|There's No Substitute For Accuracy With Subs
|By: John Bennett - Longtime Umpire
Provided by: National Fastpitch Coaches Association
Making substitutions and changing the lineup during a game are frequent occurrences. They may involve a straightforward change, such as a pinch hitter or pinch runner; a simple defensive switch; or a more complicated substitution involving the DP/Flex.
REGARDLESS of the complexity of the change, it is very important to complete the process with the plate umpire with clear and accurate communications. If substitutions or lineup changes are not recorded properly, incorrect substitutions may be subject to penalties.
Each code has slightly different terms for incorrect substitutions, but basically these can be condensed to: unreported substitution, misreported substitution, projected substitution, illegal player and ineligible player. Illegal and ineligible player substitutions will be subjects for a future column.
Who can report a substitute?
• ASA - must be made by the manager or team representative.
• A coach gives the umpire a substitution for the upcoming batter who is a starting player, and at the same time states that the starting player will reenter when the team goes on defense
• The coach tells the umpire that the Flex will run for the DP and at the same time tells the umpire that the DP will reenter at the end of the inning.
In both examples the umpire can take only the current substitution and tell the coach to give him/her the reentry when the team goes on defense.
THERE HAS BEEN a difference of opinion among both coaches and umpires as to whether announcing a change in the batting order for a player who is not the current batter is a projected sub or not. A typical example is when a team is starting their offensive half-inning and the coach wants to substitute for both the first and second batter in the inning.
This has been interpreted by NCAA and ASA as a projected sub since the on-deck batter is not yet at bat. The reasoning is that the on-deck batter is not immediately participating in the game.
The opposing view contends that a sub who goes into any spot in the batting order is immediately participating, as she is now in the batting order. This logic is consistent with the fact that the umpires accept the starting lineup with nine or 10 players, since they are all participating by the mere fact that they are in the batting order.
This opposing view was solidified, at least by NFHS, by their rule change for 2016 that added a definition for Projected Substitute. This new definition (2-57-4) and a Casebook play which states the offensive coach may enter four substitutes at the beginning of the half-inning, clarifies that any change in the batting order during the offensive half-inning is allowed.
Penalties will apply if a substitution is not reported to the umpire or the umpire misunderstands the substitution. See the section below entitled, "Working with the umpire to get it right."
- ASA - handled as protest, play stands and the sub is officially in the game. There are two exceptions for which the play does not remain as played:
• Unreported sub just completed turn at bat and discovered before next pitch – just like batting out of order; sub is out, all other outs on the play stand, runners return.
• Unreported sub is a defensive player who makes a play and it is discovered before the next pitch – the offensive coach has an option of taking the result of the play or nullify the play with the last batter returning to bat with the same count and runners return.
NCAA - handled as an appeal; unreported substitute penalties apply if not reported to the plate umpire and a pitch has been thrown or a play made. The penalties depend on the exact situation and are very detailed. See rule 8.3.3 in the 2016 NCAA Rule Book.
- NFHS - not an appeal or protest; the umpire can take action if noticed. A team warning is issued to the coach; for a second offense, the offender and the coach shall be restricted to the dugout.
- USSSA - team warning; on the second offense, the head coach is ejected.
Working with the umpire to get it right
Umpires are instructed to handle substitutions carefully and accurately. Coaches can help to ensure this happens. Please do not endeavor to make a substitution by the "hit and run" approach. For example:
• The coach yells out a substitution without conferring with the umpire.
It is highly recommended to give substitutions to the umpire by standing next to him/her and observing that the substitutions are being recorded correctly. Here is what most umpire mechanics manuals instruct plate umpires to do when taking substitutions:
• Step away from the plate and take out the lineup card while the coach is still near you.
Umpires dislike problems with substitutions as much as coaches. Let's work together. Take a few extra seconds and make sure that subs are reported and recorded correctly.