Saturday, October 13, 2012

Roster: 2012 League Championship Series (LCS) Umpires

MLB has released the following 2012 ALCS and NLCS Umpire assignments, 3rd round of the 2012 Playoffs.*

HP: Jeff Kellogg -cc (10 pts)
1B: Rob Drake (0 pts)
2B: Sam Holbrook (18 pts)
3B: Jeff Nelson (4 pts)
LF: Gary Cederstrom (8 pts)
RF: Mike Winters (2 pts)

HP: Gary Darling -cc (24 pts)
1B: Chris Guccione (4 pts)
2B: Bill Miller (4 pts)
3B: Greg Gibson (10 pts)
LF: Ted Barrett (4 pts)
RF: Jerry Layne (10 pts)

-cc denotes Crew Chief. Per UEFL Rule 4-3-c, all umpires assigned to appear in the American or National League Championship Series shall receive three bonus points for this appearance; crew chiefs shall receive one additional bonus point for this role (four points total).

*The rotation listed above is the umpiring alignment for Game 1 of the Series. Assignments are rotated in the following manner: RF Umpire, LF Umpire, 3B Umpire, 2B Umpire, 1B Umpire, HP Umpire.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Discussions: 2012 AL & NL Division Series

As the ALDS and NLDS 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. All ALDS and NLDS games have concluded, with results below.
Cuzzi & Posey, CIN@SF, Gm 1

- Final, OAK@DET, Gm 1: HP Umpire Jim Reynolds: pfx (89/90 Balls, 39/54 Strikes = 128/144 = <90.0%)
- Final, CIN@SF, Gm 1: HP Umpire Phil Cuzzi: pfx (102/107 Balls, 38/44 Strikes = 140/151 = 92.7%)

- Final, OAK@DET, Gm 2: HP Umpire Mark Wegner: pfx (100/107 Balls, 45/50 Strikes = 145/157 = 92.4%)
- Final, WSH@STL, Gm 1: HP Umpire Paul Emmel: pfx (110/119 Balls, 39/51 Strikes = 149/170 = <90.0%)
- Final, NYY@BAL, Gm 1: HP Umpire Tony Randazzo: pfx (109/110 Balls, 55/62 Strikes = 164/172 = 95.3%)
- Final, CIN@SF, Gm 2: HP Umpire Brian O'Nora: pfx (102/103 Balls, 50/55 Strikes = 152/158 = 96.2%)

- Final, WSH@STL, Gm 2: HP Umpire Marvin Hudson: pfx (119/132 Balls, 35/45 Strikes = 154/177 = <90.0%)
- Final, NYY@BAL, Gm 2: HP Umpire Angel Hernandez: pfx (84/87 Balls, 45/48 Strikes = 129/135 = 95.6%)

- F/10, SF@CIN, Gm 3: HP Umpire Gerry Davis: pfx (100/104 B, 37/43 S = 137/147 = 93.2% [90.5% Raw])
- Final, DET@OAK, Gm 3: HP Umpire Dana DeMuth: pfx (89/92 Balls, 38/41 Strikes = 127/133 = 95.5%)

Final, STL@WSH, Gm 3: HP Umpire Joe West: pfx (105/113 Balls, 47/53 Strikes = 152/166 = 91.6%)
- Final, SF@CIN, Gm 4: HP Umpire Dan Iassogna: pfx (110/115 Balls, 47/55 Strikes = 157/170 = 92.4%)
- F/12, BAL@NYY, Gm 3: HP Umpire Brian Gorman: pfx (89/94 Balls, 45/52 Strikes = 134/146 = 91.8%)
- Final, DET@OAK, Gm 4: HP Umpire Eric Cooper: pfx (86/90 B, 40/43 S = 126/133 = 94.7% [91.1% Raw])

- Final, SF@CIN, Gm 5: HP Umpire Tom Hallion: pfx (99/104 Balls, 44/55 Strikes = 143/159 = <90.0%)
- Final, STL@WSH, Gm 4: HP Umpire Jim Joyce: pfx (92/98 Balls, 33/49 Strikes = 125/147 = <90.0%)
- F/13, BAL@NYY, Gm 4: HP Umpire Fieldin Culbreth: pfx (124/127 Balls, 50/56 Strikes = 174/183 = 95.1%)
- Final, DET@OAK, Gm 5: HP Umpire Wally Bell: pfx (80/82 Balls, 35/47 Strikes = 115/129 = <90.0%)

- Final, BAL@NYY, Gm 5: HP Umpire Mike Everitt: pfx (87/88 Balls, 40/48 Strikes = 127/136 = 93.4%)
- Final, STL@WSH, Gm 5: HP Umpire Alfonso Marquez: pfx (137/141 Balls, 43/52 Strikes = 180/193 = 93.3%)

SF@CIN Gm 3 (Gerry Davis) was associated with a pitch f/x calibration error of ~.17 feet.
DET@OAK Gm 4 (Eric Cooper) was associated with a pitch f/x calibration error of ~.25 feet.

CIN@SF, Gm 1: Phillips eludes Scutaro's tag at second base as Davis makes excellent safe call
WSH@STL, Gm 2: Descalso/Jay combine for a time play, Jay out at second after run scores (2B: Jim Joyce)
NYY@BAL, Gm 2: Ichiro evades tag on play at plate to score Yankee run (HP Umpire: Angel Hernandez)
SF@CIN, Gm 3: Espinosa out on sacrifice bunt on close play at first base (1B Umpire: Jim Joyce)
BAL@NYY, Gm 3: McClouth caught stealing second as Jeter keeps tag on (2B Umpire: Mike Everitt)
STL@WSH, Gm 4: Espinosa pulled off base too early, disallows neighborhood play (2B Umpire: Hickox)

Umpires Uphold Foul Ball Call After Instant Replay Review

Does this ball hit the pole? You decide
When Orioles batter Nate McLouth's RF drive was ruled foul by umpire Fieldin Culbreth and upheld after instant replay review, the event marked the first usage of instant replay in postseason play since October 1, 2011, when a ball hit by the Yankees' Robinson Cano, initially ruled live, in play and a double, was upheld during that season's Tigers-Yanks ALDS, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

When instant replay was implemented on August 28, 2008, MLB instructed its umpires to employ "clear and convincing evidence" as the standard in determining that a call was incorrect and should be reversed. A lack of evidence should result in the upholding of the call on the field.

Accordingly, after the BAL@NYY umpires invoked instant replay to rule on McLouth's drive off of Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, the final determination to uphold Culbreth's call was made by crew chief and left field umpire Brian Gorman, based on his judgment that "clear and convincing" evidence did not exist to suggest Culbreth's call had been made erroneously.

The question remains: fair or foul? Consult the poll located on the right sidebar to cast your vote. One UEFL'er has already stated:
I think the one angle that makes it appear that it nicked the pole was an optical illusion. They have shown another angle where you can see daylight the whole way past the pole.
Fieldin Culbreth, meanwhile issued this statement: "I saw it go to the right of the pole," Culbreth said. "There is netting there and it didn't touch the netting. It did not change direction [indicating it grazed the pole]."

Instant replay has now been used five times in playoff baseball, resulting in two reversals (10/31/09, World Series, NYY@PHI, Alex Rodriguez hit reversed to a home run; 10/19/10, ALCS, TEX@NYY, Lance Berkman home run reversed to a foul ball) and three upheld calls (10/10/10, NLDS, PHI@CIN, Chasey Utley HR; 10/1/11, Cano; 10/12/12, McLouth).

Wrap: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees, American League Division Series (Game 5), 10/12/12
Video: McLouth's fly ball to deep right field and into the Stadium's second deck (live broadcast footage)
Video: Frame-by-frame replay of the angle referred to above (magnified)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Yankee Stadium Boundary Catch Part II: Hernandez Hustle

Umpire Angel Hernandez became a "referee in football getting in the scrum" Wednesday night when, in the top of the 11th inning of Game 3 of the Orioles-Yankees ALDS, New York right fielder Nick Swisher attempted to catch a foul fly ball off the bat of Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy.

As Swisher fell into the right field seating area, RF Umpire Hernandez rushed over and leaned into the seating bowl before correctly signaling "no catch," confident that Swisher had not caught the foul pop-up as TBS broadcaster Ernie Johnson quipped, "It wouldn't be the first time this year" that an umpire would have been deked into incorrectly calling a batter out on a boundary catch (had Hernandez made an out call).

Video: Hernandez leans into the stands to rule; in June, DiMuro reacts differently to a similar play (UEFL)

On June 26 of the 2012 season, 3B Umpire Mike DiMuro ejected Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan (Ejection 078: Mike DiMuro (2)) after DiMuro ruled Hannahan out on a boundary catch in left field involving Yankees left fielder Dewayne Wise, who was ruled to have caught a foul fly ball that replays indicate ended up in the hands of a fan several seats away from where DiMuro was still processing the play.

At the time, DiMuro said, "Now that I see the tape, it's obvious that the ball fell out of his glove. In hindsight, I should have asked [Wise] to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision."

To his credit, Hernandez' hustle and patience indicates that MLB has learned from the DiMuro/Wise incident.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Berating Officials: The Grand New American Pastime?

The media has decided to scapegoat MLB umpire Jim Joyce once again after he made an incorrect call during Game 3 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals, gladly pointing out that Joyce was also involved in the Armando Galarraga imperfect game in 2010.

In an opposite the editorial entitled "Sensationally Sleazy Stories," I discussed the sports media's fascination with criticism of officials and why the likes of ESPN, Yahoo! and other entertainment outlets are so quick to jump the gun and pull the "blown call" trigger.
"[Umpires] are expected to be perfect the day [they] start, and then improve." - Fmr NL Supervisor Ed Vargo
Succinctly, multiple field experts have long established that scapegoating—or passing the buck and blaming others—is a psychological defense mechanism meant to shield oneself from acknowledgement of an unacceptable truth.

Additionally, society as a whole simply likes watching people—especially "perfect" ones—fail.

And if the media can paint a picture of impartial arbiters being anything less than perfect, it's a huge way to attract fans outraged that a call didn't go their way. The first sentence of the AP release today was indeed, "It's another umpiring call that went the St. Louis Cardinals [sic] way this postseason."

Implying an officiating-related conspiracy while completely disregarding the facts is nothing new in sports.

Closer inspection of ESPN's 2010 study which concluded that umpires miss 20-percent of non-balls/strikes close calls demonstrates that, according to ESPN's data, umpires miss one call for every 220 chances, corresponding to a non-balls/strikes accuracy of 99.55 percent.

Yet the ESPN study spotlighted the 20-percent statistic, failing to so much as mention the 99+ percent figure that verifies the significant accuracy with which umpires operate.

Nonetheless, sensationalist sleaze is only effective when it becomes an unmitigated hit job with blatantly obvious agendas—choirs like to be preached to and the ratings, readership and page views they produce are evidence of sensationalism's success.

As for Joyce, he did miss a call at 1st base during Gm 3... but he also got 4 subsequent bangers 100% right. By the way, the Cardinals won Game 3 of the NLDS by the slimmest of margins—8-0.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rumor Mill Madden: Three Umpires "Quietly Let Go by MLB"

Rumor Mill Madden: Three umpires "quietly let go" by MLB, chief to be brought back at MiLB level.

Writers sometimes find creative ways to twist words to suit a motif. Read on for an umpiring-related example:

In a scathing critique of MLB officiating and an attempt to compare umpires to NFL replacement officials, New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden wrote the following curious statement:
This summer, three of the consistently lowest rated umpires were quietly let go by MLB, not for their performance but for off-the-field personal issues. Another crew chief, I’m told, was allowed to go home after being involved in numerous blown calls and complaining that he just couldn’t take the pressure — but will reportedly be brought back next year to go through the minors as an evaluator!
Given the overall tone of Madden's potshot piece, could Madden have some untoward knowledge regarding MLB Umpiring and an alleged restructuring of the staff—or is Madden twisting words and circumstances—for instance, Hunter Wendelstedt's extended absence in the wake of his father, Harry's passing following Hunter's 2011 head injury, Bruce Dreckman's extended absence due to a neck injury or even John Hirschbeck's recovery from cancer—to suit an underlying agenda?

Or could "quietly let go by MLB" really refer to an extended leave of absence that was approved? It has been reported that some umpires, such as Ed Rapuano, have suffered extended, chronic injuries that might suggest a journey into retirement, though at the time of this publication, nothing has been officially confirmed.

MLB Umpires who have not had a plate job since the beginning of September include:
Mike DiMuro (last plate: 8/12, NYY@TOR; high-profile missed call, Ejection 078: Mike DiMuro (2))
Ed Rapuno (Crew Chief; last plate: 5/30, PHI@NYM; officially out since 6/1 due to injury)
Brian Runge (last plate: 8/30, CHI@BAL; vacation?)
Tim Tschida (Crew Chief; last plate: 8/25, SD@AZ; vacation?)
Hunter Wendelstedt (last plate: 6/8, TOR@ATL; rumored/unconfirmed injury [broken ankle])

Dreckman and Hirschbeck have been sidelined the entire 2012 season due to injury/illness.

News: Hey MLB, learn from the NFL's referee debacle before baseball loses its integrity (NYDN)

Football (NFL) Ejection: Jeff Triplette

NFL Referee Jeff Triplette ejected Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith for making contact with an official in the second quarter of the Titans-Vikings game. On third down & 19-to-go with 11:31 remaining in the second quarter, Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's pass was intercepted by Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield. After the play, an altercation occurred between Smith and Titans wide receiver Nate Washington. As back judge Steve Freeman attempted to separate the players, replays indicate Smith committed a disqualifying foul ("He threw the official," CBS). At the time of the ejection, the Vikings were leading, 7-0.

Wrap: Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings, 10/7/12
Video: Smith is ejected after making excessive contact with an official
Related Video: MIN interception of Hasselbeck pass precedes on-field altecation, Smith's ejection