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MLB Rule Blocking Home Plate Explained

By Roshan Khatiwada / 23 June 2023 10:19 AM

A runner has the right to an unobstructed path to the home plate unless the catcher has the ball
Source : instagram

MLB rule blocking home plate is that the catcher cannot block the path of a runner attempting to score unless he has possession of the ball.

In baseball, catchers used to block the plate often to prevent the runner from scoring. At the start of the 2014 season, a rule was outlawed to stop the unnecessary collision between the catcher and the runner.

After the change in the rule, the runner has the right to an unobstructed path to the home plate unless the catcher has the ball or is in the process of catching the ball.

The first and third base fielders are unlikely to risk physical contact with the runner and stand aside. However, the catcher guarding the home wearing padding, a face mask, and other protective gear can often place his body as an obstacle.

The blocking home base rule in Major League Baseball is kept in place for the safety of the players and to prevent any unnecessary collisions.

MLB Rules Catcher Blocking Plate

Catcher blocking home plate rule is kept in place to avoid any collision that can cause injuries to either the catcher or the runner.

The rule was reinterpreted after a horrendous season-ending injury due to a collision at home base to one of the league's star players during the 2011 season. The MLB Rules Committee proposed a rule change on December 11, 2013.

The proposed rule outlawed base collision by dictating what the runner and the catcher could or could not do in such a situation. On February 24, 2014, MLB and MLB Players Association jointly announced the experimental rule.

MLB blocking the plate rule was made official at the start of the 2015 major league season. MLB recently has increased the size of the bases as well to avoid any collision between players and ensure their safety.

A catcher can not block the home plate unless he has the ball in hand
Source : instagram

The rule was named 7.13 and included the following points:

  1. A runner can not run out of a direct line to the base to initiate contact with the catcher or any other player on the base. The umpire can call the runner out even if the catcher or any other player loses the ball. 
  2. The catcher can not block the path of a runner attempting to score unless he has the ball. The runner is deemed safe if the catcher blocks the runner without the ball.
  3. Notwithstanding the above points, if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the path of the runner and the contact with the runner was unavoidable. It is not said to have violated the rule.

The umpire will call all the calls regarding blocking the home base. Umpires must consider factors such as whether the runner tried to touch the plate or use his hands, elbows, or arms to initiate contact with the catcher.

Runners are not required to slide, but those who slide will not be called for violation.

MLB Home Plate Collision Rule

New home plate collision rule was experimented with during the 2014 season and fully implemented at the start of the 2015 season.

The main aim of the rule is to prevent players from colliding unnecessarily, thus making the game safer. However, the new MLB rules involve a lot of judgment and interpretation.

Home plate collision rule was fully implemented at the start of the 2015 season
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Because of that, it creates confusion among players, managers, and umpires, which leads to inconsistent decisions. Some catchers have stated that they are not sure how to position themselves in a way that they are in an excellent position to catch the ball and not violate the rule.

Similarly, it's unclear to the runners how to slide safely without deviating from or initiating contact with the catcher. Different umpires have different interpretations of what violates the rule and what does not, creating inconsistency.

Recently, in a game between the Rangers and the White Sox on June 20, 2023, a White Sox player was given out at the bottom of the eighth inning. However, the call was overturned after the White Sox reviewed for the catcher blocking the home base.

However, the catcher was neither blocking the plate nor violating any rules related to blocking the home base.

Buster Posey Home Plate Collision

Buster Posey collision on home plate occured on May 25, 2011. The play resulted in a season-ending injury to the Giants catcher.

The incident occurred during the top of the 12th inning of the game between the Florida Marlins and the San Fransisco Giants. The score was tied at 6-6 with one batter out.

Marlins batter Emilio Bonifacio was on the plate with the count on 2-2, whereas Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins was on third base. Bonifacio hit a fly ball toward the right field, where Nate Schierholtz caught it.

After that, Cousins tagged up and ran toward the plate. Nate threw the ball toward Posey, who was at the plate waiting to receive the ball.

Posey is a three time World Series champion and seven time All-Star
Source : instagram

As the ball was arriving, Posey positioned himself slightly in front of the home plate, leaving a lane for Cousins to slide into the back of the plate. However, the runner decided to slide in the middle, colliding with the Giant's catcher.

The collision knocked Posey off balance dislodging the ball from his glove, allowing Cousins to score and take the lead. But that lead was the slightest concern for the Giants as Posey suffered from the collision.

The catcher hurt his foot and had to be carried off the field and underwent surgery the next day. Posey suffered a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his left ankle.

The incident raised several questions regarding the safety of the players forcing the major league organization to revisit the rules regarding the blocking of the home plate and the runners crashing into a catcher or any other player guarding the home plate.

Pete Rose Collision At Home Plate

Pete Rose collision at home plate occured during the 1970 All-Star Game between the American League and the National League.

The play resulted in a dramatic win for the National League team and a severe injury to the AL catcher Ray Fosse. The score was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 12th inning before the play.

Pete Rose was on second base, whereas Billy Grabarkewitz was on first base with two outs. The Cubs outfielder Jim Hickman was on the plate.
 
Hickman hit a single to center field, where Royals center fielder Amos Otis fielded the ball and threw it toward home plate. Rose ran toward the home plate, trying to score the winning runs.

Fosse was at the plate waiting to catch the ball and tag the Reds switch-hitter. Ray moved slightly up the third baseline to receive the ball, leaving a narrow lane for the switch hitter to slide toward the plate.

However, Rose decided to run into the catcher instead of sliding, which resulted in a massive collision that knocked Foose off balance. Rose touched the plate, and NL won the game with a walk-off.

The collision had devastating consequences for the catcher, who suffered a shoulder injury and missed several games before finishing the season playing through injury.

Fosse was never the same player again after the incident. The injury affected the power and speed of his throwing arm.

The incident raised several questions regarding the ethics of colliding at home plate in an All-Star Game. Rose defended his action by stating that he was trying to score and win the game for his team and had no intentions of hurting the AL catcher.

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