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Monday, April 14, 2014

Cameron: Baseball’s New Strategy: Drop the Ball on Purpose

Setting the stage for a Brant Brown comeback?

This year, in an attempt to clarify the difference between a catch and a transfer on plays around the [second] base bag, MLB informed teams that a clean transfer from glove to hand was now going to be a required element in making a legal catch. No longer could a player argue that the ball was dropped on the exchange between glove and hand in order to retire the lead runner in a double play attempt…

However, this rule isn’t just being applied to second base; it’s being applied everywhere, including the outfield…

it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the problem with using the same definition of a catch in the outfield as it is at second base; the drop at second base has no real impact on the runner’s decision making..

That is absolutely not true with runners and outfielders, however; the decision of whether to advance or return to base is entirely dependent on whether the outfielder is ruled to have safely caught the ball… now, the ball entering the glove is no longer the determining factor of whether or not the catch was made; that is now the ball moving from the glove to the hand… [an outfielder] can catch the ball in his glove, run in a direction for several steps, and still be ruled to have not caught the ball if he drops the ball on the transfer to his hand. This definition of an outfield catch opens up a huge can of worms, because this definition has now created the exact play that the infield fly rule was designed to eliminate…

If some enterprising team wants to test the rule, they should actually tell their left fielder that, on any play with runners at first and second and less than two outs, he should run the ball all the way back in to the infield, and then drop the ball only once he’s a few feet from the second base bag…

This is most likely going to be a one season nuisance than a long term problem, as everyone watching these plays can see the problems with this definition of a catch, and I can’t see any way in which anyone would support this definition staying in place… Most likely, we’re in for a year of weird plays like the ones from last week, where runners don’t know whether to advance or not, and teams get free outs when their fielders screw up.

The District Attorney Posted: April 14, 2014 at 06:54 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rules, strategy

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   1. dr. scott Posted: April 14, 2014 at 07:44 PM (#4686192)
If the fielder drops the ball on purpose in the manner described above, it would be obvious it was on purpose and I think it would be ruled a catch, so the players on the bases would not have to run.
   2. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 14, 2014 at 07:57 PM (#4686197)
If the fielder drops the ball on purpose in the manner described above, it would be obvious it was on purpose and I think it would be ruled a catch, so the players on the bases would not have to run.


That's exactly correct. You can't drop the ball on purpose. This is most applicable on line drives in the infield with a runner or runners on, but would also be covered here.

Along these lines of Cameron's hypothetical, in the early days of the game, runners were only allowed to tag up after a catch was made. In sac fly situations, one outfielder would juggle the ball while running toward the infield, only catching it when the runner was no longer a threat to take off. Baseball quickly outlawed that too.

It's a stupid interpretation of a catch nonetheless.

   3. with Glavinesque control and Madduxian poise Posted: April 14, 2014 at 08:27 PM (#4686207)
The rules say infielders can't drop the ball on purpose under some circumstances, but say nothing about outfielders.

See rule 6.05 (l), here: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/official_rules/batter_6.jsp
   4. McCoy Posted: April 14, 2014 at 08:45 PM (#4686216)
Baseball is quick to react. At best one fielder in the outfield would get to pull this off before MLB clarified the rule. In reality no OF'er will be able catch a ball and jog a few steps and have it ruled a non-catch should the ball fall to the ground. Bang-bang plays in the OF might very well still be open to debate and fall under the not a catch ruling.
   5. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: April 14, 2014 at 09:24 PM (#4686229)
Bottom line, and the point of Cameron's article, is that MLB needs to resolve this confusion they've created, right away.
   6. theboyqueen Posted: April 14, 2014 at 09:38 PM (#4686236)
Baseball is quick to react. At best one fielder in the outfield would get to pull this off before MLB clarified the rule. In reality no OF'er will be able catch a ball and jog a few steps and have it ruled a non-catch should the ball fall to the ground. Bang-bang plays in the OF might very well still be open to debate and fall under the not a catch ruling.


Josh Donaldson has already been caught in two situations like this while on first. They were clearly not intentional but there were steps between the catch and the drop and both times it was ruled a non catch. The first time he was thrown out at second and the second time I think the batter passed him on the basepaths. It's incredibly stupid and impossible to know what to do as a runner.

This is a particularly silly example of the new rule interpetation:

when-is-a-catch-not-a-catch-when-its-dropped-on-the-transfer
   7. jobu Posted: April 14, 2014 at 09:52 PM (#4686242)
Josh Donaldson has already been caught in two situations like this while on first. They were clearly not intentional but there were steps between the catch and the drop and both times it was ruled a non catch. The first time he was thrown out at second and the second time I think the batter passed him on the basepaths. It's incredibly stupid and impossible to know what to do as a runner.

Yep, Dustin Ackley lost 2 balls during the transfer process in the Saturday A's/Mariners game. One of them resulted in the batter passing the retreating runner at first base. Hard to see how the Mariners got an advantage there (either way, a runner is left at first base), but it's still an imperfect rule open to exploitation.
   8. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: April 14, 2014 at 10:41 PM (#4686272)
I'm shocked that there have been unintended consequences creep up with the institution of instant replay. I'm even more shocked that the institution of replay has resulted in significant rule changes and huge changes in which the game is officiated in real time.

I mean there was absolutely no way to see any of this coming.

I think what's key in determining whether it's a catch is whether the fielder completes a "baseball move."
   9. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 14, 2014 at 10:56 PM (#4686281)

Baseball is quick to react. At best one fielder in the outfield would get to pull this off before MLB clarified the rule. In reality no OF'er will be able catch a ball and jog a few steps and have it ruled a non-catch should the ball fall to the ground. Bang-bang plays in the OF might very well still be open to debate and fall under the not a catch ruling.


I agree (I don't even think one would get away with jogging toward the infield with the ball in hand). As such, I don't think it's really ripe for exploitation (you could trade a faster runner for a slower one, but that option exists now if you intentionally let the ball drop as well).

It is, of course, ripe for ridicule. I wholeheartedly agree with all of the complaints about it.
   10. bookbook Posted: April 14, 2014 at 11:20 PM (#4686295)
If the fielder drops the ball on purpose in the manner described above, it would be obvious it was on purpose and I think it would be ruled a catch, so the players on the bases would not have to run.


Yeah. Because the Umpires are so good at refusing to give the batter a base when he intentionally gets hit by a pitch.

Umpires have studiously avoided getting into the business of determining intent, even when the rules specify that they're supposed to. It's too fraught.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 14, 2014 at 11:26 PM (#4686297)
Giving it more thought, there is one, and only one, way Cameron's suggestion could happen - if the umpire in question wants to call attention to the absurdity of this new interpretation. That I could see.
   12. Shredder Posted: April 14, 2014 at 11:39 PM (#4686300)
This reminds of when college football idiotically changed the rule to have the clock start on kickoff as soon as the ball was kicked, instead of when it's caught. With little time left in the first half following a touchdown, Brett Bielma had his Badgers intentionally go offsides twice on kickoffs. The two plays took enough time off the clock to basically keep Penn State from getting a decent return and running a couple plays. Leagues deserve to get made to look foolish when they come up with dumb rules.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: April 15, 2014 at 12:32 AM (#4686318)
New? The Cubs have been dropping balls on a regular basis for 50+ years.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: April 15, 2014 at 12:41 AM (#4686321)
That is absolutely not true with runners and outfielders, however; the decision of whether to advance or return to base is entirely dependent on whether the outfielder is ruled to have safely caught the ball… now, the ball entering the glove is no longer the determining factor of whether or not the catch was made; that is now the ball moving from the glove to the hand… [an outfielder] can catch the ball in his glove, run in a direction for several steps, and still be ruled to have not caught the ball if he drops the ball on the transfer to his hand. This definition of an outfield catch opens up a huge can of worms, because this definition has now created the exact play that the infield fly rule was designed to eliminate…

This is what the rule (sorta) was until sometime in the late 80s.

Somewhat infamously (if you saw the play) Andre Dawson with the Cubs lined one to CF, caught by (I believe) Davey Martinez (then on the Spos). Martinez happened to break his leg or some such awful thing on the play. He held onto the ball for a few seconds in great pain but the ball rolled out of the glove before other fielders got there. Dawson, being a rules genius apparently, never stopped running and got an ITPHR out of a caught line drive to CF.

And I thought it was always true that a short fly played by the OF wasn't subject to the IF fly rule anyway, so no real change there.

Of course there's always been a judgment area between "dropped on transfer" and "dropped". But, near as I can tell, there was never a rule to stop the OF from catching the ball, running it in, dropping it without transfer and taking what comes.

   15. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 15, 2014 at 12:49 AM (#4686324)

And I thought it was always true that a short fly played by the OF wasn't subject to the IF fly rule anyway, so no real change there.


That's not correct. An infield fly must be able to be caught by an infielder, but it doesn't have to be played by one for the IF fly rule to be in effect.


Of course there's always been a judgment area between "dropped on transfer" and "dropped". But, near as I can tell, there was never a rule to stop the OF from catching the ball, running it in, dropping it without transfer and taking what comes.


Except that the judgment from the umps would certainly rule this an out. You could always do it, it simply wouldn't have worked as intended. Nor would it now.

   16. Shredder Posted: April 15, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4686524)
And I thought it was always true that a short fly played by the OF wasn't subject to the IF fly rule anyway, so no real change there.
That's what the 2012 Atlanta Braves used to think as well.

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