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April 9, 2014

What You Need to Know

You Must Learn Control

by Daniel Rathman


The Tuesday Takeaway
A second baseman or shortstop fields a ground ball and throws it to his double-play partner at the keystone. The other middle infielder catches it with his foot on the bag. As he begins to remove the ball from his glove with his bare hand, the ball squirts away. The runner going to second is out. The batter is safe at first. And life goes on.

Well, that was the case last year. But as we’ve learned over the past two days, it’s not the case anymore.

Confusion first arose during the Rangers-Red Sox game on Monday, when a 4-6 force play at second base turned into an error on shortstop Elvis Andrus. As Rangers manager Ron Washington told reporters, the league informed clubs during spring training that runners would be called safe on any failed transfer, after which replay would be initiated to determine whether the fielder controlled the ball while in contact with the base.

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Related Content:  Ryan Braun,  Melky Cabrera,  Instant Replay,  Transfer

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

John H.

Under this new rule, could Joyce have been ruled safe due to a failed transfer?

Apr 09, 2014 06:13 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Heh, an interesting observation from that highlight. But if you look at the official definition of a catch, here is the money line: "In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall *hold the ball long enough* to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional."

It would appear that Gordon satisfied that criterion, since he dropped the ball during a "voluntary and intentional" attempt to remove it from his glove, after holding on to it through the collision.

Apr 09, 2014 07:13 AM
 
John H.

Did Hamilton not do the same thing? Frack this is unnecessarily confusing.

Apr 09, 2014 09:50 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

The Hamilton play was different in that he caught the ball and went directly to his glove to remove it, at which point the ball popped out. Gordon clearly established possession: He hit the wall, fell to the ground, took inventory, and got up, all with the ball in his glove. Then, when he went to remove it, the ball squirted away. There's a much shorter timeframe between when the ball hit Hamilton's glove and when he removed it, which appears to be the distinction, invoking the "voluntary and intentional" clause of in the catch rule.

It's also worth noting that, based on the statement from MLB in the Dallas Morning News post, Buckminster should probably not have made the "out" call, because MLB wants indisputable evidence from replay to justify a catch. By making that call, Buckminster prevented Smoak from going to third base, which I think is what McClendon argued after the call was overturned. Umpires are sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place on that one, in terms of getting the runner hung up between bases, but it seems like MLB wants them to err on the side of no catch.

By the way, the Gordon play is now embedded so that they can be compared more easily.

Apr 09, 2014 10:04 AM
 
John H.

I was pretty sure the clearly established possession was why. But I guess my concern is where do you draw the line on that in a play, especially if you're erring on the side of no-catch. It seems counter intuitive to err on that side unless there is proof that there has been a history of "catches" that weren't actually caught. I would love to see more work on why the MLB is moving in this direction and if there is some statistical reasoning for it.

Thanks for all the follow up answers.

Apr 09, 2014 11:12 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Absolutely—the line is murky and seems to be at the replay umpires' discretion.

Apr 09, 2014 11:13 AM
 
John H.

A potential scenario that could really throw this thing into the national discussion: There is a runner on second and a hit and run is on. The hitter lines a ball to the SS/2B and he shovel throws it to the 2B/SS (respectively) to get the force out before the runner gets back to the bag. This gets really bad if the runner goes on to score, especially in a postseason game.

Apr 09, 2014 11:22 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Take a look at the play in the Indians/Padres game right now. The confusion grows.

Apr 09, 2014 12:23 PM
 
craig643

Does anyone know why the rule on force outs/transfers was changed?

Apr 09, 2014 07:42 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

I'm not sure this is a rule change as much as it is an emphasis on enforcing the rule by the letter of the book. The definition of a catch appears to place the burden on the player to prove that his release of the ball is voluntary, and any evidence to the contrary negates the catch. I may be wrong, but I think this is more of an effect of replay forcing stricter interpretation than it is a rule change.

Apr 09, 2014 07:47 AM
 
bhalpern

But ironically the league went out of their way to specifically allow the neighborhood play, an 'unwritten rule', to continue to be allowed. This under the guise of player safety. They should apply the home plate rule to second base if they are concerned about that.

The end result: outs that are not outs and not outs that are outs. Thanks Obama! ;-)

Apr 09, 2014 09:21 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Yeah, while it's hard to say what actually happened, I think that the league made an effort during the offseason to identify every possible gray area in the rules and decide how it would address it. With the neighborhood play, they preferred player safety; with transfers, they put the burden on the receiver. I'd imagine many of these things will be revisited next offseason once the league has a full year of replay—and all of its byproducts—under its belt.

Apr 09, 2014 09:29 AM
 
Deadheadbrewer

This is a fantastic means of enjoying my morning coffee and catching up on the previous day's events!

Apr 09, 2014 11:19 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Thanks—glad you're enjoying them.

Apr 09, 2014 11:25 AM
 
papafain

I suggest the replay official have an NFL official with him to explain the "process of the catch" but on second thought I don't think any two people have the same definition of that rule either.

Apr 09, 2014 15:27 PM
rating: 0
 
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