Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association have instituted a new rule on an experimental basis for 2014. Rule 7.13 governs home plate collisions and is primarily designed to eliminate “egregious” collisions (i.e., cheap shots) at the plate. The rule is in effect for spring training so players have time to get used to it.

In brief, 7.13 says that the base runner may not “deviate from a direct path to the plate” in order to cause contact with the catcher or the player covering the plate. The catcher/player covering the plate cannot block the base path unless he has possession of the ball. All calls will be based on the judgement of the umpire, who can take into consideration visual factors like whether or not the base runner lowered his shoulder or used his hands, arms, or elbows when approaching the catcher. For those who are interested, the full text of the new rule is at the bottom of this post.

MLB has been toying with the idea of a specific rule governing home plate collisions for a while, but the idea didn’t seem to gain legs until Giants catcher Buster Posey was, well, busted up by Scott Cousins of the Marlins in May 2011. However, Indians fans have a special interest in home plate collisions. Carlos Santana sustained a season-ending knee injury in a collision with Boston’s Ryan Kalish in August 2010. Fortunately, the injury didn’t seem to have any lasting ill effects. Then there’s the Ray Fosse-Pete Rose body slam during the 1970 All-Star Game. Fosse, who had been one of the few bright up-and-coming stars for the Indians, sustained a separated shoulder and was never the same player. At all.

Looking at video from each of these three incidents can cause a bit of stomach churning, but also demonstrates the common sense need for the rule. The new rule doesn’t require the base runner to slide and allows catchers to block the plate if they have possession of the ball. In the Posey-Cousins collision, Posey had possession of the ball and Cousins pretty much barreled into him anyway. However, Cousins was called safe. Under rule 7.13, he would have been out (and rightfully so). In Santana’s case, only his left leg was in the base path, so you could argue that he wasn’t technically “blocking” the plate, but he didn’t have possession of the ball. Nonetheless, Kalish was ruled out. As much as watching Santana’s leg twist like a Cirque de Soleil contortionist (he loses his shoe, for crying out loud) is excruciatingly painful to watch, Kalish would likely have been called safe under the new rule.

And as for dear Ray Fosse? Well, he was in the base path and didn’t have possession of the ball.  However, if that collision had happened under rule 7.13, the umpire could have taken into account Rose’s body language, in which he puts his head and shoulders down a bit, not for one of his head-first slides, but to slam into Ray Fosse like a…a… oh hell, I can’t even think of a good metaphor because the hit seems so deliberate. Rose was aiming for Fosse, not the plate. So would rule 7.13 have saved Ray Fosse? Possibly. Let’s hope it’ll preserve the bodies of future Indians catchers. (Please God, don’t let anyone hurt Yan Gomes.)


Collisions at home plate
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). 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 (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other baserunners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

Rule 7.13 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 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. 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.

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. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.


  • Gvl Steve says:

    This rule change is long overdue. Violent collisions at the plate add nothing to the game but risk of injury and loss of players that fans want to see on the field, not on the disabled list. This isn’t hockey. These guys don’t even wear pads.

  • Adam Hintz says:

    Fantastic post, Susan.

    It’s interesting that Pete Rose (in the Fosse clip) essentially summed up this rule: don’t block the plate if you don’t have the ball. Now, it’s interesting because Rose basically acted like a human missile for the sake of acting like a human missile, but he DID reach for the plate. At the very least, it’s hard to say Rose deviated from his path towards the plate.

    Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’d call Rose safe even in light of the new rule. If he slides, he’s sliding into a brick wall.

    But it really begs the question: if Pete Rose was justified in blasting Ray Fosse in this instance, then what good will this rule do? As I read the rule, it puts the onus of protection on the catcher (“Don’t block the plate without the ball unless it’s simultaneous”) and not the baserunner (“Attempt to get to the plate and don’t go for the catcher”). How many runners are going to be called safe because the catcher was establishing position before the ball arrives? How many runners are going to be called safe because the catcher was out of position because they didn’t want to violate the rule?

    How long is it going to take for the first talking head to accuse a catcher of being soft because he wasn’t in position to tag a runner because he wasn’t sure the ball was going to get their first? Keep in mind, by the letter of the new rule, Kalish is safe (originally called out) because Santana had his leg blocking the plate before the ball got there. Santana had bad position, but the ball DID get there in time. I feel like a good rule shouldn’t overturn an out like this.

    Ugh, I don’t know. It’s not very clear at this point.

    • Adam Hintz says:

      Addendum: if there are any basketball fans out there, this is essentially MLB’s version of the hand-check rule.

      3B coaches should be sending way more runners because catchers can’t block the plate without the ball. More runs are going to be scored because of this rule.

      Yeah, I’m definitely talking myself out of liking this rule.

  • D.P. Roberts says:

    Practically, how many guys heading down the third base line (or catchers trying to make a play) are going to be thinking about any of this?

    Some guys still slide into first base when they shouldn’t. Some guys still slide headfirst, even though they’re more likely to get injured that way.

    I just don’t think this rule (at least as it’s written) will make much of a difference.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    Adam, I had the same feeling in watching (and rewatching) the Fosse-Rose collision. Yeah, under the new rule, Rose would be safe and Fosse would be in the wrong. But dang it, Rose plowed into him. I can understand that he’s unrepentant and believed in playing hard and all that, but I still think Pete Rose is a jerk.

    D.P.–I don’t know if the rule will make any difference either. If it can prevent one serious injury per season, that’s something.

  • Andrew says:

    Couple things. First, remember that this “new rule” also requires every club to make sure catchers and baserunners are following this at every organizational level and since the “must slide/catcher cannot block the plate” rule is in effect for both high school and college, the entire idea of the collision can likely be eliminated within a few years.

    Second, I think it will make for better baseball. It will require throws home to actually be more precise and give players with good slide technique (ie Kenny Lofton) an actual shot at scoring.

  • D.P. Roberts says:

    On an unrelated note… do you guys at IPL take requests?

    I know that making predictions as a baseball writer is always fraught with difficulty, but those sorts of articles are fun to read. I’d love to hear how you think/guess spring training will work out. Specifically, the big questions like:

    1) Who is going to end up in that 5th starter spot?
    2) Who will start at third base?
    3) Does Giambi make the team?
    4) Which relievers will make the cut?
    5) Will the Indians sign anyone else (especially Masterson or Kipnis) to long-term contracts this spring?

    Go on, make some predictions! Gaze into that crystal ball, and throw some darts at the board! If you’re wrong,I promise I won’t laugh at you on Opening Day.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    DP, we typically do a group post before Opening Day in which each writer answers the same set of questions. But I like your Spring Training question request. Granted.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Adam, why is it bad if a few more runs score? If the runner beats the throw, should he not score? I don’t see any downside at all to the new rule. Offense needs a bump anyway.

    Can I make some predictions? Can I, can I? How about Carrasco for 5th starter, bullpen Axford, Shaw, Allen, Scrabble, Outman, Tomlin, Pestano, 3B and RF will be R/L platoons. Giambi makes team unless Cooper steals it. Kipnis signs deal for 5 yrs, $30-35MM, buying out one year of free agency.

    • Adam Hintz says:

      It’s not bad in and of itself.

      What I’m worried about is the rule putting catchers in the awkward position of legislating their own safety. The runner’s decision is very streamlined, but the rule puts catchers in a precarious “should I or shouldn’t I?” place.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    I suppose that is why the coaches are telling the catchers not to block the plate at all, to make the rule simpler to follow. I certainly would not trade the health of one of my players for one out.

    I hear that Blake Wood has put himself in line for a bullpen spot now, and is throwing gas. Either Tomlin or Pestano could be out of there.