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Saturday, April 20, 2019

On the need and scope of the Infield Fly Rule, Exhibit # 613

The Mariners turned a double play against the Angels on a fly ball to second base, on a play that illustrates two points about the need for and scope of the Infield Fly Rule.

The Angels had runner on first with one out. The runner, Brian Goodwin, broke for second; the batter, Justin Bour, popped the ball on the infield dirt near the second baseman. Goodwin ran back to first, while Bour, assuming the ball would be caught, began walking towards the dugout. Seeing this, one Mariners infielder yelled to his teammate to let the ball fall to the ground, which he did. He threw to second for the force on Goodwin (the third baseman was covering second on a shift against the lefty Bour), then a relay to first for the inning-ending double play on the non-running batter.

This demonstrates why baseball does not have or need a limiting rule for fly balls with a runner on first base only (so a force in effect at only one base). There would have been no chance for a double play on this play had Bour run (or even jogged) to first base. The Mariners might have chosen to let the ball fall to the ground to get the one out as a force on the speedy Goodwin while allowing Bour to reach first. But that is a relatively equitable exchange--one out for one baserunner, with a loss of speed on the basepaths. The Mariners gained the inequitable advantage of an inning-ending double play only because Bour did not do what he is expected to do--run to first base on a batted ball.

The video provides a great shot of why the Infield Fly Rule is necessary. Watch the play, imagining a second baserunner on second. We can see how easy it would have been for the second baseman to let the ball hit the ground and immediately make the first of one or two throws for a double play--had the fielder been quicker grabbing the ball off the ground, he could have made one throw to second base for a tag-the-runner-on-second/tag-the-base-to-force-the-runner-on-first double play. And we can see how screwed the baserunnners would be. Having run all the way back to first, Goodwin could not turn around and run 90 feet the other way in time to beat the throws; neither could a second baserunner. And this is with the defense being somewhat nonchalant on the play and a bit confused, because it was unexpected. Imagine life without the Infield Fly Rule, when the defense plans and practices for this play and is ready to pull it off.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 20, 2019 at 04:25 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink

Comments

"But that is a relatively equitable exchange--one out for one baserunner, with a loss of speed on the basepaths."

Is do you say that is relatively equitable? It allows the infielder to game the play to obtain an outcome that ordinarily would not be possible on a fly ball. Maybe we're OK with that, but I don't know that its equitable - the defense gets a distinct advantage by getting to select which runner to put out.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Apr 20, 2019 9:55:38 PM

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