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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A different take on the purpose of the Infield Fly Rule

Baseball historian (and paralegal) Richard Hershberger for the fall 2018 issue of SABR's Baseball Research Journal argues that the infield fly rule developed from the difficulty of defining and determining when an infielder had caught the ball. He traces the 20-year evolution of the definition of catch, including the development and use of a "momentarily held" standard for only infield-fly situations (the batter is out if the infielder "momentarily held" the batted ball). This marked an "expansion" of when the batter is out, removing for baserunners, umpires, and infielders confusion over when the ball was caught and thus over whether they were forced to run. The ultimate Infield Fly Rule took this to its logical conclusion, but rendering the batter out no matter if, how, or how long the infielder touched the ball.

I am sorry this paper was not out while I was writing the book; I would have enjoyed discussing and responding to it in the book.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 19, 2018 at 07:13 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


This marked an "expansion" of when the batter is out.

Posted by: Elan | Dec 26, 2018 3:56:41 AM

Incidentally, this brings to mind another interesting wrinkle in the rules: the moment when a baserunner can leave his base to advance on a caught fly ball is the moment a defensive player touches the ball, not when the ball is actually caught. This does two things: makes the umpire's job easier (particularly at the lower levels of baseball with smaller crews) by allowing the umpire to peek at the baserunner a bit early prior to looking back to the defensive player to ensure the ball was caught, and likewise to ensure that a defensive player can't intentionally bobble a fly ball and/or bobble the ball while running toward the infield to prevent a runner from advancing or throw off his timing.

Posted by: Umpire McBallstrike | Dec 20, 2018 12:20:09 PM

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