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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

a gap in the rules of Major League Baseball



I have reached the limit of my baseball knowledge and must ask the help of my readers in resolving a bothersome question. In last night's game at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, a play occurred that I cannot figure out what to call. It was the top of the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on third base with Baltimore's Brian Roberts at bat and New York's Phil Coke pitching. Coke threw a wild pitch past catcher Jose Molina. Roberts ran home, Molina retrieved the ball and tossed it to Coke who was covering home plate, and Roberts was tagged out by Coke. As a defensive play, it's simple: catcher to pitcher, 2-1. But what is the action of the runner called?

Let's start by figuring out what the play was not. First of all, Coke's wild pitch was not scored a wild pitch because there was a putout on the play. (The same holds true for errors without adverse consequences for the team on defense: if the first baseman drops a fly ball but gets the batter out at first base anyway, no error is charged.) Second, the runner's action cannot be ruled caught stealing because attempting to steal on a wild pitch is not an attempt to steal.

ESPN's detailed play-by-play summary of the game refers to the play this way: 'B Roberts out at home on runner's fielder's choice.' What the hell is a 'runner's fielder's choice'? How can there be a fielder's choice when the ball was not put in play by a batter? My search last night, via Google, of the phrase 'runner's fielder's choice' yielded 166,000 hits, several of which were people asking, what the hell is a runner's fielder's choice?

That leaves me with two questions:
1. How would you name the runner's play?

2. Do you accept the term 'runner's fielder's choice', and, if so, what does it mean?
Many thanks to anyone who has insights about these important matters.

Update: I have corrected an error in my description of the play.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If a runner is making no attempt to advance to the next base until there is a wild pitch or passed ball, and is then put out trying to advance to the next base, this runner is not caught stealing. The runner is put out on a fielder's choice, and a wild pitch/passed ball would not be charged to the pitcher or catcher.

So sayeth Wikipedia's 'Caught Stealing' page.

1:34 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To follow up my Wikipedia contribution, I will quote Major League Baseball's official commentary on Rule 10.13 (Wild Pitches and Passed Balls):

"The official scorer shall not charge a wild pitch or passed ball if the defensive team makes an out before any runners advance. For example, if a pitch touches the ground and eludes the catcher with a runner on first base, but the catcher recovers the ball and throws to second base in time to retire the runner, the official scorer shall not charge the pitcher with a wild pitch. The official scorer shall credit the advancement of any other runner on the play as a fielder’s choice. If a catcher drops a pitch, for example, with a runner on first base, but the catcher recovers the ball and throws to second base in time to retire the runner, the official scorer shall not charge the catcher with a passed ball. The official scorer shall credit the advancement of any other runner on the play as a fielder’s choice."

1:47 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

Wow. The case appears not to be covered in Major League Baseball's official rules.

Here is the definition of 'fielder's choice' from Rule 2.0, 'Defintion of Terms':

'FIELDER’S CHOICE is the act of a fielder who handles a fair grounder and, instead of throwing to first base to put out the batter-runner, throws to another base in an attempt to put out a preceding runner. The term is also used by scorers (a) to account for the advance of the batter-runner who takes one or more extra bases when the fielder who handles his safe hit attempts to put out a preceding runner; (b) to account for the advance of a runner (other than by stolen base or error) while a fielder is attempting to put out another runner; and (c) to account for the advance of a runner made solely because of the defensive team’s indifference (undefended steal).'

There is nothing there about attempting to score on wild pitches.

The only other reference to the play in question appears in a comment to Rule 10.13:

'Rule 10.13 Comment: The official scorer shall not charge a wild pitch or passed ball if the defensive team makes an out before any runners advance. For example, if a pitch touches the ground and eludes the catcher with a runner on first base, but the catcher recovers the ball and throws to second base in time to retire the runner, the official scorer shall not charge the pitcher with a wild pitch. The official scorer shall credit the advancement of any other runner on the play as a fielder’s choice. If a catcher drops a pitch, for example, with a runner on first base, but the catcher recovers the ball and throws to second base in time to retire the runner, the official scorer shall not charge the catcher with a passed ball. The official scorer shall credit the advancement of any other runner on the play as a fielder’s choice.'

But notice what the comment does and does not say. It says that no wild pitch or passed ball would be charged. It also says that if a runner, other than the one put put on the play, advances a base on the play, then that other runner's advance is ruled a fielder's choice. It still says nothing about the putout.

It's not all that rare a play, yet there is no satisfactory name for it. Perhaps I should alert the powers that be at MLB.

1:56 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

I did not see Anonymous's second comment while I was writing mine. I invite Anonymous to read the comment to Rule 10.13 more closely.

1:58 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Anonymous 42 said...

The scoring is quite simple: catcher unassisted (2U)and the runner is deemed to have been caught stealing (CS).

Example: if the ball gets away from the catcher on a wild pitch and he recovers & throws out a runner trying to advance from first to second, it is a caught stealing (CS).It is the same in Roberts' case. Whether he originally planned a straight steal, a delayed steal, or he tried to advance on a ball that got away from the catcher, he was caught stealing. The official scorer can not infer intent.The fact that the base he was trying to advance to was home plate is not of consequence.

Further, the fielder's choice scoring only applies to any other runner who advances to another base on the play.

2:29 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? The official scorer OFTEN infers intent! Defensive indifference, anyone?

3:30 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

42 is wrong. It is absolutely not caught stealing. The MLB rules explicitly say so. Likewise, had the runner scored, it would not be a stolen base. Advancing on a wild pitch is not stealing base; being caught trying to advance on a wild pitch is not caught stealing.

The question remains, what does one call being put out advancing on what would have been a wild pitch had one not been put out?

4:21 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

If 42 wants to claim the play was caught stealing, I invite him to find the ruling in the official MLB rules or to find a box score from last night's game that charges Brian Roberts with a caught stealing.

4:23 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

Here is the passage from passage from MLB's official rules that explicitly says that the play is not caught stealing:

'Rule 10.07(h) Comment: In those instances where a pitched ball eludes the catcher and the runner is put out trying to advance, the official scorer shall not charge any "caught stealing." The official scorer shall not charge any caught stealing when a runner is awarded a base due to obstruction or when a runner is called out due to interference by the batter. The official scorer shall not charge a runner with a caught stealing if such runner would not have been credited with a stolen base had such runner been safe (for example, when a catcher throws the runner out after such runner tries to advance after a ball that had eluded the catcher on a pitch).'

4:51 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Anonymous 42 said...

Mea culpa. I assume, Jeff, that you are life long baseball fan & Anonymous sounds like someone who played the game for many years. As a devoted fan of the game for over 50 years, it is wonderful to see other fans who are as interested in how the game is played and scored as I am. I appreciate you pointing out my error(E6).

5:09 PM, July 21, 2009

 
Blogger Petra said...

Thanks for the help. Adam LaRoche of the Pirates was called "out at first on runners fielder's choice."

...and I thought I knew just about everything about baseball! Without seeing the play (MLB Gamecast) I guess the ball got away from the catcher and then he caught LaRoche too far from the bag. Maybe they'll show it on Sportscenter tonight.

3:46 PM, August 02, 2009

 
Blogger Geoff said...

Happened again in tonight's Arizona game. What was strange about tonight was that the runner from first advanced to second on runner's fielder's choice as well. I prefer the term "runner's choice."

11:30 PM, September 21, 2010

 

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