Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rule 8.05: It is a balk when—

"With runners aboard and Angel Hernandez umpiring, it is a balk when"—so read the parody headline by a defensive team unhappy their pitcher was called for such an infraction, turning a potential out into a scoring position, run-producing opportunity. "Balkin' Bob Davidson" had previously been substituted in the umpires' line as had Joe West, though all MLB umpires have called multiple balks during their careers, except of course for Ron Luciano, who famously wrote: "I never called a balk in my life. I didn't understand the rule."
Trivia: A balk that ends a game may be referred to as a "balk-off." Also, Rex Hudler finds balks hilarious.

Yet since Rule 8.05, which governs the balk, specifies 13 different criteria that may be satisfied for a balk to be called, the balk rule provides abundant material contributing to one of the most misunderstood segments of the baseball rules book:
The most common infractions have video links attached, illustrating each specific balk violation.

Definition (Rule 2.00): A balk is an illegal act by the pitcher as prescribed by Rule 8.05.
Eligibility: A balk may only be called when there is a runner or there are runners on base.
Penalty: Runners are given a one-base award unless more advantageous objectives are achieved.

(a) The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery (slips or trips [2] [3] / flinch / hesitation / shoulder turnbad step / breaks motion [2] / fails to release / steps off during motionstart-stop / swings free foot past or behind rubber). This provision is symbolically first, for the balk is all about illegal deception. Provision (a) is the so-called all-inclusive provision, which outlines and provides a framework for the remaining 12 items under Rule 8.05.
(b) The pitcher, while touching his plate, feints a throw to 1st or 3rd base and fails to complete the throw. A fairly simple concept as far as balks go, with a runner on first (R1) or third (R3), a pitcher who motions to throw to 1st or 3rd base while on the rubber must complete the throw: The throw must get all the way to first base.
(c) The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. Also called the "no step balk," 8.05(c) requires the pitcher to step ahead of and in the direction of his throw (e.g., not toward home plate). This provision outlaws the third-to-first "wheel" move, unless, of course, the pitcher first breaks contact with the rubber.
(d) The pitcher, while touching his plate, throws, or feints a throw to an unoccupied base, except for the purpose of making a play. 8.05(d) authorizes the pitcher to throw to an unoccupied base for the purposes of catching a runner stealing, for instance, and prohibits the pitcher from faking a throw to an unoccupied base.
(e) The pitcher makes an illegal pitch. A quick pitch is one such illegal pitch associated with this rule. So is a pitch that never makes it to the foul line or plate or one thrown while not in contact with the rubber.
(f) The pitcher delivers the ball to the batter while he is not facing the batter. Hideo Nomo, for instance, was prohibited from releasing the ball while in his windup with his back turned to the batter.
(g) The pitcher makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch while he is not touching the pitcher's plate. In other words, the pitcher cannot fake a delivery while off the rubber.
(h) The pitcher unnecessarily delays the game. Interestingly enough, Rule 8.04 (12-second pitch timer) does not apply when runners are on base, while 8.05(h) does not apply when the pitcher is warned about delaying the game pursuant to Rule 8.02(c) (throwing to an unoccupied base when not attempting to make a play). Yet if a pitcher is ejected for delay of game, Rule 8.05(h) is also invoked.
(i) The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher's plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch. Similar to Rule 8.05(g), the pitcher cannot fake a pitch. 8.05(i), however, covers the additional contingency of a pitcher pretending to pitch when he does not have the baseball.
(j) The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base. Once legally positioned or set, the pitcher must keep both hands (gloved and bare) together until he pitches, attempts a pick-off or other play or steps off the rubber.
(k) The pitcher, while touching his plate, accidentally or intentionally drops the ball. Self-explanatory.
(l) The pitcher, while giving an intentional base on balls, pitches when the catcher is not in the catcher's box. Known as a catcher's balk, this call is ordinarily made when: "it must be absolutely obvious."
(m) The pitcher delivers from Set Position without coming to a stop. This is very similar to 8.05(e), the quick pitch.

Myths
(b) A pitcher cannot fake a throw to first base. False; if the pitcher comes off the rubber, he becomes a fielder and enjoys all of a fielder's priveleges, including the ability to fake a throw to any base. In fact, stepping off the rubber relieves the pitcher of nearly all balk-related restrictions (except 8.05(g), etc.). Remember, a pitcher may disengage his plate for the purpose of this rule by stepping off with his pivot foot (or "back foot").
(c) The 45-degree line formed from the pitcher's plate to the midpoint between home plate and first base along the right field foul line governs 8.05(c). This is false, there is no angle designation in the Rules Book. Like a check swing, this makes 8.05(c) "ambiguous" (Ejection 027: Mike Muchlinski (1)).
(m) The pitcher must come to a stop or pause before attempting a pickoff. This is false; a stop is not required before a pickoff. A stop is only required out of Set Position before an actual pitch.
(-) The offensive team may "choose" whether to enforce a balk or take the result of a play. This is false; the resultant play is only upheld if runners have advanced at least one base and the batter has not been adversely impacted (e.g., by having been put out, etc.). Refer to the Penalty.

Ejection 092: Mike Everitt (1)

HP Umpire Mike Everitt ejected Giants center fielder Angel Pagan for arguing a strike three call in the top of the 6th inning of the Giants-Phillies game. With none out and none on, Pagan took a 1-2 curveball from Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located thigh high and several inches inside (px value of -1.199), the call was incorrect.^ At the time of the ejection, the Giants were leading, 4-2. The Giants ultimately won the contest, 6-5.

This is Mike Everitt (57)'s first ejection of 2012.
Mike Everitt now has -2 points in the UEFL (0 Previous + 2 MLB + -4 Incorrect Call = -2).
Crew Chief Mike Everitt now has 0 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (0 Previous + 0 Incorrect = 0).
*Schrieber's MLB service (14 years) is longer than Everitt & Laz Diaz (13 years), yet Everitt is listed as -cc.
^After review, Quality of Correctness has been affirmed by the UEFL Appeals Board (6-0).

UEFL Standings Update

This is the 92nd ejection of 2012.
This is the 36th player ejection of 2012.
This is San Francisco's 2nd ejection of 2012, 3rd in the NL West (LAD 7; SD 3; SF 2; COL 1; AZ 0).
This is Angel Pagan's first career ejection.
This is Mike Everitt's first ejection since October 2, 2010 (Bruce Bochy; QOC = Correct).

Wrap: Giants at Phillies, 7/21/12
Video: Pagan takes 1-2 curve for strike three, is ejected by Everitt for arguing the call

Thursday, July 19, 2012

NBA to Consider Expanded Instant Replay Review

The NBA Board of Governors—Basketball's own Rules Committee—is meeting today in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the hopes of implementing multiple changes to the NBA Rules Book in advance of the 2012-13 basketball season.

Key items on the docket include (*asterisk indicates a Rules Change):
  • *Basket Interference: Shall the "cylinder" above the rim restriction be eliminated, akin to FIBA?
  • Flopping: Shall faking a foul be tracked via a technical foul-like points system? (No vote)
  • *Inbounds Location: Shall teams dictate post-timeout inbound locations (sideline vs. baseline)?
  • *Instant Replay, Flagrant Fouls: Shall all flagrant 1 & 2 fouls be subject to replay review?
  • *Instant Replay, Goaltending & Restricted Area: Shall replay be approved for calls in the final 2:00?
  • Lottery: Shall the league's draft lottery system be tweaked, reworked or eliminated?
In 2011, the NBA Board of Governors approved the tenths-of-a-second shot clock, expedited instant replay and substitution procedures, procedures for rescinding a timeout on overturned instant replay decisions, an additional free throw lane violation for disconcertion caused by excessive movement.

So what about you? Should basket interference be modified to conform to the FIBA standard? Does flopping deserve discipline? Should instant replay be expanded to flagrant fouls and/or goaltending/RA circle plays? How would you vote?

*Update* 7/19/12 19:10 Pacific Time: The Board has passed both instant replay proposals. Instant replay may now be used to determine all flagrant foul calls and for restricted area and goaltending calls in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime. Flopping has been referred to the competition committee, which meets in September.

Polls: Best, Worst MLB Umpire; Least/Most Loved Team

"Who's the best umpire in MLB?" This fantasy league is decidedly objective: From Quality of Correctness to video analysis and discussion—not to mention the nine-item UEFL Rules Book—the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League is very much calculated and sterile for a sport an activity that is very much irrational and emotional.

Still, D May wants to know: "Do you have a ranking or tracking of best umpires or most screwed managers/players?"

How objectively subjective.

In our 2011 Poll: All-Star Umpires, the UEFL membership voted more often for Jim Joyce (45%; 2009 Umpire of the Year, 2010 Honorable Umpire of the Year) than for any other umpire. Following Joyce were Jim Wolf (42%; 2010-11 Noteworthy Umpire of the Year), Tim McClelland (35%), Ted Barrett (26%), Tim Tschida (25%), Dale Scott (25%), Jeff Nelson (25%; 2011 Umpire of the Year), Alfonso Marquez (21%; 2011 Honorable Umpire of the Year), Gerry Davis (20%; 2011 Crew Chief of the Year), Dan Iassogna (19%), Mark Wegner (18%) and Tom Hallion (18%).

As for the "most screwed" players and managers, Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly has made the "Ejection QOC = Incorrect" list three times in 2012, though he has also been ejected more than any other player or coach (four times, though 3/4 is a pretty high "Incorrect" rate). Following Mattingly is Mike Matheny (two Incorrect QOCs). In 2011, Joe Maddon and Brad Mills tied with two INC QOCs apiece for "most screwed."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ejection 091: Dan Iassogna (4)

HP Umpire Dan Iassogna ejected Rays Manager Joe Maddon for arguing a ball call in the top of the 7th inning of the Indians-Rays game. With two out and two on, Indians batter Jason Kipnis hit a 2-2 fastball from Rays pitcher Jake McGee into center field for a RBI single. During the at bat on the 1-2 pitch (fourth pitch of the at bat), Iassogna called McGee's fastball a ball. Replays indicate the 1-2 pitch was over the outside portion of the plate and at the knees (px value of -0.608 and a lower bound, upper bound of [-0.9311, -0.7510], the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the contest was tied, 4-4. The Indians ultimately won the contest, 10-6.

This is Dan Iassogna (58)'s fourth ejection of 2012.
Dan Iassogna now has 4 points in the UEFL (6 Previous + 2 MLB + -4 Incorrect Call = 4).
Crew Chief Dale Scott now has 6 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (6 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 6).

This is the 91st ejection of 2012.
This is the 46th Manager ejection of 2012.
This is Joe Maddon's first ejection of 2012, and first since September 16, 2011 (Hunter Wendelstedt, QOC = Incorrect).
This is Dan Iassogna's first ejection since June 24th (Mike Scioscia; QOC = Correct).
This is the Tampa Bay Rays' second ejection of 2012.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ejection 090: Brian Gorman (1)

HP Umpire Brian Gorman ejected Cardinals pinch hitter Lance Berkman for arguing a strike call in the top of the 7th inning of the Cardinals-Brewers game. With two on and one out, Berkman took a 3-1 Snider from Brewers pitcher Randy Wolf for a called second strike and attempted to check his swing on a 3-2 cutter for a swinging third strike. Replays indicate the 3-1 pitch was located belt high and several inches inside while Berkman appeared to have attempted to strike the 3-2 pitch, the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Brewers were leading, 3-2. The Brewers ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

This is Brian Gorman (9)'s first ejection of 2012.
Brian Gorman now has -2 points in the UEFL (0 Previous + 2 MLB + -4 Incorrect Call = -2).
Crew Chief Brian Gorman now has 3 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (3 Previous + 0 Incorrect = 3).
*Though the swinging strike call was correct, the previous 1-3 strike call was not, rendering QOC incorrect.

UEFL Standings Update

This is the 90th ejection of 2012.
This is the 35th player ejection of 2012.
This is the Cardinals' 3rd ejection of 2012.
This is Lance Berkman's first ejection since May 21, 2009 (Delfin Colon, QOC = Correct).
This is Brian Gorman's first ejection since September 4, 2009 (Bobby Cox; QOC = Correct).

Wrap: Cardinals at Brewers, 7/17/12
Video: Berkman argues Gorman's strike zone and judgment, is ejected (8:42)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ejection 089: Dan Bellino (4)

HP Umpire Dan Bellino ejected Reds pinch hitter Miguel Cairo for arguing a fair ball call in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Diamondbacks-Reds game. With one out and none on, Cairo hit a 1-2 sinker from Diamondbacks pitcher Brad Ziegler into the ground surrounding home plate, where it was fielder by catcher Miguel Montero. Replays indicate the batter ball was fielded in fair territory while over the back edge of home plate, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Diamondbacks were leading, 5-3. The Diamondbacks ultimately won the contest, 5-3.

This is Dan Bellino (2)'s fourth ejection of 2012.
Dan Bellino now has 10 points in the UEFL (6 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 10).
Crew Chief Jerry Layne now has 6 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (5 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 6).
*This ruling has been affirmed unanimously by the UEFL Appeals Board in a 5-0-0 decision.
*Historical Appeals Board decisions may be consulted via the UEFL Portal.*

UEFL Standings Update

This is the 89th ejection of 2012.
This is the 34th player ejection of 2012.
This is the Cincinnati Reds' first ejection of 2012.
This Miguel Cairo's first ejection of 2012, and first since May 14, 2010 (Paul Schrieber; QOC = Correct).
This is Dan Bellino's first ejection since June 26th (Ozzie Guillen; QOC = Correct).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ejection 088: CB Bucknor (1)

HP Umpire CB Bucknor ejected Mets Pitching Coach Dan Warthen for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the 5th inning of the Mets-Braves game. With one out and two on, Braves batter Michael Bourn hit a 2-2 slider from Mets pitcher Johan Santana for a RBI double. During the at bat, there were four callable pitches. Pitches one and two were ruled called strikes, while pitches three and four were ruled balls. Replays indicate the two called balls (the third and fourth pitch) were both above the belt and below the midpoint between the top uniform pants and top of the shoulders, but were off the outside corner of the plate (px values respectively of -1.742 and -1.085). There were no incorrect callable pitches that were adverse to the Mets during the Bourn at bat, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Braves were leading, 1-0. The Braves ultimately won the contest, 6-1.

This is CB Bucknor (54)'s first ejection of 2012.
CB Bucknor now has 4 points in the UEFL (0 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 4).
Crew Chief Dale Scott now has 6 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (5 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 6).
*This ejection is eligible for a balls-strikes exemption for pre-ejection pitches in the bottom of the 5th.
*After review, the UEFL Appeals Board has affirmed Quality of Correctness & Reason for Ejection (6-0).

UEFL Standings Update

This is the 88th ejection of 2012.
This is the 10th non-player/non-manager ejection of 2012.
This is Dan Warthen's first ejection of 2012, and first ejection since June 30, 2009 (Jim Wolf; QOC = Incorrect). This was also a mound visit argument ejection as Mets pitching coach for Warthen.
This is CB Bucknor's first ejection of 2012 and first since July 4, 2010 (Gerald Laird and Jeremy Bonderman; QOC = Incorrect).
This is the Mets' sixth ejection of 2012, first in the NL East.

Wrap: Mets at Braves 7/15/12
Video: Warthen argues with Bucknor during mound meeting, gets ejected

Greg Gibson Reminds All Umpires: Patience is a Virtue

Pro baseball rule 9.05 (General Instructions to Umpires) takes a break from the technical ball or strike, fair or foul rules of the sport to offer up some philosophical advice to umpires, ending with, "Finally, be courteous, impartial and firm, and so compel respect from all."

In the paragraphs prior, the General Instructions coach umpires to remain professional, remain active and alert, employ courtesy and represent baseball with class and to exercise "much patience."

Naked Gun, which stars Leslie Nielsen as
Frank Drebin as an umpire who had some wild
calls of his own, was filmed at Dodger Stadium
Yes, patience—the General Instructions spend quite some time discussing the concept: "Do not call the plays too quickly ... Wait until the play is completed before making any arm motion."

Looks like Greg Gibson will be reviewing Rule 9.05 tonight.

With the Los Angeles Dodgers leading the San Diego Padres 6-5 with two out, two on and a 2-2 count on Saturday night, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen received a throw from catcher A.J. Ellis and paced around the mound, pondering his next move, as baserunner R3 Everth Cabrera pondered a move of his own.

The deuces weren't the only items that were wild. (Video: Gibson's interesting call at the plate)

For as Jansen retreated with his back toward home plate, Cabrera dashed down the third baseline as teammates gathered their pitcher's attention, Jansen throwing high to home with Ellis jumping and applying the tag just before Cabrera touched the plate.

"Out!" was the call by plate umpire Gibson and as Cabrera protested the call, the Dodgers had escaped with their 10th straight home win against San Diego—or had they?

For as Gibson affirmed his call to Cabrera, Ellis ran to the backstop behind home plate toward a wayward white orb as baserunner R2 Will Venable motored around third base.

"Safe!" was the call by Gibson, now convinced that the home team had missed the play. And "Safe!" again as Venable slid under the pitcher's tag, alertly taking two bases on the F1 error.

Patience is a virtue, as legendary broadcaster Vin Scully showed the umpire his interpretation of the officiating axiom: "And lookee here—he's gonna be safe after the plate umpire missed, another run will score." And then as if to acknowledge that everyone is prone to the occasional error, Scully proceeded to call our umpire by the name, "Greg Carlson."