Tag plays at home

The Posey Rule

The “Posey Rule” has been part of baseball since the 2014 MLB season.  The original rule, 7.08(b), was reinterpreted in part  due to a collision between Scott Cousins and Buster Posey in 2011.  That collision resulted in Posey missing the majority of that season due to a broken ankle sustained in that collision.  In early 2014 MLB announced a new experimental rule, 7.13, intended to reduce collisions at the plate.  In 2015 the rule was renumbered to 6.01(i).

It is important for catchers to understand this rule and to know how to position themselves for tag plays at the plate as well as to understand what a runner is allowed to do in an attempt to touch home plate.

Rule 6.01(i) (refer to page 84):
There are two parts to this rule that have to be considered; the rule regarding the runner’s action in attempting to touch home plate and the rule dictating the catcher’s positioning relative to home plate.

The Runner:
(1) A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision. If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (regardless of whether the player covering home plate maintains possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 6.01(i) (Rule 7.13).

Rule 6.01(i)(1) Comment (Rule 7.13(1) Comment): The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 6.01(i) (Rule 7.13), or otherwise initiated a collision that could have been avoided. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. If a catcher blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall not find that the runner initiated an avoidable collision in violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(1) (Rule 7.13(1)).

Notice in the above section of the rule there is a clear distinction regarding the runner deviating from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact.  This means if the runner leaves the base path with the intent to initiate contact with the catcher they will be called out.  In the comment on the rule they further detail that the runner will be called out if they fail to make an effort to touch home plate, lower their shoulder or push through the catcher with their hands, elbows or arms.  Additionally, the last line of the comment is important for catchers to understand as it states if the catcher “blocks the pathway of the runner”, the fault lies with the catcher and any contact made will not be in violation of this rule.

The Catcher:
(2) Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Not withstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(2) (Rule 7.13(2)) if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in a legitimate attempt to field the throw (e.g., in reaction to the direction, trajectory or the hop of the incoming throw, or in reaction to a throw that originates from a pitcher or drawn-in infielder). In addition, a catcher without possession of the ball shall not be adjudged to violate this Rule 6.01(i)(2) (Rule 7.13(2)) if the runner could have avoided the collision with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) by sliding.

Rule 6.01(i)(2) Comment (Rule 7.13(2) Comment): A catcher shall not be deemed to have violated Rule 6.01(i)(2) (Rule 7.13(2)) unless he has both blocked the plate without possession the ball (or when not in a legitimate attempt to field the throw), and also hindered or impeded the progress of the runner attempting to score. A catcher shall not be deemed to have hindered or impeded the progress of the runner if, in the judgment of the umpire, the runner would have been called out notwithstanding the catcher having blocked the plate. In addition, a catcher should use best efforts to avoid unnecessary and forcible contact while tagging a runner attempting to slide. Catchers who routinely make unnecessary and forcible contact with a runner attempting to slide (e.g., by initiating contact using a knee, shin guard, elbow or forearm) may be subject to discipline by the League President.

The key component for the catcher to understand is really found in the comment section.  The catcher must be in possession of the ball and not hinder or impede the runner from touching the plate.
How should catchers position themselves for tag plays?
  • If the catcher believes there is a possibility for a tag play at home their first step is to move in front of home plate.  This allows them to field the ball without having to adjust for the runner.

    Catcher Position to Field Throw
    Proper position for a catcher in preparation to field a throw from the field for a tag play at home plate
  • I strongly advise the catcher keeps their mask/helmet on.  IF there is going to be any contact made during the play wouldn’t you want all the protective equipment on possible?
  • Once the catcher has the baseball they should step onto the baseline with their left foot, toe pointing toward third base.  By positioning the foot this way the catcher’s shin guard is facing the runner providing them the greatest protection against the runner’s cleats.  This also provides a pathway to the back corner of the plate for the runner.

    Positioning Left Foot for Tag Play
    Once the ball is in possession by the catcher he should step onto the base path with his left foot, toes pointed toward third base
  • When possible make a two-hand tag meaning, the ball is in the glove with the throwing hand either holding the ball in the glove or squeezing the glove shut.
Now for some examples:
  • Lucroy/Marisnick collision, 2019
    • In this case Marisnick clearly targets Lucroy deviating from his direct path to the plate.  Additionally, he intentionally lowered his shoulder making no attempt to slide.  Marisnick was called out because of this.  Lucroy was perfectly positioned.
  • Mathis/Cozart play, 2015
    • Now this is an interesting play as it challenges the component of the rule regarding the catcher fielding the throw.  To clear up confusion, the end result of this play was that the initial call, Cozart was called out on the play, was overturned ruling the runner safe.  Based upon the replay it was determined that Mathis, who in my opinion was poorly positioned to begin with, moved into the base path to field the throw which was unnecessary.  This resulted in illegally blocking the runner’s path to the plate without possession of the ball.  The umpires ruled that he could have fielded ball while staying out of the base path.
  • Youth collision
    • In this instance it was the result of poor coaching on both sides of the ball.  In all fairness to these coaches, I rarely see teams coached properly on handling tag plays at the plate.  Too often kids aren’t sliding and catchers are improperly playing the throw.  The mistakes in this case are made by both players.  The runner makes no attempt to slide and instead lowers his shoulder.  The catcher is standing in the baseline waiting for the throw which  impedes the runner’s path to the plate.  From what I can tell the umpire called the runner out due to the failure to slide and resultant collision.  Based upon the rule book though, the catcher a was actually violating the rule (similar to the Mathis/Cozart example above) and the correct call should have been safe due to him blocking the runner’s path to the plate.

The bottom line is that the rule 6.01(i) is intended to reduce the likelihood of collisions at home plate between runner and catcher.  This is in the spirit of increased safety to protect the players.  Far too many youth coaches and even umpires don’t have a clear understanding of this rule and fail to properly instruct their players (both catchers and base runners) as well as enforce the rule (as umpires) which puts youth players at risk.

CO Catchers provides instruction to youth catchers regarding how to properly make tag plays at home plate as well as all other aspects of playing the catching position.  For more information on private instruction and catching clinics, visit our website at www.coloradocatchers.com.

2 thoughts on “The Posey Rule”

  1. Thanks for writing this. Too many youth players, coaches and even some umpires are not clear on this. I’d like to, though, get clarification on your assessment of the youth collision. While the catcher and runner were both in violation of rule 6.01(i), doesn’t malicious contact (via illegal slide and lowering his shoulder, not avoiding contact) override that? So that the correct call was made (runner out…wondering if runner was ejected). What’s your thoughts on that?

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    1. Donna,
      I believe the interpretation by an umpire should have been that since the catcher was illegally blocking the path to the plate then contact could not be avoided. Was the contact initiated by the runner appropriate? No. I believe this would have been interpreted similar to the Mathis/Cozart example provided. Since the path to the plate was hindered that supersedes the contact made, therefore ruling the runner safe. To your point, in my opinion, the runner should have been called safe BUT ejected for not sliding or at least making an attempt to avoid contact with the catcher.

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