 2-1.

Ruleball Comments

  1. I support the “no call” by Bellino. Generally speaking, when a fielder is attempting to field a batted ball, the runner must avoid the fielder and allow him to make a play. When a batted ball deflects off a fielder, the fielder is protected if the ball is within immediate reach of the fielder. If the fielder has to CHASE the ball, now the fielder must avoid the runner. In the above play, the fielder (Crawford) had to CHASE the ball but avoided the batter-runner.
  2. If Crawford in any way impeded Moreno’s progress to first base, Bellino could have ruled Type 1 obstruction and awarded Moreno first base. This would have been pivotal because Moreno would have been the tying run. But in my opinion, I do not think that Moreno’s progress to first base was hindered or impeded by Crawford.
  3. The question is, did Crawford’s presence in the vicinity of Moreno rise to the level of Type 1 obstruction? I don’t think so.
  4. Contact is not necessary for obstruction to be called. If Bellino ruled that Crawford in any way impeded Moreno, he could have invoked the Type 1 obstruction rule. Because there was a play being directly made on the runner, “Time” would be called and Moreno would be awarded first base.
  5. Interference and obstruction calls are not reviewable, and they can be very subjective.
  6. A runner’s interference call can quickly change to an obstruction call when a ball deflects off a fielder.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

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