April 28, 2022

Runner hit by batted ball…..is the runner always out?

When a runner is hit by a batted ball, he is not always out. Umpires must assess the situation and apply the proper rule.

Runner hit by batted ball…..is the runner always out?

When a runner is hit by a batted ball, he is not always out. Umpires must assess the situation and apply the proper rule. The most common form of this violation is when a runner is struck by a batted ball in front an infielder and impedes him from making a play.  The runner is called out, the ball is dead, and no runners can advance per rule 5.05 (b) (4).  If the umpires rule intent for the purpose of breaking up a double play, the batter-runner will also be called out. The exception to the rule is if the runner is hit by a batted ball that deflects off a fielder in which case the ball remains alive and in play.

Play No. 1

The Orioles beat the Yankees 2-1 in 11-innings at Camden Yards on April 15th. In the top of the eleventh, Anthony Rizzo started the inning as the ghost runner. With Rizzo on second base and no outs, Giancarlo Stanton hit a ground ball between second and third that struck Rizzo, who was called out by umpire Cory Blaser.

Ruleball Comments

  1. Credit shortstop Jorge Mateo with the putout unassisted.
  2. The batter (Stanton) is credited with a hit when a batted ball strikes a runner (Rizzo) who is in front of an infielder, or if the ball makes contact with the second base umpire if he is positioned on the infield side of second base. What is the rationale behind that scoring? This might be a good talking point for broadcasters. In this play the umpire ruled that Rizzo interfered with Mateo from making a play. So, why should the pitcher be charged with giving up a hit and a potential earned run.

Can you imagine if a pitcher ever lost a no-hitter in those circumstances! Or maybe an ERA title?

Play No. 2.

The Mets and D’backs played at Chase Field on April 23rd when two runners were called out for getting hit by batted balls. The first one created a bit of controversy.

Rule 5.06 (c) (6) reads, “If a fair ball goes through, or by, an infielder, no other infielder has a chance to make a play on the ball and the ball touches a runner immediately behind the infielder that the ball went through, or by, the ball is in play and the umpire shall not declare the runner out…” The rule is repeated under 6.01 (a) (11).

In the bottom of the fifth inning the D’backs had Seth Beer on first base with one out when Pavin Smith hit a sizzling shot past Mets’ first baseman Pete Alonso that struck Beer going from first to second. First base umpire Greg Gibson called Beer out on the play.

D’backs’ manager Torey Lovullo questioned if rule 5.06 (c) (6) was properly being interpreted. In his opinion, Robinson Canó, the second baseman, could not have made a play on the ball.   But the call remained. The umpires judged that Canó could have made a play on the ball. Lovullo asked for a RULES CHECK and was denied.

Ruleball Comments

  1. From this corner, Lovullo appeared to have a good argument.
  2. However, observing the play on video, depth perception is distorted, and it’s difficult to determine if Canó had a legitimate play. The “Exit Velo” on Smith’sground ball was 101.8 mph. Did Canó have the lateral movement capability to make the play? I’m not a scientist, but I’m doubtful.  However, in Gibson’s opinion, Canó could have made a play on the ball. It’s an umpire judgment rule, and a case you are not going to win in the court of the umpires. 
  3. One observer said, “If you look at the full field video, there is zero % chance anyone playing in double play depth can field that ball coming off the bat at 101.8 mph.
  4. Maybe someone can find new use for the “Exit Velo”- perhaps a new algorithm can be created to assist in plays like this.
  5. It has been my experience that in such plays, umpires will protect the defensive team if there is any chance that a fielder can make a play on the ball. That’s the reason the rule is seldom enforced.
  6. It’s also possible that umpires might act instinctively and call the runner out for getting hit by the batted ball. That’s what probably happened in the following play. Ironically, Gibson was involved in this play as well.     

Play No. 3

The Royals hosted the Cardinals on Aug. 14, 2019.  The Cardinals had the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the seventh. The Royals had the infield in when Cardinals’ rookie Randy Arozarena hit a ground ball that just got by Royals’ shortstop Nicky Lopez and struck Yadier Molina, who was running from second to third.  Gibson, the plate umpire, called “Time” indicating that Molina was out for getting hit by the batted ball.

Gibson reacted instinctively when he saw the ball hit Molina. But to Gibson’s credit, he did the right thing. He realized his mistake and explained to Royals’ manager Ned Yost that the ball should have been kept alive because Molina was struck by the ball behind the infielder (Lopez) and no other fielder had a chance to make a play on the ball.  Rule 8.02 (c) allows the umpires to correct the situation.  The call was reversed allowing Matt Carpenter, the runner on third, to score and Molina to occupy third base. When the smoke cleared,  Arozarena had collected his first major league hit in a most unusual way.

Ruleball Comments

Another factor why the rule is seldom invoked is a general lack of knowledge of the rule which over the years prevented managers and players from arguing such plays. I recall talking to Don Mattingly about this during spring training in 2004 when he was on the Yankees coaching staff and he said, “I played first base in the major leagues for 14 seasons and did not know the rule.” At the time Yankees manager Joe Torre also questioned me about the perplexing rule.  

Play No. 4

In the top of the seventh of the same Mets-D’backs game on April 23rd, Canó was hit by a batted ball off the bat of Jeff McNeil. In this play you will see Canó retreating to second base when he is struck by the ball.

Ruleball Comments

  1. This was an easy call. But what if Cano was hit by the ball while in contact with second base? The answer is, he would still be out as long as the umpires judged that a fielder had a legitimate chance to make a play. The base is not a sanctuary for a runner. He must still allow the fielder the RIGHT OF WAY to make a play.
  2. Runners should be aware of this rule. If there is the possibility of getting hit by a batted ball while on the base, the runner must make every attempt to avoid the ball. Standing still on the base doesn’t cut it.

Play No. 5

  1. Several years ago, Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli was hit by a batted ball while standing on third base. The ball was a slow trickler down the third base line and the third baseman was hoping the ball would go foul. Because the fielder wasn’t making a play on the ball, Mirabelli was not called out, even though the ball made contact with him while on the base. Remember, any type of interference can only be called if the runner impedes a fielder from making a play.
  2. The exception to the rule surfaces during an Infield Fly Rule situation. If a runner is standing on the base and is hit by the batted ball when the IFR is called, he is protected. The batter is out and the play proceeds. If he his hit by the ball while off the base, he is out.

Play No. 6

Edgar Martinez, the Hall of Fame DH, found himself in the middle of this rule on April 11, 1997, at Fenway Park where the Red Sox hosted the Mariners. In the top of the ninth, the M’s had Martinez on second and Jay Buhner on first with one out when Paul Sorrento hit a lazy pop fly that converged over second base. The umps invoked the IFR before the ball came down and struck Martinez who was standing on second base. Martinez got confused when he observed second base umpire John Hirschbeck making the out sign. Hirschbeck was merely endorsing the IFR. Thinking he was out, Martinez stepped off the base and was tagged out by Nomar Garciaparra for an unusual DP. Fortunately for Edgar, the M’s won the game, 5-3.

 

Rich Marazzi

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

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