Featured Posts

Friday, February 24, 2017

First Play of the Spring - Overthrown Two Base Award

On this first day of Spring Training, we're already into the rulebook as an overthrow in Florida led to a Little League home run for Yankees batter Miguel Andujar.

Though the teams pay no mind, the ump does.
As baseball collectively shakes off the dust this late February, there are bound to be a few errors along the way, and we too would do well to review a fundamental rule that made an appearance on Friday concerning a ball thrown out of play.

With two out and a runner on first base in the bottom of the 6th inning, NY batter Andujar hit a fair fly ball off of Phillies outfielder Chris Coghlan, who retrieved the ball on the ground and threw to first baseman Brock Stassi, who in turn threw to third base in an attempt to retire Andujar, who was trying for a triple.

Stassi's throw flew past third baseman Taylor Featherston and bounced into (and then out of) the visitors' dugout back onto the playing field, where it was retrieved by left fielder Tyler Goeddel, alertly backing up the play, as batter-runner Andujar scampered back to third base.

U3 Mark Wegner signals "Time."
Fortunately for New York, 3B Umpire Mark Wegner saw the entire sequence and, having correctly ruled the ball out of play, awarded Andujar home plate as a result of the ball thrown out of play. Andujar's position at the time of Kingery's throw was at some point between second and third base.

Common question: Does it matter that the ball bounced back onto the field after momentarily entering the dugout? After all, didn't appear to have altered the play. Answer: As soon as the ball leaves the playing field, it is dead and subject to award. It does not matter what happens next (see emphasized portion of rule, below).

Relevant Rules
Rule 5.06(b)(4)(G): "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance...Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field)...The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made."

 Wrap: Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees, 2/24/17 | Video available via "Read more"

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Four-Pitch Intentional Walk, Potential Flubs, Abolished

Baseball is saying goodbye to its four-pitch intentional walk—and antics of an intent ball gone wrong—in favor of pace-of-play-friendly dugout signals, according to several sources. Manfred previously stated "that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," while player's union head Tony Clark wrote, "fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle."

However, the apparently less fundamental four-pitch intentional walk (as opposed to the more fundamental strike zone issue) appears headed for extinction.

Less fundamental? It's not as if a poorly executed intentional walk attempt has ever cost someone a ballgame...or has it? [Spoiler: It has—many times]
Say goodbye to intentional walk-off disasters.

Intentional balls don't often go awry, but when they do, the results can be memorable. When Baltimore pitcher Todd Williams attempted to intentionally walk Marlins slugger Miguel Cabrera in the 10th inning of a tied game on June 22, 2006, Cabrera hit the first pitch he saw for an RBI single, scoring Florida's game-winning run.

In 2014, Dodgers relief pitcher Chris Withdrew attempted to intentionally walk Diamondbacks batter Martin Prado in the top of the 9th inning of a 1-1 game. After all, with one out and a runner on third, setting up a potential inning-ending double play is a plausibly good strategy...except that Withrow's 2-0 pitch to Prado sailed over catcher Tim Federowicz's glove, allowing D-Backs baserunner R3 Tony Campana to score the go-ahead run for Arizona, which eventually won the contest, 4-2.

A similar wild pitch-during-an-intentional-walk mishap occurred in Tampa Bay (run scored)...and in Detroit...and in San Francisco...and in Anaheim (run scored)...and in Oakland...and in Detroit (again)...and in Detroit (for a third time, with a run scoring)...and in Seattle (run scored).

Most recently—and perhaps the last instance of a flubbed intentional walk MLB will ever see—Yankees batter Gary Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly when Rays pitcher Enny Romero's intentional ball flew too close to home plate and within the reach of Sanchez's bat.

Sanchez's IBB sacrifice could be MLB's last.
In a similar vein, Lancaster Barnstormers pitcher Lance Odom unintentionally spurred a walk-off win for opposing Somerset in 2007 when Odom's intentional ball with a runner on third in extra innings sailed over the catcher's head, allowing baserunner R3 Danny Garcia to score the game-winner from third base.

A similar fate befell Auburn in college baseball during a poorly placed intentional ball at Ole Miss that was swung on and hammered into the outfield seats for a walk-off home run.

Intentional walk mishaps at the lower levels have also produced a steal of home, and even a catcher's balk. Say goodbye to those, too.

There were just 932 intentional walks given out across the majors in 2016, which averages out to one for every 2.6 games played. By contrast, 2016 featured 1,468 regular season Replay Reviews, or one every 1.7 games. Intentional walks averaged less than one minute each while Replay Reviews took an average of one-minute and 36 seconds to complete.

MLB has also purportedly proposed a 30-second time limit on Replay Reviews.

This latest intentional walk news comes just weeks after baseball's most recent proposition to the players' union concerning free passes, and just two years after MLB tested no-pitch intentional walks during the 2014 Arizona Fall League.

In reportedly adopting the no-pitch intentional walk for regular season play, MLB hopes to reduce game times and increased pitch counts (presumably, by four pitches per occurrence), while collaterally eliminating the aforementioned possibility for an intentional ball-gone-wrong by way of a balk, wild pitch or pass ball, batter's swing at an intentional ball, and stolen base.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Phil Cuzzi Fulfills Promise to Late Friend Luongo

Phil Cuzzi's friendship with Belleville classmate Robert Luongo transcends baseball, reminding us of the brand of people that often gravitate toward the officiating vocation, as depicted in a NorthJersey.com article on Cuzzi.

Cuzzi and Luongo grew up together, and as Cuzzi attended Glassboro State College, Luongo went to Harvard. As Cuzzi climbed the umpiring ranks, Luongo took to business.

When Luongo's health suffered in the 1990s, manifesting in an ALS diagnosis, Cuzzi stuck by his friend, and, sensing Luongo's value of education for his family, made a vow: "The last time I saw Robert, the last thing I said to him was, 'Rob, you will never have to worry about [daughter] Dominique’s education, I will get our community and the baseball community involved to raise whatever we need to send her wherever she wants to go.'"

If you've followed Cuzzi's story, you may recall the Luongo name from Cuzzi's charity, the Robert Luongo ALS fund, established in 2003 as a fundraising effort for education and, later, dedicated to finding a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), colloquially known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and the name sake of the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which Cuzzi and crew (alongside Bob Costas) took part in after a game in Anaheim that season.

After Robert Luongo died in 2004 at the age of 49, Cuzzi continued fundraising to honor Luongo, planning dinners and bringing in guests from baseball legends Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre, and Tony LaRussa, to boxers Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney, to actor Steven Schirripa and broadcaster Costas.

Now, Luongo's daughter is set to graduate from Robert's alma mater, Harvard University, and Cuzzi's promise is nearing completion: "And now, she’s graduating. I can’t believe it. [Mother] Debra deserves so much credit. She has instilled the values in her daughter that were so important to both her and Robert. We are all so proud of Dominique, her future is only limited to her own dreams. As proud as we all are of her, it pales in comparison to how proud Robert is of her."

Cuzzi describes the Robert Luongo ALS Fund as a three-tiered organization: "We raise money for scholarships for students of parents and family members who suffer from ALS, as well as donating money for research to ALS, in the hope of finding a cure, and to help families who need to care for an ALS patient."

Thursday, February 16, 2017

2017 MLB Spring Training Umpire Roster

MLB's umpire roster for Spring Training 2017 is now available. Comprised of 102 umpires, including 76 full-time MLB + 26 minor league invitees, this year's roster for Arizona's Cactus and Florida's Grapefruit Leagues contains seven more umpires than did 2016's Spring Training roster (95 umpires). With the 2017 World Baseball Classic scheduled to begin on March 6 and conclude on March 22, there will be a need for greater depth on the roster to accommodate those umpires selected to officiate the international tournament.

The Spring Training roster below includes sleeve numbers for all applicable umpires; Minor League umpires with numbers have been designated as fill-in umpires authorized to call MLB games during the regular season, while MiLB names without sleeve numbers have simply been invited to officiate Major League Spring Training games, but have not officially been called up to fill in during the regular season (though as we've seen in the past, some umpires without sleeve numbers in February may be assigned MLB numbers come April). Umpires in bold are new to the Spring Training list.

MLB Spring Training Umpires' Roster - 2017 Pre-Season
MLB StaffMLB StaffMiLB Invitees & Call-Ups
Baker, Jordan 71
Barksdale, Lance 23
Barrett, Lance 94
Barrett, Ted 65
Barry, Scott 87
Bellino, Dan 2
Blaser, Cory 89
Bucknor, CB 54
Carapazza, Vic 19
Carlson, Mark 6
Cederstrom, Gary 38
Conroy, Chris 98
Cooper, Eric 56
Culbreth, Fieldin 25
Cuzzi, Phil 10
Danley, Kerwin 44
Davis, Gerry 12
DeMuth, Dana 32
Diaz, Laz 63
DiMuro, Mike 16
Drake, Rob 30
Dreckman, Bruce 1
Eddings, Doug 88
Emmel, Paul 50
Estabrook, Mike 83
Everitt, Mike 57
Fairchild, Chad 4
Fletcher, Andy 49
Foster, Marty 60
Gibson, Greg 53
Gibson, Tripp 73
Gonzalez, Manny 79
Gorman, Brian 9
Guccione, Chris 68
Hallion, Tom 20
Hamari, Adam 78
Hernandez, Angel 55
Hickox, Ed 15
Hoberg, Pat 31
Holbrook, Sam 34
Hoye, James 92
Hudson, Marvin 51
Iassogna, Dan 58
Johnson, Adrian 80
Kellogg, Jeff 8
Knight, Brian 91
Kulpa, Ron 46
Layne, Jerry 24
Little, Will 93
Marquez, Alfonso 72
Meals, Jerry 41
Miller, Bill 26
Morales, Gabe 47
Muchlinski, Mike 76
Nauert, Paul 39
Nelson, Jeff 45
O'Nora, Brian 7
Porter, Alan 64
Rackley, David 86
Randazzo, Tony 11
Reyburn, D.J. 70
Reynolds Jim 77
Ripperger, Mark 90
Scott, Dale 5
Tichenor, Todd 13
Timmons, Tim 95
Torres, Carlos 37
Tumpane, John 74
Vanover, Larry 27
Wegner, Mark 14
Welke, Bill 3
Wendelstedt, Hunter 21
West, Joe 22
Winters, Mike 33
Wolcott, Quinn 81
Wolf, Jim 28
Additon, Ryan -
Bacon, John -
Barber, Sean 29
Basner, Toby 99
Blakney, Ryan 36
Bostwick, John -
Cascioppo, Mike -
De Jesus, Ramon 18
Eggert, Travis -
Fagan, Clint 82
Lentz, Nic 59
Libka, John -
Livensparger, Shane -
Nick Mahrley -
May, Ben 97
Merzel, Dan -
Ortiz, Roberto 40
Patterson, Garrett -
Rehab, Jeremie -
Scheurwater, Stu 85
Segal, Chris 96
Teague, Ron "Ronnie" -
Tosi, Alex -
Valentine, Junior -
Whitson, Chad 62
Woodring, Tom 75

(26 MiLB Umpires)
(76 MLB Umpires)
(102 Total Umpires)

Information obtained by
UEFL on 2/16/2017.
www.closecallsports.com
Some observations, year-over-year:
  • > MiLB invites increased by six (from 2016), while full-time MLB umpires increased by one.
  • > 2017's roster of 26 MiLBU is comprised of 14 invitees and 12 regular-season call-up umps.
  • > Umpires who appeared on the 2015 Spring Training MiLB invitee list, but who have been cut from the 2016 preseason are: Seth Buckminster (2016 MLB call-up), Ryan Goodman (2015-16 ST invitee), and Anthony Johnson (2016 MLB call-up). Buckminster and Johnson were the only two 2016 MLB call-ups not to appear in a single MLB game last season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Proposed 30-Second Replay Time Limit Under Review

MLB's latest replay review proposal is a 30-second time limit for manager delay, or 'hold' strategy, that has been used by teams deciding whether or not to challenge an umpire's call since expanded replay made its 2014 debut. Similarly, a two-minute "guideline" for Replay Officials in MLBAM's New York Replay HQ is also under consideration, although sources say that often times the definitive angle or slow-motion replay is not immediately accessible to the umpires in New York, and sometimes only arrives at MLBAM after the two-minute mark.

According to an ESPN report, Major League Baseball has been in talks with the umpires' union (World Umpires Association) concerning its latest effort to improve pace-of-play and reduce game times. Sources familiar with the situation said that introducing a 30-second time limit for managers to decide whether or not to file a Manager's Challenge is but one of several potential changes to replay under consideration.

Because inning-ending, game-ending, and pitching change-related challenges already are subject to their own unique restrictions regarding review timeliness, timing for these situations would likely stay the same. For instance, managers must exercise their challenge on game-ending plays "immediately" upon the conclusion of such a play, a lesson Reds skipper Bryan Price learned all too well in late 2016, when he failed to challenge Cardinals batter Yadier Molina's walk-off hit that scored game-winning baserunner Matt Carpenter from first base. Replays indicate the ball bounced out of play such that R1 Carpenter would likely have been placed back at third base had the play gone to Review.

Bryan Price wants more pre-review time.
Price told reporters that by the time his ball club had completed its own internal review of the play, and decided to exercise the Manager's Challenge, the umpires had already left the playing field pursuant to Replay Regulation II.D.1 ("A challenge to a play that ends the game must be invoked immediately upon the conclusion of the play, and both Clubs shall remain in their dugouts until the Replay Official issues his decision"). Because he failed to notify umpires immediately, the game was declared over.

Similarly, inning-ending challenges are subject to the following guidelines: First, within 10 seconds of the conclusion of the inning-ending play, a manager must run onto the field and notify an umpire that the team is considering filing a challenge. Second, within 30 seconds of the manager's entrance onto the playing field, a final decision must be given. If the manager fails to abide by the 10- and 30-second time limits, the umpire may deny the challenge request.

MLB's current proposal effectively would take the end-of-inning's 30-second time limit and expand that restriction to all other 'ordinary' replay review situations that might occur during a game.

Insofar as delay of game is concerned, the present regulation states that "on-field personnel may not intentionally delay the game in order to provide their club with additional time to challenge a play." Managers may not personally access video in the clubhouse (although they may speak with a coach or video coordinator who has access to the video replays), and umpires may warn teams if they feel the team is delaying its review: there is presently no time limit attached to any of the review regulations other than those described above.

Data from 2016 indicates the average review took one-minute and 36 seconds to complete, compared to 1:51 in 2015 (a 15-second decrease), with umpires spending just 1:10 on their headsets awaiting NY's decision, compared to 1:27 in 2015 (a 17-second decrease). In 2015, only 5.3% of reviews took over three minutes to complete, and 1.2% took four minutes or longer.

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 UEFL Registration, Draft, Appeals Board

Registration, draft, now open for the 2017 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League season.
Links: Register & Draft Umpires for the 2017 UEFL | Subscribe to UEFL Digest E-mails
Link: Run for the 2017 UEFL Appeals Board (Nomination Form)

Welcome to the 2017 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League preseason. This year, we are offering registration and draft selection on one standardized form. Accordingly, you may both register and draft your umpires at the same time. Alternately, members retain the privilege of drafting umpires in phases, pursuant to UEFL Rule 1, so make sure you consult the 2017 registration and draft form for instructions regarding this year's registration/draft procedure. All registrants will automatically be entered into both the standard and UEFL Express (umpire points only) divisions.

Speaking of UEFL Rules, click here to consult the 2017 UEFL Rules Book, which will govern play for the 2017 season, as codified and modified pursuant to voting during the 2016 Rules Summit.

Registration - Eligibility, Procedures & the Draft
Any visitor, guest or user may become a league member. There is no cost to register for this league. If you would like to register for the 2017 UEFL season, complete the 2017 UEFL registration and draft form. If you participated in 2016, you may use the same username from last season. Pursuant to UEFL Rules 4-7 and 6-1, users must be logged in to initiate challenges. Consult the registration and draft form for more information regarding DISQUS registration.

This season, you may draft umpires at the time of registration, or you may choose to return to the form at any time until the draft deadlines (see below timeline). Note that the UEFL will offer a preseason Draft Prospectus with statistics and other information in the coming weeks, and well in advance of the draft deadlines, if you wish to wait until that communication before drafting umpires.

If you wish to receive our weekly newsletter, please click here to subscribe to the UEFL Digest.

Registration, Draft & Roster Deadlines (all deadlines extend to 11:59 PM Pacific on indicated date):
Friday, March 24, 2017: Last Day to register for the 2017 UEFL (registration closed).
Monday, March 27, 2017: Last Day to submit unrestricted Primary & Secondary Umpires.
Friday, March 31, 2017: Last Day to submit unrestricted Crew Chief selections.

Appeals Board - UEFL Rule 6-4-a
Pursuant to League rule, the UEFL Appeals Board has been established to adjudicate disputed issues, such as Quality of Correctness. Any visitor, guest or user may become an Appeals Board member and may or may not also be a concurrent league member. The Appeals Board operates on a voluntary basis only and is a one-year term (no term limits). To apply, please access this form, and consider the following requirements:
➤ Ability to separate subjectivity from objective analysis;
➤ Extensive rules knowledge or ability to attain exceptional proficiency;
➤ Acceptance of prior and willingness to form UEFL precedent and rule interpretations;
➤ Ability to objectively analyze plays to determine, among others, Quality of Correctness;
➤ Availability to respond to the "Office of the UEFL Commissioner" in a timely fashion;
➤ Board members must abstain from ruling on plays involving drafted umpires (if applicable).
Visit the 2016 UEFL Appeals Board page for a sampling of work from the 2016 season.

Permanent Appeals Board members are: Gil (Commissioner, Chair), Jeremy (Deputy Commissioner), tmac (Assistant Commissioner), RichMSN (Charter Member). Members re-elected via the 2016 Rules Summit are: Arik G, cyclone14, Dennis, MarkCanada.
Vacancy: Seat 2 (sabbatical), Seat 9 [2 vacancies].

Appeals Board nomination and election procedures, deadlines:
Friday, March 17, 2017: Last day to submit nominations for the 2017 UEFL Appeals Board.
Saturday, March 18, 2017: Voting Begins.
Friday, March 24, 2017: Appeals Board voting ends, 2017 Board finalized.

If you have any questions, please post here. Registration will remain open for nearly six weeks while Appeals Board nominations will remain open for over a month. We hope you enjoy this expedited registration process for the 2017 UEFL season.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Umpire Calling Tendencies vs the Shrinking Zone

How do umpires currently call pitches at the bottom of the proposed shrinking strike zone? Statistics are more than plentiful, with a sample size of several thousand. Now that MLB's proposal to change the strike zone for the first time since 1996 is at the MLBPA's desk, it behooves us to form a little analytical projection: how will changing the zone affect umpire tendencies when it comes to the pitch at the knees? And how reliable is the strategy of using current trends to predict future results under a new regime of strike zone regulations?
Visual representation of current strike zone.

Short answer: Changing the definition of baseball's strike zone would disrupt and destroy a growing trend amongst umpires of calling the low strike (which is to say, calling a pitch located within the current strike zone a strike, or a QOC = Correct call). In other words, umpires are continually getting better and changing the rules might disrupt that trend. Longterm effects are unknown due to projected forecast bias, but one would surmise that the low strike at the knee tops, at least initially, would be called at a greater rate, than the current rate of knee-hollow strike calls. Alternately, one could surmise that the probability of incorrectly calling a low pitch, located below the knee top, a strike, would also increase.

ESPN Stats & Info has run the numbers for pitchers, but only the UEFL has the analysis when it comes to the people actually tasked with making those calls.

For instance, the percentage of taken pitches called a strike in the bottom two inches of the strike zone was about 24% in 2011, rising to nearly 50% in both 2015 and 2016; with such stats on called strikes, it's no wonder that MLB would conclude that raising the strike zone will help offensive production.

It's as if the umpires are properly and more consistently making the calls on the rulebook definition of the "low" strike, yet the players aren't adjusting (e.g., by swinging at them)...now that the rule is being enforced at a greater rate—now that umpires are getting better at their jobs—MLB wants to change its parameters.

To recap, the proposal would raise the lower limit of the strike zone from the hollow to the top of the batter's knee as the batter is prepared to swing at the pitch, or, about a two-inch swing, on average.

Using data from recent years, with the hollow-of-the-knee rule in effect, ESPN found that raising the zone by two inches (retroactively, of course) would have increased the league's aggregate batting average (as relates solely to the bottom two inches of the strike zone) from .238 to .270, slugging percentage from .348 to .415, and decreased the amount of called strikes by over three percent. Pitchers Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Wade Miley—who all heavily work the bottom of the zone—would have lost the most in regard to called strikes.

We talked about it the other day in regards to the proposed extra-inning tie breaker mitigation strategy: raising the strike zone thus becomes yet another way to increase offense, scoring, and "action," due to batter's greater tendency to swing at pitches at the knee tops, as opposed to knee hollows. Otherwise, they'd just as easily take the low ball for more favorable counts and, potentially, walks.

Complicating matters, added offense would probably do little to help baseball in its quest to reduce game times, but that's a separate discussion to be had.

Umpire strike call tendencies at the low heart in-zone.
Umpire Statistics and the Low Strike
Naturally, the aforementioned and following analysis, is conducted in a vacuum, without regard to real-world Pitch f/x error and other confounding strike zone analysis issues. It is presented as such.

According to aggregate data over the years, raising the strike zone by two inches would affect Phil Cuzzi the most and Kerwin Danley the least: Cuzzi, at 92.0%, statistically holds the highest probability of calling the lowest strike (again, this is plotted on a pitch that is within the rulebook strike zone, meaning QOC = Correct), while Danley's statistical probability of 72.5% is the lowest.

At the proposed lower bound, two inches higher than the current boundary, the stats are much the same: Danley still has the lowest probability (85.6%) and Cuzzi is fourth-highest (97.0%, behind Will Little [97.04%], Eric Cooper [97.1%], and Doug Eddings [97.5%]. These points are all taken at the heart of home plate (e.g., the center point of plate).

Recall that the strike zone (as graphically indicated above) is realistically called in an elliptic manner, as opposed to a rectangular one: thus, we should expect that results on the lower bound corners (corresponding to a knee-high pitch over the inner or outer edge of home plate) would be different than that at the heart of the plate.

And they are. Over the inner edge of home plate located closest to the right-handed batter's box (the left side of the screen on the Visual Representation graphic), at the current lower bound—the so-called true corner, where only a fraction of the baseball comes into contact with the planar edge of home plate—it is Ron Kulpa who holds the highest called strike probability (49.0%) and Jeff Nelson the lowest (19.9%). Over the corresponding left-handed coordinate, Vic Carapazza is the highest (22.0%) and Mark Carlson the lowest (2.6%). After raising the measurement site by a normalized two inches, it's still Kulpa (73.0%) and Nelson (42.8%) at the right box, and Carapazza (39.1%) and Carlson (8.6%) at the left.

In other words, while the percentages and probabilities change, by and large, the umpire names do not, though different umpires would be affected in different ways at different horizontal points along the front edge of home plate. The trend shown on the Umpire Low-In Zone Strike Call Probability graphic is generally consistent, given a static horizontal coordinate at the heart of home plate.

The Normalized Strike Zone and Bias Function
It is important to note that the vertical strike zone, which is at issue here, is variable from batter-to-batter, so the analysis must be conducted using a normalized strike zone (e.g., the standard BrooksBaseball strike zone, which is non-normalized [e.g., true to real dimensions] does not suffice); the zone used must stretch and consolidate pitches to match a constant strike zone that assumes each batter's lower and upper bounds are located at precisely the same graphical coordinates.

Changing rules will change ump mindsets, too.
Thus, when we discuss "two inches higher," we're speaking in terms of normalized averages: for the purpose of calculation, our normalized strike zone is exactly two-feet tall (1.50 to 3.50 normalized units), such that a two-inch reduction of the strike zone corresponds to a one-twelfth (8.3%) decrease in size. Thus, with a current lower bound of 1.50 units, we're looking at a proposed lower bound of 1.67 units.

Again, these are normalized—or symbolic—dimensions, not real ones. Two inches, or 8.3%, is a best-guess estimate, rather than a wholly accurate figure. As such, the percentages and other numbers mentioned above are only accurate as relative to the current zone (hollow of the knee), since Pitch f/x and computer modeling programs are only configured to calculate the current zone values. All of this "two inches higher" analysis is simply a projection based on an estimate...

A new thought will be, "how low is too low?"
...Which is subject to forecast bias if the strike zone downsize plan actually comes to pass, as quite presumably, umpires will not call top-of-knee pitches the same under the "new rules" as they do, presently, under the current rules. Succinctly, at present, a pitch at the top of the knee is more easily called a strike, since it is fully and unequivocally within the strike zone by two vertical inches. If the rule were to change, however, this same pitch would be "borderline," meaning that umpires would treat it quite differently than the "sure-thing" such a pitch represents under the current ruleset.

Therefore, because umpires will have to contend with a new lower boundary at this new knee-top location (and the corresponding psychological hurdle that comes with it), strike call probabilities at the knee tops, all else equal, will drop. This is the crux of why using present-day knee-top numbers to project future results is unreliable to some unknown degree.

The question is, "by how much will that percentage decrease?" and this is the unknown answer that will inject forecast bias into any calculation in regards to the "two inches higher" argument.

Accordingly, while using "two inches higher" to compare hollow-of and knee-top calls in the present-day may induce provocative statistical differences, due to the anticipated forecast bias that will result from changing the lower K-Zone boundary—and by extension, the umpire's entire psychological and philosophical construct of "how low should I go?"—using present-day data to project called strike probability in the future knee-top era is, ultimately, susceptible to an unknown degree of error and unpredictability, as we have no triangulated camera measurement data to cite or compare from 1995, when the rulebook last placed the lower limit of the strike zone at the kneetops.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

MiLB to Test Extra-Inning Run Scoring Procedure

First WBC and now MLB. Baseball will test an extra inning tie breaker mitigation strategy by forcing teams into a situation that should logically lead to more runs being scored during the sport's overtime period: start all extra frames with a runner on second and none out.

As hockey attempted to increase the potential for sudden-death scoring by changing its overtime period from a four-on-four to three-on-three format two years ago, baseball too is considering a tilt in the favor of extra inning offense by starting play with a free runner on second base.

Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre told Yahoo! of several reasons for such a move: to shorten the length of games, relieve pitcher fatigue, and even compensate for modern players' 'me first' attitude: "What really initiated it is sitting in the dugout in the 15th inning and realizing everybody is going to the plate trying to hit a home run and everyone is trying to end the game themselves."

Bryce Harper is ejected during an extra inning.
Professional baseball will apparently test its newest game-shortening effort in the minors and rookie-level Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues, which begin their shortened seasons in the summer.

The proposal has not yet been sent to the Major League players' union, which means it is not yet ready for consideration or adoption at the sport's highest level.

The 2017 World Baseball Classic already added the extra inning tiebreaker strategy to its rule changes, though WBC's modification will place baserunners at both first and second base, and will begin in the 11th, as opposed to 10th, inning of play.

Unlike the international rule, 2017's MLB/MiLB test will only add a runner to second base (not first), and may begin in the 10th, as opposed to 11th, inning. Strategy-wise, this would eliminate the potential for a force play at third base, unless the defensive team elects to walk the batter to set up the first-and-second situation...possibly by making use of the new intentional walk shortcut, pending players' union approval.

2017 World Baseball Classic Rules Mods Released

New rules for the 2017 World Baseball Classic will take effect at the quadrennial tournament in March. In general, the WBC uses the same Official Baseball Rules employed by the Major Leagues, but the international tournament modified the following OBR regulations to meet the specific needs of the worldwide pre-season showcase:

Game Play
>> Extra Inning Run Generation: In an effort to manufacture runs late in tied ballgames that have exceeded regulation, the WBC will place baserunners at first and second base to begin the 11th and any subsequent extra inning. The runner at first base will be the player in the batting order immediately preceding the batter, and the runner on second will be the player preceding the runner at first base.
Example: With the score tied after 10 innings of play, A7 (the player listed seventh in Team A's batting order) leads off the top of the 11th inning with A6 (listed sixth in the order) at first base and A5 (listed fifth) at second base, with none out.

Clint Fagan at 2012's WBC qualifier.
>> Video Replay Review: Due, in part, to technical and logistical limitation of some venues not ordinarily used by MLB, instant replay in the First and Second Rounds of the tournament will be effected in the same "limited replay" variety used by Major League Baseball from 2008-2013: The umpire crew chief may only review plays involving home runs or potential home runs (fair HR/foul, in play/HR, fan interference/HR, etc.), and the crew chief will conduct the review in the stadium himself with the assistance of a crewmate. For the Championship Round, taking place at Dodger Stadium, an MLB park, "expanded replay" (2014-present) will be used with the exception of manager challenges.
Example, Rounds 1/2: Batter A1 hits a fly ball above the height of the left field foul pole, ruled a foul ball. The crew chief and third base umpire retreat to a field-adjacent video monitor or room and determine the call on the field was correct. Foul ball.
Example, Championship: Same play as above. The crew chief and third base umpire will don headsets and speak with a Replay Official, who will make the final ruling.
Example, Rounds 1/2: Batter A1 hits a fly ball to outfielder F9 who attempts a diving catch, after which umpire U1 rules the ball was trapped (A1 safe at first base). This play is not reviewable.
Example, Championship: Same play as above. The crew chief and first base umpire will don headsets and speak with a Replay Official, who will make the final ruling.

Rosters and Tiebreakers
>> Tie-Breakers: Because both the first and second place teams advance after the First and Second Rounds, no game is necessary if only two teams are tied for best record. Instead, the Pool Winner shall be the team that defeated the other team in that round. If there is a three-way tie, the same statistical procedure shall be used to rank the three, such that one of the teams will be deemed the Pool Winner. The teams ranked second and third will then play a tie-breaker game to determine the second-place winner. Additional tiebreakers, in order, are:
- 1) Fewest runs allowed divided by number of innings played on defense (Runs per Innings).
- 2) Fewest earned runs allowed divided by number of defensive innings (Team ERA).
- 3) Highest team batting average.
- 4) "Drawing of lots," or the WBC-controlled coin flip.
Example: Team Korea and Team Israel are the only teams tied for Pool Winner designation at the conclusion of the First Round; whichever team won the pair's head-to-head matchup will be the Pool Winner.

Kun Young Park at the 2016 qualifier.
>> Designated Pitcher Pool: Each team will identify a list of 10 pitchers eligible to participate in one or more consecutive rounds (e.g., a pitcher may not participate in the First and Championship, but not the Second Round). This list is independent of any roster submitted to WBC ahead of the tournament, but in order to use the pool list, the submitted roster must include a minimum of one and maximum of two pitchers from the pool list (if no pool pitchers are included on the roster, the pool list may not be used for the tournament). If a pitcher is removed from a roster at any time, the pitcher may not be used again in the tournament. Pitchers from the pool list, if used, may replace pitchers on the WBC roster after each individual round of the tournament.
Example (Legal): Team Canada names Pitchers 1-10 to its Designated Pitcher Pool list, and adds Pitchers 1 and 2 to its First Round roster. At the conclusion of this round, it replaces Pitcher 1 with Pitcher 3, such that Pitchers 2 and 3 compete for Canada in the Second Round. At the conclusion of the second round, Canada replaces Pitcher 3 with Pitcher 4, such that Pitchers 2 and 4 compete in the Championship Round. Legal.
Example (Illegal): Team USA names Pitchers 1-10 to its Designated Pitcher Pool list, and adds Pitchers 1 and 2 to its First Round roster, replacing them with Pitchers 3 and 4 for the Second Round. Team USA attempts to reintroduce Pitcher 1 in the Championship Round. Illegal, since Pitcher 1 may only compete in consecutive rounds.
Example (Illegal): Team Korea names Pitchers 1-10 to its Designated Pitcher Pool list, includes Pitchers 11 and 12 on its First Round roster, and attempts to replace Pitcher 11 with Pitcher 1 for the Second Round. Team is prohibited from using the Designated Pitcher Pool, since it did not include any pitchers from this pool on its submitted roster for the First Round.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

MLB Considering Intentional Walk, Strike Zone Changes

MLB has proposed changing the strike zone and intentional walk procedures, according to a source. Major League Baseball's purported proposal to the players' union is an echo of concepts from years gone by, as baseball tried the same thing with its strike zone in February 2015, sending the matter to the Playing Rules Committee in an attempt to interject more offense into a game that has recently favored pitchers.

The strike zone currently is defined as:
The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.
And it previously looked like:
1887: Batsman's knee - shoulders;
1907: Batsman's knee - shoulders (Adopted by both National and American Leagues)
1950: Top of the knee when batter assumes a natural stance - armpits;
*NOTE: 1957 was the Adoption of Rule 2.00 [Strike] referencing Rule 2.00 [Strike Zone]*
1963: Top of knees when batter assumes a natural stance - top of shoulders;
1969: Top of knees when batter assumes a natural stance - armpits;
1988: Top of knees when prepared to swing - midpoint between top of shoulders and top of pants;
1996: Hollow of the knees when prepared to swing at pitch - midpoint b/w top of shoulders/pants.
*NOTE: 2014 renumbered Rule 2.00 [Strike Zone] to Definition of Terms [Strike Zone]*
Key: Green = Strike Zone Expansion; Red = Strike Zone Shrinkage; Yellow = Stayed the same.

The 2016 strike zone proposal would favor the offense by raising the lower bound of the strike zone to the top of the knees while keeping the upper limit at the midpoint.

Meanwhile, the no-pitch intentional walk previously made an appearance during the 2014 Arizona Fall League, when the League tested several pace of game proposals, including the since-adopted batter's box rule (except without the penalty of a dead ball strike) and inning/pitching change intermission clocks.

Needless to say, elimination of the four thrown balls requirement would eliminate: increased pitch counts; the potential for a wild pitch or passed ball, a pitcher or catcher's balk, a batter swinging at a poorly placed intentional ball, a stolen base; and the 30-seconds to one minute it takes to intentionally walk a batter.

The two proposals now stand for a players' union vote and, if they pass in a timely manner, could realistically be implemented in 2017. If they don't pass in time for Spring Training or the season, there likely would be no change made for the beginning of the 2017 season.