The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 obstruction
Definition of Obstruction
Obstruction is a fancy term for defensive interference. It is defined as “The act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.” Also, contact and intent are not required for the rule to be invoked. If a fielder impedes or hinders a runner in any way, the umpire can rule obstruction.
Type 1 and Type 2 Obstruction
It’s paramount for the base coaches and runners to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 obstruction as outlined in rules 6.01 (h) (1) and 6.01 (h) (2).
This type of obstruction normally occurs when there is a play being DIRECTLY made on the runner. The word DIRECTLY is not defined in the Official Baseball Rules. Anecdotally, examples of such plays would include: (1) a runner who is obstructed in a rundown; or (2) when the batter-runner is obstructed by the pitcher who is covering first on the 3-1 and does not have the ball in his possession, nor is in the act of receiving the throw; or (3) a fielder blocks a base without the ball, nor is in the act of receiving a throw when a runner is about to reach the base. When Type 1 occurs, the umpire will raise his arms vertically to call “Time” and may point to the fielder involved in the violation. The ball is dead, and the runner is awarded one base after the last base he legally touched.
Type 2 obstruction occurs when a defensive player without the ball and not in the act of receiving a throw impedes or hinders a runner when no play is being DIRECTLY made on the runner. The ball remains alive and there is no automatic base award. The most common play is when a runner while circling the bases is obstructed by a fielder when the ball is in the outfield.
Another common Type 2 play is the pickoff at second base when the runner and the fielder become entangled, and the ball is rolling in the outfield while the runner attempts to go to third. At the moment of the obstruction there is no longer a play being made on the runner and the runner advances to third at his own risk. If he is an easy out, the out will stand. If the runner takes a few steps toward third and returns to second base, he most likely will be protected if he is thrown out.
Now that we have a background for the two types of obstruction, let’s look at some plays that make the obstruction rules come alive.
Tigers vs Blue Jays – April 12, 2023
The Tigers and Blue Jays played in Toronto on April 12, 2023. In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Jays had runners on first and second and two outs when Whit Merrifield hit a ground ball in the hole between short and third. The ball was fielded by shortstop Javier Báez. Vlad Guerrero, the runner on second, kept running and as he rounded third base was obstructed by Tigers’ third baseman Ryan Kreidler. Third base ump Eric Bacchus signaled Type 2 obstruction and properly allowed the play to proceed because there was no play being DIRECTLY made on Guerrero when he was obstructed. Guerrero headed home. The throw went from Báez. to catcher Eric Haase who ran Guerrero back toward third before tagging him for an easy out.
It appeared the inning was over, but plate ump Ryan Wills awarded Guerrero home and the run scored. This tied the game 1-1 in a game Toronto would win in 10 innings, 4-3.
- This was a Type 2 obstruction play because at the time Guerrero was obstructed by Kreidler, there was no play being DIRECTLY made on him and the ball was correctly kept alive by the third base umpire. He simply pointed and yelled, “That’s obstruction.” But it’s inexplicable why Wills would award Guerrero home since he was tagged out by a large margin. In my opinion, he misinterpreted the Type 2 obstruction rule.
- When a player is obstructed without a play being DIRECTLY made on him, the ball is kept alive. There is no automatic base award. Most likely in the above play Guerrero would have been protected to third base, but because he went beyond his protected base, he did so at his own risk. If there was a close play at the plate, he should have been protected and allowed to score. But because Guerrero was nowhere near the plate when tagged, he should have been called out, in my opinion, because the obstruction did not impact the outcome of the play.
- The Tigers could have asked for a RULES CHECK in NYC. Detroit manager A.J. Hinch did discuss the play with Bacchus, but the call stood.
- Allowing Guerrero to score in a one-run game was huge.
You can make an argument that the A’s lost the 2003 ALDS because of failure to distinguish between the two types of obstruction rules. The A’s went into Fenway Park with a two-games to zero lead over the Red Sox in a best of five series. If the A’s had won Game Three, they would have advanced to the ALCS.
Chavez Commits Type 1 Obstruction
In the bottom of the second inning, Boston had Jason Varitek on third and Gabe Kapler on first and one out when Damian Jackson hit a ground ball to Eric Chavez at third. Chavez threw to catcher Ramon Hernandez placing Varitek in a rundown. Hernandez ran Varitek back to the bag where he collided with Chavez who was standing in front of the base without the ball and was not in the act of fielding the throw.
Third base umpire Bill Welke correctly ruled Type 1 obstruction on Chavez and killed the play because there was a play being DIRECTLY made on Varitek. Welke called “Time” and raised both arms. He then pointed to Chavez indicating that he had obstructed Varitek, who was allowed to score because third base was the last base he touched before the obstruction. So, even though Varitek was headed back to third when Chavez committed the violation, Varitek was allowed to score. Welke had properly invoked a Type 1 Obstruction, which gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning. There was no argument on the play as it was clear that Chavez had impeded Varitek in the rundown.
- A runner only has a restricted baseline when he is in a rundown or when he is avoiding a tag. The restriction starts the moment the fielder with the ball makes a motion toward the runner. Varitek had a restricted baseline the moment the rundown began. It was a direct line to the plate, and he was not allowed to exceed 3-feet on either side of the imaginary line. When he reversed and headed back to third base, he had a new baseline. It was a direct line to third base, and he was not allowed to exceed 3-feet on either side of the line.
- Therefore, Varitek had 6-feet of real estate or space to operate. Chavez should have been aware of this. He should have vacated and allowed Miguel Tejada to take the throw at third base. It appeared Varitek intentionally got a piece of Chavez to influence the Type 1 obstruction call.
- Because Chavez did not have possession of the ball, nor was he in the act of receiving the throw from Hernandez, he was required to grant the “Right of Way” to Varitek which he failed to do.
Let’s fast forward to the sixth inning with the Red Sox leading 1-0. Here you will see Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller commit a Type 2 obstruction on Tejada.
With one out in the top of the sixth, the A’s had Erubiel Durazo on third, Tejada on second, and Chavez on first when Hernandez’s slow bouncer skipped under the glove of Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra who was charged with a tough error. Durazo scored to make it 1-1. Tejada, in rounding third, collided with Red Sox third baseman Bill Mueller, who had retreated to the bag and bumped Tejada off stride while the ball was in the outfield. It was a classic Type 2 obstruction. Welke pointed at Mueller indicating obstruction and yelled, “That’s obstruction.” Since there was no play being DIRECTLY made on Tejada at the moment of the obstruction, the umps did their job by keeping the ball alive.
Tejada, apparently thinking of the Varitek/Chavez play, believed that he had a “free ticket” to the plate once Mueller had hindered his path. So, he jogged home while talking and gesturing toward Mueller and Welke. By this time, the ball came in from outfielder Manny Ramirez and Varitek tagged Tejada 15-20 feet from the plate. Plate ump Paul Emmel called Tejada out and the call stood.
A’s manager Ken Macha screamed about the ruling to no avail. The A’s rally was thwarted, and the Red Sox won the game in 11 innings, 3-1, and subsequently the ALDS. One member of the A’s coaching staff said that not winning the ALDS cost him $100,000 which would have paid his daughter’s tuition to UCLA.
Players, coaches and broadcasters need to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 obstruction.
- If Tejada kept running hard and was out by one or two steps he would have been protected and allowed to score. Because he was out by such a large margin, the thinking is, the obstruction did not affect the outcome of the play. In my opinion, this should have been applied in the Guerrero situation above.
- Mueller’s violation occurred because he was fixated on the location of the ball and took his eyes off Tejada who had “The Right of Way.” Because he was not in possession of the ball, nor was he in the act of receiving the ball, Mueller was guilty of Type 2 obstruction.
- In retrospect, lack of a keen understanding of the obstruction rules certainly affected the A’s chances of winning the 2003 ALDS.
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