Last night time’s Astros-Red Sox sport had every part. There was a divisive fan moment earlier than the sport when a child known as Alex Bregman over below the guise of wanting to get an image solely to pull the rug out from beneath him and name him a cheater. There had 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.
However, it wasn’t all peaches and cream. There was a second within the sixth inning that rubbed me the fallacious approach. I’m, after all, speaking in regards to the infield fly that was known 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 middle subject. Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa makes his approach beneath the ball and misses it. J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts each superior, however Devers was known as out.
I can’t stand this. I’m not blaming the umpire for making a nasty name. According to MLB Rule 2.00, an infield fly should be known as if the pop fly can be ordinarily dealt with by an infielder. Even if an outfielder finally ends up making the catch, an infield fly should be known 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 suitable name. But it bought me serious about the infield fly rule usually. Why does it exist? Obviously, it exists so as to stop double performs on pop-ups. After the “tag-up” rule was applied in 1859, it didn’t take lengthy for defenses to reap the benefits of it. Over the subsequent 35 years, a number of cases appeared of fielders bending the “tag-up” rule so as to flip double performs. It was a lose-lose scenario for baserunners, and the two gamers who took benefit of this rule most frequently had been Cincinnati’s Bid McPhee and Louisville’s Fred Pfeffer. The modern-day infield fly rule was applied into Major League Baseball in 1894 to stop guys like Pfeffer and McPhee from making the most of the “baserunner’s dilemma” any additional.
Sounds nice, proper? Yeah, however as the sport has advanced the necessity for the infield fly rule has diminished. Once once more, check out the play from final night time’s Astros-Red Sox sport. Notice how Bogaerts is standing within the good spot ready to see if the play is going to be made. He places himself in an ideal scenario that provides him an opportunity to attain 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 night time, 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 would have been very tough 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 unattainable to double up. At the very worst, the Red Sox would have nonetheless had runners on first and second with two outs — the identical end result that might’ve occurred had Correa simply caught the ball as regular.
Now, I perceive that not each pop fly will be comparable to the one from final night time. There are certain to be some that occur within the infield and are due to this fact way more tough to keep away from the double play on. Well, frankly, powerful luck. If you don’t need to hit into these sorts of double performs, don’t hit pop-ups. It’s a ability that may completely be discovered. From 2010 to 2019, Cincinnati’s Joey Votto hit simply eight infield pop-ups. Five of these got here with no one on. None got here with runners on each first and second. Basically, he didn’t hit an infield fly for a whole decade.
Nowadays, with the launch angle motion taking up baseball, pop flies ought to — theoretically — be at an all-time excessive. As gamers try to raise the ball extra, they need to get below it extra, main to extra infield pop-ups. However, infield fly ball percentages have stayed comparatively stagnant — and perhaps even dipped — all through the 2010s. In 2010, there have been 18 certified gamers with an infield fly ball share of 13 or higher. There had been additionally 22 gamers with a share 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? Think about it. With runners on first and second, the worst outcomes for a hitter are 1) hanging 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 tough scenario, 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 end result than a tough hit floor ball. We ought to be selling hitters to make onerous contact all the time, however so long as the infield fly rule exists, that gained’t at all times be the case.
On the floor, the infield fly rule is a fantastic idea that stops infielders from forcing baserunners right into a no-win scenario. However, 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 approach for pitchers to work out of jams, but additionally would create some enjoyable, fascinating fielding and baserunning thoughts video games for the followers to get pleasure from (so long as you’re not rooting for the workforce that’s up to bat). If you assume abolishing that rule would harm the integrity of the sport… properly, hey, pop-up charges are declining as is, in order that rule would possibly simply disappear by itself quickly sufficient.