June 16, 2022

Three Rule Situations from the 2022 MLB Season

Tags, mis-tags, missed bases and improper use of position players as pitchers

Three Rule Situations from the 2022 MLB Season

No. 1

In the June 4th Mets-Dodgers game there was a pitching substitution issue involving a position player. With the Dodgers trailing 9-4 entering the top of the ninth inning, Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts sent outfielder Zach McKinstry to the mound at Dodger Stadium, but Mets manager Buck Showalter said not so fast claiming a team had to be ahead or behind by six runs before a position player could be used before extra innings. Roberts suggested the umpires check with the league offices in New York for confirmation which caused an 11-minute delay.

Ruleball Comment

  1. Showalter was correct. It appears there was some uncertainty on the part of the umpires which is why they had to check with the league offices.
  2. MLB teams must designate every player on the active roster either as a pitcher or a position player and are limited to carrying 13 pitchers on the active roster (14 pitchers from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season).
  3. Those designated as position players are unable to pitch unless it is extra innings, or their team is ahead or trailing by six or more runs when they take the mound.
  4. Teams can also designate players as two-way players if they meet certain criteria. Two-way players are able to pitch in any situation but don’t count toward the active roster’s pitcher total.
  5. Players qualify for the two-way designation if they have met both of these conditions below in either the current or previous MLB season: Pitched at least 20 Major League innings AND played at least 20 Major League games as a position player or designated hitter, with at least three plate appearances in each game. The rule was implemented ahead of the 2020 season, but it was suspended for two years before being reinstated for ’22. This most likely is the reason for the confusion.
  6. “It’s an oversight on my part,” Roberts said. “Once it was brought to attention, they were on it, too.”
  7. Without any pitchers ready in Los Angeles’ bullpen, Evan Phillips was given time to warm up before entering.

No. 2

Q. In the June 1st Reds-Red Sox game the following play occurred. In the top of the sixth, the Reds’ Aristides Aquino in an attempt to steal second slid into the base with his arm coming down on Trevor Story causing the ball to be dislodged from Story’s glove. Story wasn’t able to make a play on the ball that went into center field, and Aquino advanced to third. Second base umpire Pat Hoberg made no call. Sox catcher Christian Vazquez was charged with an error. It was questioned if Aquino’s actions were legal, and if there could be a crew review or some other kind of remedy.

Ruleball Comment

  1. The umpire would have to decide if the slapping down of the arm was part of Aquino’s natural sliding motion or was it his intent to dislodge the ball from Story?
  2. In my opinion, Aquino’s contact with Story was part of his natural sliding motion and therefore I think Hoberg’s “no call” was the proper call.
  3. According to the Major League Baseball Umpire Manual, “While contact may occur between a fielder and a runner during a tag attempt, a runner is not allowed to use his hands or arms to commit an obviously malicious or unsportsmanlike act-such as grabbing, tackling, intentionally slapping at the baseball, punching, kicking, flagrantly using his arms or forearms, etc-to commit an intentional act of interference unrelated to running the bases. If the intentional act was to prevent a double play, the umpire would rule the batter out as well.”
  4. To rule a runner out for illegal use of his hands or arms, intent would have to be obvious. An example would be the Alex Rodriguez-Bronson Arroyo play in Game Six of the 2004 ALCS played between the Yankees and Red Sox when A-Rod slapped the ball out of the pitcher’s glove on the way to first base. The ball squirted down the right field line and Derek Jeter, who was on first base with one out, scored an apparent run. Initially, first base umpire Randy Marsh made no call because it appears he was blocked out by Sox first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, but after crew consultation A-Rod was declared out and Jeter was returned to first base because runners cannot advance when interference is called. At the time, the Yanks trailed 4-2, which proved to be the final score. If A-Rod did not commit his flagrant act, Jeter would have been on second base with two outs instead of being returned to first base.  

No. 3

On May 25th, the A’s and Mariners played in Seattle. In top of the first, the A’s had Jed Lowrie on first base with one out when Chad Pinder hit a ground ball to M’s third baseman Eugenio Suarez. His throw to first pulled Ty France off the bag. In his attempt to avoid the tag, Pinder did not touch first base and France failed to tag Pinder. The A’s batter-runner made an immediate attempt to return to the base but was called out by umpire John Libka when France tagged the base. Did Libka make the proper call?  Could France retire Pinder just by tagging the base? Would France be required to make a verbal appeal to Libka?

Ruleball Comments

  1. In such plays when the batter-runner misses touching a base and the fielder does not tag the runner, the proper mechanic for the umpire is to make no call. France could have retired Pinder by tagging him or the base. He was playing smart Ruleball by tagging the base which gave him the best opportunity to put out the runner. Libka made the proper call.
  2. This is technically an appeal play because it is obvious that the fielder is communicating by his actions that the batter-runner missed touching the base. All appeals do not have to be communicated verbally to an umpire such as when a runner misses touching a base or leaves a base too soon on a tag-up. An example of a non-verbal appeal occurs when there’s a runner on first base with no outs and the batter lines to the shortstop. The runner took off on a hit-and-run and is easily doubled-up at first base. The throw to first is technically an appeal play but there is no reason for the defensive team to verbally communicate that because it’s obvious that the shortstop threw to first to retire a runner who did not tag-up in that situation.


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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