|For the first time in MLB history, RAP is below 50%.|
When baseball first introduced expanded replay prior to the 2014 season, the MLB Rules Committee noted that the new Replay Review system's purpose was to adjudicate the game-changing play and to correct the "obvious miss," noting that Replay Review was never designed to be used for the "bang-bang play." From the very beginning, Replay Affirmation Percentage (RAP) was designed to be a low number.
Ahead of the 2015 season, I wrote, "The sure thing of overturning an 'obvious miss' turned into somewhat of a coin flip because teams simply didn’t use the new technology correctly, perhaps because video coordinators, bench coaches and/or managers—notably those in Toronto, Tampa Bay, and the other 'lower half' teams [TOR & TB had low rates of success in challenging calls]—didn’t know what to look for, didn’t know the rules, or simply were unable to think like an umpire."
Upon further consideration, I will add another confounding variable: the "greed" factor, or desire to overturn a 50-50 call in order to secure an advantageous outcome. We've seen that a lot over the past few years, as evidenced by the 27.9% of calls in 2014 that resulted in "stands" outcomes, which is the literal definition and manifestation of the 50-50 play.
|Are John Gibbons' Jays being 'greedy'?|
2014 ended with 47% of all Replay Reviews resulting in an overturned call, while approximately 49% of Replay Reviews resulted in a reversal in 2015. The 2016 figure presently is just north of 50%.
So when tmac sent me an e-mail regarding this RAP revelation and 50%+ overturn mark, I went to work and dove into Replay Review history. It is a short history, but its lessons are nonetheless notable.
|Teams and umpires are getting better in replay.|
|Umpires are discussing calls more often.|
On a similar note, we also saw Replay Review overturn bona fide slide calls with more gusto at the start of 2016 than it had with home plate collision calls in 2014 and 2015.
|Some calls, like this passing play, are missed.|
Remember, RAP is designed to be a low number and its objective is to correct "the obvious miss" and to review the "game-changing play."
We break the story here because I predict that if this news item is reported in the traditional media, the lede will suggest something to the effect, "Replay shows umpires are the worst they've ever been." It is an irresponsible headline with no objective analysis just as "Umpires are better than ever" is an irresponsible conclusion. Without analysis, both are meaningless.
That is, unless you are able to reach in and pull out your QuesTec, Pitch f/x, and Zone Evaluation data that shows the average umpire's strike zone has steadily improved ever since the mid-2000s.
*Note regarding methodology: Through games played on 7/26/16, there were 926 total Replay Review decisions, with 462 upheld (Confirmed or Stands) and 464 reversed (Overturned) calls, meaning that the percentage of overall calls upheld by Replay Review dropped below 50% for the first time in MLB history. However, the minimum sample size for total Replay Review decisions used to compute this figure was 10 (e.g., this does not include the first few days of a young season in which, say, three calls were overturned and only two were upheld on Opening Day).