Rules Corner: Batter Interference

In Monday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, Toronto second baseman Devon Travis was called out for batter interference on this play. Travis swings and misses on what was apparently an intended hit-and-run, striking Angel catcher Martin Maldonado with his bat on his swing follow-though. Maldonado makes a throw that is high and too late to catch Jay third baseman Chris Coghlan advancing to second base. Home plate umpire Tony Basner applied rule 6.06 (c), calling Travis out for interference and sending Coghlan back to first base. The ruling was significant as, with nobody out, Toronto lost an out and a base in the 7th inning of a one-run game.

More on rule 6.06 (c) after the jump.

Here is the rule.

6.06 A batter is out for illegal action when—
(c) He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base. EXCEPTION: Batter is not out if any runner attempting to advance is put out, or if runner trying to score is called out for batter’s interference.

Rule 6.06(c) Comment: If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call “interference.” The batter is out and the ball dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference. If, however, the catcher makes a play and the runner attempting to advance is put out, it is to be assumed there was no actual interference and that runner is out–not the batter. Any other runners on the base at the time may advance as the ruling is that there is no actual interference if a runner is retired. In that case play proceeds just as if no violation had been called. If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing before the catcher has securely held the ball, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play. (EMPHASIS added)

I’ve emphasized the last point in the comment as it seems most germane to this particular play. The bat contact certainly seems unintentional but, since it occurred after the catcher had secured the ball, perhaps the ruling of a called strike and a dead ball would not apply? That said, the implication seems clear that unintentional bat contact does not constitute batter interference.

While game reports suggest that interference was called because of the bat contact, where interference might also have arisen is when Travis takes one step out of the batter’s box in regaining his balance after his swing. However, doing so did not appear to hinder the catcher in making his throw or cause him to alter his throwing motion, so a ruling of interference would seem rather harsh. The other question that arises is whether the ball should have been called dead because of the bat contact while the catcher was readying himself for the throw; if so, would Travis stepping out of the batter’s box after this not be immaterial if the ball is already dead?

What’s your take? Did the ump get the call right, or was he too easily (and too quickly) influenced by the catcher’s protest?

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16 Comments on "Rules Corner: Batter Interference"

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brky
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Doug
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Thanks brky. The author of the referenced post takes the view that the ump got the call right and that the bat contacting the catcher had no bearing on the interference call that occurred later when Travis takes a step out of the batter’s box just before Maldonado’s throw. The author’s view appears to be that the batter leaving the batter’s box is interference, ipso facto, if the catcher’s throw is unsuccessful in retiring the runner (or, presumably, if a throw was not made). The rule, though, seems (to me) to indicate that the batter’s actions must provide some evidence… Read more »
David P
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I don’t know. I think the article that brky linked to above is the reason why Travis was called out. Beyond that, we have the benefit of replay and watching it from numerous angles. We’re not sure exactly what the umpire was able to see from his position. Plus, he has to make a split second decision. On top of that, it appears that the position of Travis’ body MAY have influenced the follow-through on the throw down to second.

Doug
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Good points, David.

It’s certainly conceivable that the umpire would have noticed Travis with a foot on home plate, so that when the catcher pointed at Travis and said something like “Hey, that’s interference”, it would be easy for the umpire to agree, even if that thought hadn’t immediately occurred to him.

Doug
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Staying with the Blue Jays, but switching gears, in Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, pitcher Marcus Stroman appeared as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning, and doubled and scored the go-ahead and winning run. It’s just the 8th searchable instance of a pitcher getting a pinch-hit and scoring the winning run in extra innings, and the first of those with an extra-base hit since Earl Wilson’s WOHR for the Tigers against Baltimore on Jul 15, 1966.

David P
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I think the Blue Jays earlier pinch hitter in that game did something a bit more impressive:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3BDn2K6sgo

Dr. Doom
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That was so cool. Been thinking about it all day.

Doug
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I like Coghlan’s quote “I’m just glad I didn’t break my neck!”.

Would have been an interesting rules debate if he had bowled over Molina instead. Would he have been called out for an illegal slide, or would Molina have been cited for illegally blocking the plate before possessing the ball?

Albanate
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A college player, Brian Kownacki of Fordham scored similarly to Coghlan a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOs4YYZziNk

David P
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Here’s one from a softball game in which the runner does a straight leap over the catcher:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO2oUaX-CAQ

And perhaps the most impressive one comes from a kickball game where the runner flips over the ball to avoid being out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcpsN7POsbo

Daniel Longmire
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Not sure if your criteria included extra innings, Doug, but the last AL pitcher with a pinch-hit extra-base hit was Doug Peters of the Red Sox on September 4, 1971.

e pluribus munu
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Doug’s contributions here are pervasive and impressive, but Gary Peters’s name was still Gary.

Daniel Longmire
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Ha!

*hangs head sheepishly*

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