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Coaches NEED to know about Time Plays

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by JCbaseball » Fri Aug 19, 2016 1:50 pm

What is a "Time Play" ?

Time Plays Explained - Written by Rich Marazzi

When the third out occurs by a back runner just before or just after a lead runner crosses the plate and that out is not the result of a force out or the batter-runner being retired before reaching first base for the third out, you have a “Time Play.” If the runner advancing home crosses the plate before the third out, the run scores. If he doesn’t, the run does not score. The term “Time Play,” is not found in the Official Baseball Rules. This is umpire lingo but the term might make it easier for young umpires and players to understand the rule which is universal.

The Dodgers hosted the Brewers on June 16.

It took instant replay to confirm the Dodgers' tying run in the bottom of the sixth inning which was the result of a “Time Play.” With one out the Dodgers had Joc Pederson on third and Yasmani Grandal on first when Justin Turner skied to left field. Both runners tagged-up and attempted to advance to the next base. Brewers’ left fielder Ryan Braun fired the ball to second base in an attempt to nail Grandal.

Second baseman Scooter Gennett tagged Grandal at about the same time Pederson crossed the plate. Umpire Ryan Blakney signaled immediately that the run counted because he judged that Pederson crossed the plate before Grandal was tagged. The plate umpire makes his decision at the moment he sees the tag, not when the base umpire raises his arm for the out call. The Brewers challenged and the call stood.

If you look at the play it appeared that Pederson was not running full speed until he saw that Grandal was about to be tagged for the third out.

But credit Pederson for being apparently aware of the rule because he ran through the plate just like a runner would hustle through first base on an infield grounder once he saw that a “Time Play” was unfolding.

You can view this play on, click “Scores”, go to June 16 “Turner lifts a sac fly to left field” or go to the link below. Highlight the link, click copy, and then paste to a browser and hit “Enter.”

Risk vs. Reward
I raise the following question with the teams I work with. Is the risk worth the reward? With runners on second and third and one out, or first and third and one out, is the risk of advancing the back runner on a fly ball to the mid or short outfield worth it? Or what about runners on first and second and two outs and the batter hits safely and the runner on second goes home while the runner on first attempts to reach third? Of course having the back runner advance the extra base has its advantages. But if one or both of the runners do not have a good understanding of the “Time Play’’ rule, you can run yourself out of an inning. You’ve heard the saying, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

As an umpire are you prepared to make the call? Are you alert to “Time Play” situations? Of course the main responsibility falls on the plate umpire because he sees the whole play. Following are three situations that should always get your attention.

Time Play Red Flags for Umpires
1. Runners on second and third and one out and the batter makes the second out of a continuing play, usually on a fly ball.
2. Runners on first and third and one out and the batter makes the second out of a continuing play, usually a fly ball.
3. Runners on first and second and two outs and the batter hits safely. The runner on second attempts to score and the runner on first attempts to reach third. If the runner going to third will be an easy out, it’s a good idea for the coach to instruct the runner to back pedal to avoid the tag. This will give the lead runner more time to cross the plate.

The base coaches, in my opinion, should give the runners a heads-up here by reviewing the above “Time Play” situations with the runners between pitches. Maybe umpires can have some type of signal to prepare for a possible “Time Play” as well, just as they do to communicate the “Infield Fly rule.” That might be thinking a little out of the box, but why not?

Creating Time Plays
There are different ways that a runner can help to create a “Time Play.” Umpires should be aware of these strategies.

(1) With runners on second and third and two outs, the batter hits a ground ball to the third baseman or shortstop who fields the ball in front of the runner. The runner must allow the fielder to field the ball but once the fielder has made the play, the runner can attempt to lure the fielder to play on him. If the fielder bites, the runner can back pedal and get into a rundown. This gives the runner on third time to cross the plate. Defensively, the fielder should always, when possible, retire the batter-runner at first base when it is the third out of the inning. That way no run can score.

(2) With the bases loaded the runner on first (R1) anticipates he will be forced out on a bang-bang play at second base. Instead of sliding into the base, R1 runs through the base. Even though he will most likely be subsequently tagged out, he takes away the force by being tagged out between second and third. During the time it takes the defensive player to apply the tag, the runner on third crosses the plate. This is what happened in the June 17 game between the Cubs and Pirates at Wrigley Field.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Albert Almora Jr. grounded to shortstop Jordy Mercer, whose toss to second caused Josh Harrison to reach over the bag. Anthony Rizzo was running hard from first and, as Harrison came across the base, Rizzo collided with him standing up on the shortstop side of the base and both players tumbled to the dirt. Dexter Fowler scored from third on the play because Rizzo beat the throw to second but was tagged out after overrunning the base. Once Rizzo reached second base and beyond, the force on him was removed. The Pirates challenged, but the ruling was confirmed.

"It's a play that [coach] Dave McKay put in my head years ago," Rizzo said to "Two outs, if you can beat that throw to second, why slide? Run through the base, and if you're safe, the run scores."

If you were umpiring, would you have realized the force was removed on Rizzo after he reached second base?

You can view this play on, June 17, PIT@CHC, “Fowler’s run is confirmed in the 7th” or go to the link below.

You can view the play on It shows Fowler slowing down as he approaches home plate because he turns to watch the play at second base. From my perspective, it appeared that the tag probably occurred before Fowler touched the plate but because the tag was an inadvertent tag due to the tangled collision, I don’t think the Command Center in New York had conclusive evidence that the tag came after Fowler crossed the plate.

Go to, click “scores,” go to June 17, PIT@CHC, “Fowler’s run is confirmed in the 7th.”
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