Infield fly rule prevents easy double plays
An infield fly occurs when there are less than two outs and runners on first and second base, or the bases are loaded. When the batter hits a fly ball that stays within the vicinity of the infield, umpires call an infield fly rule. The batter is automatically out whether or not the ball is caught.
The reason for this rule is so that defenses cannot drop a pop fly on purpose and get two quick outs. Because runners have to tag up before advancing on a caught fly ball, a fielder could drop the ball and get a force out of the lead runner and then get another force out of another runner. Players have tried to do this on line drives before, but that is harder to do since there is so little time to think and react to pull off such a play.
The infield fly rule can help and hurt a team on offense. Obviously, the batter is automatically out. However, sometimes fielders aren’t the best defensively, and what could have been a chance to get another runner on base or score a run turns into an automatic out with nobody advancing around the bases.
Umpires call the infield fly rule at their discretion, meaning that a fly ball carrying into the outfield could or could not be called as an infield fly. One of the more infamous occurrences of this rule happened the first year that Major League Baseball had the wild card play-in game. The Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals were part of history with the game in itself, but it is the call that was made involving an infield fly that garnered the most attention.
The ball hit by Andrelton Simmons was halfway into the outfield, yet the umpire still declared it an infield fly. The left field umpire… I didn’t know outfield umpires were allowed to make that call, but that’s why there aren’t more umpires per each game until the playoffs. More isn’t always better apparently. The ball was dropped between Pete Kozma and Matt Holliday, but it did not matter because Simmons was already ruled out and the runners were expecting the ball to be caught. The runners advanced on their own but could have stayed at the bases they came from without penalty.
This rule is to protect the offensive team from suffering multiple outs when only one should be induced. It usually gets implemented correctly, but in a case like the ATL-STL game, it was not needed.
Few things are more disappointing for a hitter than to hit into an infield fly. You are automatically out and have to go back to the dugout without even attempting to go to first base. Pop outs are embarrassing in general, especially if you’re out before the ball is even caught. The lesson is, get a hit with runners on base!