CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Wo... (10/28)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Wo... (10/28)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Wo... (10/28)
Next Article >>
The Week in Quotes: Oc... (10/28)

October 28, 2013

Playoff Prospectus

World Series Game Three Recap (The Call Edition)

by Sam Miller

We don't nearly appreciate the extent to which luck decides who wins or loses baseball games. We think we do, because we look at BABIP and Pythagorean records and such, but really there are layers upon layers of luck—luck being the loaded word; good fortune being perhaps the more accurate phrase, and more generous—that we either don't notice or don't anticipate. The ending to this game would fall under the luck we don't anticipate.

By now, you've made up your mind on whether the obstruction call that granted Allen Craig safe passage home with the winning run was the right call. You're probably so certain of your decision that you can't even imagine a person would dispute your ruling. It's so obvious! How could you miss that? Without a doubt, that was/wasn't obstruction. But, whether the call was right or wrong, we should recognize that the very fact that so many people currently disagree with each other about it is evidence that it's not nearly that simple. It very easily could have gone the other way, right or wrong.

The rulebook, for example, is extremely specific on this play. At the end of Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment, it lays out this exact scenario: "For example: if an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner." It's so specific. It is as though this play happened and they wrote the rule immediately after with a play exactly like this one in mind. And the rule they came up with is... ambivalent! "He very likely has obstructed the runner." Not "he has," but "he very likely has." Probably. Maybe. Up to you to decide. Use your best judgment. What am I, God?

A few statements of fact:

1. Will Middlebrooks attempted to field a ball he had the right to field.
2. Upon failing to field that ball, he was in a position to impede Allen Craig's attempt to score.
3. Allen Craig has a generally acknowledged right to attempt to score.
4. He (Craig) did not do anything unusual or unnatural. He stood up, ran toward home, and was thwarted.
5. Therefore, Middlebrooks has "very likely" obstructed the runner.

Here's the GIF that you've probably already seen, from @cjzero:

Now, in the defense of uncertainty:

1. A reasonable person might consider Middlebrooks to have still been in the act of attempting to field the ball. He had not moved on to another action. He had not failed to move, with unnecessary delay. If—and, frankly, we're going to get into hypotheticals not because I want to convince you of anything but because they are the best way to grapple with the consequences of our assumptionsMiddlebrooks had leapt for the ball, surely his descent to earth would still be considered part of the act of attempting to field the ball. So, the umpires are forced to grapple with difficult decision no. 1: When does Middlebrooks stop being a defender and start being an obstruction? When does he go from lying on the ground to "continu(ing) to lie on the ground," as specified in the rule? Is it the second a ball is one inch past him? Maybe! But that's an awfully demanding requirement, and one that might make an umpire look at the "very likely" portion of that rule and conclude that the defender acting in good faith falls into the implied exceptions.

2. Upon failing to field that ball, he was in a position to impede Allen Craig's attempt to score because of Allen Craig himself. Maybe, at least. Here's the frame-by-frame of the play:

Frame 1: Middlebrooks reaches for the throw, which is leading him away from the base.

Frame 2: Middlebrooks begins to lean.

Frame 3: Middlebrooks, standing in front of the base, appears to have his glove hit by Craig, sliding.

Frame 4: It's not easy to say conclusively, but it appears that Craig's upper body is now colliding with Middlebrooks' arm, and his left leg or even right knee might have made contact with Middlebrooks' left leg.

Frame 5: Middlebrooks topples over, putting all the parties in place for an obstruction call. In Timothy Burke's GIF of the trip itself, Middlebrooks' body is lying on the ground at an angle that suggests he was spun a bit, like by Craig. Naturally, Craig has every right to slide into the base. Just like Middlebrooks has every right to dive for a ball in an attempt to field it. Does it change the math from step 1, when we try to determine when Middlebrooks gave up his rights, if Craig is himself the reason for Middlebooks ending up in an obstructing position? Remember: "very likely has obstructed." The rules want us to consider these things.

3. Yes, Allen Craig has a right to score, by running in a baseline toward his next base. And, yes, the baseline is that line which he himself sets when he starts toward the base. Allen Craig was running in his baseline and Will Middlebrooks lifted his feet up and blocked that baseline. But Middlebrooks, in a more generous interpretation of the play, lifted his feet away from the more common baseline. For all we know, he was trying to clear a space for Craig, and was simply unfortunate that Craig was running a somewhat unconventional route.

Now, the natural response to this is a great response: Intent doesn't matter. (This is a great response as nearly all defenses of the obstruction call are great defenses; it being the case, after all, that an obstruction call is completely reasonable! As would be, many intelligent people would argue, a non-obstruction call.) Intent doesn't matter in sports officiating, but of course intent does matter sometimes. Falling down in soccer isn't against the rules; falling down on purpose, to deceive the officials, is. Throwing a baseball that hits a batter isn't against the rules; doing so intentionally very much is. The neighborhood play at second base is simply a fielder failing to touch the bag but doing so intentionally, and being granted leniency by the knowing umpires. (The word intention appears in the rulebook 47 times.) Heck, umpires often fail to call a strike when the pitch, though in the zone, is not where the pitcher and catcher had intended it. That last one is a lousy part of umpiring that should make you mad, but it establishes a basic fact about umpires: they consider intent. It is perfectly consistent with how umpires do their jobs, and how the game is played. In a situation like this, where the rule is intentionally ambiguous, then it is arguably truer to the nature of the sport for intent to be considered.

I lean toward calling obstruction, and I lean toward cleaning up the wording in the rulebook before this happens again and/or starts getting exploited by runners who realize that the rulebook apparently gives them exploitably broad rights. Of course, if runners started abusing this—intentionally running into defenders on the ground—I assume umpires would stop granting them bases. Intent, after all, matters to umpires.

My point is not that the umpires made the right call, or the wrong call. It is that they very easily could have made either call. The only wrong opinion in this case is certainty, because the rulebook very specifically leaves room for uncertainty. It was the Cardinals' good fortune that it went their way, and the Red Sox' bad fortune that it didn't go their way. Will Middlebrooks didn't do anything wrong. Allen Craig didn't do anything wrong. There's no morally right solution in this rulebook, so Dana DeMuth and Jim Joyce chose the morally neutral one: They more or less guessed.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  St. Louis Cardinals,  Boston Red Sox

72 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

oloughla

I agree with everything you wrote here, Sam. I'm a sox fan, but I'm not going to argue that the call was necessarily wrong. The bottom line, I think, is that it simply sucks to have such an important game decided by such a debatable judgment call.

Oct 26, 2013 23:40 PM
rating: 0
 
oloughla

And I don't mean to imply that it should have been decided the other way for that reason either. Regardless of whether obstruction is called, there is an enormous swing in win probability based on whether the umpire makes that call. The unfortunate part is that the game essentially turns on which of two perfectly defensible interpretations the umpire makes there.

Oct 26, 2013 23:47 PM
rating: -1
 
flyingdutchman

Great writeup. I suppose it's as close as we'll get to a Sam Miller 'Hot Take.'

Here's mine: The only wrong opinion in this case is the one that believes Workman should have been batting in the bottom of the 8th instead of Napoli.

Oct 26, 2013 23:42 PM
rating: 7
 
jbriaz

It was obstruction. The moment I saw It I yelled obstruction. The rule was interpreted correctly, and also importantly, Craig scores if he isn't tripped.

Oct 27, 2013 01:10 AM
rating: 0
 
oloughla

Sounds like you missed the point of the article.

Oct 27, 2013 05:50 AM
rating: -2
 
wfarmer

I think that jbriaz most likely understood the intent of this article, just didn't agree with the execution. It took a lot of hedging for the author just to get to the idea that it was probably obstruction. If you don't start with a conclusion in mind and you read the rule, it's hard to see this as anything but obstruction.

Oct 27, 2013 14:34 PM
rating: 3
 
anderson721

I lean against obstruction. It seems to me there was absolutely nothing Middlebrooks could do to avoid being in the way. Craig was not "tripped" so much as he stumbled, through no fault of Middlebrooks.

Oct 27, 2013 03:37 AM
rating: -1
 
Clay Davenport
(7)

There was plenty of Middlebrooks could have done, before going down. He made the same mistake that Saltalamacchia made in the prior game - staying so firmly positioned to make the tag that he was unable to make the catch.

I agree that, _once he got himself into that position-, there was nothing he could do. But he (and the Red Sox) did not have to be in that position. Salty could have made a good throw; Middlebrooks could have come off the bag to make the catch. They got themselves into a no-win position, and, as usually happens in no-win positions, they lost.

The shame is it detracts from what was one hell of a play by Pedroia.

And its useful noting that Craig was only in that position at all because he was hobbled by an injury caused by an umpire's obstruction.

Oct 27, 2013 06:03 AM
rating: 5
 
wollkind

One of the big comments about this whole thing is the idea that Middlebrooks had no good option, and people think that's unfair, but I don't think that matters.

This game is very likely over as soon as the ball gets away down the line. Either Middlebrooks gets out of the way or Craig avoids him and scores, or Middlebrooks very likely obstructs the runner.

I do find the discussion of when the fielder goes from "laying" to "continuing to lay." He wasn't down on the ground for that long...

Oct 27, 2013 06:56 AM
rating: 5
 
oPlaiD

This is the point people seem to be ignoring - they think its unfair to Middlebrooks that he can't do anything to get out of the way, but somehow ignore the fact that its completely unfair to Craig that there's a fielder lying in the basepath. He EASILY scores if Middlebrooks isn't there, so why should Craig be penalized for the Red Sox's mistakes?

The ONLY way the Red Sox come out on top in that situation, after making that poor throw, is if the umpire does NOT call obstruction on that play, and Middlebrooks prevents the runner from scoring by blocking him. That's the only positive Red Sox outcome - the play being decided in their favor by the umpire, not anything that happened on the field, because the Red Sox are the ones who made the bad plays.

It would be much more unfair if the umpire decided in favor of the Red Sox; the Cardinals would be unfairly punished for things completely out of control the Red Sox would be absolved of making errors that usually cost you runs for no particular reason.

Then only catch there is that if the Red Sox had the call go in their favor, the game would not have ended. That's one thing that has so many people up in arms, but really its immaterial to what the correct decision on the field is.

Oct 27, 2013 09:32 AM
rating: 13
 
Schlom

You hit on the most important point and what people who think that it should not have been called are missing - why should the Red Sox not be punished for their bad play?

I think most people are ignoring the huge problems if the rule was not called the way it was last night - it could become impossible to advance on overthrows on close plays at the bases since the fielder could block the runners. Overthrow on a stolen base attempt at second base - just have the SS/2B fall on top of the runner in his "attempt" to get the ball. Bad throw on a pickoff at first - same thing, just get in the runner's way so he can't move to second.

Oct 27, 2013 15:05 PM
rating: 3
 
Llarry

The 1890's Baltimore Orioles (McGraw, et al) say hi and are upset because you've seen through their cunning plan.

(Amazing how many rules are their "fault"...)

Oct 28, 2013 11:11 AM
rating: 0
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

"once he got himself into that position-, there was nothing he could do"

Huh? Middlebrooks makes every effort to not obstruct the runner either coming to third or going home. He is never blocking the path either to third or home. Craig's first step is basically back towards second - just a clumsy stumble and he gets bailed out by Joyce.

Another brutal call by Joyce in a big spot. Let the players decide the game.

Oct 27, 2013 09:26 AM
rating: -20
 
BrianGunn
(439)

Again, another argument based on Middlebrooks' effort, which is irrelevant. The rules are clear - that base path belongs to Craig, even if he takes a step toward second. So I'm not sure how it's a brutal call by Joyce.

Oct 27, 2013 10:24 AM
rating: 2
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

So in your interpretation of the rules a runner can basically guarantee himself the next base by running into the fielder at the base, no matter where that fielder is?

Oct 27, 2013 10:57 AM
rating: -8
 
BrianGunn
(439)

If the fielder is in the base path, it is his responsibility to be out of the way. Not try to be out of the way - to be out of the way. And the next base would not be guaranteed if the runner ran into him - the runner would have to be safe had the obstruction not occurred, which is what happened last night.

Oct 27, 2013 11:56 AM
rating: 4
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

He wasn't in the base path. He's well inside the third base line.

Oct 27, 2013 14:05 PM
rating: -6
 
frampton
(870)

You're not understanding the rule. It has nothing to do with the "baseline" -- except between home and first for the last 45 feet, there's no requirement that a runner run within a specified "baseline." The rule just speaks of progress to the next base. Craig was clearly running towards home; there's no requirement that he do so in foul territory once he's touched third. He's entitled to run directly to the next base, and because Middlebrooks was in his path, they made contact, and Craig continued toward home, that's obstruction.

Oct 27, 2013 17:00 PM
rating: 5
 
Stevis
(549)

So, by letting the defense get away with a violation, they would be letting the players decide the game? No, they'd be abdicating their responsibility. The players decided that game when Salty made an awful decision and worse throw and Middlebrooks didn't make the safe play to secure the ball above all else. The umps just correctly called what happened.

And Sam? Go take some umpire training. Not a single trained umpire at any level would see this play any differently than the MLB crew saw it. There was no guessing.

Oct 27, 2013 11:27 AM
rating: 6
 
eliyahu

Am I the only person who assumes Middlebrooks obstructed Craig with his legs on purpose? I *know* everyone on the Sox is denying it, but I can't believe that he wasn't trying to impede Craig's progress with his feet and hoping he wouldn't get caught.

Lifting your legs like that is not something one would normally do in the process of getting up or out of the way.

Oct 27, 2013 06:08 AM
rating: 5
 
vespij

I hope not. I think he did. I would have.

Oct 27, 2013 06:52 AM
rating: 6
 
John Carter

Right. That's how I see it. Middlebrooks tried to trip him as Craig was trying to step over him. It is a natural instinct to try to do that coming from these very competitive athletes. I think that's what I would have attempted as well - not taking the time to consider this is televised with about 5 slow motion cameras on the play. It is possible that Middlebrooks was trying to get out of the way, then changed his mind and decided to lay low, but not probable.

The Red Sox lost both of their games with ill considered throws to third base.

Oct 28, 2013 14:34 PM
rating: 0
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I think he was lifting his legs to provide a path for Craig

Oct 27, 2013 10:04 AM
rating: 0
 
MikeJordan23

This is really all on Saltalamacchia. It made absolutely no sense to make that throw in that situation. It would've been a runner on third with two outs with Pete Kozma coming up against Koji. The inning, for all intents and purposes, was over once they got Molina out at home plate. Why make such a risky throw in that spot?

Oct 27, 2013 06:20 AM
rating: 13
 
AWBenkert

The umpires don't have the benefit of frame-by-frame video review. They have to make split-second decisions.

I too think Jim Joyce got it right, which I was glad to see after he took so much grief for the missed call in the Armando Gallarraga would-have-been perfect game.

Oct 27, 2013 06:30 AM
rating: 3
 
wollkind

One way or the other, heck of a play by Pedroia.

Oct 27, 2013 06:57 AM
rating: 6
 
Clay Davenport
(7)

"1. A reasonable person might consider Middlebrooks to have still been in the act of attempting to field the ball. He had not moved on to another action"

Actually, the rule book is quite clear on this one. I quote: "After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball
and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball." However unreasonable it may seem, that is the specified rule.

The catch was a do-or-die play. By missing it, he left himself in an obstructing position.

Oct 27, 2013 07:10 AM
rating: 21
 
BillJohnson

Well said, Clay (and great to have you back on BP commenting). At the time that Craig was being obstructed, the ball was rattling around somewhere down the third-base line. The language in the rule book was practically written with this situation in mind.

The way for Middlebrooks to avoid obstructing the runner in this situation is to CATCH THE FRIGGIN' BALL.

Oct 27, 2013 09:24 AM
rating: 4
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

The way to avoid obstruction is to continue in the normal path from 3rd to home and not take a clumsy step towards 2nd base. All kinds of room for Craig to head for home plate without getting tangled up with Middlebrooks.

Oct 27, 2013 10:55 AM
rating: -14
 
BillJohnson

Completely, thoroughly wrong. The runner is under no obligation to avoid obstruction in a situation like this. The obligation is 100% with the fielder. The rulebook makes that clear.

Oct 27, 2013 13:51 PM
rating: 11
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

The rulebook is as clear as mud, as the article clearly points out. Nowhere in the section on obstruction does it say anything about "100 % responsibility to avoid..."

Think about it - if Joyce doesn't make the call, is there any controversy whatsoever about the ruling?

Brutal, brutal call.

Oct 27, 2013 14:14 PM
rating: -15
 
montanabowers

Great article, but I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion. I also enjoyed listening to Kevin Millar and Harold Reynolds break this down. Other points to consider:
1. Millar: Middlebrook's job is to catch that ball. He froze. If he moves with and towards the throw, the ball stays in the infield.
2. Reynolds: This play happens more than we think, but not at third base. It's a more common play with the middle infield and a baserunner. We don't remember/notice as much because the runner is awarded third, not home.

My observation - Joyce didn't hesitate, he made the call as soon as he saw Craig stumble over Middlebrooks. No matter which side you believe, Joyce got it right - he was decisive and called it instantly, not moments later. You won't see Joyce in tears over this one.

Oct 27, 2013 07:16 AM
rating: 6
 
alangreene

I usually like your writing, but this is a terrible article. And fairly insulting to the umpires involved.

I have no dog in this fight, and I find both Sox and Cardinals fans tediously annoying and their actual teams fairly likeable.

This entire article is an attempt to bring into the discussion things that simply don't matter in order to muddle the waters.

The umpires guessed? No, they did not. They don't feel that way. I'd imagine if you took this into a courtroom or an arbitration setting, the people ruling wouldn't feel that way, either. Of course, I have no way to prove this.

You exhibit all the worst arguments out there -- first, immediately disarming anyone certain as if they were biased. Since you are arguing in favor of uncertainty, you establish yourself as the reasonable one, and inherently target anyone certain as mockable. As you do in your entire second paragraph. Just because someone is certain does not they are so because they root for one team or because they aren't as even minded as you. Sometimes it is because they are right, or can actually make a decision.

Your argument for "it could go either way" is an unfuriating argument because uncertainty does not mean you are right -- and the open-mindedness the uncertainty argument implies gives the arguer often undeserved credibility.

To back yourself up, you begin to make pointless arguments -- Craig caused Middlebrooks to fall! Is there anything in the rulebook to argue that should have an effect on the call? Anything at all?

In soccer, we evaluate intent! Soccer is irrelevent.

In other parts of the rulebook we evaluate intent! Actually, by the fact that it is specifically mentioned elsewhere and not here tells us intent is most likely irrelevant.

And the neighborhood play isn't even in the rulebook, is it? Why is it here? It's something the umpires consistently allow because it is presumed to reduce injury. It's widely accepted and known. None of that applies to this call.

The rule is fairly clear. There's some wiggle. I suppose they could have called it the other way with some roundabout explanation, but it was called according to the rulebook. It wasn't a fifty-fifty play.

(Morally neutral? What does that even mean? Was there a call out there in the universe here that was morally evil?)

It certainly wasn't a guess. Many of your arguments make sense for why the rule should be changed, but not why you'd call it differently.

Oct 27, 2013 07:43 AM
rating: 12
 
surfdent48

The rule is painfully clear and to me there is no wiggle room. The rule needs to be altered to allow umpire discretion. In this case Middlebrooks was lying flat on the ground and had no chance to "get out of the way". Craig tripped on Middlebrooks' upper left thigh not his lower legs.

Oct 27, 2013 09:13 AM
rating: -1
 
Behemoth

You still have to explain why the Cardinals should be penalised because the Red Sox made a mistake which caused Craig to be impeded. The rule is deliberately and correctly written to say that it doesn't matter whether the runner is deliberately impeded or not because that's the whole point. The runner shouldn't be penalised because of the actions of the fielding team whether intentional or not. Think about how unfair it would be for Craig to be out through no fault of his own, and not as a result of good play by the opposition.

Oct 28, 2013 14:52 PM
rating: 1
 
JohnnyB

This is correct. It is an article arguing for a different definition of obstruction. The actual definition fits this play PERFECTLY. Being uncertain here is the strange place to be. I would be hard-pressed to find a controversial WS call where the umpires were so good at interpreting the rules -- they usually get it wrong

Oct 27, 2013 09:50 AM
rating: 9
 
BrianGunn
(439)

Yes, Sam's writing is usu excellent, but this article (if I can infer intent for a moment) seems like an attempt to say something - anything - new about the play that hasn't already been said, and coming up short.

The rule is clear (actually there are several rules that make this same point) - base paths belong to base runners, and it is the fielders' job to clear that path. The rules do not care HOW fielders get in the way of that path (unless runners do something illegal to put them there), only THAT they do.

Once we acknowledge that point, pretty much each of Sam's points crumble (particularly point #2, which is not at all germane to this discussion - as long as Craig is make a legal slide, it does not matter whether this is what upends Middlebrooks). I appreciate Sam's attempts to add nuance to the ruling, but I feel it's too clever by half.

Oct 27, 2013 10:15 AM
rating: 0
 
frampton
(870)

I think "very likely obstructed" just refers to the judgment determination of where the runner would have ended up without the obstruction. For example, if Craig had stopped after the tripped over Middlebrooks, the ump would not have allowed him to score. Or, if Bogaerts was right behind the play and thrown Craig out by 30 feet, the tag play probably would have been allowed to stand. In other words, the obstruction wasn't the judgment call, the remedy was.

Oct 27, 2013 07:48 AM
rating: 7
 
Maxwell Baldi

That was my initial reaction. But the "very likely obstructed" line occurs in the comment to rule 2.00 defining obstruction. Once obstruction is established (according to the definition), then the umpire must make a judgement call under 7.06 (b) as to whether the runner would have scored if not for the obstruction.

Oct 28, 2013 06:50 AM
rating: 1
 
SaxonB

Love Sam's writing and I do think the call was a difficult one, but if the overarching point is that many of rules in baseball that are enforced by umpires are subjective then you are making a rather obvious point.

This article didn't offer any insight into the play. It was kind of the equivalent of a 1000-word shrug.

And that's OK, I suppose. You guys write many many many many many many articles that are insightful and engaging and entertaining that make baseball all that much better to watch and think about. This just wasn't one of them.

Oct 27, 2013 09:31 AM
rating: 2
 
BurrRutledge

Four stages of the play:

A) Craig knocks down Middlebrooks as he slides into the base, and the ball gets away

B) Craig gets up and stumbles while looking back over his shoulder to find the ball

C) Craig rebalances himself by putting his left hand on the Middlebrooks' lower back, using it to launch himself forward

D) Craig stumbles again as he tries to leap Middlebrooks' lower legs


Of these four steps, "D" is obstruction by Middlebrooks. The previous three steps are krafty baserunning by Craig.












Oct 27, 2013 11:19 AM
rating: -3
 
BrianGunn
(439)

This is a hilarious misreading of reality. Or is this parody?

Oct 27, 2013 11:58 AM
rating: 3
 
BurrRutledge

Yes.

Oct 27, 2013 13:38 PM
rating: 0
 
MGL

"A reasonable person might consider Middlebrooks to have still been in the act of attempting to field the ball. He had not moved on to another action."

I don't believe that is correct. The rule book defines two ways that a fielder can be "in the act of fielding a ball."

One, it is a batted ball. That one does not apply. It was a thrown ball at this point.

Two, it is a thrown ball. OK, this one applies. So let's see what the rule book says about that:

Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball.

So, the umpire may consider receiving a throw to also be "in the act of fielding a ball," BUT the fielder has to be "about to receive a thrown ball." The refers to the times that a fielder is waiting for the ball and blocks the runner. In this, he is not waiting for the ball when the "block" occurs.

Finally, even if we were to concede that he was, "in the act of fielding a ball" buy virtue of being "about to receive a thrown ball," the end of that comment applies:

"After a fielder has made at attempt to field the ball and missed, he can no longer be in the act of fielding the ball."

So, no, I don't think it is reasonable to consider Middlebrooks to still be in the act of fielding a ball, at least according to the rules, which is the only think that matters.

Oct 27, 2013 12:55 PM
rating: 11
 
sephrath

This is not fully correct, a fielder has to allow the baserunner a path to the base, generally speaking a fielder does not have to be where they are to catch the ball, but yes this is why obstruction wasn't called on middlebrooks while the runner was advancing to 3rd base, however, him laying on the ground while the runner attempted to advance to the next base was obstruction, two seperate situations even though it was caused by the same throw.

Oct 28, 2013 06:19 AM
rating: 0
 
jedjethro

Is somebody on the BP staff going through and downvoting any comment that criticizes the article?

Oct 27, 2013 12:56 PM
rating: -2
 
BrianGunn
(439)

I doubt there is any conspiracy by BP staffers to downvote criticisms, but the more I think about this article the more baffling it gets. MGL did a great job disassembling point #1 (and odd that Sam evidently didn't consult the rule book on this point first), point #2 is not remotely relevant to the discussion, and point #3... well, I don't know where to begin. The argument about umpires considering intent b/c they call balls and strikes based on where the pitcher intended to throw the ball (as if this should at all be the normative standard) may be the single worst piece of reasoning I've ever read on Baseball Prospectus.

Oct 27, 2013 13:18 PM
rating: 6
 
BillJohnson

Agreed. Sam, I greatly enjoy your writing and value your opinions on things, but you whiffed on this one.

Oct 27, 2013 14:08 PM
rating: 1
 
Robotey

My biggest with obstruction call has always been the 'free pass' it gives to the runner, not unlike the 'free play' a quarterback by running a play when the defense jumps offside. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the moment obstruction is determined--and that can be as early as Middlebrooks' feet getting tangled with Craig's--if the ump signals obstruction, then once Craig heads for home he will be called safe at home, regardless of if he is thrown out by 10 feet or 50. But if he thinks he can't make it, and stays at 3rd, he doesn't benefit from the obstruction call. Of course, if he doesn't know obstruction has been called, but he has 'suffered' from it, then he doesn't get the benefit. This is the greatest problem with the rule: it allows no judgement by the umpire and only rewards the runner arbitrarily.

Oct 27, 2013 14:16 PM
rating: 0
 
BrianGunn
(439)

This is incorrect. That's why Demuth had to wait for Craig to come home before he called him safe. If Craig was out by a mile Demuth could've called Craig out despite the obstruction. So there is no free pass.

Oct 27, 2013 18:03 PM
rating: 2
 
larlaro

Obstruction is a "delayed" call, that keeps the ball live, and a ruling is made after the play has ended as to whether in the judgment of the umpire(s) the obstruction was the cause of the obstructed player to be unable to reach the next base. It is not always awarded, but is most often awarded. The umpire(s) would have to be convinced that the player would not have reached the next base without the obstruction.

Oct 27, 2013 18:14 PM
rating: 1
 
sephrath

Are you sure about that, im pretty sure obstruction once called is automatic.

Oct 28, 2013 06:15 AM
rating: -1
 
Maxwell Baldi

The difference lies in whether obstruction occurs as a play is being made on the obstructed player and when a play is not being made on the obstructed play. The former is an immediate dead ball; the latter, delayed dead ball.

Oct 28, 2013 06:53 AM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

This was really a very simple call.

Runners accidently run into fielders making a play all the time.

We don't sit here and debate the intentions of the runner or whether the runner could have done something to avoid doing so. If he hits the fielder, he's out.

The onus is on the runner as long as the ball is being fielded and on the fielder after the fielding chance passes.

The rule is pretty clear here. That was obstruction.

You could debate whether the obstruction was enough to prevent the runner from scoring.

I don't know how anyone can say that standing, falling to the ground and standing up again (1 sec)doesn't take at least enough time to make the difference in 2-3 feet of someone sliding at the plate unless they have some vested interest in the outcome that colors their view.



Oct 27, 2013 19:12 PM
rating: 6
 
sephrath

First off a fielder only has a right to a batted ball, in this case the fielder has to allow the base runner a path to the bag unless he already has the ball in his possession. This was not a batted ball, it was a thrown ball therefore he has to avoid the runner until the ball is in his possession.

Whether middlebrooks could or could. It do anything is irrelevant. He impeded the runners ability to advance and therefore by rule the runner is awarded that base. Had middlebrooks not tripped up Craig he would've scored, but that doesn't matter, once the obstruction is called the runner is awarded the base.

Aside from redsox fans I'm surprised this is even a discussion.

Oct 27, 2013 19:58 PM
rating: 4
 
WoodyS

Buckgunn says: "If Craig was out by a mile Demuth could've called Craig out despite the obstruction."

But sephrath says: "Once the obstruction is called the runner is awarded the base."

Does anyone know which comment is correct?

Oct 28, 2013 06:26 AM
rating: -1
 
Maxwell Baldi

The difference lies in whether obstruction occurs as a play is being made on the obstructed player and when a play is not being made on the obstructed play. The former is an immediate dead ball; the latter, delayed dead ball. (Official Rules, 7.06 (a) vs (b))

So in this case, Buckgunn is correct.

Oct 28, 2013 06:55 AM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

Got me by 9 minutes... :)

Oct 28, 2013 07:04 AM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

Both can be right, depending on the circumstances. For this play, Rule 7.06(b) applies since a play was not being made on Craig at the time of the obstruction. The ball was in left field and there was no direct action being taken to attempt to legally tag Craig out. Rule 7.06(b) states that the play shall continue until its natural completion, at which time penalties are enforced.

Whether you agree or not that Middlebrooks obstructed Craig, the umps nailed the call as far as letting the play finish before making their call.

Oct 28, 2013 07:04 AM
rating: 1
 
Robotey

ok, so it appears I stand corrected. We're all agreed that had Craig been thrown out by, say 10 more feet (20?), the home plate ump could have called him out? If that's the case, then the rule makes more sense than I thought--and in any event the umps certainly got it right.

So we're saying that if you're the runner, and you know obstruction has been called--which I believe Craig did not--you've got to be aware that you won't automatically be awarded the next base?

In layman's terms, is the 'other' type of obstruction what happens when a runner in a rundown runs into a fielder in the basepath and is awarded the base? If so, I have qualms with that one. I've seen occassions when runners seem to deliberately try to run into a fielder in hopes of gaining an obstruction call. Would that be a case in which 'intent' should be taken into account?

Oct 28, 2013 07:39 AM
rating: 0
 
BrianGunn
(439)

You are correct about Craig not being automatically awarded the next base.

And from what I understand the umps DO have leeway to factor in flopping (that's where the "very likely" comes into play in the rules - a runner can't himself do something illegal to goad obstruction). But the umps can still blow it. Case in point:

http://www.baseballnation.com/2012/6/14/3085641/devin-mesoraco-lou-marson-reds-indians-obstruction

Oct 28, 2013 08:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Robotey

wow - well-spotted. I like the yellow card comment - funny thing is I vaguely recall that the player I saw pulling this ploy was also a Red.

Oct 28, 2013 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
sephrath

No it's just delayed they don't kill the play but the penalty is enforced if craig made it anyway then they do not need to enforced the penalties, but my understanding is once an umpire calls obstruction it's enforced. For example, in a run down situation if a player collides with a fielder in the base path he is awarded the base.

Oct 28, 2013 15:14 PM
rating: 0
 
shmage
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

What about this? Craig slid into third base. But he stumbled over Middlebrook INSIDE the third-base line. So he must have taken at least ONE step back toward second base. So HIS baseline before he reversed course was straight down the third-base line. That, according to the rulebook precludes obstruction, doesn't it?.
And that doesn't even taske into account the fact that in the English language the word "act" absolutely requires intent! Without intent it's an "accident," not an "act!"
The ruling therefore was wrong on two counts!

Oct 28, 2013 10:22 AM
rating: -6
 
paddyo
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.


Sam:

A few points I did not see in your article or the comments:

1. Allen Craig is a major league baseball player with unfettered access to the best base running instruction in the entire world.
2. Sliding is a skill that all baseball players are taught
in Little League &/or high school.
3. If the coach @ 3B sees a close tag play at 3B & he knows what he is doing, he instructs the runner coming from 2B to slide past 3B on the outfield side of the base(to avoid a tag)& then to roll over & reach back for the base with the right hand.
4. When sliding into a potential tag @ 2B or 3B the runner must run one step beyond the imaginary line between 2B & 3B, & then slide by extending his left leg, tucking his right foot under his left knee & leaning back (again to avoid the tag).
5. It is obvious from the first frame above that the throw from the catcher to 3B was on target.
6. It is also obvious that Middlebrooks was in perfect position to field the throw(left foot against the side of the base facing home plate w/glove hand extended toward the pitcher)
7. It is also obvious that Craig made no effort to avoid the tag; instead he slid into Middlebrooks despite having a clear path to 3B.
8. By turning onto his left hip & sticking his knees out he struck Middlebrooks glove hand/arm & knocked him off balance & prevented Middlebrooks from fielding the throw. THIS IS INTERFERENCE WITH A FIELDER ATTEMPTING TO MAKE A PLAY ON A THROWN BALL & CRAIG SHOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED OUT IMMEDIATELY.
9. By executing a slide that would provoke laughter from my high school softball players, Craig rendered himself unable to get up & proceed to home plate unimpeded.
10. If he slid into 3B correctly, Craig would have wound up in foul territory & thus avoided the stumbling, bumbling play that ensued (not to mind the lovely strawberry that he is now sporting on his left thigh.)
11. After the ball got away from Middlebrooks, Craig took A FULL STEP inside the 3B foul line to begin his run to home plate. He thus was also the proximate (sole?) cause of the second collision with Middlebrooks.

CONCLUSION: Base runner executes a coyote ugly slide @ 3B
& crashes into the third baseman who is clearly not blocking his path & is awarded home plate because the runner then improperly steps away from "the base line" & stumbles into the poor unsuspecting third baseman a second time.

WOW, THAT'S GOOD UMPIRING!

PAT O'DAY

Oct 28, 2013 10:31 AM
rating: -9
 
JParks
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Well said.

I wonder how many internet posts are made on this play if obstruction had not been called?

I'm guessing a dropoff of at least two orders of magnitude.

Clear spot for a non-call to be made.

Officiating 101 - you are doing your job well if no one is discussing your performance after the game.

Oct 28, 2013 12:11 PM
rating: -7
 
thegeneral13

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Oct 28, 2013 12:45 PM
rating: 0
 
Dodger300

Your post is intended to be a joke,mright?

Unless you are pretending that you've never heard of a runner sliding hard (or barrelling) into home attempting to make the fielder drop the ball!

As long as he is going for the base, the runner is NEVER called out for interference.

So why do you think the rule would be any different at third bad?

It's not. There was no "runner's interference."

Oct 29, 2013 04:37 AM
rating: 2
 
shmage
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I said the call was wrong on two counts. I should have said three. Though Craig touched third base on his slide he then retreated at least one step toward second base. Thus he was obliged to touch third again on his way to the plate. Which he didn't. So "obstruction" becomes irrelevant. He was out for missing third base!

Oct 28, 2013 13:12 PM
rating: -6
 
sephrath

This is not even remotely correct

Oct 28, 2013 15:09 PM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

I wish people would stop minusing everything that they disagree with. It's a bit pathetic.

Oct 29, 2013 03:26 AM
rating: 0
 
stevemillburg

This article seems to me the opposite of sabermetrics. Instead of looking at the evidence and seeing where it leads, it stakes out a position and then selectively marshals evidence, no matter how fragile or even irrelevant, to back up that position. I usually like Sam Miller's writing, but this is that-guy-on-the-barstool-who-always-likes-to-stir-things-up stuff, not what I come to Baseball Prospectus for. It should never have been published, at least on this site.

Oct 30, 2013 07:40 AM
rating: 3
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Wo... (10/28)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Wo... (10/28)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: Wo... (10/28)
Next Article >>
The Week in Quotes: Oc... (10/28)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast: Talking Keepers and ...
Fantasy Article Player Profile: Neftali Feliz
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avoid: Relief Pitchers
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Trout Pulling the Trigger
Premium Article Raising Aces: Under the Gun 3.0
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: All the Reliever News ...
Some Projection Left: The Severino Enigma

MORE FROM OCTOBER 28, 2013
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Four R...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Welcome Matt
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Five P...
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Is Cardinal Magic Real?
Premium Article Minor League Update: AFL Recap for Games of ...
The Week in Quotes: October 21-27
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Three ...

MORE BY SAM MILLER
2013-10-29 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Five R...
2013-10-29 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2013-10-28 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Four R...
2013-10-28 - Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Three ...
2013-10-28 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
2013-10-25 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Two Re...
2013-10-25 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 3...
More...

MORE PLAYOFF PROSPECTUS
2013-10-28 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Four R...
2013-10-28 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Four R...
2013-10-28 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Five P...
2013-10-28 - Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Three ...
2013-10-28 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Three ...
2013-10-27 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Four P...
2013-10-25 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Two Re...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2013-10-29 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Sifting Through Second-Ha...
2013-10-28 - The Week in Quotes: October 21-27
2013-10-28 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Three ...
2013-10-27 - Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: World Series Game Four P...