New MLB Home Plate Collision Rule Put in Place

This year’s new home plate collision rule was announced during sprint training in March. As we previously shared, the rule seems based on the NCAA baseball rule and, in our opinion, make good sense for player safety.

There have already been a few incidents this sprint where catchers have seemed confused about how or when they can block the plate during a close play. Hopefully we don’t see those type of missteps during the regular season but either way, this rule is for the better. Here is the rule according to the MLB.

Collisions at home plate
A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other baserunners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

Rule 7.13 comment: The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.

Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.


You can read more about this topic here.

MLB Collision Rule Coming

Update: MLB announced the new collision rule.

Spring Training has kicked-off and while Major League Baseball has a new set of replay rules there is one other rule change looming that still doesn’t have a resolution. Both the players union and the owners want to reach an agreement on an new home plate collision rule. The goal seems simple and reasonable, reduce the number of injuries due to collision. But once you begin to dig into the details it begins to be a very complicated set of rules.

Many experts and analysis expect a new rule to be finalized before the start of the regular season, but the players and coaches will need enough time to practice new techniques and teach the new rules so there is a chance we don’t see a finalized rule until 2015.

Some believe the rules will largely be based on the NCAA rules currently in effect. They state, “If the defensive player blocks the base (plate) or base line with clear possession of the ball, the runner may make contact, slide into or make contract with a fielder as long as the runner is making a legitimate attempt to reach the base (plate). Contact above the waist that was initiated by the base-runner shall not be judged as an attempt to reach the base or plate.”

Joe Torre, while speaking on the topic, had this to say, “There’s not going to be a lack of contact. There’s going to be some inadvertent contact that you’re not going to be able to avoid because the catcher has to catch the ball,” which would lead us to believe the rule that does get finalized will have a good deal of common sense attached to it. One of the larger concerns when any rule is changed is the unexpected consequences that follow. For example, the NFL is often under fire for their new contact rules, in part because of the penalties and fines leaved against players who sometimes feel they are just trying to play the game and not trying to injure other players.

Do you think the addition of a contact rule is needed in Major League Baseball?

New MLB Replay Rules – 2014

Starting in the 2014 season, the MLB has extended the use of instant replay. The types of plays that will be subject to review are:

  • Home Run
  • Ground rule double
  • Fan interference
  • Stadium boundary calls – fielder falls into stands, ball goes into stands
  • Force play – except when at 2nd base on a double play (interesting!)
  • Tag play (oh boy, this could cause a number of delays)
  • Fair/foul – only in the outfield
  • Trap play – only in the outfield
  • Hit by pitch
  • Timing play – runner scoring before third out
  • Touching a base – only by appeal
  • Passing runners
  • Record keeping – ball/strike count, outs, score, subs

Well, there you have it. This is obviously very controversial and I know a number of fellow umpires that are on both sides of this debate. Where do you stand? – Let us know in the comments.

More info from MLB

Pitchers Balk

A balk is when a pitcher makes a move that is not allowed during the time that he is still touching the mound when there are opposing players on the field. The official MLB balk rules can be found in Rule 8.05.

The pitcher’s movements are closely watched and if one of his movements is deemed to be an illegal balk then the opposing players will be granted an additional base and any pitch will be disqualified. Another rule states that the pitcher has to have a shoe in contact with the pitcher’s plate. However, if there their foot is not touching the pitchers plate then the pitcher has the right to throw the baseball to any area of the field whenever he wishes. There is also another rule that if the pitcher does not have the ball on his person then he is not able to come into contact with the pitcher’s plated. The reason for this rule is so that the opposing team is not fooled into believing that they can take a lead off a base.

Coming Set

When the pitcher is getting ready to throw the ball they must stop their movements and come “set”. This is one of the most common mistakes pitchers make when they are called for a balk, especially in youth leagues. In order to be in compliance with this rule, a pitcher must come to a rest with their glove hand and pitching hand together.

Of course there are many pitchers who try to find ways to go around this, and there is a constant struggle between them and the umpires.

Trick Pitch

When there is a member of the opposite team occupying a base then the pitcher has the right to try and deceive the runner that they are going to throw the ball. Thus, they are allowed to touch the pitcher’s mound and then make a false throw. That being said he does not have the right to do a pretend to deliver the baseball to an area of the field that does not have an opponent on it.

Quick Pitch

If the opponent is not ready to receive the delivery of the ball then it is not allowed for the pitcher to try and throw it past him. If this happens and there are opponents in the field then it will be determined as a balk and the opponents will be allowed to continue on to another base. If there are no opponents in the field then it will be deemed a ball.

The Ball Descends To The Ground

If the pitcher loses contact with the baseball and it descends to the floor then it will be penalized as a balk for the batter.

A Pitcher Shuffling His Shoes

When the pitcher attempts to deliver the baseball to one of the bases it is required that he move in the general direction of the base with his foot that is forward or remove his two feet from the pitcher’s mound.

Cathers Balk

Behind home plate is an area called the catcher’s box. While the pitchers delivers a pitch the catcher must be inside this box or it should be ruled a balk.


Infield Fly Rule

One of the most confusing rules that baseball has is known as the infield fly rule. This rule has confused players, coaches and parents alike for many years. So let’s look at why this is so confusing and get rid of that confusion at the same time.

The infield fly rule is set in place to stop the following scenario from happening. There are runners on first and second bases and only one out. The player at bat hits a pop fly that is at the third baseman. He lets the pop fly hit the ground intentionally then picks up the ball, tags third base and throws the ball to the second baseman thus getting a double play because the runners on first and second are tagging up on their bases thinking the ball is going to be caught.

Seems simple enough when you put it like that no? Let’s look at it a little more in depth then. The confusion seems to hit with the scenarios that could cause the infield fly rule to be called. If there are less than two outs and runners on first and second, or with the bases loaded. One thing that confuses people is that this rule does not apply if there is a runner only on first base. If there is no forced play at third base or home plate, this rule does not apply. The thing to keep in mind here is that the defensive team will only get a double play on them if the runner who hit the ball does not run to first base.

Now that you know when the call is made, let’s look at the call itself in a game situation. This rule is totally a judgment call by the umpire. That means that it is the umpires’ decision to either call “infield fly, batter out” or not. If the umpire does not call that, the rule is not in play and the double play is allowed. This rule is in place to give the umpire the power to determine to apply the rule or not to. Make sure that players are not assuming an infield pop fly situation as you may lose many games this way.  One more point of confusion here could happen if the pop fly is a foul ball. The ball flies into the air, the umpire calls “infield fly, batter out” and the ball then lands on the other side of the foul line. In this case the batter would not be out at all though the call was made. That is the reason umpires are taught to call “infield fly if fair” when they are making their calls to avoid additional confusion.

The players on the bases can attempt to advance to their next base at their own risk in any situation here. The trouble is if the ball is caught, they then have to tag up on their base, so it is a very risky move to assume the third baseman is going to let it drop, because they could catch it then throw to the base for another easy out.

So now you know more about this confusing rule. Take this knowledge forth and keep your learning going!

Throat Protector Rule – Little League

Little League is notorious for obscure and specific player safety rules. Rules that often confuse players, coaches and umpires because they are often unique to the league. We could spend days arguing the value and necessity of these rules and we’d never come to a resolution that everyone could agree on. But, it is a fact the Little League Baseball releases these rules and that Umpires must be the enforcers of these rules. One rule that has stood out a lot recently is Little League Rule 1.17 – playing safety rules for the league.

This section defines a safety rule that requires catchers to have a dangling throat protector. The dangling throat protector is just as it sounds. It’s a piece of plastic about 4-6 inches in length that dangles from the catchers mask and is intended to guard the throat of the player. The idea is that ball that would normally bounce off the ground and hit a player in the throat will glance off this extra layer of protections. Around various Leagues you’ll find players that don’t conform to this regulation. They’ll remove the protector or often tighten the straps to a point where the throat protector no longer dangles.

For the equipment to be properly attached, the dangling throat protector must be securely attached from one-fourth of an inch to three-fourths of an inch under the bottom frame of the catchers protective mask. The throat protector, when worn correctly, will swing freely from the mask. You don’t want the protector to get stuck in a position where it cannot protect the player and is rendered useless.

It’s important to understand why the dangling throat protector rule is in place. A frequent baseball and softball catcher injury occurs when a player his struck in the throat by a foul tip or wild pitch. An injury to the throat can be extremely damaging to anyone, especially young children. For this reason, Little League Baseball has come down with this strict rule. They greatly value child safety and always aim to be a leader in safety.

As an umpire, you must be prepared to enforce this rule, along with many others. With that in mind it’s also important to understand that others may not know or understand this rule and your job is to help them understand.

Umpire Tips

When people are new to something the often make what everyone calls “rookie mistakes”. These type of errors, and the fear of making them, often prevent people from trying new things and working toward life long goals. The good news is that you can prevent yourself from making these types of mistakes simply by knowing what they are. Below, you’ll find some simple tips to help you from making “rookie mistakes”.

1. Look the part
Like any job you want to dress the way you wish to be perceived. If you wish to be a serious, professional or amature umpire you should ensure you look the part. You don’t have to go out and buy expensive umpire gear or uniforms to look professional. You can choose clothing items with no logos and wear neat, dark colored pants.

2. Verbalize and gesture when making a “play!” call
After a dead ball, be sure to physically signal and verbally call the pitcher to “play”. It prevents misunderstandings, especially when there are runners on base, and it demonstrates that you’re in control of the situation.

3. Don’t say “Strike three, you’re out”
Unless you’re umpiring in leagues with very young players, and where saying “you’re out” might be construed as rubbing it in, a strike three call does not always amount to an out. If the catcher drops the ball on strike three the batter isn’t out until he is tagged or forced out. If you call him out too early, you could kill a valid play.

4. Try not to say “Take your base” or point to first on a ball four call
Doing so can actually be viewed as coaching. Most players will know what to do when ball four is called and if they don’t, let their coaches do the talking. You may not even want to say “ball four”. A simple “ball” call, just like in any other count, will suffice. If someone asks, you can tell them its ball four.

5. Don’t give up early on a play
A common “rookie mistake” by amature umpires is to give up on a play too soon. For example, if there is a play at second and a safe call is made, the umpire turns his head and then the runner steps off the base and is tagged. After making a call, stay put and watch until the ball is returned to the pitcher or time is called.

MLB Strike Zone Rule Changes

The strike zone in Major League Baseball is always an exciting topic of discussion. It’s probably the one rule most subject to human error in all of professional sports and it’s the part of the game that we all like to share our opinions about; “that was outside”, or “that looked good to me” ring through baseball stadiums across America.

May fans may not know that the strike zone hasn’t always been the same. MLB has changed the Strike Zone rules many times over. Here’s a brief history of some of those changes.

In 1876, the Strike Zone rule read like this.
“The batsman, on taking his position, must call for a ‘high,’ ‘low,’ or ‘fair’ pitch, and the umpire shall notify the pitcher to deliver the ball as required; such a call cannot be changed after the first pitch is delivered.”

But, in 1887 this rule was revoked and it began to look more like the rule we’re familiar with today.
“A (strike) is defined as a pitch that ‘passes over home plate not lower than the batsman’s knee, nor higher than his shoulders.’”

Between 1987 and 1949 there were several rule modifications that further defined what a strike was and what a ball was but the next significant rule change happened in 1950 when the Strike Zone changed from the top of the shoulders and bottom of the knees to the armpits and top of the knees.
“The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees when he assumes his natural stance.”

In 1963 the rule changed again to read,
“The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the top of the batter’s shoulders and his knees when he assumes his natural stance. The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usual stance when he swings at a pitch.”

However, this didn’t last long and it changed right back in 1969.
“The Strike Zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter’s armpits and the top of his knees when he assumes a natural stance. The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter’s usual stance when he swings at a pitch.”

In 1988 we saw, perhaps, the most significant Strike Zone rule change since 1950. The top of the Strike Zone was lowered.
“The Strike Zone is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the top of the knees. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.”

The most recent rule change happened in 1996. This was also a significant Strike Zone rule change because it lowered the bottom of the Strike Zone to the bottom of the knees again.

Baseball Rule Myths Every Umpire Should Know – Part 3

Continuing on our series of popular baseball rule myths, you’ll find a few of our favorites below.

16. A runner / batter has to turn to the right if they run past first.
The runner or hitter is allowed to turn either direction, left or right, as long as if they do turn left they don’t make an effort to advance a base. If they do, as judged by the umpire, then they are in play. The rule states that they must return, right away, to first base if they overrun or slide past it.

17. The base runner can not steal a base on a pitch that is a foul-tip.
A foul-tip is not a foul ball. When a pitched ball nicks the bat is caught by the catcher it is a foul-tip. In all cases a foul-tip is a strike and the ball is live. Just as if the hitter swung through the pitch.

18. When making an appeal, the ball must always be returned to the pitcher first.
Anytime the ball is live an appeal can be made by anyone. The only case where the ball must go to the pitcher first is if time is out. If time is out, the ball is dead until the pitcher is on the rubber and the umpire calls for play to start. Once play has been called, an appeal can be made.

19. A pitcher must be in a set position if they make a pick-off attempt.
This rule is for before a pitch is made not a pick-off. The pitcher must come to a full stop in a set position before a delivery to the hitter is made.

20. When a fielder falls over the homerun fence while making a catch it is a homerun.
Only if the fielder is touching the ground in dead ball territory, on the other side of the fence, is it a homerun. If the catch is not the third out and the player falls into dead ball territory, all runners will receive an additional base. If the fielder lands on his feet, the ball is live and a play can be made.


If you missed out on our first 2 posts in this series catch them here:

Rule Myths Part 1,  Rule Myths Part 2


Baseball Rule Myths Every Umpire Should Know – Part 2

Recently we wrote about some of the more common baseball rule myths that are sure to stump many folks, and not just those heading into umpire school. So without further adieu, here are even more commonly mis-stated rules that may trip you up.

11. A batter should be out if a bunted ball touches the ground and bounces back up and hits the bat.
This depends on whether the batter was in the batters box. If he is, then it’s a foul ball. If he is not, then he is out.

12. A batter cannot run past first base when after he is walked.
The rule says that a runner must return, right away, after proceeding past first base. It doesn’t indicate any exceptions to a player who was walked versus one that reached by a base hit.

13. A batter cannot change batter’s boxes after two strikes and bat from the other side of the plate.
A batter can switch at any time unless the pitcher is already “ready to pitch”.

14. It’s a force out when a runner is put out for not tagging up on a fly ball out.
If the batter is out on a fly ball, all forces are removed. If a player fails to tag-up, he can be called out after an appeal but it isn’t a force out. Any runs that cross the plate before the out is made are counted.

15. It is a fair ball if a fielder’s feet are in fair territory when the ball is touched.
A ball is only judged fair or foul based on where the ball is positioned on or above the ground at the time the ball is touched. It’ doesn’t matter where the player’s body is.

If you missed part 1 in this series you can find it here.

And catch part 3 as well.