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Thursday, April 11, 2024

MLB Ejection 008 - Jeremie Rehak (1; Reese McGuire)

HP Umpire Jeremie Rehak ejected Red Sox catcher Reese McGuire (strike three call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 9th inning of the #Orioles-#RedSox game. With none out and none on, Red Sox batter McGuire took a 3-2 fastball from Orioles pitcher Craig Kimbrel for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer half of home plate and belt-high (px -0.54, pz 2.86 [sz_top 3.33]), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 3-3. The Orioles ultimately won the contest, 9-4, in 10 innings.

This is Jeremie Rehak (35)'s 1st ejection of 2024.
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
This pitch was located 4.49 horizontal and 8.11 vertical inches from being deemed incorrect.

This is the 8th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 4th player ejection of 2024. Prior to ejection, McGuire was 0-4 (2 SO) in the contest.
Ejection Tally: 2 Managers, 2 Coaches, 4 Players.
This is Boston's 1st ejection of 2024, T-1st in the AL East (BOS, NYY, TOR 1; BAL, TB 0).
This is Reese McGuire's first career MLB ejection.
This is Jeremie Rehak's 1st ejection since Sept 12, 2023 (Chris Johnson; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

A's-Rangers Double Play - Infield Fly or Ordinary Effort?

Oakland turned an inning-ending double play against Texas when Rangers batter Jared Walsh's soft infield pop fly evaded diving A's second baseman Zack Gelof near the pitcher's mound, with 2B Umpire Tom Hanahan initially appearing to signal an infield fly, before declaring the batter safe, electing not to invoke the infield fly rule because none of the Athletics infielders could have caught the batted ball with ordinary effort.

With one out and runners on first and second base in the bottom of the 7th inning, Walsh's quasi-fly ball initially attracted speculation that the infield fly rule would be invoked, but as second baseman Gelof slid in an unsuccessful attempt to catch the batted ball, Oakland recovered and turned the inning-ending double play when umpires ruled the infield fly rule did not apply.

Gelof's slide may have tipped the scales against ruling this play an infield fly, as pitcher Austin Adams would have had to range backwards, off the mound to field the ball and Gelof was the other closest infielder, meaning that according to the umpire, no infielder was in a place where this ball could have been caught with ordinary effort.

This might be the infield fly counterweight to LF Umpire Sam Holbrook's infamous postseason infield fly call in Atlanta, when the umpire ruled that a shortstop deep into left field could have caught a fly ball with ordinary effort because he was camped under the ball before suddenly vacating that position.

Although formally termed an "infield fly" the definition and rule may more accurately be deemed the "infielder fly rule."

An infield fly is defined as "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," and the infield fly rule results in the batter being declared automatically out while the ball itself remains live.

When Walsh's batted ball fell to the ground and the infield fly rule was not invoked, that forced both preceding baserunners R1 and R2 to advance, allowing pitcher Adams to turn a double play when both R1 Adolis García and R1 Jonah Heim didn't advance.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

MLB Ejection 007 - John Bacon (1; Aaron Boone)

HP Umpire John Bacon ejected Yankees manager Aaron Boone (strike two call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 7th inning of the #Marlins-#Yankees game. With none out and none on, Yankees batter Alex Verdugo took a 1-1 slider from Marlins pitcher Andrew Nardi for a called second strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer edge of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px -0.88, pz 1.45 [sz_bot 1.57 / RAD 1.45]), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Marlins were leading, 4-1. The Marlins ultimately won the contest, 5-2.

This is John Bacon (70)'s 1st ejection of 2024.
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
This pitch was located 0.41 horizontal inches from being deemed incorrect.

This is the 7th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 2nd manager ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 2 Managers, 2 Coaches, 3 Players.
This is New York's 1st ejection of 2024, T-1st in the AL East (NYY, TOR 1; BAL, BOS, TB 0).
This is Aaron Boone's 1st ejection since Sept 20, 2023 (Lance Barrett; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is John Bacon's 1st ejection since July 16, 2022 (Mike Matheny; QOC = Y [Interference]).

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs New York Yankees, 4/10/24 | Video as follows:

The Reasonably Set Pitch Clock Loophole & Alert Walk

We again saw a potential pitch clock loophole as HP Umpire Gabe Morales called Giants pitcher Jordan Hicks for a violation and automatic ball, resulting in a walk, as San Francisco complained that Nationals batter Joey Gallo failed to come set so that Hicks could pitch the baseball.

The issue here is the difference in pre-pitch requirements and restrictions for batters and pitchers between the pitch clock rules and the Official Baseball Rules which pre-date the pitch timer.

To refresh the pitch clock rules state, "Batters must be in the box and alert to the pitcher by the 8-second mark or else be charged with an automatic strike" while pitchers may not come set or begin delivery before the batter satisfies these criteria.

The pre-existing rules, on the other hand, further restrict the pitcher as OBR 6.02(a)(5) Comment (amongst other places) states, "A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted."

Accordingly, a pitcher may not pitch to a batter before said batter is reasonably set, while a batter according to the pitch clock rules is not required to become reasonably set but only alert to the pitcher.

Alert is a lesser standard to achieve than "reasonably set" which means, theoretically, a pitcher may be entrapped into quick pitching a batter who is not "reasonably set" by the expiration of time (since the batter is not required to be).

Then again, perhaps the solution is to reinterpret "reasonably" to weed out any unfair gameplay.

Video as follows:

Monday, April 8, 2024

Angel Again? Step-Off Disengagement Delivery Strikeout

After HP Umpire Angel Hernandez called Yankees batter Gleyber Torres out on strikes in the 1st inning vs Toronto, New York manager Aaron Boone argued the strikeout shouldn't count because Blue Jays pitcher Bowden Francis stepped off the rubber during his delivery, causing Torres to back out of the box.

This disengagement delivery involves two main components: #1, replays indicate pitcher Francis disengaged his pivot foot from the pitcher's plate during delivery, quickly re-engaging and firing home for a called strike three, which (#2) the television on-screen strikeout graphics indicate was located outside (and above) the strike zone.

Let's tackle the strike zone location issue first. When batter Torres stepped back in the batter's box during the pitch sequence, his stance as the pitch neared home plate remained similar to his standing stance—e.g., there was no "crouch" as expected during most pitches. This is reflected by the adjusted computer strike zone data as well as online zone visualizations, all of which agree the pitch was a strike, given Torres' elevated strike zone due to standing back in the batter's box. The location issue was officiated properly.

As for the disengagement issue, we note that all pitches must be made with the pivot foot in (reasonable) contact with the rubber/pitcher's plate. If runners are on base and a pitcher's foot slips and they interrupt delivery, this can be called a start-stop balk pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(1). But if the bases are empty, there's no penalty other than to allow the pitcher to reset the play, re-engage, and retry the pitch.

...except that as of 2023, we have a pitch clock which means the pitcher might well be under a time crunch that prevents them from properly resetting the play. That appears to be what happened here: pitcher Francis had just three seconds remaining after the inadvertent disengagement, meaning he didn't have time to recover and retry from scratch.

Instead, Francis quickly re-engaged and threw. We now refer to OBR 5.07(a) and 6.02(a)(5), both of which concern an illegal pitch known as the quick pitch: "A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted."

A central component of the quick pitch, however, is spelled out in OBR 5.07(a)(2) Comment: "If, however, in the umpire’s judgment, a pitcher delivers the ball in a deliberate effort to catch the batter off guard, this delivery shall be deemed a quick pitch, for which the penalty is a ball."

It would appear the pitcher did not intend to catch the batter off guard (also, the batter was somewhat reasonably set already) as much as he was rushing in an attempt to catch his own mistake of his pivot foot slipping off the rubber. A common sense approach to this play would be to declare "Time" and simply hit the reset button—no strike three call, no automatic ball, just a redo. This is the fairest outcome. Except the pitch clock was at the three-second mark when Francis slipped off the rubber, so the most likely outcome here would be a pitch clock violation on the pitcher and automatic ball for that reason.

As for who might see this, a pitcher out of Set (or even Hybrid) may have their back or pivot foot out of view of the home plate umpire, who would have to look through the front/free foot or leg to see the pivot foot slipping off the rubber. That's where the 1B and 3B Umpires can help—big time. What appears to have occurred here is 1B Umpire Nic Lentz and/or 3B Umpire and Crew Chief Lance Barksdale observed the disengagement, but also knew that with no runners on, there really isn't a penalty per se for it (not withstanding the pitch timer violation). Unfortunately, no one on the crew seemed to take it a step further to 1) the pitch clock issue, or 2) the quick pitch issue.

Instead, the crew, which did not put the entire play together, allowed the strikeout to stand.

Video as follows:

Sunday, April 7, 2024

MLB Ejection 006 - Alfonso Marquez (2; Miguel Cairo)

HP Umpire Alfonso Márquez ejected Nationals bench coach Miguel Cairo (strike one call to Jacob Young; QOCY) in the bottom of the 2nd inning of the #Phillies-#Nationals game. With two out and two on, Nationals batter Young took a 3-0 sinker from Phillies pitcher Christopher Sánchez for a called first strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer half of home plate and above the hollow of the knee (px 0.43, pz 1.72 [sz_bot 1.59]), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 1-1. The Nationals ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

This is Alfonso Márquez (72)'s 2nd ejection of 2023.

This is the 6th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 2nd coach ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 1 Manager, 2 Coaches, 3 Players.
This is Washington's 1st ejection of 2023, T-1st in the NL East (NYM, WAS 1; ATL, MIA, PHI 0).
This is Miguel Cairo's 1st ejection since Sept 27, 2022 (Brennan Miller; QOC = N [Check Swing]).
This is Alfonso Márquez's 2nd ejection of 2024, 1st since March 30 (Yohan Ramírez; QOC = U [Throwing At]).

Saturday, April 6, 2024

MLB Ejection 005 - Brennan Miller (1; David Popkins)

HP Umpire Brennan Miller ejected Twins hitting coach David Popkins (strike two and three calls to Matt Wallner; QOCN) in the bottom of the 4th inning of the #Guardians-#Twins game. With two out and none on, Twins batter Matt Wallner took a 3-1 slider and 3-2 sinker from Guardians pitcher Nick Sandlin for called second and third strikes. Replays indicate the 3-1 pitch was located over the inner edge of home plate and below the hollow of the knee (px 0.71, pz 1.53 [sz_bot 1.87 / RAD 1.75 / MOE 1.67]) while 3-2 was located over the inner edge of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px 0.80, pz 1.68 [sz_bot 1.87, RAD 1.75 / MOE 1.67]), the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Guardians were leading, 3-1. The Guardians ultimately won the contest, 3-1.

This is Brennan Miller (55)'s 1st ejection of 2023.
Meanwhile, in Anaheim, HP Umpire Alex Tosi was nearly perfect, calling 173 of 174 taken pitches in accordance with the computer. The one disputed pitch was located within our margin of error.

This is the 5th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 1st coach ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 1 Manager, 1 Coach, 3 Players.
This is Minnesota's 1st ejection of 2023, 1st in the AL Central (MIN 1; CLE, CWS, DET, KC 0).
This is David Popkins' 1st ejection since August 24, 2023 (Cory Blaser; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Brennan Miller's 1st ejection since Sept 9, 2023 (Alejo Lopez; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Angel's Swinging Strike Call & the Unreviewable Play

Detroit manager AJ Hinch argued after being told he couldn't challenge HP Umpire Angel Hernandez's foul tip call in the 11th inning in New York because Hernandez's on-field ruling that batter Spencer Torkelson swung at the pitch is not a reviewable play.

In Ejection 003 - Vic Carapazza (1; Dylan Moore), we discussed how check swing decisions—specifically whether or not the batter struck at a pitch—are not reviewable. In that game, Cleveland successfully challenged that batter Ramón Laureano was hit by a pitch, with Replay Review awarding Laureano first base as a result. Seattle had contended Laureano swung at the ball as it touched him, which the on-field umpires did not call (the crew ruled Laureano did not swing at the pitch), so the scope of the replay solely focused on whether the ball struck the batter or not. Finding that it did, the natural award was first base, relying on the umpires' on-field "no swing" ruling.

In Ejection 004 - Mike Muchlinski (1; Derek Shelton), we concentrated on the mechanics of calling a check swing, finding that the home plate umpire bears primary responsibility with such a play, and if they deem that the batter did in fact swing at the pitch, then by rule they are supposed to unilaterally call the swing from behind the plate (not appeal to a field umpire). The first and third base umpires may rule on appeal when the plate umpire calls "no swing" but not when the plate umpire calls a strike (by swing or by location).

Putting these lessons together brings us to Thursday in New York, when HP Umpire Hernandez called a foul tip on Tigers batter Torkelson in the 11th inning. While Detroit initially sought to challenge this call, alleging the pitched ball touched batter Torkelson's hands and not the bat, the umpires informed manager Hinch that due to Hernandez's ruling that Torkelson did indeed swing, the play was not reviewable.

This is correct, in part, and not entirely correct, in part. First, we know that Replay cannot review whether or not a batter has attempted to strike a pitch (swing/no swing is not reviewable). But, there is an ever-so-slight difference between the on-field ruling of foul tip and what the Tigers allege happened, which is a pitched ball touching the batter. Add in Hernandez's call "...as he struck at it" and we find the difference Replay could make here is between a foul tip—a live ball—and a dead ball strike (obviously, a dead ball).

In this situation, it doesn't sound like much of a difference, but had the catcher tried to pick off a runner and either retired the runner or overthrew the fielder, allowing runners to advance, the live vs dead ball call would loom large. On a foul tip (live ball), the runner could be deemed out or could advance to score a run on the catcher's throwing error, while on a dead ball (dead ball strike), no further action could occur and any pickoff attempts would be nullified.

Jeff McNeil & Angel Hernandez Disagree About Time Out

Mets batter Jeff McNeil and HP Umpire Angel Hernandez exchanged words in the bottom of the 6th inning of New York's Thursday matinee vs Detroit over a pitch clock rule-related "Time" out request, an instance of confusion increasingly spreading throughout baseball when batters—restricted to one "Time" request per at-bat—and umpires can't seem to agree as to when said batter actually wants to use their allotted pause.

During McNeil's 6th inning at-bat, Tigers pitcher Joey Wentz committed a pitch timer violation on the 1-2 pitch, failing to start his delivery prior to the expiration of time. After a subsequent curveball in the dirt, McNeil turned to speak with Hernandez, which the umpire took as a request for "Time", signaling as much as McNeil replied he hadn't asked for time out.

This situation resolved without consequence—McNeil walked on the next pitch—but as we know from the Seoul Series and HP Umpire Andy Fletcher's pitch timer violation strikeout for excessive time out requests by Padres batter Xander Bogaerts, crossed wires can produce at-bat defining consequences.

My proposal to fix this miscommunication malady is simple: implement a protocol that requires batters to visually request "Time" by raising a hand with open palm facing the umpire. This way, there (ideally) will be no confusion of whether a batter verbally requested "Time" or was commenting on something else.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

MLB Ejection 004 - Mike Muchlinski (1; Derek Shelton)

HP Umpire Mike Muchlinski ejected Pirates manager Derek Shelton (check swing strike three call) in the top of the 7th inning of the #Pirates-#Nationals game. With two out and one on, Pirates batter Bryan Reynolds attempted to check his swing on a 3-2 splitter from Nationals pitcher Hunter Harvey, ruled a swinging strike by Muchlinski. At the time of the ejection, the Nationals were leading, 5-3. The Nationals ultimately won the contest, 5-3.

This is Mike Muchlinski (76)'s 1st ejection of 2023.

This is the 4th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 1st manager ejection of 2024.
This is Pittsburgh's 1st ejection of 2023, 1st in the NL Central (PIT 1; CHC, CIN, MIL, STL 0).
This is Derek Shelton's 1st ejection since August 13, 2023 (Nic Lentz; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Mike Muchlinski's 1st ejection since May 14, 2023 (Matt Blake; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).