Final evening’s Astros-Pink Sox sport had every part. There was a divisive fan moment earlier than the sport when a child referred to as Alex Bregman over beneath the guise of desirous to get an image solely to drag the rug out from beneath him and name him a cheater. There have been six lead changes — greater than any sport since 2019 — and Jose Altuve hit a house run on a pitch that was lower than a foot off the bottom. Magical.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t all peaches and cream. There was a second within the sixth inning that rubbed me the incorrect means. I’m, after all, speaking concerning the infield fly that was referred to as within the backside of the sixth inning. With the sport tied at eight, one out within the inning, and runners on first and second Rafael Devers hit a fly ball to shallow heart discipline. Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa makes his means beneath the ball and misses it. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts each superior, however Devers was referred to as out.
I can’t stand this. I’m not blaming the umpire for making a nasty name. In keeping with MLB Rule 2.00, an infield fly should be referred to as if the pop fly might be ordinarily dealt with by an infielder. Even when an outfielder finally ends up making the catch, an infield fly should be referred to as if an infielder may’ve made the play with abnormal effort. It’s not primarily based on the place the outfield grass begins.
Correa was camped beneath the ball for fairly a while earlier than it dropped. I’d name that abnormal effort. It was the proper name. Nevertheless it obtained me eager about the infield fly rule basically. Why does it exist? Clearly, it exists so as to forestall double performs on pop-ups. After the “tag-up” rule was carried out in 1859, it didn’t take lengthy for defenses to reap the benefits of it. Over the subsequent 35 years, a number of situations appeared of fielders bending the “tag-up” rule so as to flip double performs. It was a lose-lose state of affairs for baserunners, and the two players who took benefit of this rule most frequently have been Cincinnati’s Bid McPhee and Louisville’s Fred Pfeffer. The trendy day infield fly rule was carried out into Main League Baseball in 1894 to forestall guys like Pfeffer and McPhee from benefiting from the “baserunner’s dilemma” any additional.
Sounds nice, proper? Yeah, however as the sport has developed the necessity for the infield fly rule has diminished. As soon as once more, check out the play from final evening’s Astros-Pink Sox sport. Discover how Bogaerts is standing within the excellent spot ready to see if the play goes to be made. He places himself in an ideal state of affairs that offers him an opportunity to succeed in second on a dropped ball or get again to first on a pop-out. Let’s think about for a second that the infield fly rule didn’t exist final evening, and Correa tried to let the ball drop proper in entrance of him so as to get an inning-ending double play by forcing Martinez out at third and Bogaerts out at second. That may have been very troublesome to do. Martinez isn’t precisely a speedster, so it’s probably he would’ve been out at third, however Bogaerts would’ve been close to not possible to double up. On the very worst, the Pink Sox would have nonetheless had runners on first and second with two outs — the identical consequence that might’ve occurred had Correa simply caught the ball as regular.
Now, I perceive that not each pop fly will probably be much like the one from final evening. There are certain to be some that occur within the infield and are subsequently far more troublesome to keep away from the double play on. Properly, frankly, powerful luck. For those who don’t wish to hit into these sorts of double performs, don’t hit pop-ups. It’s a ability that may completely be realized. From 2010 to 2019, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto hit simply eight infield pop-ups. 5 of these got here with no person on. None got here with runners on each first and second. Principally, he didn’t hit an infield fly for a whole decade.
These days, with the launch angle motion taking on baseball, pop flies ought to — theoretically — be at an all-time excessive. As gamers try and raise the ball extra, they need to get beneath it extra, resulting in extra infield pop-ups. Nonetheless, infield fly ball percentages have stayed comparatively stagnant — and possibly even dipped — all through the 2010s. In 2010, there have been 18 certified gamers with an infield fly ball proportion of 13 or larger. There have been additionally 22 gamers with a proportion of lower than 4. In 2019, there have been 20 gamers that fell into the primary class, and simply ten within the second.
Secondly, why after 100 years of this rule are we nonetheless penalizing pitchers for getting the hitter to come out? Give it some thought. With runners on first and second, the worst outcomes for a hitter are 1) placing out, 2) hitting a pop-up/shallow fly ball that doesn’t transfer the runner on second over, or 3) hitting a tough floor ball to an infielder. So, why is situation quantity two handled otherwise than the opposite choices? It’s a pitcher’s job to create weak contact, however as an alternative of rewarding the pitcher for popping the hitter out and forcing the baserunners right into a troublesome state of affairs, it’s the hitter who’s rewarded… for a pop up. That’s not proper. In no world ought to an infield fly ball be a greater consequence than a tough hit floor ball. We ought to be selling hitters to make laborious contact the entire time, however so long as the infield fly rule exists, that gained’t all the time be the case.
On the floor, the infield fly rule is a superb idea that forestalls infielders from forcing baserunners right into a no-win state of affairs. Nonetheless, in doing so, it rewards hitters for poor contact and punishes pitchers for doing their job. Abolishing the infield fly rule wouldn’t solely allow one other means for pitchers to work out of jams, but in addition would create some enjoyable, attention-grabbing fielding and baserunning thoughts video games for the followers to take pleasure in (so long as you’re not rooting for the group that’s as much as bat). For those who suppose abolishing that rule would damage the integrity of the sport… properly, hey, pop-up charges are declining as is, in order that rule may simply disappear by itself quickly sufficient.