On Saturday, Ellsbury reached base by way of catcher’s interference for the second time this season and his fifth time in the last three years. And in every single instance, it has occurred with two strikes.
Ellsbury is a hitter who is known for being great at making contact. His ~90% contact rate puts him on the cusp of the elite when it comes to getting wood on the ball. In 2011, he is adding a stroke of power into that contact as evidenced by his 13 home runs, 26 doubles and 2 triples.
But it’s the patience Ellsbury displays in the batter’s box that has allowed the left-hander to have been granted five passes to first base by way of catcher’s interference. Since he is waiting such a long time to swing, the catcher’s mitt and Ellsbury’s bat have a tendency to run into each other.
The baseball rule that defines catcher’s interference is Rule 6.08(c):
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when:
The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference.
Do you know who the MLB active-leader in catcher’s interference is? (Pete Rose is MLB’s all-time leader with 21) It’s none other than Boston’s soon-to-be-returning Carl Crawford. Crawford has been awarded first base via catcher’s interference 13 times in his career, with the most recent being against the Chicago Cubs in May.
Coincidentally (or not at this point), Ellsbury also collected a CI (catcher’s interference) in that same Cubs series. Ellsbury is currently the all-time Red Sox leader in this statistic – one of baseball’s oddities. The next closest hitters in Red Sox history are all tied with two CI’s. This list includes Scott Cooper, Bill Buckner, Jack Clark and Darren Lewis. In fact, before Ellsbury collected a CI in 2009, it had been 11 seasons since anyone did it in a Red Sox uniform. Lewis was last in a game against the Detroit Tigers in September of 1998.
Ellsbury is having a breakout year and will likely have career-highs in many categories for 2011. But with the rate that Crawford has collected CI’s in his career, he may give Ellsbury a run at the Red Sox title over the length of his contract.
It’s such a strange play and even more odd is that the Sox have two players who are adept at it.
DID YOU KNOW? – There has been only one game in MLB history that has ended on a catchers-interference. The Los Angeles Dodgers Willie Crawford was awarded a CI after his teammate Manny Mota tried to steal home in the 11th inning of a 4-4 game. Reds catcher Johnny Bench jumped out from behind the plate and stood in the base path to tag Mota and was called for interference. Dodgers won 5-4.