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I believe that a base runner is allowed to make their own base line when running the bases. I don't believe that there is anything in the rules that prevents a base runner from running all the way out in to the outfield when going from first to second base (as long as they are not trying to evade a tag). I believe that runners are only called for "running out of the base line" when they are trying to evade a tag. And that the "base line" is the line that the runner creates when he runs from one base to another. So for example - I don't believe that it is against the rules for a runner to start at first base then run out in to right field and then run to second base. As soon as a fielder is making an attept to tag the runner that runner is now required to run in a direct line either back to first or continue on to second base. And that is when they are not allowed to deviate more than 3 feet in either direction.

So with all of that said - I had a thought today. When a baserunner is leading off of first base could that runner move off of the base in a direct line with the pitcher? I know it would be sort of a disadvantage in terms of getting a lead towards second since the runner would be moving out towards the pitcher in to the infield grass. But it would make picking the runner off virtually impossible. Any throw from the pitcher back to first base would almost certainly hit the runner. And the runner could always go back to first standing up which would almost always get in the way of the throw back to first.

I know it would be odd to see a runner leading off of first and standing in the infield grass about 3 strides off of the bag. But it would seem like you could almost guarantee that you wouldn't get picked off. And any attempt by the pitcher to throw over to first would be very risky and probably end up with a throw that hits off of the runner.

Thoughts? Is this legal?

  • Why dont you add your link that got you thinking about this question to the question? – Voromir Kadien May 5 '18 at 17:39
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Under rule 5.09(b)(2), the runner can be considered

... obviously abandoning his effort to touch the next base.

A decent umpire would exclude walking into outfield or towards the mound from being part of an effort to touch the next base. You could have started directly to the base itself and made more ground that way, so clearly this is not part of trying to reach the next base.

If it is argued that this ploy was an effort to reach the next base, but the reason for moving towards the mound/pitcher is to reduce the ability of the pitcher to get the ball to first baseman and thereby prevent the pickoff, if the ball hits the runner they are out under rule 6.01(a)(10), because the runner

... intentionally interferes with a thrown ball ...

This completely defeats the purpose of moving in that direction, and arguably makes the out more likely. The throw either hits the runner (out) or gets to the baseman for a pickoff (out).

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    But I believe that a runner is entitled to make any path they want when running the bases. Essentially a runner defines his "base path" by the path that he takes to the base. Think of a runner that is speeding around the bases trying to get a triple. There are no requirements for him to be in any particular path. He can circle the bases any way that he wants. It's only when a fielder is attempting to tag him that he is now required to stay with the baseline that he established. – Corey Burnett Apr 27 '18 at 23:34
  • Also as for being called out for interfering with the throw from the pitcher wouldn't the umpire have to determine that it was an intentional effort to interfere. If the runner simply turns his back to the pitcher and goes back in to first standing up it's not his fault that the throw hits him. Right? Or are baserunners required to duck or slide to allow a throw to come in? – Corey Burnett Apr 27 '18 at 23:36
  • Here is a rules interpretation that I saw that I thought was interesting that got me thinking about this - austinumpires.org/skunkplay.html – Corey Burnett Apr 27 '18 at 23:37
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    Seriously? Your hypothetical runner is moving in that place to block the thrown ball. It doesn't matter which way they're facing - they have intended to block the ball and that's 6.01 bang to rights. Yes, the umpire does make a decision, but passive contact doesn't contradict active placement as evidence of intent. Compare kicking the ball to placing a foot in its path to not moving a foot already in its path to moving the foot out of its path. Two of those are interference, one is a judgement call for consequence, one is not interference (in that order). – Nij Apr 28 '18 at 0:51
  • I see what you're saying. But in some sense you could argue that the runner is simply returning to the base in a straight line. On his return path to the base he isn't doing anything out of the ordinary to try and get hit by the throw. It's not any different than a base runner getting hit by a throw in a run down. But I guess you are saying that the act of taking a lead in a straight line to the pitcher is a deliberate act to interfere. – Corey Burnett Apr 28 '18 at 1:54
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A runner must stay on the base path at all times. This is open for interpretation, but it's about 3 feet in each direction on either side of the line between bases.

If a runner (for what reason I don't know) led off headed directly at the pitcher, he would be called out for not running on the base path.

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    I don't think that is true. Runners are not compelled to stay in any sort of line when they are running the bases and not being chased by a fielder. Think about a runner who is trying for a triple. He is allowed to take as wide of a turn as he wants. He can run as wide as he wants between first and second. And also between second and third. There is no rule that says he must stay within 3 feet of the straight line between bases. That only comes in to play when a runner is being run down by a fielder with the ball trying to make a tag. – Corey Burnett Apr 27 '18 at 19:50
  • See this for more information - austinumpires.org/skunkplay.html – Corey Burnett Apr 27 '18 at 19:51
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Yes that is the rule a runner must stay within 3 feet of the baseline per Rule 7.08:

Any runner is out when— (a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely

Reference: http://www.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2007/07_the_runner.pdf

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    The key part of that rule is this - "a runner's baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely". So until the tag attempt occurs there is no established baseline. Until a tag attempt occurs a runner is free to take whatever route they want from base to base. A runner could run out to where the right fielder is standing if he wants - until a tag attempt occurs. At that point the runner is now confined to 3 feet to either side of a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely. – Corey Burnett May 4 '18 at 18:44

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