The KIA Tigers employed a very rare and unusual defensive shift during last night’s home game against the Suwon KT Wiz. How unusual? Watch the video.
Tigers manager, Kim Ki-tae (김기태), placed his third baseman Lee Bum-ho (이범호) behind the catcher almost near the backstop on an intentional walk. He claimed it was an insurance policy in case of a wild pitch or passed ball. The ridiculousness of the play landed him on Keith Olbermann’s World’s Worst in Sports list.
KBO League pitchers must have some serious control issues, right?
Well, I guess. You will see an average of 7.56 walks if you went to any random KBO League game. Last time Major League Baseball came close to this was back in 1999 and 2000, and you would not see a silimar number until you go all the way back to 1950.
However, the big issue with this play, was whether the play should have been called a balk. It seemed like the home plate umpire was so shocked at the extremity of the shift that he just simply ordered the third baseman to go back to fair territory.
So, in order to clear things up, I have translated Rule 4.03 (which is relevant to this shift) of the Korea Baseball Organization’s Official Baseball Rules.
Interesting fact: the KBO’s version of Rule 4.03 is slightly longer than that of Major League Baseball. I have underlined the parts that are not stated in MLB’s Official Baseball Rules.
4.03 When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory.
(a) The catcher shall station himself directly back of the plate. He may leave his position at any time to catch a pitch or make a play expect that when the batter is being given an intentional base on balls, the catcher must stand with both feet within the lines of the catcher’s box until the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.
PENALTY: Balk. (See Rule 8.05(l))
*Rule 8.05(l): The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher’s box;
(b) The pitcher, while in the act of delivering the ball to the batter, shall take his legal position;
(c) Except the pitcher and the catcher, any fielder may station himself anywhere in fair territory.
Rule 4.03 Comment: This rule prohibits any fielder, except the catcher, from stationing himself in foul territory before the pitcher delivers the ball against a batter. However, there is no penalty for violating this rule.
For violation of this rule, the umpire shall immediately issue a warning and resume play after requiring the player to return to fair territory. However, if a play has already been made with no time to issue a warning, not all plays shall be permitted to proceed. The play is nullified only when the team on defense is entitled to benefit from this violation.
(d) Except the batter or runner attemping to score, no player from the team on offense shall cross the catcher’s line when the ball is put in play.
Rule 4.03(d) Comment: The catcher’s line here refers to the lines of the “catcher’s box”.
The umpire just went by the rules.
- Official Baseball Rules (2014 Edition), MLB.com.
- KBO Official Baseball Rules, Korea Baseball Organization.
- League Year-by-Year Pitching – Averages, BASEBALL-REFERENCE.com