Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Roster - 2019 Opening Series (Japan) Umpires

MLB sent a crew of five umpires, which includes an onsite replay review umpire, to Tokyo, Japan for the 2019 Opening Series between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics. The crew joined several Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) umpires to officiate the teams' pre-season exhibition games against the Japanese Nippon Fighters and Yomiuri Giants, while the two regular season MLB games will feature a full cadre of MLBU staff officials.

As was the case with the 2014 Dodgers-Diamondbacks Opening Series in Sydney, Australia, the 2019 Japan Opening Series crew is not a full crew for the 2019 regular season. As was the case with the 2018 Dodgers-Padres Mexico Series in Monterrey, the five-umpire crew includes one Replay Official position.

2019 Japan Opening Series Major League Baseball (MLB) Umpires
Jeff Nelson (crew chief): As crew chief, Nelson will have plate duties for Game One of the series.
Bill Welke (backup chief): As the number-two on the crew, Welke will work Game Two's plate.
Lance Barksdale: Lance is Ump 3, and will have base assignments for both contests.
Tripp Gibson & Mike Muchlinski: These two Washington state umpires will take the final field slots.

Japan Series Exhibition Nippon Pro Baseball (NPB) Umpires
Shoji Arisumi (crew chief): Former pitcher ('90-91). Officiated 2014 MLB-Japan All-Star Series.
Shinji Hashimoto: Officiated the 2017 NPB All-Star Game and 2018 Arizona Fall League.
Hideshi Honda: Officiated the 2015 Baseball World Cup and third Nippon Series in 2016.
Tomoya Ishiyama: Officiated the 2018 Nippon Series (Japan Series).
Kota Kawaguchi: Officiated his fifth Japan Series in 2016.
Tetsuo Yamaji: Officiated the 2018 NPB All-Star Game

MLB Ejection S-3 - Alfonso Marquez (1; Carl Edwards Jr)

HP Umpire Alfonso Marquez ejected Cubs pitcher Carl Edwards, Jr. (throwing at Mariners batter Austin Nola; QOCU) in the top of the 6th inning of the Mariners-Cubs game. With one out and none on, Mariners batter Kyle Lewis hit a 0-1 pitch from Edwards for a home run. Following a Tim Lopes fly out, subsequent Mariners batter Nola took a 0-0 pitch from Edwards for a hit-by-pitch, the third hit batsman of the game. Video replays are unavailable, the game was not televised, though it was broadcast on radio, the call was irrecusable.* At the time of the ejection, the Cubs were leading, 5-3. The Cubs ultimately won the contest, 6-4.

This is Alfonso Marquez (72)'s first ejection of 2019 Spring Training.
*Commentary Critique: How does one mispronounce Fonzie's name? See attached audio clip.

This is the third ejection of the 2019 preseason.
This is the 2nd player ejection of 2019 Spring. Prior to ejection, Edwards' line was 0.2 IP, HR, HBP.
This is Chicago's 1st ejection of 2019 Spring, 1st in the Grapefruit League (CHC 1; [All Others] 0).
This is Carl Edwards' first ejection since September 8, 2018 (Gabe Morales; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Alfonso Marquez's first ejection since April 24, 2017 (Jeff Banister; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Seattle Mariners (aren't they in Japan?) vs. Chicago Cubs, 3/19/19 | Audio as follows:

Monday, March 18, 2019

MLB Ejection S-2 - Brennan Miller (1; Miguel Cabrera)

HP Umpire Brennan Miller ejected Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera (strike three call; QOCU) in the bottom of the 6th inning of the Orioles-Tigers game. With two out and none on, Cabrera took a 0-2 pitch from Orioles pitcher Nate Karns for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located around the outer edge of home plate and approximately knee-high; StatCast is unavailable for this Spring Training game (there were no other callable pitches during the at-bat), the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the Orioles were leading, 6-0. The Orioles ultimately won the contest, 11-1.

This is Brennan Miller (-)'s first ejection of Spring 2019.

This is the second ejection of the 2019 preseason.
This is the 1st player ejection of 2019 Spring. Prior to ejection, Cabrera was 1-3 (2 SO) in the contest.
This is Detroit's 1st ejection of 2019 Spring, T-1st in the Grapefruit League (DET, HOU 1).
This is Brennan Miller's first career MLB ejection.
This is Miguel Cabrera's first ejection since August 24, 2017 (Carlos Torres; QOC = U [Fighting]).

Wrap: Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers (Spring Training), 3/18/19 | Video as follows:

Podcast - Episode 11 - Angel, AJ, and Umpire Futures

After Angel Hernandez's high profile Spring Training ejection of Astros Manager AJ Hinch, we put together a Plate Meeting podcast episode to discuss yet another instance of umpire abuse and MLB's decision to suspend the offender for one Spring game. Tmac serves as Gil's featured guest as we discuss baseball's tacit Open Season on Umpires approach to discipline (or lack thereof) in recent times and a possible motivation behind the lax punishment strategy.

An audio Teachable Moment revisits the ejection sequence and considers the different approaches to post-ejection situation handling at the Major League versus NCAA or lower levels.

We also discuss the future of umpiring at professional baseball's highest level, robot umpires, pace of play, and look forward to our upcoming podcast with Jim Joyce.

Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 11 - Angel Hernandez, AJ Hinch, and Umpire Futures" or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting. The Plate Meeting is also available on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and several other podcast apps.

Alternate Link: Episode 11 - Angel Hernandez, AJ Hinch, and Umpire Futures

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:

The Plate Meeting is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship IParamount.

Related Post & VideoMLB Ejection S-1 - Angel Hernandez (1; AJ Hinch) (3/15/19).
Related LabelAngel Hernandez (UEFL History).

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Friday, March 15, 2019

MLB Ejection S-1 - Angel Hernandez (1; AJ Hinch)

HP Umpire Angel Hernandez ejected Astros Manager AJ Hinch (strike one call; QOCU) in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Cardinals-Astros game. With none out and none on, Astros lead-off batter George Springer took a first-pitch fastball from Cardinals pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon for a called first strike. Replays are unavailable for this game, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Astros ultimately won the contest, 5-0.

This is Angel Hernandez (5)'s first ejection of Spring Training 2019.

This is the first ejection of the 2019 preseason.
This is the first Manager ejection of the 2019 preseason.
This is Houston's 1st ejection of 2019 Spring, 1st in the Grapefruit League (HOU 1; All Others 0).
This is AJ Hinch's first ejection since August 31, 2018 (Eric Cooper; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Angel Hernandez's first ejection since June 29, 2018 (Andy Green; QOC = Y [Balk]).

Wrap: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros (Spring Training), 3/15/19 | Video as follows:

Stroman's Timing Experiment and the Illegal Pitch

Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman has experimented with delivery timing in an effort to keep batters and umpires on their toes, and this Spring Training proved no exception as Stroman began his delivery, broke his hands by taking his throwing hand out of his glove without the ball, only to reach back into his glove, grip the baseball, and resume his pitch to the batter.

Marcus Stroman separates his hands early.
With a runner or runners on base, this would clearly result in a balk, as Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(10) states that it is a balk when, "The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base."

But what is the call when there are no runners on base, as was the case this week when Stroman tried the wipe-throwing-hand-on-pants delivery?

And how about if I told you that Stroman has done something very similar before, during the regular season, that nearly caused Paul Nauert to eject him after Nauert pointed out the rules infraction?

The Rules Book: When the Playing Rules Committee restructured the rulebook during a recodification meeting in San Diego on December 10, 2014, the Committee's goal was to better organize the rules of baseball into a more logical or chronological format. Whereas the old system had different rules for The Batter (old Rule 6.00), The Runner (old Rule 7.00), and The Pitcher (old 8.00), the Committee felt this approach problematic because there would be plays that involved both the batter and the pitcher, or other permutation, such that the necessity of jumping around from rule to rule might prove too confusing or convoluted. The Committee wanted to make the code simpler.

2015 diagram of hybrid legality across codes.
The New Analysis: In a way, this approach works, since "standard" baseball plays—how to pitch, how to bat, making an out, scoring a run, etc.—all exist within Playing the Game (Rule 5.00), while infractions exist within Improper Play, Illegal Action, and Misconduct (Rule 6.00).

The wrinkle now is that whereas pitching deliveries in the past would exist entirely within The Pitcher (old OBR 8.00), we now have to reference both the "standard" rule on Pitching (new OBR 5.07) and the modern codification for illegal pitching (new OBR 6.02).

Rule for Pitching Deliveries: New OBR 5.07 references legal pitching deliveries—Windup and Set Positions. It doesn't particularly matter how convoluted Stroman's wacky windup is, or whether he wants to claim set position—hybrid be damned—because both rules contain the same language as to deliveries: "Any natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration."

What's the penalty for failing to complete this action? Either start over, or if it's a habitual problem, go with don't do that. (In other words, OBR does not prescribe a precise penalty.)

Sidebar: OBR's Windup vs Set "hybrid" rule, 5.07(a)(2)—wherein a pitcher with pivot foot parallel to the rubber must declare his intent to pitch from Windup lest he be presumed to be in Set Position—only applies when there are runners on base.
Related PostBalk - Pitcher Blown Off Mound, OBR Adopts Hybrid Rule (5/7/17).

Paul Nauert previously called Stroman's bluff.
That said, Rule 5.07(a)(2) Comment states: "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. See Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment."

But Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment 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."

Analysis: So there you have it. 5.07(a)(2) wants this outlawed if the pitcher delivers the ball in a deliberate effort to catch the batter off guard, BUT 6.02(a)(5) doesn't want this called a quick pitch unless it's delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter's box.

U1 Nelson ejects a pitcher over "don't do that."
So...was the batter reasonably set? Let's assume that the batter sees Stroman violate the tenet of 5.07 in removing his hand without throwing a pitch, and, in turn, steps out of the batter's box.

Would the batter be deemed reasonably set in this case? Is this an illegal pitch/automatic ball, a "Time" call (similar in theory to "the batter cannot cause a balk/starting from scratch"), or otherwise? What if the batter stepped out of the box, thinking that Stroman had simply stopped his expected delivery?

As we learned from Jeff Nelson in July 2018, pitchers don't always take too kindly to a "don't do that" instruction. 1B Umpire Nelson ejected Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson for arguing a 5.07(a) "do not do that" command. Again, the rule doesn't exactly carry a definitive one-size-fits-all penalty for violating the code, but Hudson's maneuver still violated a rule.
Related PostMLB Ejection 087 - Jeff Nelson (2; Daniel Hudson) (7/4/18).

Nauert granted McCann's request for "Time."
Precedent: In July 2017, HP Umpire Paul Nauert called "Time" at the behest of Astros batter Brian McCann when McCann, alert to the fact that Stroman had violated 5.07(a) regarding the requirement that a pitcher pitch without interruption or alteration, requested "Time" when Stroman completed a fake leg pump and paused without delivering the ball, leading to protestation from Stroman, angry that Nauert granted "Time" to a batter thrown off by Stroman's attempt to circumvent the rule.

No ejections resulted, but just like Nelson and Hudson, Nauert-Stroman goes to show that there can be game management ramifications for a rulebook that allows pitchers to routinely circumvent the delivery regulations with little-to-no penalty for deviation.
Related PostDead Ball - Stroman's Start-Stop and Contested Time Call (7/8/17).

What happens when both players break a rule?
OBR 5.04(b)(2) states that, "Umpires will not call 'Time' at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position," but Rule 5.07(a) also states that a pitcher is obligated to pitch "without interruption or alteration" once he has started his natural movement associated with delivery.

What's the penalty when both the pitcher and batter have violated?

OBR 5.04(b)(2) Comment goes on to say, "If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a 'set position' with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has inadvertently caused the pitcher to interrupt his delivery, it shall not be called a balk. Both the pitcher and batter have violated a rule and the umpire shall call time and both the batter and pitcher start over from 'scratch.'"
Related PostStarting From Scratch - Batter Disrupts Pitcher's Delivery (6/29/17).

Video as follows:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

MLB Rule Changes Announced for 2019, 2020

MLB and the Players Association announced rule changes for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, including a mound visit limit reduction, new All-Star Game and trade deadline procedures, expansion of the active roster, and a minimum number of batters for pitchers.

Commissioner Rob Manfred brought change.
The full list of changes for the 2019 season is as follows:
> Inning breaks are reduced to 2-minutes flat in length.
> Mound visits are limited to five (down from six).
> Trade waivers eliminated; only one deadline: July 31.
> All-Star Game voting changes are TBD.
> > ASG will use the runner-on-2B extra inning tiebreaker.
> Home Run Derby winner will receive $1 million.

The full list of changes for the 2020 season is as follows:
> Active rosters increased from 25 to 26 players.
> 40-man active roster limit in September is eliminated.
>> 28 players shall be carried on the Sept active roster.
> An MLB-MLBPA joint committee will determine the maximum number of pitchers that may appear on an active roster. Only these players will be eligible to pitch unless the game goes into extra innings and/or the score differential is six runs or more.
> A pitcher's minimum time on the injured list shall increase from 10 to 15 days.
> MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's Office will change OBR 5.10(g) to require that all pitchers must pitch to a minimum of three batters or until the end of a half-inning, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Vigilant Kellogg Eyes a Spring Hidden Ball Trick

Official Baseball Rule 8.00 concludes with General Instructions to Umpires, including guidelines for where an umpire should and should not go, what an umpire should and shouldn't do, and a review of the umpire's primary responsibility: to be in position to see every play.

A hidden ball trick in the Spring.
Sure, a byproduct of following umpiring's #1 golden rule is to get the call right, but even the rulebook itself acknowledges that baseball is a game officiated by humans: "Most important rule for umpires is always 'BE IN POSITION TO SEE EVERY PLAY'" - in all-caps, just like that. Again, the most important rule is not to get the call right, but to be in position to officiate.

The General Instructions also bring us to a Spring Training hidden ball trick, where 1B Umpire Jeff Kellogg teaches us that it's never too early to see something unusual. The hidden ball trick is, well, not exactly a trick, but a hope that the offensive team loses track of where the ball is, all while the ball remains alive and in play.

We've discussed restrictions about the hidden ball trick before (namely Rule 6.02(a)(9)'s prohibition that the pitcher cannot "stand on or astride the pitcher's plate" without the ball - in 2017, MiLB Umpire Ryan Wilhelms ejected Buies Creek Manager Omar Lopez over such an "on or astride" debate), but Kellogg's is rather simple, and touches on another key aspect of the General Instructions: "Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play."
Related PostMiLB - Wilhelms Ejects Lopez on Hidden Ball Trick Play (5/4/17).

Angel Hernandez calls Juan Uribe out.
SIDEBAR: This play is similar to the August 10, 2013 play wherein Rays infielder Evan Longoria took custody of a baseball after a sacrifice fly and, while the ball remained live, walked behind third base where Dodgers runner Juan Uribe casually chatted with 3B Coach Tim Wallach. As soon as Uribe took his foot off the base, Longoria tagged him with the ball and 3B Umpire Angel Hernandez, having kept his eye everlastingly on the ball, called Uribe out. The play even fooled the FOX Sports broadcaster Eric Karros, who initially posited the crew had made a "bad call" on a leaving-early appeal, before returning from commercial break and complimenting Hernandez for his "great job" in calling Uribe out.
Related Video: Juan Uribe falls victim to trick as 3B Umpire Angel Hernandez stays alert (8/10/13).

Kellogg's Spring Play: After receiving a pickoff throw, first baseman Miguel Cabrera fakes a throw back to the pitcher while baserunner R1 Ehire Adrianza rises to dust himself off, having slid safely back into first base on the initial throw. As soon as Adrianza steps off the base, Cabrera applies the tag, Kellogg - who has been watching the entire time, as he should - calls the runner out, and the hidden ball illusion is complete.

Video as follows:

Monday, March 11, 2019

Top 15 MLB Hothead Managers by Ejection Frequency

We've published the Top 10 MLB Hothead Players by Ejection Frequency, so now it's time to list the Top 15 Hothead Managers in Major League Baseball. Once again, the umpire sabermetric value Games Per Ejection (GPE) will be used to determine the most frequently ejected skippers in the game.

As we used David Ortiz's 175 GPE for the players' benchmark, we will use all-time managerial ejections leader Bobby Cox's mark of 161 ejections over 4,501 regular season + 136 postseason games, or 29 GPE as our basis for illustration.

Perhaps, however, the more apropos comparison for Cox's notably incessant managerial GPE of 29 is Milton Bradley's GPE of one ejection for every 55 games played.
Related PostDetermining The League's Biggest Hothead (It's Big Papi) (6/11/15).

Rick Renteria is the most-frequent skip ejectee.
Here are the results for the ten most-frequently ejected active managers (minimum 300 games managed). Because managing a team is very different from playing on one, we'll only include data from a person's time as a bona fide manager of a major league ball club. You can also click each skipper's name that appears in the accompanying table for that individual's UEFL ejection report history.

Note that the language used—Hothead Manager—is meant as a consistent title in concert with our Hothead Players feature. Many times, however, a manager—such as Cox—would be ejected not because of a "hothead" reason, but in order to protect a player, who might instead be the true "hothead."

Legend and Definitions
Ejection Rate: Measured in Games-Per-Ejection (GPE).
GPE: Games played divided by their ejections.
EPS: Ejections per Season, based on 162 GP.

Active MLB Managers with Highest Ejection Frequency
#Player NameGames Per Ejection
Ejections Per Season
(EPS [E/GP*162])
1Rick Renteria276.05
2Ron Gardenhire295.53
3Joe Maddon404.05
4Brad Ausmus404.02
5Clint Hurdle413.96
6Don Mattingly453.63
7Brian Snitker503.25
8Craig Counsell523.18
9Bruce Bochy523.10
10Andy Green543.00
11Ned Yost552.92
12Bob Melvin562.89
13AJ Hinch572.83
14Bud Black582.79
15Terry Francona692.35
15Scott Servais692.33

To summarize:
> Alex Cora (81 GPE and 1.00 EPS), Aaron Boone (54 GPE and 1.50 EPS), and Mike Shildt (35 GPE and 4.70 EPS) didn't make the table because they had too few games of managerial experience.
> Joe Torre (65 GPE and 2.49 EPS), Joe Girardi (48 GPE and 3.37 EPS), and John Gibbons (30 GPE and 5.32 EPS) didn't make the table because they are no longer active managers.

Friday, March 8, 2019

MLB Posts Atlantic League Rules, Including Robot Ump

Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League announced a finalized list of experimental rules changes MLB will test in the AL, including the computer-assisted home plate umpire strike zone feature discussed earlier. Pitcher mound visits will go to zero, bases will get wider, and infielder-based defensive shifts will be banned in some of the other rule changes.

It's official: Computers are coming to ALPB.
In February, we first learned of MLB's partnership with the independent ALPB when the pair of professional baseball leagues published a joint press release.

At the time, I wrote that the move benefits MLB because it allows the highest level of baseball to test realistic and off-the-wall rules changes alike in an environment that features professional players, but is not subject to the confines of affiliated ball or the MLB Players Association.

For the Atlantic League, the move gives the league exposure, access to MLB's computer tracking software with a direct link to MLB scouts, and could potentially attract more talent to the ALPB, as the indy league hopes to open a pipeline to the MiLB draft and then-some. In short, MLB gets its sandbox while ALPB gets to sell itself as a partner of Major League Baseball.
Related PostMLB Taps Atlantic League for Reported Robot Ump Test (2/27/19).

Say goodbye to mound visits while you're at it.
Last time out, we wrote that MLB is looking to change—expansion, electronic zones, etc.—and that this partnership is an offer that ALPB can hardly afford to pass on, especially knowing that if it doesn't partner with affiliated ball, some other indy league will.

The top billed change—the electronic strike zone—will take the form of "assistance," as in the plate umpire will be "assisted" by the radar-based TrackMan PitchCast in calling balls and strikes. Naturally, and probably intentionally, the press release remains vague about what MLB/ALPB means by "assisted." Will players still be able to blame umpires since they're still in command or is this language just meant to placate egos?

As we said before, this will probably result in a lot more strikes on edge pitches—the "funny" ones.

The full list of rules changes MLB will test in the Atlantic League include:
  1. TrackMan will assist the home plate umpire in calling balls and strikes;
  2. No mound visits will be permitted other than in an actual pitching change or medical purpose;
  3. Pitchers must face at least three batters or end an inning before being replaced;
  4. 1B, 2B, and 3B will be increased in size from 15-inches square to 18-inches square;
  5. Institutes requirement that two infielders stand on each side of second base at time-of-pitch;
  6. Reduce time between innings and pitching changes from 2:05 to 1:45, a 20-second decrease;
  7. For 2nd half of season, extend distance between home plate and pitching rubber by 24 inches.
Gil's Call, Quick Takes:
  1. How many times do we have to say that circa-2019 electronic strike zones are flawed?
  2. MLB has already limited mound visits, so this move will test game impact by their elimination.
  3. This was a 2019 MLB rule change proposal that went nowhere...so it'll be tested in the ALPB.
  4. Lessens the likelihood of collision between runner and fielder (unless Manny Machado plays).
  5. There has been talk of MLB looking to eliminate defensive shifts and this rule is a test of that.
  6. Without directly saying "what happens if we get rid of one commercial break," this is that.
  7. This will give pitchers more chance to spin the ball while giving batters a split second to react.
According to MLB Senior Vice President of League Economics and Operations, MLB hopes to see the rule changes create more balls in play, defensive action, baserunning, and improved player safety."

This is the first of a three-season MLB and ALPB partnership.