unusual situation - premature walk

alexeth on August 16, 2010, 07:06 pm

bases loaded, 1 out
2-2 count to the batter.
Pitch delivered past the catcher.
Batter takes off for 1st believing it is a walk. Runner from 3rd jogs down toward the plate as the other runners advance on the bases.
People are yelling out "take your base" and "get down there" and "that's only 3" and so on, and in that confusion the umpire calls time. Somewhere in there the catcher tags the runner with the ball.

Offensive team is claiming the walk and run.
Defensive team is claiming that the runner from 3rd should be out.
It's quite clear (scorekeeper and umpire) that the count is now 3-2 (no walk).

- Under what circumstances would the runner be out?
- Under what circumstances would the runner score?
- How should the umpire have handled it?

Some theories offered up.
- The run scored as a stolen base - everyone should have acted based on the actual count, not the actions of the batter (claiming the tag from the catcher was after he'd touched the plate).
- The umpire called time, and stopped everything so the situation being reset without the confusion was correct. Once he called time, nothing else could happen.
- The runner from 3rd is out on a caught-stealing (claiming he was tagged before time was called &/or before touching the plate).

At the game, the umpire conferenced, and returned everyone to the positions as if there had been no confusion, and went on with a 3-2 pitch. No runs. No outs.
After the game, the umpire believed he was wrong to call time out as that muddied the entire thing. Allowing the play to to happen, and waiting until something else deadened the ball and then judge on the actual circumstances - which could've been a great many things.

Thoughts on the rules or the scoring? As it happened, not a peep (but a note) in the scorebook as it was just another pitch, but...

Alex Reisner on August 18, 2010, 04:02 am

Wow, what a scene. I agree with the umpire that he shouldn't have called time out. That pretty much nullifies anyone's argument that there should be a out or a run. The umpire basically cancelled everything, which is a shame.

If the runner were to be called out I agree that it should be scored as a caught stealing. What I don't know is if there's a rule against a batter going down the line and touching 1B during an at-bat. I can easily imagine him being called out for that, though I don't think the MLB rulebook covers it.

That umpire was in a tough situation. He should have let the play go, but what does any umpire do when he either misses a play or doesn't know a ruling? It's an unforgiving job.

starman on October 23, 2010, 02:05 pm

Hi,

I am an umpire at the state level who regularly officiates amateur games. I agree with Mr. Reisner that the umpire should have at least waited for all baserunners to stop at a base before calling time. As a general rule, you should only call time if requested by a player or coach, but never when there are baserunners between bases.

In the situation you described, I assume that the baserunners would've only attempted to advance one base, at which point the catcher, some other players, and the defensive team's coach would've asked the umpire to clarify the situation. This would've been the best point to call time, and rule on the play (What's the count? Was the runner tagged before reaching home plate?).

Another guideline I like is to announce the situation whenever it is unclear or a player gives incorrect information. For instance, if a fielder announces "Two out, guys. Let's make a play at first and get off", I would announce "One out". During the play you described, I would've shouted at the batter who was running to first base "Ball Three" to tell him he must come back and bat, yet I would allow the play to happen.

Finally, rule 6.02(d) states that the batter must not leave the dirt area surrounding home plate unless Time has been called. If the batter does he is awarded a strike, the ball is dead no runners advance. However the umpire can simply warn the batter if the action was brief and inadvertant.

Kiko13 on November 29, 2010, 10:27 pm

Had the runner from 3rd been called out, it should not be called a caught stealing. There is a note in section 10.08 (stolen bases and caught stealing) of the MLB rulebook which says, "NOTE: In those instances where a pitched ball eludes the catcher and the runner is put out trying to advance, no caught stealing shall be charged."

This seems logical, since you don't get credit for a stolen base when the ball gets by the catcher, you advanced on a WP or PB. So if you're thrown out on a similar play you shouldn't be charged with a CS.

Using Retrosheet coding, it would simply be coded as an out advancing:

OA.3XH(2)

http://www.retrosheet.org/eventfile.htm#4 (check the Base Running Events Not Involving the Batter section).

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