Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chicks Dig The Infield Fly Rule -- Somtimes

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.
When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners. If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare Infield Fly, if Fair.
The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.
If a declared Infield Fly is allowed to fall untouched to the ground, and bounces foul before passing first or third base, it is a foul ball. If a declared Infield Fly falls untouched to the ground outside the baseline, and bounces fair before passing first or third base, it is an Infield Fly.
Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) Comment: On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder, not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpires judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpires judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.
When an infield fly rule is called, runners may advance at their own risk. If on an infield fly rule, the infielder intentionally drops a fair ball, the ball remains in play despite the provisions of Rule 6.05 (L). The infield fly rule takes precedence.

I love the Infield Fly Rule. I love it because everyone knows about it, but no one really understands it. It's my go-to for smacking down knowledge on doofuses who don't believe that a chick can really understand baseball.

Whether you're a die-hard or casual fan, after Friday's Braves-Cardinals game, you've thought and heard more about the Infield Fly Rule than you ever expected. Probably more than you wanted.

Let's recap what happened: Braves had two runners on base with one out. The batter, Andrelton Simmons, lifted a pop up to short left field. Neither the Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma nor left fielder Matt Holliday caught the ball. Bases loaded with one out, right? Wrong! The Infield Fly Rule was called; batter's out and the runners go back to their original bases. Also, a fan riot ensues.

Infield Fly Rule?! In the outfield?! Really?!

Was it the right call? According to the rule, a ball "which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort" is called an Infield Fly. It specifically doesn't state where the ball should be caught, only that an infielder, or other player positioned in the infield, should be catching it -- as long as it's in fair territory. So, under the letter of the rule, it's not an incorrect call.

Did this call make a difference in the game? After I saw some replays, it looks to me like Kozma was camped under the ball, and when the umpire called the Infield Fly, Kozma believed Holliday was calling him off and he ducked away. If the umpire, Sam Holbrook, would have zipped his mouth, Kozma would have remained under the ball, and made the catch. Batter's out and the runners go back to their original bases. Just the same thing, without all the chaos afterward.

But (and it's a big but), with all that being said, I believe it was a bad ball. It wasn't necessary wrong, but it was poorly applied.

The spirit of the rule is to protect the base runners from the infielder intentionally dropping the ball and initiating a double play. That wasn't at all at risk of happening in Atlanta.

Also, what does "ordinary effort" really mean? Ordinary for whom? Even though the Kozma appeared to be camped under the ball at one point, I believe that it still took more than ordinary effort for him to get there. I'm not familiar with how he plays, but he seemed pretty speedy on that play.

Because this is an "umpire's discretion" call, no amount of appealing, or replaying, or robo-umpiring will change it. And it shouldn't. But the umpires need to make more sound decisions.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Boom Goes the Coaching Staff

The Twins front office and ownership really hate losing. And who doesn't. So they wasted no time setting into motion a bad day for a bunch of members of the Twins coaching staff (it couldn't have been a ton of fun for the Terry Ryan, Dave St. Peter, and Jim Pohlad either). No one technically got fired; their contracts were not renewed.

Bullpen coach Rick Stelmazsek, third-base coach Steve Liddle, first base coach Jerry White, and head athletic trainer Rick McWane are newly unemployed. Hitting coach Joe Vavra has been re-assigned as an infield instructor, and bench coach Scott Ullger has been re-assigned as an outfield and baserunner instructor.

Pitching coach Rick Anderson's job is still safe -- for now. Either they understood that he didn't have great pitchers to work with the last two seasons, or Gardy told Ryan "if he goes, I go."

Ron Gardenhire still has one more year on his contract, but he will not get an extension yet. He'll have a lot to prove in 2013, and he knows it.

All this may have implications for the AAA team as well. Rochester manager Gene Glynn, pitching coach Bobby Cuellar, and hitting coach Tom Brunanski are rumored to be in the running for the open positions.

So as brutal as all this was -- only one field coach, Al Newman, had previously been fired during Gardy's tenure -- I'm not convinced it'll help much. I understand that the coaches are responsible for much more than what fans see on the field. And we can all agree that many of the players weren't properly prepared for game days. But these guys were there for the good times, too. They didn't suddenly forget how to do their jobs.

The problem was talent, or lack-thereof, not coaching. None of this will mean anything, or matter much, if that fact isn't addressed this off-season.

I sincerely hope that these guys find new gigs or enjoy satisfying retirements, whichever they prefer.

I also sincerely hope that whoever is brought in is wildly successful.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The k-bro Twins Post-season Awards

As the Twins wrap up another disappointing season, it would be easy to just throw up my hands in a snit and curse them all. But Twins baseball is still better than no baseball. For all the complaining I've done about pitching and leaving men on base, I want to spend a blog post focusing on the good things these players did this season. So, for what it's worth, I'll present the k-bro baseball blog 2012 Twins Awards. Put on your fancy-dancy duds and let's have an awards show.

Twins Pitcher of the Year Award (if the League award is the "Cy Young Award", what is the Twins' version? The "Bert Blyleven Award"? The "Jim Kaat Award"? I vote for the "Brad Radke Award", but then, I would...)

This one should be pretty easy. It's pretty telling that every member of presumed starting rotation when Spring Training started -- Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Jason Marquis, and Francisco Liriano -- failed make it to September as a member of the Twins 40-man roster. So the Twins were forced to cobble together a rotation of not-ready-for-primetime players. Only one man showed anything resembling consistency and demonstrated that he can stay healthy. Congratulations to Scott Diamond.

Twins Rookie of the Year Award
Normally, I'm not a fan of giving one guy more than one award. I like to spread the love. Unless, of course, that one guy is really special. Not only did Scott Diamond provide stability in a sea of inexperienced pitching, he also gave fans some hope for the future. He didn't fade toward the end of the season which indicates to me that he'll only get better.

Twins Most Impressive Newbie
In his first off-season back in the GM chair, Terry Ryan made a number of impressive free-agent signings (well, except for that whole Jason Marquis thing). Jared Burton, Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit, and Josh Willingham have all exceeded my expectations for them when they signed. As upset as I was that the Twins did not re-sign Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer, this group helped me move on. But I'm especially having fun with having a legitimate right-handed home run threat. Congratulations to Josh Willingham...and his boom stick.

Twins Most Valuable Player
The definition of the term "valuable" has been hotly contested all over the papers, airwaves, and internet this season. Some regard hitting a lot of home runs and driving in a lot of runs as valuable. I tend to look at a player's all-around game. I believe defense and getting on base provide just as much value as the other things. Therefore, Joe Mauer is my enthusiastic choice. Denard Span did have a better WAR (wins above replacement) stat, but that's because he provided a lot of defensive value at center field with good, but not great, offensive value. However, I think Mauer's overall value was much better, and his offensive numbers were fantastic. Plus, he had to handle a struggling pitching staff. I never really understood the fans who booed him this season; what more do these people want?


Make Up Paper Doll
I have been remiss. The Twins made a DL move, and I didn't even notice. In my defense, I don't understand why they bothered to use the DL because they didn't call anyone up to fill the roster spot. But anyway...
On September 14, the Twins placed pitcher Cole De Vries on the disabled list, retroactive to September 9, with a cracked rib. A line drive off the bat of Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera got De Vries right in the gut. He stayed in the game, and pitched well, but admitted he was pretty sore. Initial x-rays were negative, but a subsequent MRI revealed the crack.