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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Infield Fly Double Play

On Wednesday night, the Royals turned a double play on an Infield Fly (video in link). With bases loaded and one out, a fly ball was hit near the first-base line, even with the mound; the rule was put in effect, the ball was not caught, and the runner on third made the instinctual move of running when the ball hit the ground and was tagged out at home. This is about the third or fourth time I have seen a double play on an I/F/R call in the six seasons I have been tracking.

Although the non-catch here was unintentional (the pitcher and first baseman had a miscommunication), a play such as this shows why the I/F/R does not entirely eliminate the perverse incentive for infielders to intentionally not catch the ball. There is always a chance an infielder could con the runner into taking off when the ball hits the ground and the runner's instinct takes over. And because not catching the ball is costless to the defense (since the batter is out anyway), it could be worth a shot. But this possibility does not undermine the I/F/R. The rule exists because base runners would be helpless if forced to run on a non-catch; it does not exist to save the runners from the consequences of running without thinking. And, of course, had the catcher forgotten to tag the runner (i.e., had the catcher been the one to have the brain cramp), the runner would have scored. In any event, I have only seen two instances of intentional non-catches in six seasons, so clearly the likelihood of success is not high enough to convince infielders to try this on a regular basis.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 20, 2015 at 10:00 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink

Comments

See prior post.

Posted by: ddanning | Aug 26, 2015 9:46:22 AM

1) With reference to gdanning's question above -- From "comment" on definition of "Infield Fly" in MLB rule book: "If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 5.09(a)(12) (Rule 6.05(1)). The infield fly rule takes precedence."

2) Regarding the possible "conning" of the runner by intentionally dropping (see no. 1 above) or letting drop the ball: If a player either does not know the rule or has a brain cramp, he cannot be said to be "conned," I would think.

Posted by: ddanning | Aug 26, 2015 9:43:09 AM

No, no. The idea behind the rule is that the fielder benefits from not catching the ball because it would allow him to turn a double play. So the rule removes any incentive not to catch the ball by eliminating the double play in calling the batter out and not forcing the runners to advance. The double play only occurs if, as here, the runner does something stupid.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 24, 2015 5:04:39 PM

Shouldn't the infielder have to catch the ball in order to complete the I/F/R? Maybe if they fail to catch it treat it as akin to a balk. I should read your article.

Posted by: Thom | Aug 24, 2015 5:01:39 PM

The rule does not prohibit the infielder from allowing the ball to land on the ground untouched. That is why in the original post (and in all my writing on this) I speak of "non-catches" rather than "drops" or of "not catching the ball" rather than "dropping the ball."

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 21, 2015 5:20:49 PM

But, what about Rule 5.09(12): "A batter is out when ... An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases." -- doesn't that eliminate the incentive to intentionally drop a ball when the IFF is in effect?

Posted by: gdanning | Aug 21, 2015 5:12:51 PM

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