BP recently visited with Tom House at the National Pitching Association (NPA) lab in San Diego and observed him instructing some youngsters at his mini-camp.
Simi Valley, Calif. native and Long Beach State (No. 5) RHP Jered Weaver sat down with BP to discuss Team USA, superstitions and how he dominates hitters. Jered is a six-time 2004 National Player of the Week, seven-time Big West Player of the Week, a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy awarded to the top player in collegiate baseball and a potential #1 overall pick in the upcoming June draft. His 2004 line:
W-L ERA IP H R ER BB SO
14-0 1.27 113.1 55 19 16 14 171
You contend that rundowns should never require more than one throw. A properly executed rundown requires two throws. One to place the ball ahead of the runner and then another to finish the runner off. You want to run the runner back towards the base he came from rather than forward. This is so that in case of a dropped throw the runner will not obtain the next base but only get back to the previous base he had before the rundown.
Say a pitcher fields a ball and has a runner caught between third and home. He should close the gap, sprinting directly at the runner. Actually, he should run a little towards the home plate side to encourage him back toward third, as you point out. Pitcher sprints, makes runner sprint, third baseman steps up, receives ball, tag is made, one throw.
Things get complicated when other runners are involved such as a rundown between first and second and then another runner takes off from third. But, in a single rundown, it should take one throw. Also, say a runner gets caught up due to a throw from the outfield. That is not the first throw of the rundown. Once the runner is between two players, one with the ball, he is in a rundown and it should take one throw.
What you mean, though, is that it was Chavez’s imperative to get the ball in the hands of the catcher so that they could then run Varitek from home towards third in case of an errant throw. This can be defended, but I contend that a proper rundown requires two fielders and a single throw. Getting the ball ahead of the runner simply for the sake of it adds an extra fielder, an extra throw and more time. Why complicate things and increase the chance of an error?
In the Oakland sixth, Ramon Hernandez chops one past Nomar Garciaparra. The runner on second, Miguel Tejada rounds third, but is obstructed by third baseman Bill Mueller. This is rule 7.06b–a play is not being made on the obstructed runner–and again third base umpire Bill Welke did everything right. He points to the location of obstruction with one hand and shouts “Obstruction.” He does not throw two hands up in the air repeatedly signaling a dead ball. It may seem like a confusing distinction, but they are very distinct and again, it is not unreasonable to expect a player, especially a professional, to know the rules of the game he plays. Tejada, though, assumes this obstruction is the same as the obstruction he witnessed innings before. Unfortunately, he is wrong. The play is not dead and no bases are awarded. The play is ongoing and it is the responsibility of all players, offensive and defensive, to continue the play to its end. I have heard arguments that calling Tejada out was the easy way out for the umps with an obvious scapegoat. I disagree. Tejada being put out was due to his own ignorance of the rules, indefensible for a professional, but probably the norm. Tejada’s ignorance is also not something the umps have to compensate for…”Well, he thought the play was over. That is why he stopped. We should give him home.” Sorry, no dice. Tejada’s job is to finish the play. If he is safe, well then, he is safe. If he is called out, it is in the umpire’s judgment whether he would have been safe if for the obstruction and if so, the umpire will overturn the out due to the obstruction.
Baseball Prospectus: Where in the rulebook does it say?
a) Tie goes to the runner.
Jim Evans: It doesn’t. It states that a runner is out IF the defensive team tags him or his base BEFORE he reaches it. The implication is if the tag doesn’t occur first (not at the same time or after), the runner would be safe.
BP: b) A check swing is a strike if the batter breaks his wrists.
JE: The wrists are never mentioned in the rulebook. A swinging strike is based solely on the umpire’s judgment of whether or not the batter committed to the pitch. Check swings are very difficult calls. Base umpires are often able to make more accurate decisions on check swings because their attention can be focused solely on the bat since they are not obligated to call the pitch.
BP: c) The hands are part of the bat.
JE: This is another misconception. The hands are NOT part of the bat. If a pitched ball hits the hands and the batter did not attempt to swing, it is a hit batsman. If a pitched ball hits the hands as he swings, it is a strike and the ball is dead. Reference: Rule 2.00 Strike (e.)
Jim Evans broke into Major League Baseball in 1972 as the youngest umpire ever at age 23. His career spanned 28 seasons, including 18 as a crew chief. He umpired four World Series, eight League Championship Series, three All-Star games, and was the plate umpire for Nolan Ryan’s first no-hitter. Currently, Jim is the owner and chief instructor of the leading professional umpire-training academy, the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring, founded in 1989. He recently chatted with BP about his career in the bigs, the intricacies of the rule book, and a few dustups with ornery managers.