Saturday, October 6, 2012

Rule 6.02(b): Cueto Injury and Why Ump Did Not Grant Time

After prematurely stopping his delivery, Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto succumbed to a game-ending injury with just one out in the bottom of the first inning of Saturday's NLDS matchup between Cincinnati and the San Francisco Giants.

During his first at-bat facing Giants center fielder Angel Pagan, Pagan requested Cuzzi call "Time" as Cueto prepared to pitch. Cuzzi did not grant Pagan's request, remaining in his position behind home plate in anticipation of a Cueto freebie. However, Cueto had seen Pagan's request and noticed Pagan had left the batter's box in anticipation of a "Time" call and incorrectly assuming Pagan's actions constituted "Time," Cueto stopped his pitching motion mid-delivery, placing himself at risk of injury.

For his part, Cuzzi was correct not to grant "Time," as his actions were supported by OBR 6.02(b):
The batter shall not leave his position in the batter’s box after the pitcher comes to Set Position, or starts his windup.
PENALTY: If the pitcher pitches, the umpire shall call “Ball” or “Strike,” as the case may be.
Furthermore, the rules' associated comment states, "Umpires will not call 'Time' at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position even though the batter claims 'dust in his eyes,' 'steamed glasses,' 'didn’t get the sign' or for any other cause."

Though Cueto was forced to leave the contest due to back spasms nary one batter later, the umpire's no-call was certainly correct while this sequence demonstrates that violations of Rule 6.02(b) can and do result in injury and umpires accordingly should not hesitate to deny a batter's improper request for "Time."

Video: Cueto exits with an injury exacerbated by throwing several pitches after violently ceasing his motion

STL-ATL Infield Fly (NL Wild Card): Why Call was Correct

Yes, LF Umpire Sam Holbrook's infield fly call was the correct ruling during Friday's NL Wild Card Game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. But why?

The Play: With one out, R1 David Ross and R2 Dan Uggla (runners on first and second), Braves batter Andrelton Simmons hit a 3-2 sinker from Cardinals pitcher Mitchell Boggs for a fly ball into left field, Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma tracking into the outfield as left fielder Matt Holliday moved into position for backup. As the ball fell to the ground untouched, R1 Ross and R2 Uggla both advanced safely to their next base while B1 Simmons arrived at first base.

The Ruling and Rationale: LF Umpire Holbrook ruled an infield fly, putting B1 Simmons out.

Recall Rule 2.00 Infield Fly and 6.05(e) and the three considerations for an infield fly: (1) First and second must be occupied with less than two out. Check. (2) The batter must hit a fair fly ball which is not a line drive nor bunt. Check. (3) In the umpire's judgment, the fly can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort. To the breakdown:

When Kozma settled into a position nearest to where the fly ball would eventually fall, he established, in the umpire's judgment, that he could catch the ball with ordinary effort. Ordinary effort is "the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in [MLB] should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions."

Video: Analyst Harold Reynolds breaks down the call and why it was correct, multiple replay angles (Studio)
Video: MLB Network's Harold Reynolds explains why Holbrook got infield fly call right (Diamond Demo)

Myths:
(1) The infield fly only applies to balls hit on the infield. False. The rule pertains to the fielder (infielder) rather than the location of the ball and explicitly states, "On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder—not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder."

(2) Because the ball was hit over 200 feet and the shortstop had to range significantly into the outfield, his effort was extraordinary. False. Ordinary effort pertains to the player, not the play. In other words, a shortstop tracking a fly ball into left field and preparing himself to make a play or attempt prior to the ball arriving, as in the STL-ATL play, constitutes ordinary effort. So too does a routine fly ball to the infield grass wherein an infielder may have handled the ball without ordinary effort, regardless of whether or not he actually handled the baseball. Recall the infield fly rule requires the umpire to rule on the infielder's ability to handle the ball employing ordinary effort; the rule does not concern itself with the infielder's actions once this consideration has been established (e.g., F6's movement away from the play as the ball hit the ground is irrelevant).

(3) The call was late so the infield fly rule cannot be enforced. False. Rule 2.00 (Infield Fly) specifies, "When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare 'Infield Fly' for the benefit of the runners." Concisely, an umpire shall immediately declare 'Infield Fly' only when it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly. Because the umpire must judge the fielder's position throughout the play and because the ordinary effort criteria was not satisfied until after the ball was already descending rapidly, this resulted in an immediate declaration of 'Infield Fly' that appeared to have been "late." Nonetheless, because both runners R1 and R2 advanced safely, no offensive player was put at risk by the timing of the call nor does the timing of the call make the call itself any less valid. Regardless of timing, B1 was out. There is no time limit to calling an infield fly.

(4) This is not the LF Umpire's call OR the call was wrong because no one else made it. False. Though in most infield fly situations, the call is so obvious that IFF can be declared by the home plate or other infield umpire upon the ball reaching its apex, during STL-ATL, the ordinary effort consideration was not satisfied until the ball had begun its descent and had already exited the infield umpires' calling area. The left field umpire correctly made this call as the ball was in his calling area at the time when all considerations had been satisfied.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Discussions: 2012 Wild Card Games

As the Wild Card games get underway, we again open the umpire forum to discussion. Notes include home plate umpire performance according to pitch f/x and UEFL Rules 6-2-b-a (horizontal bound, "Kulpa Rule") and 6-2-b-b (vertical strike zone, "Miller Rule"). Plays include significant plays, if such plays occur. For future games, notes include home plate umpire probables. "If necessary" games are not included.

- Final, STL@ATL, WC: HP Umpire Jeff Kellogg: pfx (85/90 Balls, 47/50 Strikes = 132/140 = 94.2%)
- Final, BAL@TEX, WC: HP Umpire Gary Darling: pfx (88/90 Balls, 40/48 Strikes = 128/138 = 92.8%)

Plays
STL@ATL, WC: Kellogg rules batter interference on running lane violation - Rule 6.05(k)
STL@ATL, WC: Sam Holbrook rules infield fly on fly ball to left field, shortstop to catch ball - Rule  2.00
- - STL@ATL, WC: Umpires' Press Conference with Torre, Reliford, Kellogg & Holbrook
- - STL@ATL, WC: Cardinals-Braves Infield Fly Rule: Protest Denied as Umpires Get Call Right [b/r]


Rule Citation
STL@ATL Under Protest (ATL): Rule 2.00 [INFIELD FLY]: An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.

On the infield fly rule the umpire is to rule whether the ball could ordinarily have been handled by an infielder—not by some arbitrary limitation such as the grass, or the base lines. The umpire must rule also that a ball is an infield fly, even if handled by an outfielder, if, in the umpire’s judgment, the ball could have been as easily handled by an infielder. The infield fly is in no sense to be considered an appeal play. The umpire’s judgment must govern, and the decision should be made immediately.

Because the Infield Fly is a judgment call, Atlanta's protest, pursuant to Rule 4.19, may not be upheld: "No protest shall ever be permitted on judgment decisions by the umpire." However, Rule 2.00 specifies the umpire shall "immediately declare" infield fly if applicable. This portion of the call may be admissible, but because no runners were put in jeopardy by this action, this also is ultimately irrelevent. Accordingly, Atlanta's protest was denied.

Roster: 2012 Wild Card Games, Division Series Umpires

MLB has announced the 2012 Wild Card, ALDS and NLDS Umpires, the first two rounds of the 2012 Playoffs.

Wild Card A (NLWC/STL@ATL)
Jeff Kellogg -cc (6 pts)
Mike Winters (-1 pts)
Gary Cederstrom (5 pts)
Jeff Nelson (1 pt)
Sam Holbrook (15 pts)
Rob Drake (-3 pts)

Wild Card B (ALWC/BAL@TEX)
Gary Darling -cc (20 pts)
Jerry Layne (7 pts)
Ted Barrett (1 pt)
Bill Miller (1 pt)
Greg Gibson (7 pts)
Chris Guccione (1 pt)

Crew A (NLDS/CIN@SF)
Gerry Davis -cc (5 pts)
Phil Cuzzi (2 pts)
Chad Fairchild (6 pts)
Tom Hallion (5 pts)
Dan Iassogna (6 pts)
Brian O'Nora (8 pts)

Crew B (NLDS/WC@WSH)
Joe West -cc (9 pts)
Paul Emmel (2 pts)
Ed Hickox (10 pts)
Marvin Hudson (8 pts)
Jim Joyce (6 pts)
Alfonso Marquez (15 pts)

Crew C (ALDS/OAK@DET)
Dana DeMuth -cc (3 pts)
Scott Barry (6 pts)
Wally Bell (6 pts)
Eric Cooper (0 pts)
Jim Reynolds (2 pts)
Mark Wegner (6 pts)

Crew D (ALDS/WC@NYY)
Brian Gorman -cc (3 pts)
Mark Carlson (8 pts)
Fieldin Culbreth (6 pts)
Mike Everitt (11 pts)
Angel Hernandez (2 pts)
Tony Randazzo (11 pts)

-cc denotes Crew Chief, * denotes first Post-season assignment. Per UEFL Rule 4-3-c, all umpires selected to appear in the Wild Card games shall receive one bonus point for this appearance. Umpires assigned to the Division Series shall receive two bonus points for this appearance; crew chiefs shall receive one additional bonus point for this role (two or three points total).

News: Umpires for Wild Card Games, Division Series announced

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Standings: End of 2012 Regular Season (Phase v)

As the 2012 MLB regular season transforms into the postseason, the UEFL releases its league standings through the end of Game 162. You can view the UEFL roster and standings at any time via the Member Roster / Results page, while ejections are available via the MLB Ejection List page.

With 2,430 games played and 0 regular season games remaining, heading into the postseason...

1. UmpAtty (Jerry Layne, Tim Tschida, Gary Darling, Mark Wegner) - 38
2. ThePeoplesChamp (Jerry Layne, Alfonso Marquez, Sam Holbrook, Angel Hernandez) - 36
3. mbosschaart (Joe West, Alfonso Marquez, Sam Holbrook, Dan Bellino) - 35
4. cyclone14 (Jerry Layne, Joe West, Mark Wegner, Greg Gibson) - 32
5. kickersrule (Dana DeMuth, Hunter Wendelstedt, Ed Hickox, Sam Holbrook) - 31
6. nwsquid (Joe West, Alfonso Marquez, Todd Tichenor, Ed Rapuano) - 28
6. JRD (Gary Darling, Dan Bellino, Tim Timmons, Scott Barry) - 28
8. tt49 (Jerry Layne, Joe West, Hunter Wendelstedt, Dan Bellino) - 25
9. Turducken (Gary Darling, Chad Fairchild, Marty Foster, Brian Knight) - 24
10. millerump18 (Joe West, Gary Darling, Bob Davidson, Tom Hallion) - 23

178 Ejections: 81 Manager, 79 player, 18 Coach ejections
Top 3 Reasons for Ejection: Balls/Strikes (88 Ejections), Safe/Out (42), Unsportsmanlike-NEC (16)
Cumulative Ejection Quality of Correctness: 83 Correct, 63 Incorrect, 32 Irrecusable: Accuracy = 56.8%
Most Ejections in a Month: 42 (August) / Least Ejections in a Month: 15 (April)
Day of Week with Most Ejections: Sunday (32), Saturday (31), Wednesday (30), Tuesday (26)
Inning with Most Ejections: 7th (28), 8th (25), 9th (23), 5th (22) / Fewest: 1st (8), 10th (8), 4th (10), 2nd (14)
Ejections by Half of Inning: Top (86), Bottom (92) / By Field: Offense (97), Defense (81)
Ejections by Umpire Position: HP (127), 1B (31), 3B (12), 2B (8)
Most Ejected Team: Red Sox (13), Tigers (12), Dodgers (11) / Least Ejected: Mariners/Diamondbacks (2)
Ejection's Influence on Game: Prior to... W (40), L (100), Tie (38) / After... W (61), L (117) [W +21 / L +17]
Ejected Player's H-AB: 18-143, Batting Average of .112

Umpire Ejection Leaders
1. Gary Darling - 8
2. Angel Campos - 7
3. Bob Davidson, Brian Knight - 6
5. Dan Bellino, Tim Tschida, Jerry Layne, Sam Holbrook, Jeff Nelson, Paul Emmel, Marty Foster, D.J. Reyburn, Alsonso Marquez, Lance Barrett - 5

Umpire Points
1. Angel Campos - 21
2. Gary Darling - 18
3. Sam Holbrook - 14
4. Tim Tschida, Alfonso Marquez - 13
6. Larry Vanover - 12
7. Lance Barrett - 11
8. Tony Randazzo, Mike Everitt - 9
10. Dan Bellino, Ed Hickox, Tim McClelland, CB Bucknor, Marty Foster, Mike Estabrook, Doug Eddings - 8

Accuracy
1. Larry Vanover - 100% (3/3)
2. Tony Randazzo, Ed Hickox, Tim McClelland, CB Bucknor, Doug Eddings - 100% (2/2)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ejection 178: Mark Ripperger (1)

HP Umpire Mark Ripperger ejected Rockies right fielder Andrew Brown for arguing a foul ball call in the top of the 8th inning of the Rockies-Diamondbacks game. With two out and two on, Brown attempted to check his swing on a first pitch fastball from Diamondbacks pitcher David Hernandez. Replays indicate Brown successfully checked his swing, the pitch first contacting Brown's right wrist before deflecting to the ground, the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Rockies were leading, 2-1. The Rockies ultimately won the contest, 2-1.
 
This is Mark Ripperger (90)'s first ejection of 2012.
Mark Ripperger now has -2 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + [2 AAA/P] + -4 Incorrect = -2).
Crew Chief Gary Darling now has 13 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (13 Previous + 0 = 13).
zcr57 receives three prop points for correctly predicting the Red Sox would finish 2012 with the most ejections. Boston finished the 2012 season with 13, followed by Detroit (12) and the LA Dodgers (11).

UEFL Standings Update

This is the 178th ejection of 2012.
This is the 79th player ejection of 2012. Prior to his ejection, Andrew Brown was 0-4 in the contest.
This is the Rockies' 4th ejection of 2012, T-2nd in the NL West (LAD 11; COL, SD, SF 4; AZ 2).
This is Andrew Brown's first career MLB ejection.
This is Mark Ripperger's first ejection since August 13, 2011 (Terry Francona; QOC = Correct).

Wrap: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks, 10/3/12

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ejection 177: Jeff Nelson (5)

3B Umpire Jeff Nelson ejected Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman for arguing a strike (swinging) call in the top of the 8th inning of the Braves-Pirates game. With none out and one on, Freeman attempted to check his swing on a 0-2 slider from Pirates pitcher Chris Resop, the pitch dropping into the dirt around home plate as HP Umpire Bill Welke appealed to Nelson at third on the question of check swing status. Replays indicate Freeman did not attempt to strike the pitch, the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Pirates were leading, 5-1. The Pirates ultimately won the contest, 5-1.

This is Jeff Nelson (45)'s fifth ejection of 2012.
Jeff Nelson now has 0 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Previous + 2 MLB + -4 Incorrect Call = 0).
Crew Chief Jeff Nelson now has 1 point in the UEFL's Crew Division (1 Previous + 0 Incorrect = 1).

UEFL Standings Update

This is the 177th ejection of 2012.
This is the 78th player ejection of 2012. Prior to his ejection, pinch hitter Freeman was 0-1 in the contest.
This is the Braves' 5th ejection of 2012, 2nd in the NL East (NYM 9; ATL 5; MIA, WSH 4; PHI 3).
This is Freddie Freeman's first ejection since August 8, 2011 (Hunter Wendelstedt; QOC = Correct).
This is Jeff Nelson's first ejection since August 18 (Yunel Escobar; QOC = Correct).

2012 Postseason Umpire Assignment Speculation

As the 2012 MLB postseason approaches, umpires prepare for a lengthy offseason—or for a postseason assignment and the bonuses that come with it: $15,000 for the Division Series, tie-breakers and Wild Card playoffs, $17,500 for the the League Championship Series and $21,500 for the World Series, according to Bill Madden (then again, Madden wrote the provocative phrase "Three of the consistently lowest rated umpires were quietly let go by MLB").

Still, and with Wild Card, Division Series and League Championship Series assignments already made and distributed amongst the MLB umpiring ranks, some have started to speculate, just days in advance of the league's customary press release. Says Russ:
I am very interested how the Playoff Umpire crews will work with 10 teams now instead of 8.Will they use LCS crews for the play in game? will they have the same LDS crew that will do the 1 vs 4 series? Will they have even more Umpires in the Playoffs? I doubt the last suggestion is true but it will be interesting to see for sure. I also suspect we will see the CC work Game 3 behind the Plate in the LDS again. The higher seed now hosts games 3-5 and are on the road games 1-2. Like Bart Scott says, Can't Wait!!!
Russ has also found the crews working MLB's high profile pennant chase games during this final series: Last year, crew chiefs primarily handled "big games," with John Hirschbeck, Joe West, Dale Scott and Kerwin Danley working the plate for the final day's big games (including Red Sox-Orioles [Hirschbeck] and Yankees-Rays [West]).

This season, the Sox-Yankees series will feature CB Bucknor behind the plate, Ted Barrett will take Orioles-Rays, Gary Cederstrom has Rangers-A's after tweaking the rotation to give the crew chief the plate, Alfonso Marquez will have the Reds-Cardinals and Greg Gibson will take Phillies-Nationals. The Reds and Nats are still competing for the NL's #1 seed, while the Cardinals could clinch the Wild Card Tuesday or Wednesday. Accordingly, the Dodgers-Giants finale, a possibly meaningful game, has Larry Vanover. The Dodgers could also be eliminated Tuesday, a Paul Emmel game. Chad Fairchild goes Tuesday in St. Louis.

It is an intriguing argument [or coincidence] as West, Scott and Danley each worked the 2011 postseason. The question then becomes, will LCS work the Wild Card play-in, similar to past tie-breaker contests?

In 2009, umpires Randy Marsh, Scott, Jerry Layne, Gary Cederstrom, Fieldin Culbreth and Bruce Dreckman worked the Tigers-Twins tiebreaker. Each went on to work a 2009 LCS. The exact same pattern of assignment occurred in 2008 (MIN-CWS), though in 2007, Tim Tschida, Culbreth and Jim Wolf worked both the SD-COL Wild Card tiebreaker and a subsequent Division Series.

Present agreement and stipulation with the umpires' union states that umpires shall not work back-to-back Special Event series; because the Wild Card play-in game is officially part of the postseason, it qualifies as a Special Event, though it is unclear whether it will be treated like the All-Star Game, which is specifically exempted from the above selection restriction.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ejection 176: Marvin Hudson (3)

HP Umpire Marvin Hudson ejected Blue Jays Manager John Farrell for arguing an interference call in the bottom of the 10th inning of the Twins-Blue Jays game. With one out and one on, Blue Jays batter J.P. Arencibia swung at and missed a 1-2 slider from Twins pitcher Brian Duensing for a strikeout, dropped third strike on the final pitch in the dirt. As Arencibia ran toward first base, the throw by catcher Drew Butera to first baseman Chris Parmelee hit Arencibia's helmet and bounced away from Parmelee. Replays indicate Arencibia failed to run completely within the 3-foot runner's lane when contact occurred and in doing so interfered with Parmelee's ability to field the throw, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the contest was tied, 5-5. The Blue Jays ultimately won the contest, 6-5, in 10 innings.

This is Marvin Hudson (51)'s third ejection of 2012.
Marvin Hudson now has 6 points in the UEFL (2 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 6).
Crew Chief Tim McClelland now has 4 points in the UEFL's Crew Division (3 Previous + 1 Correct = 4).

This is the 176th ejection of 2012.
This is the 81st Manager ejection and John Farrell's second ejection of 2012.
This is the Blue Jays' 6th ejection of 2012, 3rd in the AL East (BOS 13; TB 7; TOR 6; NYY 5; BAL 4).
This is John Farrell's first ejection since May 15 (Bill Miller; QOC = Incorrect).
This is Marvin Hudson's first ejection since September 15 (Davey Johnson; QOC = Incorrect).
This ejection ends a seven-day ejectionless drought, the longest such streak since 8/27-9/2/09.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Start the Carousel: Retouching Them All with Replay

With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the 1st inning of Saturday's Nationals-Cardinals contest, Washington's Michael Morse hit a first pitch sinker from Kyle Lohse to deep right field and toward the top of the wall. Though Morse believed his hit to be a home run, the ball was initially ruled live and in play by 1B Umpire Chris Guccione, resulting in Morse being tagged out attempting to retreat to first base. After instant replay review, 2B Umpire and crew chief Jeff Nelson reversed the call on the field, awarding Morse a grand slam. Because Morse had been ruled out at first base, he was asked to return to home plate to recreate his home run trot, ensuring he (and all preceding baserunners) legally touched all bases enroute to an early 4-0 lead. The Nationals ultimately won the contest, 6-4, in 10 innings.

Video: Grand Slam, Take 2; Single overturned and Morse forced to retouch 'em all
Video: Morse discusses the replay-aided grand slam home run and his rerun of the bases
Wrap: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals, 9/29/12