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August 27, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Ethier's Interference

by Colin Wyers

Please, watch this highlight from last night's Marlins-Dodgers game. Don't worry, I'll wait.

There's a lot going on here, so let's take it step by step through the first ruling:

1) Luis Cruz hits a popup very close to the first base foul line, with Andre Ethier at first and Adrian Gonzalez at second.

2) Carlos Lee, at the time playing first base, lumbers over towards the ball in a very Carlos Lee sort of way. In the process of doing so, he runs into Andre Ethier, who was the runner at first.

3) The batter is called out on the infield fly rule (or thrown out at first, this really isn't clear to me, and as you'll see in a bit, it's totally inconsequential), and Gonzalez is out trying to advance to third on the ball. So the Marlins seem to turn a double play on the ball, and the inning is over. Maybe.

Then Don Mattingly comes out and the umpires gather to discuss the play. After lengthy discussion, they decide that instead Ethier was out on interference with Lee, and that the ball was dead after that so no other outs occurred. Ozzie Guillen came out next to confer with the umps and (this may be the most incredible thing about the whole play) did not seem to get angry about anything. Cruz then rendered the whole dispute meaningless by indisputably making an out on a ball hit to the left fielder.

Everyone involved seemed rather confused as to what had just happened, and for good reason—this may be largely unprecedented. There have been runners called out for interfering with a ball in play, of course (those are simply just rare). But most of the time they appear to be in the process of actually running; a runner on first will typically be attempting to advance to second or a runner on third will be trying to come home. I cannot find, in the record we have of full play-by-play data, any instance of a runner called out for interference at the base he started from. It just goes to show you—baseball always has something new up its sleeves.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

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