Breaking Up Double Plays [Official Rule 6.01(j)]
As force play rules create the possibility for defensive double (or triple) plays, base runners will sometimes attempt to “break up” the play by sliding into or near a defender to take him off balance before completing his play.
This “takeout slide” tactic is mostly associated with plays at second base, and underwent revision at the professional level in 2016 based on resulting player injuries. Today, a runner is still allowed to make contact with a pivot man to break up a double play, but only if four conditions apply:
- The runner starts his slide before he reaches the base
- The runner is able and attempts to reach the base (with his foot or hand)
- The runner attempts to remain on the base after his slide (except at home)
- The runner doesn’t change the pathway of his slide to make contact with a fielder (assuming Condition 2 is also met)
If the runner involved in the takeout slide violates any of those four conditions, both he and the batter will be called out for interference.
Collisions at Home
Another recent set of rule changes that emerged to curb player injury details collisions at home plate. Until 2013, a professional catcher (with the ball, or in the process of catching it) was allowed to physically block a runner on third from reaching home plate. As the runner from third merely needed to touch home to score, he would typically be approaching at full speed. This would often result in dramatic collisions at home plate intended to knock the ball out of the catcher’s possessions, negating an out and allowing the run to score.
While amateur rules against blocking the plate existed for decades, tighter rules on blocking the plate were professionally implemented in 2014. Contact at the plate is still allowed, but a few stipulations were put in place to minimize player injury.
Per the new rules a runner will be out if it is ruled that a collision was avoidable (e.g. the runner could have slid around the catcher and still touched home). This rule applies even if the catcher (or fielder) drops the ball as a result of the collision.
6.01 (i) (7.13) Collisions at Home Plate
Insider Report: Collisions
In other words, are all players, in addition to the catcher, subjected to the provisions in the rule that requires the catcher to give a pathway to a runner trying to score? Read about a controversial play that happened when the Reds hosted the Royals August 18, 2015 in this excellent Insider Report.
Similar to the rule change around Breaking Up Double Plays, runners are still not allowed to alter their direct path to the plate for the express purpose of initiating contract. At the same time, the runner will be ruled safe if the catcher is viewed as blocking the path to the plate unnecessarily – meaning he doesn’t have the ball or could make a play without physically blocking the runner (e.g. fielding and tagging).