The Rare “Infield Fly”
I am always learning something new about baseball as I continue to score baseball games. Before I started working as a MiLB.com datacaster and BIS scorer, I was a typical fan who attended a handful of games – four to seven – a year. I knew baseball, but I didn’t really pay enough attention to the games I attended or watch on television for certain things to register. Since I’ve been recording every pitch and every play for thirty to fifty games a year, I notice things I’d have missed before.
In the Scranton – Norfolk game on July 1, in the third inning, Scranton’s Brandon Laird came up with the bases loaded and one out. He hit a popup to the left side of the infield. As most of you probably know, if there are runners on first and second or with the bases loaded and fewer than two outs, and the batter hits a fly ball that an infielder can catch with ordinary effort, the umpire will call it an “infield fly” and the batter is called out. This “infield fly rule” was enacted to prevent an infielder from deliberately letting a popup drop and getting forceouts on two of the runners, who would have to stand close to their original base to avoid being doubled off in case the ball is caught.
In scoring my games, I have to record that the batter is retired by application of the infield fly rule. When Brandon Laird was called out, I knew that I had to record it – but I wasn’t sure of the proper code. Now, I’ve memorized the codes for the plays that occur most often. Since I couldn’t pull the code for an infield fly off the top of my head, I realized that I probably don’t see more than two applications of the infield fly rule a year. I score about a quarter of all games the Tides play, so if my experience is typical, a team sees the infield fly rule applied no more than ten times a season.
If I wanted to research it, I could find out the theoretical number of times a team should see the infield fly rule applied. I could find out the number of times batters come up with runners on first and second or with the bases loaded and fewer than two outs; determine what percentage of the time a batter hits an infield fly; and multiply the two to find out how many times the infield fly rule comes into play. I don’t really want to research it.
Most serious baseball fans know what the infield fly rule is, at least in theory (even if they can’t quote it in rulebookese.) My guess is that most of them would be surprised to learn that it comes into play so infrequently.