Friday, October 16, 2015

Discussion of 2015 AL and NL Championship Series

Postseason umpire discussion continues with the AL and NL Championship Series. 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 and instant replay reviews, if such plays occur. Call +/- also included/highlighted.

- 10/16, TOR@KC Gm 1: Tony Randazzo: pfx (88/88 Balls + 47/52 Strikes = 135/140 = 96.4%) +1 TOR.

- 10/17, TOR@KC Gm 2: Laz Diaz: pfx (92/95 Balls + 37/45 Strikes = 129/140 = 92.1%) +7 KC.
- 10/17, CHC@NYM Gm 1: Rob Drake: pfx (80/80 Balls + 47/52 Strikes = 127/132 = 96.2%) +1 NYM.

- 10/18, CHC@NYM Gm 2: Tim Timmons: pfx (113/114 Balls + 55/58 Strikes = 168/172 = 97.7%) +2 NYM.

- 10/19, KC@TOR Gm 3: John Hirschbeck: pfx (94/96 Balls + 47/49 Strikes = 141/145 = 97.2%) +0 NU.

- 10/20, KC@TOR Gm 4: Hunter Wendelstedt: pfx (120/122 Balls + 38/44 Strikes = 158/166 = 95.2%) +2 KC.
- 10/20, NYM@CHC Gm 3: Ted Barrett: pfx (93/95 Balls + 44/51 Strikes = 137/146 = 93.8%) +1 CHC.

- 10/21, KC@TOR Gm 5: Dan Iassogna: pfx (82/83 Balls + 40/41 Strikes = 122/124 = 98.4%) +0 NU.
- 10/21, NYM@CHC Gm 4: Paul Emmel: pfx (126/128 Balls + 66/67 Strikes = 192/195 = 98.5%) +1 NYM.
Series Complete (NLCS NYM 4 - 0 CHC): 96.7%, 624/645 pitches. Skew: +3 NYM.

- 10/23, TOR@KC Gm 6: Jeff Nelson: pfx (93/94 Balls + 46/51 Strikes = 139/145 = 95.9%) +0 NU.
Series Complete (NLCS KC 4 - TOR 2): 95.8%, 824/860 pitches. Skew: +8 KC.

Instant Replay Reviews (R-QOC Coloring: Green [Confirmed], Yellow [Stands], Red [Overturned]):
- Royals challenge 1B Umpire John Hirschbeck's out call (play at first); Call Overturned
- Mets challenge 1B Umpire Tim Timmons' out call (play at first); Call Stands
Blue Jays challenge HP Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's safe call (tag play); Call Confirmed
- Royals challenge HP Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt's HBP non-call (HBP/foul); Call Overturned
- Blue Jays challenge 2B Umpire Jeff Nelson's safe call (tag play); Call Overturned
- Royals challenge HP Umpire Dan Iassogna's run scores call (time play); Call Confirmed
- Umpires Review 2B Umpire Laz Diaz's home run call (HR/boundary); Call Stands
- Blue Jays challenge 2B Umpire Laz Diaz's safe call (tag play); Call Stands

2015 League Championship Series Umpire Roster

MLB has announced the 2015 League Championship Series Umpires, the third round of the 2015 Playoffs.

American League Championship Series (ALCS/TOR@KC)
HP: Tony Randazzo*
1B: Laz Diaz
2B: John Hirschbeck -cc
3B: Hunter Wendelstedt
LF: Dan Iassogna
RF: Jeff Nelson
Replay: Jim Reynolds*
Replay Assistant: Mike Estabrook

*Tony Randazzo will work with the on-field crew for Games 1 and 2 and then serve as Replay Official for Games 3-7. Jim Reynolds will serve as Replay Official for Games 1 and 2 and then assume Randazzo's role as LF Umpire for Game 3, remaining with the crew through the remainder of the series.

National League Championship Sereis (NLCS/CHC@NYM)
HP: Rob Drake*
1B: Tim Timmons
2B: Ted Barrett -cc
3B: Paul Emmel
LF: Eric Cooper
RF: Bill Miller
Replay: Mark Wegner*
Replay Assistant: Mike Estabrook

*Rob Drake will be the Replay Official for Games 3-7 while Wegner will join the on-field crew for Games 3-7.

-cc denotes Crew Chief, all assigned umpires have officiated at least one previous LCS. Per UEFL Rule 4-3-c, all umpires selected to appear in the 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). Officials assigned to replay review only (Estabrook as the replay assistant) do not receive points for this role.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MLB Ejection P-2|3: Carapazza, Scott (5, 2; Saunders, Buehrle)

3B Umpire Vic Carapazza ejected Blue Jays OF Michael Saunders for arguing an interference no-call in the top of the 7th and HP Umpire Dale Scott ejected Blue Jays P Mark Buehrle for Unsportsmanlike-NEC in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Rangers-Blue Jays game. In the top of the 7th, with two out and one on, Rangers batter Shin-Soo Choo took a 1-2 fastball from Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez for a called second ball as catcher Russell Martin's return throw inadvertently hit Choo's bat while Choo was in a legal position within the batter's box. In the bottom of the 7th, Blue Jays batter Jose Bautista hit a 1-1 fastball from Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson for a three-run home run. Bautista subsequently flipped his bat as Blue Jays players exited their dugout to celebrate, resulting in a bench-clearing incident after Texas recorded the final out of the inning, during which Buehrle was ejected. Neither player was on the Blue Jays' active roster at the time of the ejections, the calls were irrecusable.* At the time of Saunders' ejection, the Rangers were leading, 3-2. At the time of Buehrle's ejection, the Blue Jays were leading, 6-3. The Blue Jays ultimately won the contest, 6-3.

This is Vic Carapazza (19)'s fifth ejection of 2015.
This is Dale Scott (5)'s second ejection of 2015.
Vic Carapazza now has 8 points in the UEFL Standings (5 Previous + 3 MLB-PS + 0 Irrecusable = 8).
Dale Scott now has 1 point in the UEFL Standings (-2 Previous + 3 MLB-PS + 0 Irrecusable  = 1).
Dale Scott now has 1 point in Crew Division (-1 Previous + 2 Irrecusable Call = 1).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-5-a states, "All ejections of players/coaches not on the active roster (e.g., Disabled List) shall be associated with a reason listed under aforementioned UEFL Rule 6-2-b-5 [irrecusable ejections]."
Related Discussion: Carefree Throw, Extended Bat, Blue Jays Protest (Martin's throw hits Choo's bat)

These are the second and third ejections of the 2015 MLB Postseason and 213th overall ejection.
These are the 98th and 99th player ejection of 2015. Prior to ejection, neither player was on the active roster.
This is the Blue Jays' 12/13th ejection of 2015, 1st in the AL East (TOR 13; BOS 10; NYY 9; BAL, TB 5).
This is Michael Saunders' first ejection since September 18, 2012 (Jordan Baker; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Mark Buehrle's first ejection since August 22, 2013 (Ted Barrett; QOC = N-C [Catch/Trap]).
This is Vic Carapazza's first ejection since July 22, 2015 (Dominic Leone; QOC = U [Throwing At]).
This is Dale Scott's first ejection since April 25, 2015 (Ron Roenicke; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays (2015 MLB Postseason: AL Division Series Game 5), 10/14/15
Video: Odor's run counts following consultation amongst the six ALDS umpires, Replay Review (FS1)
Video: Benches clear after Tulo pops out to end the frame, non-roster player Buehrle is tossed (FS1)

Carefree Throw, Extended Bat, and Blue Jays Protest

Blue Jays protest after Russell Marin's wild throw off Shin-Soo Choo's bat in Toronto resulted in a run and Rangers lead. With two outs and a runner on third in the top of the 7th inning of a tied ALDS Game 5, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin caught a pitch from pitcher Aaron Sanchez. While attempting to return the ball back to Sanchez, Martin's throw hit Rangers batter Choo's bat and subsequently rebounded down the third base line. As the ball bounced freely onto the infield, Rangers baserunner R3 Rougned Odor ran toward home plate as HP Umpire and crew chief Dale Scott removed his mask and called for "Time" as Odor approached and stepped on home plate.

Following a consultation amongst the six-person umpiring crew, Odor was permitted to score, Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons requested and received a Crew Chief-initiated replay review concerning a rules check, and ultimately protested the game when the umpires' call was not overturned. Choo eventually struck out to end the inning after Toronto fans littered the field with bottles and other debris in a postseason scene reminiscent of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game when LF Umpire Sam Holbrook's infield fly call drew the ire of Atlanta Braves fans.

Walking Through the Play: F2 Martin catches a pitch, B1 Choo stretches out in the batter's box, and PU Scott keeps the play alive (e.g., no time out due to a foul, ball in the dirt, etc.). F2 Martin haphazardly throws the ball toward the mound, but it strikes Choo's bat, which has been extended from Choo's person, but is still within the confines of the left-handed batter's box. The ball caroms away, R3 Odor runs toward home plate, PU Scott calls "Time" before Odor arrives at home, and immediately thereafter, Odor touches home plate.

Analysis: First refer to Rule 5.04(b)(5) [OBR 2014 Rule 6.03], which states, "The batter's legal position shall be with both feet within the batter's box." Replays conclusively indicate B1 Choo was legal during the entire play up to the point of his bat contacting the thrown ball. Rule 5.09(c)(2) allows for a dead ball when the umpire interferes with the catcher's throw attempting to retire a runner, but this is specifically umpire interference.

Rule 6.01(a)(10) [Formerly 7.09] states it is interference and an out when: "He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball." The key is intentionally interferes. Replays indicate Choo's actions did not appear intentional; hence, no interference.

The penalty for interference: "If the umpire declares the batter, batter-runner, or a runner out for interference, all other runners shall return to the last base that was in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference, unless otherwise provided by these rules."

As for Scott calling "Time", consult Rule 5.01 [5.02]: "After the umpire calls “Play” the ball is alive and in play and remains alive and in play until for legal cause, or at the umpire’s call of “Time” suspending play, the ball becomes dead." In other words, even though Scott did not call "Time" for a legal cause, his inadvertent whistle, to borrow from other sports' terminology, nonetheless caused a dead ball situation.

Rule 5.06(c) [5.02] concerns dead balls: "While the ball is dead no player may be put out, no bases may be run and no runs may be scored, except that runners may advance one or more bases as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive (such as, but not limited to a balk, an overthrow, interference, or a home run or other fair ball hit out of the playing field)." Hence, even though Scott's call of "Time" was improper, the rules still allow for an umpire to score a run if, in his judgment, the runner would have scored as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Replay Review & Late Slides, Too: Utley's Tejada Takeout

Analysis of Chase Utley's slide into Ruben Tejada at Dodger Stadium and the out-overturned-to-safe call during Game 2 of the National League Division Series requires consultation of several key baseball documents: The Official Baseball Rules, the Replay Review Regulations, and the MLB Umpire Manual for starters. The Baseball Rules Differences is also useful to explain the MLB-uniqueness of this play.

So let us begin.

In SummaryThis would constitute a textbook case of interference and a double play at any level of baseball—other than professional OBR. In FED or NCAA, R1 is out, B1 is out, and R3 is returned to third base (run does not score). In MLB, however, this play is more complicated and may be called multiple ways. NOTE: The second base umpire's positioning starting from Deep B (edge of the infield grass on the second baseman's side near the cutout) also played a role in the adjudication of this play as he viewed the slide from behind as opposed to from the side. Had he been positioned for a lateral view, as in Deep C (edge of infield grass on the shortstop's side near the cutout), the judgment as relates to interference may have been different.

The Play (VIDEO HERE): With one out and runners on first and third base in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Mets-Dodgers game, Dodgers batter Howie Kendrick hit a 1-2 fastball from Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon on the ground to second baseman David Murphy, who threw to shortstop Ruben Tejada as Dodgers baserunner R1 Chase Utley arrived at second base, R3 Enrique Hernandez scoring and B1 Kendrick arriving at first base without a throw. Replays indicate a violent collision between Utley and Tejada and that Tejada retained possession of the baseball throughout his fall. 2B Umpire Chris Guccione ruled Utley out on the force play, determining that F6 Tejada caught Murphy's throw and tagged second base before Utley's arrival.

While Tejada received medical attention from team trainers and Los Angeles-area EMTs at second base due to having suffered a broken leg during Utley's slide, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly elected to challenge the play, specifying to the umpires that he believed F6 Tejada failed to touch second base. Upon Replay Review, New York Replay Officials headed by crew chief Tim Welke overturned Guccione's on-field ruling of out: Utley was awarded second base and play continued with one out and runners on first and second base.

The Analysis
Relevant Rule (OBR): Rule 5.09(a)(13) [formerly 6.05(m)] states that the batter is out when: "A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play." The rule's associated Comment states, "The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire’s judgment play."
Relevant Interpretation (MLBUM): Rule 5.09(a)(13) [6.05(m)] is also addressed in the MLB Umpire Manual. The official interpretation states that if there is "willful and deliberate interference" with a fielder attempting to catch or throw a ball "with the obvious intent to deprive the defense of the opportunity to make a double play, the umpire shall declare the runner out for interference and shall also declare the batter-runner out for the interference of his teammate."
Guidelines - A Checklist (MLBUM): To determine whether a runner's actions constitute "willful and deliberate interference," the following guidelines may be applied (relevant to the Utley/Tejada play, GREEN highlighted text shall indicate that Utley satisfied the guideline (mitigating evidence) while RED shall indicate Utley failed to satisfy the guideline (aggravating). GREEN = no interference; RED = possible interference:
> In sliding to a base, the runner should be able to reach the base with his hand or foot.
> A runner who, in the judgment of the umpire, contacts or attempts to make contact with a fielder with a slide or roll block that is not a bona fide effort to reach and stay on the base may be called out for interference, and, when appropriate, a double play may be called.
> Any definite change in direction by the runner to contact the fielder would be considered interference.
> If a runner hits the dirt, slides, and rolls, it does not constitute a rolling block unless the runner leaves his feet and makes contact with the fielder before the runner slides on the ground. If the initial contact is with the fielder instead of the ground for the purpose of breaking up a double play, it is a roll block.
Analysis and Conclusion Regarding Potential Interference: Utley was able to reach the base with his hand (pursuant to guideline, he does not actually have to touch the base), did not make a bona fide effort to stay on the base, did not definitively change direction to contact Tejada, and did contact the ground with his knees prior to contacting Tejada—though barely. By spirit of the rule, it was a rolling block, however. In other words, Utley's actions may be considered willful and deliberate interference, but his actions did not meet the criteria which mandates such a ruling.

Sidebar: In NFHS (High School), this play follows Rule 3-3-1n ("A runner may not maliciously crash into a fielder, whether the fielder is in or out of the base path, or with or without the ball. The ball is immediately dead. PENALTY: The runner is out and ejected."). The slide must be "in a direct line between the bases (2-32-2f, 8-4-2b). In NCAA (College), the slide must be "on the ground and in a direct line between the two bases (8-4a). Rule 8-7 prescribes the penalty for malicious contact/collision: "The ball is dead, and the offender is out, regardless of the result of the play." Under both rules sets, all runners return to the bases last legally occupied at the time of interference. In pro-ball, there is no such rule as relates to malicious contact.

Relevant Rule (Replay Review, Neighborhood Play): With interference not called, Dodgers challenged U2's out call. Replay Review Regulation V.D.1. precludes the basic element of the so-called neighborhood play from Replay Review consideration. The following is not reviewable: "The Umpire's judgment that a runner is clearly out on a force play at second base under circumstances in which the defensive player may or may not have touched second base in his attempt to complete a double play and avoid a collision with the runner. All other elements of the call shall be subject to review, including whether the fielder caught the ball, had control of the ball, was drawn off the bag, or tagged the runner. In this regard, a determination as to whether the fielder made a catch before dropping the ball while in the act of making a throw following the catch shall be reviewable."
Analysis of Neighborhood Play: U2 ruled that F6 did not vacate or remove his foot from contact with or immediately around second base for the purpose of avoiding a collision with the runner. Because F6 did not vacate second base with this express purpose, U2 ruled the play was not excluded from review by neighborhood exemption V.D.1. Further, U2 allowed that there was a chance the throw drew F6 off the base, which is itself reviewable.

Relevant Rule (Replay Review, Fielder and Runner Both Miss Base): Because U2 ruled this was not a neighborhood play, the issue of whether F6 touched second base is reviewable. Replays indicate he did not. Replays also indicate R1 did not touch second base. Replay Review Regulation V.F.3. addresses this situation: "If the Replay Official determines both that the runner did not touch home plate and that the fielder did not tag the runner (or, in the case of a force play, did not touch home plate), the Replay Official shall rule the runner "safe" at home plate unless the defensive Manager appeals the failure of the runner to touch home plate prior to the Crew Chief making contact with the Replay Official." This provision applies to plays at any base, not just home plate.
Analysis of Dual Missed Base: Replays conclusively indicated neither person touched second base; by rule, the runner is "safe" and awarded second base, the call is overturned. Because there was no defensive appeal, the runner's obligation to touch second base terminated at the time of the erroneous out call. The incorrect out call supersedes R1's abandonment of running the bases, since the incorrect out call occurred prior to such abandonment.

Conclusion: The rules would support an interference ruling (and, thus, a double play and cancelled score) because the slide failed to meet at least one criterion on the legal slide checklist. It is a borderline roll block, which would constitute willful and deliberate interference. That said, once the umpires ruled this was not interference and not a neighborhood play, it became subject to replay review, wherein Replay Officials correctly followed written regulations to overturn the initial out call. MOST IMPORTANTLY: From 2B Umpire Chris Guccione's angle (picture from the 1B IF camera provided to the right), R1 Utley's slide doesn't look especially egregious (willful/deliberate). From the 3B IF camera angle (see this article's first image), the look is quite different.

Video: Utley's hard slide breaks Ruben Tejada's leg, prevents double play; all are safe (TBS)