Infield Fly Rule, By Definition

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For everyone that watched Game 5 of the World Series tonight you’ll recall a moment part way through where the infield fly rule wasn’t called by the umpire. That rule has always been an interesting conversation for serious baseball fans, just like the designated hitter.

Here is an explanation of the rule:

The infield fly rule is intended to prevent unfair gamesmanship by the fielders that would result in an easy double or triple play.

The infield fly rule only applies when there are fewer than two outs, and there is a force play at third (runners on first and second base, or bases loaded). In these situations, if a fair fly ball is hat that, in the umpire’s judgment, is catchable by an infielder with ordinary effort, the batter is out regardless of whether the ball is actually caught in flight. The rule states that the umpire is supposed to announce, “infield fly, if fair.” If the ball will be almost certainly fair, the umpire will likely yell, “Infield fly, batter’s out!” or just “Batter’s out!” Umpires also typically raise one arm straight up to signal to everyone that the rule is in effect.

Any fair fly ball that could have been caught by an infielder with ordinary effort is covered by the rule regardless of where the ball is caught. The ball need not be caught by an infielder, nor must it be caught in
the infield.

On a caught infield fly, a runner must tag up (i.e., retouch, at or after the time the fly ball is first touched by a fielder, the base the runner held at the time of pitch) in order to be eligible to advance, as on any catch. If the infield fly falls to fair ground untouched, or is touched and dropped, runners need not tag up. In either case, since the batter is out, the force play on other runners is removed.

This rule was introduced in 1895 in response to infielders intentionally dropping pop-ups in order to get multiple outs by forcing out the runners on base, who were pinned near their bases while the ball was in the air.

Participants and fans sometimes misunderstand the infield fly rule. The infield fly rule is not in effect if there is a runner on first only, as the rule-makers assumed fielders would not gain a significant advantage by forcing out the runner rather than the batter; in either case, the net result would be one more out and a runner on first base. Also, an infield fly does not affect baserunners other than the batter. Just like any other fly ball, if an infield fly is caught, runners must retouch (or “tag up”) their time-of-pitch base before
attempting to advance; if an infield fly is not properly caught, no tag up is required and the runners may try to advance. [via]

I’d be interested to read your comments on this rule.


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