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Friday, October 12, 2012

In Defense of the Infield Fly Rule

My two posts on the controversial Infield Fly Rule call in last week's National League Wild Card game generated a number of comments and emails, several suggesting that, not only was the call wrong, but that the rule itself is a bad idea and should be scrapped. This motivated me to write a defense of the Infield Fly Rule, which now has been published on The Atlantic.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 12, 2012 at 04:56 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink

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I agree with you completely that there should be an infield-fly rule, and for the reasons you state. I wonder, however, whether it might be amended to cover the situation where the infield fly is not caught. If an infield fly is called and the ball is not caught, how about we put the batter on first and advance any runners one base? (Each runner would be forced to advance, by virtue of the rule's applicability only where runners start from first and second bases or first, second, and third.) This would force the defense to make the play in order to get the out -- usually a simple task because of the "ordinary effort" provision. In the case where the defense flubs the catch, however, I would prefer it not to get the benefit of the free out.

Posted by: Mike Dimino | Oct 12, 2012 9:40:28 PM

I am not a fan of the rule. I am not sure why we are so concerned with preventing a substantial advantage to the fielding team when the batter has just popped up with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. A hard hit grounder at or near a fielder results in a double play (or even a triple play) in this situation; shouldn't a weak infield pop-up be similarly penalized? I found the Atlantic piece a worthy read but I was not persuaded that anything should follow from the four factors being satisfied. And in any event, isn't it question-begging to say that fielders are "expected" to field pop-ups rather than "expected" to get outs or win games?

Posted by: Jamal | Oct 12, 2012 10:19:51 PM

Jamal: That double play comes only if the fielder does what we expect him to do and catches the ball or at least tries to catch the ball. Yes, the goal is to get people out--but except for this one play, the only way to get people out on a fair ball is by catching it.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Oct 12, 2012 10:37:47 PM

Sports rules do not need to be logical, they only need to make the games more interesting. Baseball would be just fine either with or without the infield fly rule, and either approach would be equally logical. For the most part, rules are chosen to emphasize offense, because that is more fun to watch. Controversial rules generate debate among fans, and that is also good for business.

Posted by: Steven Lubet | Oct 13, 2012 7:04:41 AM

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