Two baseball rules questions

  1. Rule 7.08(f) states:
    Any runner is out when_ (f) He is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance. EXCEPTION: If a runner is touching his base when touched by an Infield Fly, he is not out, although the batter is out; If two runners are touched by the same fair ball, only the first one is out because the ball is instantly dead. If runner is touched by an Infield Fly when he is not touching his base, both runner and batter are out.

I take this to mean the runner is out regardless of whether or not they are on the base. Is that true?

Also, if the infield is playing “in”, in front of the runners, and a runner gets hit by a hard shot, what happens? According to this rule, since the ball passed an infielder, the runner isn’t out.

  1. Is home plate fair or foul? Suppose a ball is hit and comes to rest on top of the plate without being touched. What happens if a ball is hit straight down to the plate and bounces straight back up?

Home plate is in fair territory, just like all the other bases.

No. Well, maybe. If there is inadvertant contact between a runner on base and a batted ball, for instance - a hot line drive that hits the runner on first base before he has a chance to react, neither the runner nor the batter is out. If, however, in the umpire’s discretion the runner intentionally contacted the ball while on base the runner (and likely the batter) would be called out. Neither case would likely be seen in major league baseball, though, as the runners will always be leading off base before the pitch.

Easy one first: Home plate is entirely in fair territory. See rule 1.05, along with the diagrams in rule 1.00. One of baseball’s biggest myths is that a ball that touches home plate is automatically foul.

Now your first question. A base is not a safe-haven. Unless the rules state otherwise, being in contact with a base doesn’t give a runner any special protection. (On preview I see that Doctor Jackson disagrees. I’ll try to get a cite one way or t’other…)

The second part of your first question is a little trickier. In general if a runner is touched by a batted ball while behind a fielder (other than the pitcher or catcher), he is not out and the ball remains live. However, if another fielder has a chance to make a play, the runner may still be called out for interference. That’s not exactly how the rule reads, but that’s how it is commonly interpreted and applied. I would offer a cite, but I don’t have any of my materials with me right now.

Ahh, here we go:

Mea culpa on question 1. Since the situation described in the OP is vanishingly unlikely to happen in college or pro ball I was going on memories of little league. I should have known better. Even if I remembered correctly how the play was ruled it doesn’t mean the little league ump got it right! Good job, Fox Paws!

Actually, the sitch isn’t all that implausible, even at higher levels of ball. If a runner is stealing and the ball is batted sharply, the ball could quite easily strike a runner as he slides into or rounds a base. Weird things happen all the time in pro, semi-pro, and college baseball, usually because somebody forgot the signs or was just a plain-and-simple dunderhead.

Are you implying that my bretheren in blue are imperfect? :eek: How dare you!


Thanks Fox Paws and Doctor Jackson.

I had looked through the rules concerning the position of home plate, but I missed the second diagram in the first section.

Based on the information provided by Fox Paws, it seems the intention of the rule about runners being struck by batted balls is to prevent interference. This does make me wonder why it would matter if the runner is behind the fielder or not. There is alway going to be a fielder behind the runner trying to make some sort of play on the ball.

If the infield is “in”, i.e. all the infielders inside the dirt area and standing in front of the runners and ball gets past them and hits the runner, it’s a live ball. The ball has passed all the fielders with a chance to make a play on it, so the runner is not interfering with the play.

Here are two real-life examples that may help.
In a Mets-Yankees game this year, Jorge Posada was on first in a game against the Mets. The Yankee batter (can’t remember who it was), hit a sharp grounder toward first. Mike Piazza, playing first base, dove but couldn’t get to the ball and then it hit Posada. The umpire called time, declared Posada out and the batter got to go to first (and was credited with a single). The umpire ruled that even though the ball got past Piazza, the Mets second baseman still could have made a play on the ball.

Even longer ago, in a Dodgers-Astros game, the Dodgers had Raul Mondesi on first base. Mondesi was running on the pitch and Astro second baseman Craig Biggio broke to cover second. The batter hit a grounder to the vacated position where Biggio had been. The ball hit Mondesi and then bounded away. The umpires DID NOT call time and the ball was in play. The umpire ruled that although the ball had not passed where Biggio was standing, he was not in a position to make a play on the ball, so Mondesi was not interfering.
Most of the time, if a batted ball hits a runner in fair territory, the runner is out and the batter goes to first. But it is a judgment call by the umpires and there are exceptions.

And I should add the position of the outfielders is irrelevant in all these situations. The outfielders will always be behind the runners, but they aren’t making plays on grounders.

However, if the ball as already passed the infielders, the interference is unlikely to prevent them from achieving a force out. The outfielder can just as easily pick up a ball that bounced off a runner.

Interference is customarily only called when a runner has interfered with an imminent or likely out. The outfielder would only achieve an out on a ball hit into the outfield if a runner tries to take an extra base and is thrown out; the rules generally do not give any credit for anything that will happen two plays ahead.