Saturday, October 20, 2018

Greg Gibson follows West with Near-Perfecto in NLCS

Greg Gibson capped off Game 7 of the Dodgers-Brewers National League Championship Series with a 99.3% score behind home plate, echoing umpire Joe West's similar near-perfect feat in the ALCS earlier in the week. Gibson saw 142 callable pitches and missed just one of them, making Gibson and West the only two umpires in UEFL postseason history to call games with just one pitch in error.

Had West not achieved his 159-of-160 (99.4%) game in Game 3 of the ALCS in Houston, Gibson's mark would have set a UEFL record; as it stands, Gibson finds himself in second place behind West, having seen 18 less pitches than West (141/142 = 99.3%).
Related PostJoe West Sets % Record in Near-Perfect Game in ALCS (10/16/18).

Gibson did set a new record, however, for longest consecutive innings of perfection; he took a perfect score into the bottom of the 9th inning Saturday night at Miller Park, where only a Clayton Kershaw 1-0 offering to Brewers batter Jesus Aguilar, who ultimately struck out swinging, stood in the way of numerical exactitude. Kershaw's 1-0 pitch, ruled a strike, was located just one tenth of an inch outside of the borderline range.

The NLCS has been the only series, other than the one-off Wild Card Games, to go the distance thus far in the 2018 postseason, and Gibson therefore has been the only umpire to officiate a winner-take-all game for a multi-game series (e.g., Division Series and League Championship Series rounds). In such a pivotal game, though the playing score may not have dictated its importance, it speaks well that the most statistically accurate umpiring plate performance of the series belonged to its Game 7 umpire.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Discussion of 2018 AL and NL Championship Series

Join us for discussion of the 2018 American League and National League Championship Series.

Umpires Scott Barry (NL, LAD@MIL) and James Hoye (AL, HOU@BOS) are game one plate umpires; Gerry Davis (NLCS) and Joe West (ALCS) are umpire crew chiefs.
Related2018 League Championship Series Umpires (10/11/18).

Home plate umpire performance is listed following the completion of each contest according to UEFL f/x (Statcast/pitch f/x data and application of UEFL Rules 6-2-b-a [horizontal bound, "Kulpa Rule"] and 6-2-b-b [vertical strike zone, "Miller Rule"]). Fouls, swinging strikes, balls batted into play, and hit-by-pitches are excluded from the analysis. Pitch plot/graphics are included via the "pfx" link for illustrative purposes only.
Related PostUEFL f/x vs K-Zone and the Player-Umpire Disconnect (How #s work) (10/4/18).

- 10/12 LAD@MIL Gm 1: Scott Barry: pfx. 110/112 Balls + 43/48 Strikes = 153/160 = 95.6%. +1 MIL.

- 10/13 LAD@MIL Gm 2: Alan Porter: pfx. 101/101 Balls + 45/48 Strikes = 146/149 = 98.0%. +1 LAD.
- 10/13 HOU@BOS Gm 1: James Hoye: pfx. 136/137 Balls + 61/67 Strikes = 197/204 = 96.6%. +3 HOU.

- 10/14 HOU@BOS Gm 2: Vic Carapazza: pfx. 107/108 Balls + 43/47 Strikes = 150/155 = 96.8%. +3 HOU.

- 10/15 MIL@LAD Gm 3: Gerry Davis: pfx. 87/91 Balls + 47/50 Strikes = 134/141 = 95.0%. +1 MIL.

- 10/16 BOS@HOU Gm 3: Joe West: pfx. 105/105 Balls + 54/55 Strikes = 159/160 = 99.4%. +1 BOS.
- 10/16 MIL@LAD Gm 4: Hunter Wendelstedt: pfx. 130/131 Balls + 57/62 Strikes = 187/193 = 96.9%. +0 Nu.

- 10/17 MIL@LAD Gm 5: Jim Wolf: pfx. 83/84 Balls + 45/48 Strikes = 128/132 = 97.0%. +0 Nu.
- 10/17 BOS@HOU Gm 4: Mark Carlson: pfx. 130/130 Balls + 58/61 Strikes = 188/191 = 98.4%. +1 BOS.

- 10/18 BOS@HOU Gm 5: Chris Guccione: pfx. 84/85 Balls + 43/47 Strikes = 127/132 = 96.2%. +1 BOS.
Series Complete (ALCS BOS Over HOU 4-1): 821/842 = 97.5%. Net Skew +3 HOU.

- 10/19 LAD@MIL Gm 6: Brian Gorman: pfx. 110/111 Balls + 44/51 Strikes = 154/162 = 95.1%. +0 Nu.
- 10/20 LAD@MIL Gm 7*: Greg Gibson: pfx. 87/87 Balls + 54/55 Strikes = 141/142 = 99.3%. +1 LA.
Series Complete (NLCS LAD Over MIL 4-3): 1043/1079 = 96.7%. Net Skew +0 Neutral.

Note: The highest plate score during the 2017 AL/NLCS was Chad Fairchild's 97.4% (ALCS Gm 1).
The highest plate score during the 2017 Postseason was Chad Fairchild's 97.4% (ALCS Gm 1).
The highest plate score during the 2018 Postseason, thus far, was Jim Wolf's 98.8% (AL WC Gm).

Live Blog: Join the CCS Crew LIVE for postseason discussion and analysis (requires Java):

Froemming - Machado Should Have Been Ejected

Former 37-year MLB umpire Bruce Froemming, who has officiated the third-most postseason games behind Gerry Davis (NLCS) and Joe West (ALCS), admitted he was "disappointed" that Davis' crew failed to eject Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado Tuesday night for kicking Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, or otherwise impose on-field discipline or communication as to address Machado's unsporting conduct.
Related PostA Kick Too Far? Manny Machado's History of Misconduct (10/17/18).

Froemming said he would have tossed Manny.
Froemming would know—he and Jerry Crawford are tied for the most National League Championship Series appearances of all-time with 10 NLCS assignments. He, West, and Klem are also the only three Major League umpires with more than 5,000 games of regular season experience (Froemming worked 5,163).

In an interview with Milwaukee's WTMJ-4, Froemming said, "I was disappointed to be honest about it...you didn't see anything done," and told the local news outlet that if he had been on the field, Machado would have been ejected, but, ever-true to the educational role associated with a name that once shared a place with Joe Brinkman atop the "Brinkman-Froemming Umpire School" name, turned his condemnation and dismay into a teachable moment:
It was flagrant and as an official, it's your job to protect the other players and what he did with Aguilar was uncalled for...For trying to hurt another individual you could eject them, absolutely. 
After his retirement from on-field officiating, Froemming joined MLB's Umpiring Department in 2008 as a Special Assistant to the Vice President (at the time, VP of Umpiring Mike Port, until that position was eliminated). Froemming's last season in the position was 2016 and the present VPs of record that oversee umpires are Peter Woodfork (Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations) and, naturally, Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre (formerly Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations). More on the umpiring department's current supervisory structure and the former role held by then-disciplinarian Joe Garagiola at the following link.
Related PostCC Meta Game - Is Open Season on Umpires MLB Ploy? (10/10/18).

MLB opted to fine Machado $10,000 for his actions. With Machado earning $16 million in 2018, this $10,000 fine represents 0.0625% of Machado's yearly wage (prior to endorsements). In other words, for a person earning a $50,000 annual income, a 0.0625% fine corresponds to a financial penalty of $31.25.

As we've stated several times, fines alone are fairly meaningless to players already drawing exorbitant salaries. As Carlos Gomez said last month, "If they want to fine me, it's fine. I'm rich."
Related PostFined - Carlos Gomez to Appeal Financial Penalty (9/25/18).

Plate Meeting Podcast 6M - A Postseason with Bob D

In this sixth episode of The Plate Meeting, a LF Umpire Podcast from Close Call Sports, Bob Davidson joins us for a postseason discussion about umpire Joe West's historic ALCS plate, Angel Hernandez's bounce-back ALDS Game 4 after three overturned calls during Game 3, Brian Knight's untimely foot injury, and, of course, a few umpiring stories along the way.

Click the below "play" button to hear Episode 6 - West Nears Perfection and Postseason Musings with Bob Davidson, or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting to subscribe. The Plate Meeting is also available through the iTunes store's podcasts section (The Plate Meeting on iTunes), Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and other podcast providers listed on the Anchor.fm page.

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:
The following section contains relevant links, footnotes, or additional commentary relative to subjects discussed on the show. Click the following links for this episode to access the relevant videos.

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


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Related LinkJoe West Sets % Record in Near-Perfect Game in ALCS (10/16/18).

West's Upheld Fan Interference Call is Growth Opportunity

MLB's problem Wednesday night was not that RF Umpire Joe West ruled Astros batter Jose Altuve out for spectator interference against Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, it's that replay couldn't produce ample video evidence with which to review the call with any meaningful level of conclusiveness. West's call stood, and, right or not, it speaks to a technological shortcoming to one extreme puts all of baseball's video engineers on notice, while, to the other extreme, begs the question, "why even have replay at all?"

Did a fan interfere with Betts in Houston?
The Play: With one out and one on (R1), Astros batter Altuve hit a 2-1 fastball from Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello to deep right field, where Boston' Betts jumped at the wall in an attempt to catch Altuve's fly ball, and, in doing so, made contact with fans similarly attempting to catch the batted ball.

The Call: RF Umpire West ruled the play not simply spectator interference, but specifically interference with a fielder whose opportunity to catch a batted ball was prevented. Accordingly, West enforced the prescribed penalty of nullifying the act by declaring Altuve out and placing baserunner Springer back at first base. Upon Replay Review, West's call stood; instead of a potential two-run home run, Houston did not score a single run during the inning. Naturally, Houston lost the game by two runs.

SIDEBAR: This isn't West's first fan interference out rodeo. On September 4, 2011, West ejected Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel for arguing an instant replay ruling that resulted in a fan interference out call in right field when Florida fans similarly interfered with the fielder's ability to catch a live ball.
Related VideoWest ejects Manuel for arguing fan interference on Pence's fly ball (9/4/11).

The Rule: By now, we all know that "spectator interference occurs when a spectator (or an object thrown by the spectator) hinders a player’s attempt to make a play on a live ball, by going onto the playing field, or reaching out of the stands and over the playing field" (and 6.01(e)'s approved ruling, "If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out").

Diagram depicting where a fan may legally be.
Precedent: And from our repository of fan interference discussions, we know that the playing field area is considered everything from the base of the padding on the outfield wall extended vertically upward. If the fan remains on the spectator side of this plane, there is no interference. if the fan breaches this plane—even by a fingernail—and subsequently hinder's a player's attempt to make a play on a live ball, then this illegal act qualifies as interference.

Now, I'd like to point out one key piece of information, regardless of West's call. Notice the annotated interference diagram, taken from a Padres-Rockies game earlier this season. Notice anything interesting, as compared to what we saw in Houston Wednesday night?

Is this really a useful angle for this play?
All About The Angle: In Colorado, during the regular season, we were treated to a camera angle fairly perpendicular to the relative boundary plane for this play. We're essentially looking "down the line" so to speak such that we can better determine whether the fan was on the legal (right) or illegal (left) side of the boundary plane.

In Houston, during the penultimate round of the postseason, we had absolutely no broadcast footage of a camera along the fence-line. Instead, we're treated to competing views taken from across the playing field such that judging depth becomes a most improbable task.

In comparing Wednesday's Houston play to 2011's Florida play, the biggest help to West in 2011 was that the fans reached below the height of the wall. Had the fans remained above the height of the wall, a similar angle confoundment may have occurred.

How far is this fan reaching past the wall?
Physically and visually, the higher atop the wall the fans reach, the more difficult it is to discern whether or not their arms or hands have broken the boundary plane. It goes without saying that the plane extends vertically upward an infinite distance; if a stadium was so designed, a fan sitting in the front row of the second deck could potentially commit spectator interference. And speaking of stadium design...why even have fans in a position to interfere at all? But that's another topic for another day.

For an example of this version of parallax, consider this August 2017 play from AT&T Park where a fan reached to catch a batted ball.

The fan's arm overhangs the green roof.
Ground rules aside (in San Francisco, the rule is "home run" if the ball lands on any fair part of the green metal roof, making right field at AT&T Park one of the easiest situations to officiate as fan interference is highly unlikely to occur except as it relates to fair/foul), the spectator is clearly reaching above the green metal roof, and by at least a half-arm's length. It's difficult to tell, and not at all clear nor convincing from the first angle taken from what looks to be foul territory behind home plate or first base.

The only predictable part about this play, given the replays provided, was that it resulted in a "call stands" outcome. There is absolutely no way that Replay Official James Hoye could realistically, conclusively, or convincingly find enough evidence to confirm or overturn West's on-field ruling based on the poor angles given.

In the postseason, if baseball wants replay to work, the sport has to do better. Otherwise, get rid of it.

SIDEBAR: Houston last fell prey to a spectator interference air out after Replay Review on July 25, 2018, at Coors Field.
Related PostFact Check - Bregman's Fan Interference Out (7/26/18).

Video as follows:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Kick Too Far? Manny Machado's History of Misconduct

According to our Twitter poll, Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado should have been ejected for kicking at Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar during Game 4 of the NLCS, producing a bench-clearing incident (71%-29%, 220 votes). Naturally, Machado, who was not ejected, scored the winning run for Los Angeles in the Murphy's Law principle of umpiring that, naturally, that's the player who ends up being the difference maker in an extra inning ballgame.

Manny Machado kicked at Jesus Aguilar's leg.
Let's recap what happened with Machado and Aguilar Tuesday night, look at some postgame reaction from Milwaukee's clubhouse, talk potential retaliation, and discuss Manny's history of MLB misconduct.

The Play: With one out and none on in the top of the 10th inning of Tuesday's Brewers-Dodgers game, Machado hit a ground ball to Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia, who threw to first baseman Aguilar prior to Machado's arrival for the second out of the inning. Following the out, as Machado ran through the base, his left foot made contact with Aguilar's right ankle, resulting in a bench-clearing incident during which no further penalties were assessed.

Quick Analysis: After recording the out, Aguilar keeps his foot on and overhanging the field-facing side of first base. Machado, who previously was criticized for not running out batted balls, runs through the base and kicks at Aguilar on his way by. Replays indicate that as he crosses first base, Machado's left leg is positioned over the infield dirt rather than the base itself. Meanwhile, his right foot steps atop the base several inches from the foul-facing edge of the bag. After running through the base, Machado veers into fair territory and the benches clear. This suggests intent to me, since the slew-foot contact was avoidable due to unimpeded access to the foul side of first base following an already-decided play, but your mileage may vary.

SIDEBAR: I used the term "slew-foot contact" for an illustrative reason. In hockey, for instance, slew footing is such a severe infraction that it is an automatic match penalty—auto-ejection plus suspension and referral to the Department of Player Safety for further review and potential supplemental discipline. That's how severe slew-footing is on the ice. On land, it may be less severe, but it should be no less unsporting.

Consequence: Machado scored the winning run for LA in the 13th. Naturally, he wouldn't have been able to do so had he been ejected in the 10th (which, naturally, isn't to say that LA wouldn't have won).

Machado's path through first base.
Post-Game: Perhaps fitting for an MVP candidate, Milwaukee's Christian Yelich called Machado out after the game as a "dirty player" while Machado dismissed the incident as "trying to get over him...If that's dirty, that's dirty, I don't know, call it what you want."

Retaliation: Postseason retaliation is rare due to the risk of suspension and the heightened importance of every game. Even if a free baserunner proves inconsequential due to a lopsided score, the risk of suspension during the playoff period makes retaliation unappealing. Many teams instead opt to carry over the retaliation to the next season (see Noah Syndergaard's ejection for throwing at Dodgers batter Chase Utley). Complicating matters here is that Machado will likely not be a Dodger next year. Will the Brewers retaliate against the player, the team, or no one at all?
Related PostRevisiting the Situation - Tom Hallion & Terry Collins (6/13/18).

Machado's illegal slide into second base.
Machado's History - 2018 NLCS: You don't have to go that far back to find another incident of Machado's misconduct (not including Machado yelling at HP Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt earlier in Game 4). On Monday during Game 3, Machado slid twice to break up a double play, the second of which prompted a Brewers challenge resulting in an overturned call. Both times, the Brewers complained about Machado purportedly raising his right arm to grab at a Milwaukee middle infielder; the second, when Manager Craig Counsell successfully challenged 2B Umpire Jim Wolf's "no violation" call, Milwaukee also believed that Machado went out of his way to initiate physical contact with his lower body, making no attempt to reach or remain on second base. Wolf was the first base umpire for the Aguilar cleating on Tuesday night.

Brawl after Machado threw his bat at a fielder.
Machado's History - League-Wide: Manny Machado has been ejected five times over the course of his Major League career, including two times for fighting. In 2014, Machado threw his bat into fair territory with such force that it rolled all the way to 3B Umpire Angel Hernandez, who stepped in front of the bat to stop it from rolling further into left field. Machado had purportedly been upset at an inside pitch earlier during the at-bat.

Machado charges the mound in Baltimore.
In 2016, Machado charged the mound during a game against Kansas City after he was hit by a Yordano Ventura fastball; Ventura was ejected from the game for throwing at Machado and Machado was ejected for fighting.

Machado also was cited for a hard slide through second base against Boston in 2017 when he spiked Red Sox middle infielder Dustin Pedroia in his left calf, which was positioned past second base (the fielder's protected area in NCAA ball) and also threw his helmet at A's third baseman Josh Donaldson after Donaldson tagged him out between second and third base.
Related LinkClose Call Sports history for Manny Machado.

Dustin Pedroia is injured by Machado's slide.
The Pedroia play, for what it's worth, brought to light MLB's interpretation that because Pedroia didn't throw to first base, the play was not subject to interference. After a considerable delay during which Manager John Farrell argued the call with Crew Chief Wendelstedt, ultimately resulting in a trip to the replay station (likely to confirm to the umpires that the play was not subject to an interference ruling due to the umpire's determination that the downed Pedroia didn't attempt to throw to first base) and Pedroia left the game due to injury as a result of Machado's slide, 3B Umpire Alan Porter ejected Red Sox 3B Coach Brian Butterfield for continuing to argue the events of this play.
Related PostMLB Ejection 010 - Alan Porter (3; Brian Butterfield) (4/21/17).
Related PostTmac's Teachable - Slide Review and Replay, Too (9/27/18).

Conclusion: The Official Baseball Rules leave umpires great leeway to eject players for "unsportsmanlike conduct." MLB, meanwhile, instructs umpires to be more lenient during the postseason in order to ensure that important players stay in the game and championship outcomes are not affected by the loss of a superstar. The only consideration is whether such laxness gives credence to Ashley Jade's summation from Blame it on the Pain, "Because sometimes in life, sweetheart. The bad guys win."

Video as follows:

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Joe West Sets % Record in Near-Perfect Game in ALCS

MLB's senior umpire, ALCS Crew Chief Joe West, fell one pitch shy of perfection in Game 3, correctly judging 159 of 160 callable pitches for a plate accuracy score of 99.4% as Boston's Red Sox defeated Houston's Astros. West's score sets a UEFL record, as this is the first time our system has ever tracked an umpire missing just one pitch during a postseason game.

West's 99.4% plate performance was tracked as part of the Close Call Sports & Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's usual postseason discussion and analysis and is the highest UEFL-f/x score ever recorded for the postseason, defeating previous record-holder Jim Wolf's 98.8%, set during the 2018 American League Wild Card Game, when Wolf called 160 of 162 pitches correctly during New York's victory over Oakland.
Related PostDiscussion of 2018 AL and NL Championship Series (10/16/18).
Related PostDiscussion of 2018 AL and NL Wild Card Games (10/2/18).

Sidebar: For more on UEFL f/x and how we calculate umpire plate performance statistics, refer to...
Related PostUEFL f/x vs K-Zone and the Player-Umpire Disconnect (10/4/18).

As has been discussed often since pitch tracking technology was introduced to assist the umpires in identifying trends and tendencies—ultimately as an educational tool—umpires have continually been getting better at calling balls and strikes. Prior to Wolf's 98.8% (160/162) in the AL Wild Card Game, the highest postseason score recorded here was Jeff Nelson's 98.7% (147/149) during Game 5 of the 2011 ALCS.

Similar scores include 98.6%, from Game 2 of the 2016 ALCS, also by Wolf. Before that, it was Paul Emmel's 98.5% NLCS Game 4 score in 2015, which eclipsed Dan Iassogna's 98.4% earlier in the day during Game 5 of the 2015 ALCS, which outranked Greg Gibson's 98.3% during Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS, and so forth.

During this 2018 postseason, through Game 3 of the ALCS, the following umpires have performed at at least the 98% level behind home plate:

2018 Wild Card Round
AL Wild Card Game - Jim Wolf - 160/162 = 98.8%.

2018 Division Series
ALDS Game 2 - Chad Fairchild - 122/124 = 98.4%.
NLDS Game 3 - Ted Barrett - 146/148 = 98.6%.
ALDS Game 4 - Angel Hernandez - 145/148 = 98.0%.

2018 League Championship Series
NLCS Game 2 - Alan Porter - 146/149 = 98.0%.
ALCS Game 3 - Joe West - 149/150 = 99.5%. *UEFL record.

Yes, I would say that umpires are indeed getting better and have the wherewith-all to ball and strike pitches as appropriate, within the confines of the rule book, with fair play first and foremost at hand.

BY THE WAY...What was the one call that West missed anyway? It was a seventh-inning 2-0 pitch from Red Sox pitcher Ryan Brasier to Astros batter Tony Kemp, ruled strike one, and located about 1.08 horizontal inches from, as they say, perfection. Kemp ultimately lined out to Andrew Benintendi to conclude his at-bat—West was perfect for the 113 pitches prior to and the 46 following "strike one." In general, 2-0 and 3-0 pitches located near the outside edge of home plate can be particularly dangerous for umpires, who statistically are more likely to call strikes during those counts. In West's case, it was just over an inch away. That's less than half of a baseball.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Trenton's Team - Eddings Meets 7-Year Old Fan

MLB umpire Doug Eddings returned to his Las Cruces, New Mexico home after his Braves-Dodgers NL Division Series and met with a young fan from the area. Seven-year-old Trenton Garrison has complex congenital heart disease and can't play baseball, so he started following umpires.

Trenton's family lives in Albuquerque, reports KTSM, and traveled to Las Cruces for a baseball tournament just as Eddings returned from Atlanta. The Garrisons met Eddings at his home, where Doug gave Trenton several gifts, including hats, shirts, and other game-used gear from the 2018 NLDS.

But before Trenton left, Eddings had one last piece of advice for the aspiring umpire:

"When people ask you if you can count, tell them, 'only to three'...We like strikeouts, not walks."

Video as follows:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Non-Review - West ALCS Crew's Infield Fair/Foul Overturn

After HP Umpire Vic Carapazza ruled a fair ball and out on Red Sox batter Jackie Bradley's batted ball in front of home plate, fielded by Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, during Game 2 of the Houston-Boston ALCS, chief Joe West's crew initiated Replay Review and overturned the apparently non-reviewable call following a conversation with Replay Official Bill Miller, Replay Assistant Paul Nauert, and, undoubtedly, a handful of replay and umpiring supervisors at MLBAM headquarters.

Joe West got the call right, but incorrectly?
With fair/foul balls in front of home plate not subject to Replay Review, how did West and crew legally reverse Carapazza's initial ruling, is this common sense and fair play, should MLB change its replay rules, and which member of West's crew stepped up and put on a master class in situation handling?

History, West's Replays at Home: It turns out that this isn't West's first time conducting a Rules Check on a batted ball that hit a batter in front of home plate—and just like Sunday, West's prior fair/foul batted ball rules check concerned a play deemed not reviewable. The only procedural difference was that the first time around, the home plate umpire's original ruling of "fair, out" stood. Obviously, Carapazza's original "fair, out" ruling Sunday night was changed to "foul ball."

West talks to Phillies skipper Pete Mackanin.
On May 14, 2017, HP Umpire Andy Fletcher ruled Phillies batter Cesar Hernandez out after he ran into his own bunted ball outside of the batter's box, a pretty standard call. Philadelphia wanted to challenge the umpire's judgment that the batter made contact with the batted ball outside of the batter's box, the umpires went to the headsets and returned with a "non-reviewable" verdict, meaning the out call stood. Washington's field microphones then picked up audio of West telling Mackanin that the play was not reviewable and, accordingly, that Philadelphia had not been charged a Manager's Challenge for the conversation with Replay HQ.
Related VideoPHI@WSH: Hernandez out after rules check (5/14/17).

The Baseball Rule: Both the Hernandez and Bradley plays refer to the same rule, which Boston's Bradley satisfied but Philadelphia's Hernandez did not: "If the batter is in a legal position in the batter’s box, see Rule 5.04(b)(5), and, in the umpire’s judgment, there was no intention to interfere with the course of the ball, a batted ball that strikes the batter or his bat shall be ruled a foul ball" (OBR 5.09(a)(7)).

Crews can always get together to get it right.
Umpire Conference and Replay Review: Ok, so Carapazza's original ruling that Bradley was out was incorrect, but umpires are not legally allowed to consult video. During the ensuing consultation, West gathered the crew's input and headed to the replay headsets. After an extended delay, West removed his headset and signaled the play a foul ball. There really is very little, other than Rule 5.09(a)(7) and perhaps 5.04(b)(5), regarding legal batter's box position, the crew could have used the Rules Check for (before "interference?" questions arise, recall that interference is similarly not reviewable...plus, the batter-runner was put out regardless).

Sidebar: Joe West is the first umpire to conduct two Rules Checks regarding the same rule 5.09(a)(7).

The Replay Regulation: As it pertains to the chopper in front of home plate and whether or not the batted ball subsequently hit the batter after the bat is not subject to Replay Review—this has been the case since Day 1 of expanded replay in 2014. The relevant regulation is V.C., which states, in part, "Calls involving a decision regarding whether a batted ball was "A FOUL BALL," within the meaning of the Official Baseball Rule's Definition of Terms (formerly Rule 2.00) but only with respect to balls that first land at or beyond the set positions of the first or third base Umpire."
Related PostMLB Releases Replay Review Regulations for 2014 Season (3/31/14).

Before we begin the philosophical analysis, let's clearly state our position here: this play should be reviewable. When we wrote about ways to improve replay in January 2017, adding more things to the review arsenal featured prominently. First and foremost under that bullet point? "Fair/fouls in the infield."
Related PostTmac's Teachable Moments - Let's Fix Replay (1/19/17).

Analysis: This play is clearly not subject to Replay Review and it seems curious that West would signal "foul ball" only after removing the headset. Umpires are permitted (as they have been for years) to get together themselves and elect to reverse a call based solely on crew input, without video influence. Mechanically, if this is what occurred, West is in a tough spot: the play is not reviewable, so MLBAM can't inform West of the video, but if West were to initiate a Crew Chief Review based on the concept of a "Rules Check," there stands a chance West's call of foul vs out depends on the outcome of said Rules Check.

That said, mechanically speaking, this is a reversal of a call initiated by the on-field crew, which means HP Umpire Carapazza should have optically been the one to signal "foul ball" (Replay Review is the only time that a Crew Chief should visually appear to be "overruling" another on-field umpire). The crew should likely have had an on-field ruling ready to go prior to initiating its Crew Chief Review.

Mark Carlson speaks with AJ Hinch.
Crew Chief Carlson: What slips under the radar here as the TBS broadcasters note that Astros Manager AJ Hinch would have a grievance if the call were to be reviewed and overturned, and West and Carapazza are on the headset with New York, is that 2B Umpire Mark Carlson has come over and speaks with Hinch, remaining with Houston's skipper for a majority of the Replay Review process.

After West removes the headset and rules the play "foul," Hinch, who could have easily blown up about the call's reversal, calmly walks back to his dugout as Carlson jogs back to his position. This is an underrated piece of situation handling that speaks to Carlson's leadership abilities as a number two, even when this ALCS crew's true number two (other than Bill Miller, who was the Replay Official tonight in New York) is LF Umpire and regular season crew chief Mark Wegner.

Philosophy: So onto the value of getting the call right: We know full well that Carapazza's fair/out call was in error and the ultimate decision of "foul ball" was correct. "Rules Check" not withstanding, our only question is whether it's worth it to disregard the Replay Review regulations that specifically prohibit reviewing this exact play in order to get the call right. Remember, we want this play to be reviewable—and on this site we've been hoping for four years that MLB would add fair/foul in the infield to its list of reviewable plays—but under the current code, this play is simply not eligible for video review.

Hypothetically, if an umpire makes a clearly erroneous call on a play that, pursuant to regulation, cannot be reviewed, is it ever acceptable to disregard the regulation and review the play anyway?

If your answer is "YES," read on (also read on if your answer is not "YES").

Andy Green was ejected arguing a non-review.
History, Replays at Home: This isn't the first time MLB has had some trouble with plays near home plate.

On September 16, 2018, 3B Umpire Fieldin Culbreth ejected Padres Manager Andy Green after the Replay Official denied Green's request to review a fair/foul call at home plate. As Rangers batter Robinson Chirinos attempted to check his swing, the pitched ball made contact with his bat and/or hand, ruled a foul ball by HP Umpire Ryan Blakney. By rule, in order for this to be a foul ball, Blakney would have had to rule that the pitched ball hit Chirinos' bat and then hit Chirinos' hand (see the aforementioned Rule 5.09(a)(7)). Green's attempted challenge concerned whether the ball was actually fair—whether, after hitting the bat, the ball touched Chirinos or not. When informed by Culbreth that MLBAM's Replay Operations Center had rejected the review, Green vehemently argued to the point of ejection.
Related PostMLB Ejection 168 - Fieldin Culbreth (3; Andy Green) (9/16/18).

Pursuant to the Green standard, Sunday's ALCS Game 2 play was not reviewable. Or, alternatively, someone should explain to Andy Green what happened Sunday night relative to what happened on September 16 in San Diego and why his call wasn't reversed but Sunday night's call was.

John Farrell was not happy about his rejection.
On May 25, 2017, on-field umpires accepted Boston's challenge that Texas' Nomar Mazara was hit by a pitch on a swinging third strike (HP Umpire Chad Fairchild had initially ruled the play a swinging strikeout and wild pitch, which had allowed the batter-runner to reach first base). The Replay Official incorrectly deemed the play non-reviewable when it should have been subject to Replay Review because it involved the question of whether a batter was hit by a pitched ball. Had the play been reviewed, Mazara would have been out due to the deal ball strike, rather than on first base. By contrast, whether a batter (or runner) is hit by a batted ball is never reviewable.
Related PostMLB Admits Error on Swinging HBP Strike Non-Review (5/26/17).

So there you have it and it all seems to point back to our Tmac's Teachable from January 2017: if we want to fix replay, let's just make more things reviewable. That way we avoid this technicality mess that sometimes produces more arguments than it solves. Until then, somebody explain to Green why his play wasn't reviewed.

Video as follows:

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cowboy Joe West's History of Getting Hit by Baseballs

When Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez's errant throw struck 2B Umpire Joe West during Saturday's ALCS Game 1 in Boston, the former Elon College football QB took it like a champ, which isn't the first time baseball's Blue Cowboy has literally become part of the game.

The Play: With one out and one on (R1), as Astros baserunner R1 Jake Marisnick attempted to steal second base, Red Sox catcher Vazquez's throw intended for second baseman Brock Holt sailed wide and directly toward West, who was positioned in umpiring's "Deep B" within the infield, the throw striking West in the upper left chest as he sheepishly moved to avoid it.

Rule & Precedent: First off, we know this isn't umpire interference or anything of that nature.

During the 2017 World Series featuring these same Astros, 2B Umpire Laz Diaz was hit by an inaccurate Houston pickoff throw at Dodger Stadium, effectively serving to keep Dodgers baserunner Enrique Hernandez at second base. As we analyzed back then, this does not qualify as umpire interference pursuant to Official Baseball Rules 6.01(f) and 5.06(c)(2) and the ball remains alive and in play.
Related PostLeaping Laz - Pickoff Throw at Second Base Hits Umpire (10/26/17).

Joe West as Magnet: Cowboy Joe has an odd tendency toward getting involved with the game, but not in the negative "inject himself into the game" way that many commentators accuse him of.

Instead, West's involvement has to do with getting hit by baseballs or players trying to make plays. For instance, during the so-called "crew chief series" in 2014 (so named because it featured West, Jerry Layne, and Fieldin Culbreth, along with Culbreth's regular season crewmate, Manny Gonzalez...West (President), Culbreth (Vice President), and Layne (Secretary-Treasurer) served on the World Umpires Association's executive board at the time), West was struck by a foul ball at Citi Field and had a similar reaction as he did Saturday in Boston: no real reaction, not much of a flinch—ho hum...though he did flex his muscles to show his toughness and durability.
Related PostNon-Injury: Joe West Struck by Ball in Crew Chief Series

And here's Mark Texeira using West as a wall to push off of during a play in Houston from 2015.
Related VideoNYY@HOU: Tex bounces off umpire West, secures footing (6/28/15).

And the much less humorous instance of a fan throwing a ball at West in Milwaukee. This criminal act launched a police investigation with FOX6 reporting that police were closing in on the person(s) responsible for hitting West with a baseball at Miller Mark.
Related PostAssault - Joe West Hit in Head by Ball Thrown From Stands (6/30/17).

Visit our 5,000 games tribute to West to scout more instances of West's "involvement" with games.
Related VideoUmpire Joe West - 5,000 Games Tribute - Close Call Sports (6/20/17).

Video as follows: