|Dec. 9, 2015|
|The cut of the infield or the distance of the infielder from the "infield" is immaterial as long as the infielder can catch the ball with "reasonable effort'. |
There was a NL playoff game between the Cardinals and (I believe) the Braves a few years ago where the outfielder actually dropped a ball 100+ plus feet in the grass, but the IFFR was called because the SS, in the umpires judgement, could have caught the ball "with reasonable effort."
The following explanation of the infield fly rule is "stickied" on the Umpiring Forum of Softballfans.com. The author is an ASA ump, but I believe the rule is the same for SSUSA and other sanctions.
Infield Fly Rule
This is perhaps one of the easiest rules in the book that all too frequently gets overcomplicated. Let's break it down step-by-step.
ASA defines an Infield Fly as "a fair fly ball, not including a line drive or an attempted bunt which can be caught by an infielder, pitcher or catcher with ordinary effort when first and second or first, second and third bases are occupied with less than two outs." Every other organization (USSSA, NSA, ISA, SSUSA) defines it in much the same way.
How does the Infield Fly Rule work?
Let's break it down into its four parts:
"A fair fly ball, not including a line drive or an attempted bunt..."
This is one common area where fans get mixed up. Ultimately, the batted ball must be ruled that it was a fair ball for the Infield Fly to be enforced. If the batted ball is ultimately ruled foul, then the batter may not be called out on an Infield Fly. Umpires are advised (though not required) to call "Infield Fly if fair" if the ball could possibly result in a foul ball.
"...which can be caught by an infielder, pitcher or catcher..."
This is the other common area in which fans get mixed up. The key phrase here is "can be caught," not "is caught." The fielder may certainly let the ball drop to the ground, and the Infield Fly Rule can still apply.
"...with ordinary effort..."
This part is where things can get a little tricky. What is "ordinary effort?" This is entirely left up to the judgment of the plate umpire. Typically, if a fielder has to break into an all-out run, this would not be considered "ordinary effort." Some umpires consider it ordinary effort if the fielder does not have to turn his back to the infield. Some umpires consider it ordinary effort if the fielder doesn't have to do more than a light jog. All of these umpires are well within their rights to use these as measures for how they define "ordinary effort," as this is a judgment call.
"...when first and second or first, second and third bases are occupied with less than two outs."
This one speaks for itself. First base and second base must be occupied, or the bases must be loaded. There must also be no outs or one out. If there are two outs, the rule does not apply.
I look at this rule as like a house of cards: if any one part is missing, the whole thing falls apart, and the Infield Fly Rule does not apply. All of these parts must come together in order to form the Infield Fly Rule.
What happens when the Infield Fly Rule is called?
The Infield Fly Rule does only one thing: call the batter-runner out, removing the force on the other runners. That's all it does, nothing more. Beyond that, it's treated just like any other fly ball - runners may attempt to advance at their own risk. If the ball is caught, runners must still tag up after the ball is first touched by the defense. If the ball is not caught, runners are not required to tag up.
Whose call is it anyway?
In ASA, this should be the Plate Umpire's call. The Base Umpire may certainly assist the Plate Umpire in making the determination of an Infield Fly, but ultimately, this is the Plate Umpire's call. Other associations may have different mechanics, but I'm not aware of any such examples.
Some True/False regarding the Infield Fly Rule:
#1: The ball is dead.
Answer: False. The ball is most certainly not dead on an Infield Fly. The ball is always live, and runners may advance at their own risk.
#2: If an infielder drops an Infield Fly, the infield fly is still in effect.
Answer: True. The infielder only has to be able to catch the ball with ordinary effort.
#3: Runners no longer have to tag up the instant the Infield Fly Rule is declared.
Answer: False. It's just like any other fly ball. If it's caught, runners are still required to tag up after the ball is first touched by the defense.
#4: An outfielder can catch an Infield Fly.
Answer: True. So long as an infielder could have caught the ball with ordinary effort, the rule still applies. Just because an outfielder actually caught the ball has no bearing on the Infield Fly Rule.
#5: An Infield Fly landing in the grass is not an Infield Fly.
Answer: False. Again, so long as an infielder could have caught the ball with ordinary effort, the Infield Fly Rule applies. The rule mentions nothing about whether the ball must actually be in the infield.
#6: If a team is missing an infielder (such as their second baseman), and the infield fly lands where s/he would have been, it still counts.
Answer: False. A infielder actually has to be present to be able to catch the ball with ordinary effort.