Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Atlantic League Nixes Robot Umpires, Will Return to Human-Called Strike Zone in 2022

After two years of testing MLB's Automated Ball-Strike System, the Atlantic League will revert to having human umpires call pitches, explaining RoboUmp's cancelation as a natural part of the experiment process while stopping short of deeming the test unsuccessful: "Test rules and equipment are transitional by definition: Some elements remain, others are tweaked and still others are abandoned. That's why MLB and the ALPB conduct the tests."

The ALPB's news release also indicated the formerly independent MLB partner league will return its experimental 61'6" mound distance to the "accepted norm" of 60-feet, six-inches for its 2022 season.

News of the Atlantic League's RoboUmp cancelation follows several high-profile instances of peculiar ball/strike decisions from the computer umpire, many of which we have documented at Close Call Sports under the label "Computer Strike Zone" such as Frank Viola's pair of ejections arguing ball/strike calls made by the ABS computer. It also comes one year after MLB described the Atlantic League's ABS test as a "success."

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, currently presiding over an owners-players union dispute and lockout that continues to threaten Spring Training and potentially part of the 2022 regular season, previously cited his support for implementing the electronic ABS zone at the Major League level, specifically citing the Atlantic League experiment as evidence of RoboUmp's success. Meanwhile, then-Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre disagreed, stating, "I don't see the robotic strike zone happening."

Now that the Atlantic League has scrapped the project, will Minor League Baseball—not without its own set of ABS controversies—follow suit?

Friday, January 14, 2022

MLB Hires Sean Barber & Ben May as Full-Time Umpires

Rounding out its set of early January 2022 hires, MLB promoted Sean Barber and Ben May to the full-time major league umpire staff, joining Ryan Additon, John Libka, and Roberto Ortiz who also got the call.

Sean Barber's perseverance through eight years and 693 games of MLB experience prior to official hiring signifies the longest period of time spent as a Triple-A call-up umpire of MLB's five January hires. Barber's Opening Day (April 1) 2014 debut in San Diego followed a minor league journey that begin upon graduation from the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School in 2006. Barber has officiated in the Appalachian, South Atlantic, Florida State, Southern, Arizona Instructionl, Venezuela, Arizona Fall, and International Leagues. Additionally, Barber officiated the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifier in Jupiter, Florida (not terribly far from his hometown of Lakeland, FL).

Ben May, who nearly ties Barber's MLB history with eight years and 658 games, debuted on April 17, 2014 in Minnesota. May's minor league career includes stops at the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, Midwest, Florida State, Eastern, Arizona Fall, and International Leagues. Like Barber, May also officiated the 2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifying round, but did so in Germany.

With MLB's five new-hires, you might be wondering who in addition to those previously reported (Davis, Gorman, West) have retired. Stay tuned for future announcements, which will include crew chief promotions to fill the new vacancies.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Roberto Ortiz Hired to Full-Time MLB Umpire Staff

Major League Baseball hired Roberto Ortiz to its full-time umpire staff. This makes three hires (Ryan Additon, John Libka) and three retirements (Gerry Davis, Brian Gorman, Joe West), with a couple of more announcements to come in the next few weeks.

Ortiz's promotion, reported by The Gondol, is the first full-time appointment of an umpire born in Puerto Rico. Delfin Colon was MLB's first Puerto Rican umpire, but solely served in a fill-in capacity. Ortiz hails from Caguas, PR, and was a teacher in Puerto Rico before graduating from MiLB's Umpire Academy in 2009.

His minor league experience includes stops at the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, South Atlantic, Florida State, Eastern, Arizona Instructional, Arizona Fall, Pacific Coast, and International Leagues.

Ortiz's first MLB game was May 14, 2016 in Washington DC, and his 2022 hiring to the full-time staff follows 412 total regular season games of major league experience.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

MLB Hires Ryan Additon & John Libka to Full-Time Staff

With Gerry Davis and Brian Gorman's retirements, MLB has hired call-up umpires Ryan Additon and John Libka to its full-time staff. Joe West leads a short list of additional veteran umps whose retirements have created vacancies on the MLBU roster and we will announce both those retirements and additional new-hire replacements in the coming weeks.

First publicly announced by the Wendelstedt Umpire School where Additon and Libka serve as instructors, the first two hires of 2022 during the uncertainty of both COVID and an ongoing lockout and contract dispute between MLB team owners and the players' union are two young umpires who score highly on a number of baseball officiating metrics.

For instance, John Libka, according to UmpScorecards, once again took the crown as the most accurate umpire, overall, in calling balls and strikes during the 2021 season.

Ryan Additon made his major league debut on May 21, 2017 in Minnesota and joins the full-time staff with 381 games of big league experience. Additon has worked the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, Midwest, Florida State, Arizona Instructional, Southern, Arizona Fall, and International (aka Triple-A East) Leagues.

John Libka made his MLB debut just one week following Additon's, on May 27, 2017 in Chicago alongside Tom Hallion's crew, and has just 10 fewer games in the league (371) than Additon. Libka, long regarded as MLB's most accurate plate umpire dating back to the Boston University umpire study, journeyed through the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, Midwest, Florida State, Eastern, Arizona Fall, and Pacific Coast (Triple-A West) Leagues.

Both Additon and Libka officiated the 2017 AFL Fall Stars Game.

Monday, December 27, 2021

2021 UEFL Rules Summit Results

The 2021 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League Rules Summit is now complete with voting concluded in accordance with UEFL Rule 8-3. The 2021 Summit's results are listed below.

Visit the 2021 UEFL Rules Summit Discussion page to read detailed descriptions of the propositions listed herein.

Items agreed to and Appeals Board retentions are indicated in green highlight below and items that failed are listed in red highlighting. Proposals that gained a majority of votes, listed in green, will become rules for the 2022 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League season upon Commissioner approval. No vacancies exist on the UEFL Appeals Board as all members have been re-elected.

Rule 1 - Selection of Umpires
Prop 1-2: Two Crew Chiefs - 61.1% NO, 38.9% Yes.
> Would have added a second Crew Chief to each member's crew in Crew Division.

Rule 4 - League Scoring
Prop 4-4: Qualified Nomination of Most Disappointing Season - 55.2% YES, 44.8% No.
> Restricts this postseason award to umpire(s) mentioned & explained in comments.

Prop 4-8: No-Hitter Bonus - 51.6% NO, 48.4% Yes [17.7% +1, 16.1% +2, 14.5% +3].
> Would have assigned a bonus to umpires who call no-hitters and perfect games.

Prop 4-9: Accurate / Inaccurate Umpire Recognition - 52.4% NO, 47.6% Yes.
> Would have assigned points to umpires with exceptionally high or low reg season plate performances.

Rule 6 - Challenges and Appeals
Prop 6-2: Irrecusable Replay Review Ejections - 50.8% NO, 49.2% Yes.
> Would have assigned all post-Replay Review decision ejections a default QOC of Irrecusable.

Prop 6-4: Appeals Board Decision-making Process - 59.7% NO, 40.3% Yes.
> Would have instituted +1 Confirm / -1 Overturn / +0.5 Uphold points basis for Appeals decisions.

Rule 8 - Umpire Odds & Ends and Community Issues
Prop 8-1: Community Guidelines Standardization - 52.5% NO, 47.5% Yes.
> Would have instituted additional posting guidelines applicable to all commenters for discussions.

UEFL Appeals Board Retentions/Re-Elections
Arik G: 95.7% YES, 4.3% No. (Retained)
cyclone14: 91.1% YES, 8.9% No. (Retained)
jvick2017: 88.9% YES, 11.1% No. (Retained)
MarkCanada: 91.3% YES, 8.7% No. (Retained)
Scott C: 87.0% YES, 13.0% No. (Retained)

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

2021 UEFL Rules Summit Ballot & Voting

The Umpire Ejection Fantasy League Rules Summit continues with our voting stage and the 2021 Rules Summit ballot. UEFL Rule 8-3 describes this process. Visit the 2021 UEFL Rules Summit Discussion page to read all of the propositions listed herein.

This year's voting will conclude on December 24, 2021 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time.

The 2021 Rules Summit includes seven rule proposals and four Appeals Board retentions. The ballot is available as follows:

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Umpires Gibson, Reyburn Return to Tripp's KY Hometown to Rebuild Mayfield After Tornado

MLB umpire Tripp Gibson returned to his hometown of Mayfield, Kentucky, and was joined by colleague DJ Reyburn as the pair helped members of the community pick up the pieces after a tornado devastated the town.

Gibson described the scene to MLB.com: "The movie ‘Twister’ is nothing compared to the damage I’ve seen. To me, it’s just as eerie as New York City, Times Square, during COVID. It just doesn’t seem real. The landmark buildings that you use as waypoints are gone. You’re thinking, ‘I don’t even know where I am in this city right now.'"

UmpsCare Charities has set up a fundraising campaign to benefit those impacted by the tornadoes in Mayfield through The Independence Bank - Mayfield Graves Co. Tornado Relief Fund. As of Thursday, Umps Care had received $31,610 of a target goal of $25,000.

Monday, December 13, 2021

2021 UEFL Rules Summit Discussion

The Umpire Ejection Fantasy League announces its 2021 UEFL Rules Summit, setting forth a framework for discussing issues and proposed amendments for the UEFL Rules Book ahead of baseball's 2022 season (assuming, naturally, the MLB owners-players' union lockout is settled in advance of it).

Over the next few days, this discussion thread will be a living document reflecting proposed changes to UEFL rules. Relevant dates as follows:

> Mon 12/13 thru Fri 12/17: Rules Summit discussion open.
> Weekend of 12/18: Rules Summit ballot prepared, voting begins. The ballot will remain open for at least three days.

You may propose a change to the UEFL rules by replying in a comment to this post and, accordingly, the document will be updated to reflect such proposals. Nonmaterial modifications and editorial changes will be underlined, deletions will feature strikethrough text, and material additions will be bold faced. Rationale for proposed changes and comments not part of the rule itself will be indicated in italics. See the UEFL Rules Book for reference.

Rule 1 (Selection of Umpires).

>> 1-2. Each member of the league shall select one two MLB crew chiefs to serve as UEFL crew chiefs.
Rationale: Adds a second crew chief to form a crew of six umpires. (from wwdj2200).

Rule 2 (The Season).
Rule 3 (Crew Division).

Rule 4 (League Scoring).

>> 4-4-h. An umpire whose season is recognized as Most Disappointing Season (min. 0 / max. 1 umpire) will receive -1 bonus points. An umpire may not receive this Award unless nominated by a user in the comments section of the Nominations/Awards discussion with a reason for this recognition.
Rationale: Umpires such as John Hirschbeck and Vic Carapazza have had the ballot box spammed even in years where they justifiably received a playoff assignment. (from Michael).

>> 4-8. Any umpire calling a no-hitter shall receive 3 UEFL points.
Rationale: Just for fun; an umpire having a down season can get a boost. (from Alex Cheriel).

>> 4-9. +1 point shall be given for each game in which an umpire scores 98% or greater in accuracy; -1 point shall be given for each game in which an umpire scores less than 92% in accuracy, pursuant to UmpScorecards metrics.
Rationale: Awards points to more accurate umpires and punishes less accurate umpires, according to the UmpScorecards method of calculating accuracy. (from Stephen Gossman).

Rule 5 (Statistics).

Rule 6 (Challenges and Appeals).

>> 6-2-b-7. Quality of Correctness for an ejection that occurs after umpire consultation or instant replay review, wherein the initial call was changed during or after consultation/review, shall be adjudged by the correctness of the call after consultation/review. Any ejection as a result of a Replay Review decision should be classified QOCU.
Rationale: There are so many scenarios that it is hard to judge "correctness" and distribute points fairly. The umpire who made the original call, the one who made the ejection, and the one who made the replay review are 2 or 3 different people. In the worst cases an on-field umpire receives negative points for an ejection over an incorrect replay review decision. Would remove QOC attribution of +1 (confirmed/upheld) / -1 (overturned) points for Review ejections. (from Alex Cherliel).

>> 6-4-a-5. The Appeals Board shall vote upon matters by casting a vote for "Confirm," "Uphold," "Overturn," "Defer" or "Abstain" (Present). Though a simple majority is required to reverse or defer a decision, a plurality is required to affirm a decision. Decisions shall be determined through the use of a points system in which each Confirm vote is worth +1 point, each Overturn is -1 point, Uphold is +0.5, and Defer/Abstain is +0. After tallying each vote, if the outcome is greater than or equal to zero (0), the Original Ruling shall be Affirmed; if the outcome is less than zero, the Original Ruling shall be Reversed.
Rationale: I have never been comfortable with “confirming” a ruling where NO appeals board member can say they agree with it. Upholds alone cannot IMHO be the basis for a confirmation where there are votes to overturn. A points system should help to prevent this. (from MarkCanada).

Rule 7 (Unresolved Classifications and References).

Rule 8 (Umpire Odds & Ends and Community Issues).

>> 8-1-h. This rule applies to all posters no matter their previous line of employment; these penalties will be enforced without bias.
Rationale: Even-handed enforcement of Guidelines and preservation of a civil atmosphere. (from Znyhusmoen).

Rule 9 (Unaddressed and Authorized Provisions).

2021 UEFL Appeals Board members who will seek re-election for 2022 via the 2021 Rules Summit:
> Lindsay. 2022: Yes (not subject to election), Ex-Officio Member.
> tmac. 2022: Yes (not subject to election), Ex-Officio Member.
> Jeremy. 2022: Yes (not subject to election), Ex-Officio Member.
> RichMSN. 2022: Yes (not subject to election), Ex-Officio Member.
> Arik G. 2022: Yes (will appear on the Rules Summit ballot).
> cyclone14. 2022: Yes (will appear on the Rules Summit ballot).
> MarkCanada. 2022: Yes (will appear on the Rules Summit ballot).
> jvick2017. 2022: Yes (will appear on the Rules Summit ballot).
> Scott C. 2022: Yes (will appear on the Rules Summit ballot).

Thursday, December 9, 2021

2021 Umpire of the Year Award - Pat Hoberg

Pat Hoberg is the UEFL's 2021 Umpire of the Year, voted MLB's best in our annual Awards poll.
Voting: Hoberg (12.2%), Alan Porter (9.5%), Joe West (9.0%), Tripp Gibson & Adam Hamari (7.9%).

Pat Hoberg is the UEFL's 2021 (Best) Umpire of the Year
.

After three consecutive Promising Umpire of the Year awards (2019, 2020, 2021), Pat Hoberg claims the UEFL's Umpire of the Year honors. Hoberg, who has officiated every postseason since first becoming eligible in 2018, including the highest round of each round of the playoffs when first eligible (which would include a Replay Review assignment for the 2021 World Series), finished near the top of MLB's ball/strike chart (and was the league's most accurate umpire, excluding call-ups [John Libka #1, Alex Tosi #2]).

Wrote Russ, "Since he has entered the league Pat Hoberg has been an elite balls/strike caller and base Umpire. He barely even gets noticed most of the time as he just goes out and does his job mostly without incident and does it damn well. The fact that he was lined up to work a Game 4 Plate in just his 5th season is incredible. He's just so good at what he does."

The Iowa-born Hoberg drew a home plate assignment for MLB's Field of Dreams game in Dyersville.

UEFL Awards History, Pat Hoberg
Promising Umpire of the Year: (201920202021)

The Rules Summit will begin Monday, December 13.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

2021 Ejection of the Year - Tom Hallion & Jeremy Riggs

Tom Hallion and Jeremy Riggs produced 2021's Ejections of the Year [2020: Dan Bellino].
Voting: 160 Hallion (12.0%), 101 Riggs (11.4%), 55 Joe West (9.8%), 103 Cory Blaser (7.4%).

Ejection 160 - Tom Hallion (Andy Green)
Tom Hallion's September 3, 2021 ejection of Chicago Cubs acting manager Andy Green after a correctly officiated bona fide slide rule interference no-call received the most votes for the UEFL Ejection of the Year Award.

During the ensuing argument, Hallion stated to Green, "You don't even know what the f* you're talking about. That's what I'm telling you: You don't always know what the f* you're talking about."

As far as final career ejections are concerned, Hallion's could be near the top of the all-time list.

When Jeremy Riggs ejected Mets manager Luis Rojas as New York visited Pittsburgh on July 18, 2021, it brought into focus several key decisions that had to be made in a very short period of time: Riggs' multiple judgment calls on this play included whether the batted ball hit the batter in the box (no), whether the batted ball touched the lead baserunner along the foul line (no), whether or not the runner interfered with the catcher (no), whether the pitcher first touched the batted ball on the infield in fair or foul territory (fair), whether the third base coach interfered with the defense's play on the trailing runner (no), whether the third baseman obstructed the trailing baserunner (no), and whether the ball left the playing field (no).

Replays indicate Riggs' calls were correct while Rojas, apparently not satisfied with Riggs' response, appeared to assault bump the umpire. Perhaps the ejection accomplished its goal, as the Mets came back from a six-run deficit to defeat the Pirates one day after blowing a six-run lead to lose to Pittsburgh, the first time such an event has occurred in MLB history.

Perhaps best of all, this ejection featured commentary by legendary broadcaster Gary Thorne.

UEFL Awards History, Tom Hallion
Crew Chief of the Year: 2021

UEFL Awards History, Jeremy Riggs
None

The final postseason award, (Best) Umpire of the Year, will be released next | Videos as follows: