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Friday, October 18, 2019

The unknown nuances of the Infield Fly Rule

A play in the top of the 8th inning of ALCS Game 4 may have illustrated a finer point of the Infield Fly Rule. It also might have made the announcers' heads explode, had they been paying attention.

The Astros had bases-loaded/1-out when the batter hit a pop-up to the right of second base, about ten beyond the infield dirt. The Yankees shortstop, playing behind second, drifted back and to his left. He turned so he was facing the infield while backpedaling and waving his arms. At the last instance, he was called off by the charging right-fielder, who caught the ball about 15-20 onto the grass.

I do not know whether the umpires declared infield fly. The video does not show the second-base (and nearest) umpire and the announcers did not say anything (such as "infield fly rule is in effect", as they did on an obvious ball near the mound in the top of the 9th). It appears it should have been called: The second baseman was in position to catch the ball and while backpedaling a bit, he was moving less and less far than the infielders on dozens of plays I watched over seven seasons on which the rule was invoked. He was trying to wave-off his teammates. And the ball was close enough to the infield and to second base that a double play might have been in the offing without the rule.

Had the rule been obviously invoked, it would have illustrated an important principle under the rule: It can be invoked when an outfielder handles the ball, if the ball could as easily have been handled by an infielder. Which was the case here--the second baseman looked ready to catch the ball, until the right-fielder called him off and made the catch. And it would have sparked a fascinating (and likely ill-informed) discussion among the announcers about the rule, as they struggled to figure out and explain how IFR was invoked on a ball caught by an outfielder. Too bad; it would have been a fun discussion.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 18, 2019 at 12:05 AM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink

Comments

"It can be invoked when an outfielder handles the ball, if the ball could as easily have been handled by an infielder."

Well of course, because once the umpire decides that the ball can easily be handled by an infielder and declares "infield fly, batter out," no fielder - infielder or outfielder - needs to make a play, or even attempt a play on the ball. They can just let it drop.

The batter is automatically out, the ball is dead, and runners advance at their risk.


How the fielders move or react has nothing to do with whether the rule should be invoked.

Posted by: Chris Coyle | Oct 24, 2019 12:49:46 PM

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