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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Spring Ejection 2 - Bill Miller (1; Ryan Tepera)

HP Umpire Bill Miller ejected Angels pitcher Ryan Tepera (failed illegal foreign substance check) before calling a pitch violation strikeout (automatic third strike) on Angels batter Taylor Jones in the 5th inning of the #Angels-#Rangers game. In the top of the 5th, Angels manager Phil Nevin substituted in relief pitcher Tepera for starting pitcher Griffin Canning. At the conclusion of the half-inning, HP Umpire Miller checked Tepera's glove, hat, and belt before ejecting the Angels pitcher for an illegal substance. At the time of the ejection, the Rangers were leading, 2-0. During the first at-bat of the subsequent bottom of the 5th inning (Rangers pitcher Joe Barlow vs Angels batter Jones), Miller called an automatic strike on Jones for failing to be alert to the pitcher with eight seconds remaining on the pitch clock. The Rangers ultimately won the contest, 6-2.

This is Bill Miller (26)'s 1st ejection of Spring Training 2023.

This is the second ejection of MLB Spring Training 2023.
This is the second player ejection of Spring 2023. Prior to ejection, Tepera's line was 0.1 IP, 2 ER, HR.
This is Los Angeles-AL's 1st ejection of Spring, 1st in the Cactus League (LAA 1; All Others 0).
This is Ryan Tepera's 1st ejection since June 26, 2022 (John Bacon; QOC = U [Fighting]).

Monday, March 20, 2023

NCAA Ejection - John Brammer (Tennessee's Tony Vitello)

HP Umpire John Brammer ejected Tennessee Volunteers head coach Tony Vitello (no step balk call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the TN-Missouri game. With one out and two on (R1, R3), Tennessee pitcher Chase Burns attempted to pick off Missouri baserunner R1 Trevor Austin, ruled a balk. Replays indicate in throwing to first base, Burns failed to step toward the base pursuant to the requirements of NCAA Rule 9-3-c-1, which states, "The pitcher, while touching the pitcher's plate, must step toward the base, preceding or simultaneous with any move toward the base," the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, Missouri was leading, 5-0. Missouri ultimately won the contest, 7-4. 

Pitcher Austin's spin-off move failed to gain requisite distance or direction toward first base, which is a balk pursuant to NCAA 9-3-c-1 (OBR equivalent 6.02(a)(3) & NFHS 6.2.4b). Official Baseball Rules' 6.02(a)(3), for instance, states, "Requires the pitcher, while touching their plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base." If there is any doubt as to potential disengagement on the spin or jump-turn move, see NCAA 9-3-c-5: "The jump-turn move is legal if the pitcher’s free foot steps toward and gains ground to the base that the ball is being thrown. Otherwise, a balk shall be called."

A no-step balk is subject to roughly the same argument provisions as balls/strikes calls in that a manager or coach may be ejected, as HP Umpire Brammer did here after warning the head coach to stop.

Video as follows:

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Spring Ejection 1 - Reed Basner (1; Dominic Smith)

HP Umpire Reed Basner ejected Nationals batter Dominic Smith (strike one and two calls; QOCU) in the bottom of the 6th inning of the #Marlins-#Nationals game. With one out and none on, Smith took called first and second strikes from Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara for called first and second strikes before striking out swinging on a later 1-2 pitch. PitchCast (StatCast) was not utilized for this game, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the Marlins were leading, 7-0. The Marlins ultimately won the contest, 7-0.

This is Reed Basner (-)'s 1st ejection of Spring Training 2023.

This is the first ejection of MLB Spring Training 2023.
This is the first player ejection of Spring 2023. Prior to ejection, Smith was 1-3 (SO) in the contest.
This is Washington's 1st ejection of Spring, 1st in the Grapefruit League (WAS 1; All Others 0).
This is Dominic Smith's first career MLB ejection.
This is Reed Basner's first career MLB ejection.

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs Washington Nationals (Spring Training), 3/18/23 | Video as follows:

Friday, March 17, 2023

Umpire Walks Off Field Midgame - About Ump Abuse

Tmac reviews a viral video showing an umpire appearing to empty his ball bags and walk off the field mid-game following a coach's "get help" nudge regarding a non-appealable check swing strike call.

This is a review of umpire abuse's less over form: continued complaining and the straw that broke the camel's back: when second-guessing and nitpicking instances add up and contribute to a breaking point, or as Lin calls it, the officiating version of pinball's tilt shutdown as a result of too much table nudging.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Outfielder Fools Batter on Jumping Catch to Rob a HR

An center fielder who jumped to catch a fly ball at the wall in the CPBL fooled a batter into thinking he had hit a home run by acting like he missed the catch and the ball went over the fence for a home run...but seconds later the ball appeared in the outfielder's glove. Umpires can learn from this play by paying special attention to a rule near the end of the book about umpiring responsibilities during play.

Official Baseball Rule 8.00—the umpire rule—features a section at the end called General Instructions to Umpires. One of these instructions pertains to this type of a play: "Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play. It is more vital to know just where a fly ball fell, or a thrown ball finished up, than whether or not a runner missed a base. Do not call the plays too quickly, or turn away too fast when a fielder is throwing to complete a double play. Watch out for dropped balls after you have called a runner out."

To be clear, with a crew of four (or three or even two), not all umpires are watching the ball or the fielder who might possibly catch the ball—umpires who have dedicated base touch responsibilities here (such as a second base umpire working inside with runner(s) on base) should stick with those responsibilities while the umpire with ball responsibilities should pay special attention to the General Instruction regarding keeping an eye on the ball (and fielder[s] attempting to field it).

This play occurred with the bases empty, but in general, an umpire who goes out on such a play doesn't need to immediately kill the play with a "Time" and home run call if it is not blatantly obvious that the batter has indeed hit a home run. In a play such as this where the outfielder tries robbing the batter with a leaping catch at the wall, waiting a second to make sure and follow the ball is beneficial as a late "Time"/HR call isn't really harmful to the development of this play (it's a dead ball, four-base award anyway).

Making sure you have the ball before you make a call (e.g., of out) is also helpful not just in the outfield but at places like home plate on a swipe tag.

But had there been runners on, killing the play too quickly while the ball was live and in play the entire time could be disastrous as a so-called bell that cannot be unrung.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Player Uniforms and Rules About Unbuttoned Shirts

While many fans took to twitter to comment on HP Umpire Angel Hernandez's strike zone during Tuesday's Venezuela-Nicaragua World Baseball Classic game, we zeroed in Venezuela pitcher José Quijada's unbuttoned shirt in the 7th inning and Hernandez's direction for Quijada to button up his uniform top.

To figure out what this is all about—yes, this is the ever-so-exciting discussion about the player uniform rules—we turn to Official Baseball Rule 3.03 (OBR is used in the WBC) and find that only one provision of the rule concerns buttons: "(h) Glass buttons and polished metal shall not be used on a uniform." NCAA Rule 1-14-e is the only uniform rule in any code to specifically mention buttoning or zipping up a uniform top, but that only pertains to a pitcher wearing a jacket while being a baserunner.

Other than that scenario, it appears HP Umpire Hernandez may have practiced some preventative officiating—addressing a potential safety or rules issue to prevent oddities from occurring later on as a result of the unbuttoned shirt. OBR 5.06(c)(7), for instance, discusses lodged balls or balls that find their way into a player's uniform—if a ball were to go into Quijada's shirt, for instance, the resulting penalty would be a one base award for the batter and all baserunners (if deemed inadvertent). The MLB Umpire Manual further expands OBR 5.06(c)(7) to apply to batted and thrown, in addition to pitched, balls.

Video as follows:

Monday, March 13, 2023

Stolen Base on a Foul Ball? Should Runner Have Gone Back?

In the 17th inning of Evansville and Vanderbilt's marathon game, Vandy baserunner R1 Davis Diaz tried to steal second base on a pitch ultimately fouled at the plate, but instead of returning to first base as foul balls generally prescribe, Diaz stayed at second with an umpire standing mere feet away. Was this a legal stolen base or did the fatigue of a 17 inning game factor into a misappropriated 90 feet for the home team?

The answer begins with the definition of a foul ball: "The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when…a foul ball is not caught, in which case runners return to their bases" (Official Baseball Rule 5.06(c)(5)), or, because this was a college game, the relevant rule of NCAA 6-2-a: "The ball becomes dead and base runners return when…A foul is hit that is not caught. Runners return and the umpire shall not put the ball in play until all runners have retouched their bases."

No matter the level or how you phrase it, the theme is consistent: foul ball, runners return, right?

Well, there's a little more to it than meets the eye. Replays indicate that baserunner R1 Diaz arrived at and passed second base before Evansville pitcher Nate Hardman begin his motion, of out Set Position, toward home plate. This means that Diaz's advancement to second base was legal despite (ruled defensive indifference with the winning run on third base) the ensuing foul ball because he had already arrived at and occupied second base prior to the pitching motion to home plate: on foul balls, runners are to return to bases occupied at time of pitch.

As for the definition of when, exactly, a pitcher's actions constitute the exact time of pitch, NCAA 2-82 states, "The time of the pitch is (1) in the wind up position, when the pitcher makes any movement habitually connected with the delivery to the plate, or (2) in the set position, when the pitcher begins the natural movement associated with the pitcher's delivery of the ball after the pitcher has come set with both hands together in front of their body."

Accordingly, the runner R1 Diaz successfully advances to second base prior to time of pitch, and thus becomes R2 prior to the foul ball sequence; this means when he returns to his original base at time of pitch, he is returning to second base and not first base.

Video as follows:

Sunday, March 12, 2023

MLB's Max Scherzer Rule - Pitcher Can't Come Set Before Batter is Ready

After Mets pitcher Max Scherzer spent New York's early Spring Training game against Washington playing with the pitch clock rules and throwing off batter timing, MLB has come in and shut him down: The new so-called "Scherzer Rule" or point of emphasis states that pitchers no longer may come set prior to the batter becoming alert in the box; umpires are to award a penalty of an automatic ball if the pitcher violates (after being warned or instructed to wait until the batter is alert before coming set).

HP Umpire John Bacon called the automatic ball infraction multiple times (after a warning the first time) during an Angels-Dodgers Spring Training game, with the last auto-ball penalty occurring during the very last at-bat of the game, which ended via a walk-off walk for the Dodgers.

To be clear, this is not a new Official Baseball Rule but instead a new point of emphasis or procedural/protocol change for umpires, stating that the Scherzer strategy of coming set before the batter is ready in the box, while legal just one week ago, is no longer to be permitted and, instead, will result in a pitch clock violation penalty for repeated infractions.

Video as follows:

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Called Third Strike Ends NCAA Game - About Umpire Power

After a called third strike wrapped up New Orleans' 7-3 win over Mississippi Valley State, questioned surfaced as to whether the NCAA umpire deliberately called a strike on a pitch that was a ball in order to get back at a player who may have shown the umpire up one pitch earlier. We review the play and discuss the issue of umpire and referee authority and abuse of power.

After the home plate umpire called strike two with two outs in the top of the 9th inning, the batter demonstratively jumped out of the batter's box before returning and gesturing with his bat to where he believed the pitch to have been thrown. The umpire did not discipline the batter and play resumed. The umpire did, however, call a third strike on the ensuing 1-2 pitch, ending the at-bat and the game.

The umpire measuredly walked off the field without addressing the player as the struck-out batter followed and attempted to argue, before the batter was restrained by the opposing catcher.

This has led to accusations that the umpire deliberately called strike three on a clear ball out of the strike zone, due to a grudge or way to get back at the player who behaved disrespectfully one pitch earlier.

To be clear, an umpire may discipline a player for unsporting conduct pursuant to the rules.

NCAA Rule 2-26 states, "the game officials have the authority to eject a player, coach, or team representative for misconduct or unsportsmanlike conduct. MLB's version is Official Baseball Rule 8.01(d): "Each umpire has the authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager, or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field."

However, when an umpire or referee instead deliberately disregards the rules of the game, for instance, by calling a strike on a pitch the umpire knows to be a ball and outside the strike zone, the official has abused their authority and violated the ethics of officiating.

In sum, discipline the player for misconduct—the rules and, depending on your game, video will support you—but the moment an official has deliberately called a play incorrectly in order to get even with a player or send a message, that official has abused their authority and committed a disservice to the game.

Video as follows:

Friday, March 10, 2023

Pitch Clock Ejection - Time Violation Prompts Coach's Toss

A pitch clock-related time violation and automatic ball call led to ASU head coach Willie Bloomquist's ejection by 3B Umpire Darren Hyman, after Arizona State pitcher Owen Stevenson was called for a time violation due to excess step-off "reset" disengagements during a 6th inning plate appearance against UC Irvine.

With one out and one on in the top of the 6th, Anteaters batter Anthony Martinez stood in to face Stevenson. NCAA uses a 20-second "action clock" as opposed to MLB's variable pitch clock (30 seconds between batters, 20 seconds between pitches with runner(s) and 15 seconds between pitches with bases empty), and also has different rules about pickoffs and step-offs.

Whereas in professional baseball (MLB/MiLB), pitchers may disengage twice during any individual at-bat—including simply step-offs, fake throws, actual pickoff attempts, and other plays on the runner—the college rule limits pitchers to one step off per at-bat with the following exceptions: in college, disengagements due to pickoff attempts and plays on runners are unlimited and at both levels, the limit resets to two (MLB) or one (NCAA) if a runner advances.

In other words, the only real limit for college are the simple step off and fake throws. For the at-bat in question, pitcher Stevenson made several pickoff throws to first base (remember, pickoff attempts are unlimited under NCAA rules), and then briefly stepped off without making a play on the baserunner prior to delivering the 1-1 pitch. This step-off, known as a "reset", put the action clock back at 20 seconds (hence the term "reset") and counted as Stevenson one and only "reset" for the at-bat.

When Stevenson disengaged the rubber for a step-off again with a 2-1 count, this constituted a time violation of the "reset" limit rule, the penalty for which is an automatic ball, making the count 3-1. HP Umpire AJ Lostaglio enforced the rule by calling "Time" and signaling the count as 3-1. By rule, there are no warnings (NCAA Appendix F).

In NCAA, a so-called time violation of excessive resets results in a penalty of an automatic ball.
In MLB, a violation of excessive disengagements (without retiring a runner) results in a balk.

Head coach Bloomquist was ejected from foul line for continuing to argue the call following explanation.

We also talk about the scoreboard in use. Daktronics scoreboard / shot clock models not using tenths of a second result in a "zero" (or horn if there were to be automatic horn enabled, as is the case in basketball or hockey) when the clock display reads ":00" to fans. But internally, the scoreboard will actually read ":00.9" at the moment of the horn.

The nine-tenths of a second thus is also added to the start of the timer, making it look like the timer is delayed slightly when it is started. For a 20-second action clock, the timer thus begins at 20.9 seconds and expires at 0.9 seconds, reading as ":20" to ":00" for the fans.

Video as follows: