Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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).

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.

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.
- 10/17 BOS@HOU Gm 4: Mark Carlson: pfx.

- 10/18 BOS@HOU Gm 5: Chris Guccione: pfx.
- 10/19 LAD@MIL Gm 6: Brian Gorman: pfx.
- 10/20 HOU@BOS Gm 6*: Mark Wegner: pfx.
- 10/20 LAD@MIL Gm 7*: Greg Gibson: pfx.
- 10/21 HOU@BOS Gm 7*: Bill Miller: pfx.

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):

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:

MLB Ejection P1 - James Hoye (2; Alex Cora)

HP Umpire James Hoye ejected Red Sox Manager Alex Cora (strike three call; QOCN) in the bottom of the 5th inning of the Astros-Red Sox game. With two out and the bases loaded, Red Sox batter Andrew Benintendi took a 3-2 fastball from Astros pitcher Justin Verlander for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located off the outer edge of home plate and thigh-high (px -.915, pz 2.049), the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 2-2. The Astros ultimately won the contest, 7-2.


This is James Hoye (92)'s second ejection of 2018.
James Hoye now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (8 Prev + 2 MLB - 6 Incorrect [Postseason] = 4).
Crew Chief Joe West now has 10 points in Crew Division (10 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 10).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
This pitch was located .012 horizontal inches (⅓ of a millimeter) from being deemed a correct call.

This is the 180th ejection report of 2018, 1st of the postseason.
This is the 74th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Boston's 6th ejection of 2018, 3rd in the AL East (NYY 11; TOR 10; BOS 6; BAL, TB 3).
This is Alex Cora's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since August 3 (Adam Hamari; QOC = U [Warnings]).
This is James Hoye's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since August 17 (Nick Ahmed; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox (ALCS Game 1), 10/13/18 | Video as follows:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

2018 League Championship Series Umpires Roster

The 2018 American and National League (AL/NL) League Championship Series (ALCS/NLCS) umpire roster is as follows, sorted by round and crew assignment.

UEFL Replay Review Ranking (Review Affirmation Percentage [RAP]) is indicated by the number in parentheses.

NLCS (Los Angeles Dodgers @ Milwaukee Brewers) Umpires
HP: Scott Barry (38) '1st LCS' (Replay Games 3-7)
1B: Alan Porter (65) '1st LCS' -wc
2B: Gerry Davis* -cc (31) -wc
3B: Hunter Wendelstedt (31)
LF: Jim Wolf (6) ' -wc
RF: Brian Gorman* (5)
Replay Review: Greg Gibson (87) -wc (Replay Games 1-2; On field Games 3-7)

ALCS (Houston Astros @ Boston Red Sox) Umpires
HP: James Hoye (22) '1st LCS' -wc (Replay Games 3-7)
1B: Vic Carapazza (20) '1st LCS'
2B: Joe West* -cc (16)
3B: Mark Carlson (54)
LF:  Chris Guccione (20) -wc   
RF: Mark Wegner* (84) -wc
Replay Review:  Bill Miller* (61) -wc (Replay Games 1-2; On field Games 3-7)

Replay Assistant, American and National League Championship Series: Paul Nauert (43).

-cc denotes Game/Series Crew Chief, * denotes regular season crew chief, ^1st^ denotes first postseason assignment, '1st LCS' denotes first League Championship Series assignment. -wc denotes an appearance during the 2018 Wild Card Game round. Pursuant to UEFL Rule 4-3-c, umpires selected to appear in the League Championship Series, including the Replay Officials who substitute onto and off the crew for part of the series. receive three bonus points for this appearance. Postseason crew chiefs receive an additional bonus point.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

CC Meta Game - Is Open Season on Umpires MLB Ploy?

MLB has a new anti-bullying campaign, but after CC Sabathia became the latest player to personally attack an umpire in the public sphere after Tuesday's Yankees loss to Boston (it just so happened to be Angel Hernandez), you wouldn't know it. We view the pitcher's criticism in the context of the umpires association's 2017 summation that the Commissioner's Office has tacitly declared "Open Season on Umpires" through its lax discipline for what the World Umpires Association (now known as MLB Umpires Association) then-deemed, "escalating attacks on umpires."

CC called for an end to Angel's postseason.
After his loss in the deciding Game 4 that clinched the American League Division Series for the Boston Red Sox, New York starting pitcher Sabathia stated, seemingly without much provocation, "I do need to say this, though. I do not think Angel Hernandez should be umping playoff games. He's absolutely terrible. He was terrible behind the plate today. He was terrible at first base. It's amazing how he's getting a job to play, to umpire in these playoff games...He shouldn't be near any of these playoff games...He's bad, I don't understand why he's doing these games."

Yes, it is true that Hernandez's three overturned calls at first base during Game 3 was a postseason first. No, it's not true that Hernandez's performance behind the plate during Game 4 was "terrible." And in order for umpires to earn a postseason assignment, they must "meet a standard," which includes "balls and strikes...field work, rules, instant replay, and handling situations. Professionalism also factors into grading umpires," per Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations Peter Woodfork.

Somehow, the "terrible" Hernandez has met this standard 17 times (plus two World Series), including an active four-year consecutive postseason streak (2015-18).

On that note, there's a strong possibility Hernandez's replay results from Game 3 harm him in regards to World Series consideration, but at this point, that's neither here nor there.

A better lesson in perseverance, perhaps, is how Hernandez managed to put Game 3 behind him and come out with a strong plate performance in Game 4...unless you were to check some of the opinionated comments on social media—facts be damned!

After all, it's a pretty good distraction from New York's double-digit loss Monday night.

Sabathia's postgame statement resembles Ian Kinsler's 2017 remarks regarding Hernandez when Kinsler, after Hernandez had ejected him for arguing a correctly called strike, stated, in part, "He needs to find another job. He really does. He's just that bad. I'm not mad at him. He just needs to go away...What is he doing on the field?"
Related PostFined - Kinsler Not Suspended for Hernandez Comments (8/18/17).

UEFL f/x statline for Angel Hernandez, 10/9.
Just as was the case with Kinsler, Sabathia's argument regarding Hernandez's plate work was not rooted in fact. Hernandez called Tuesday's ALDS Game 4 to the tune of 98% accuracy, with his three missed pitches (out of 148 total pitch calls) favoring New York at a two-to-one margin. For the uninitiated, a 98% plate score per UEFL f/x is very high—even Hernandez's lawsuit against MLB cites plate statistics lower than 98% (e.g., 96.21% in 2011, albeit using a different basis for analysis). Since we're here anyway, the three pitches that Hernandez missed Tuesday night were:

> Strike one call in the top of the first inning should have been ball two (benefited NYY/Sabathia);
> Strike two call in the bottom of the fourth inning should have been ball one (benefited BOS/Porcello);
> Strike three call in the top of the eighth inning should have been ball ball one (benefited NYY/Betances).

Said Rick Porcello, who benefited from one erroneous call, as did Sabathia, "throw the ball over the plate, CC. I thought Angel Hernandez called a good game. You have to put the ball over the white part of the plate and then you get strikes called. That's all I've got to say about that."

We get to use this image again.
In their postgame comments, Sabathia and Kinsler directly referred to the status of Hernandez's career, Sabathia discussing the immediacy of Hernandez's postseason appearance, while Kinsler spoke of Hernandez's overall role in baseball.

"Terrible" is a well-known, rather rudimentary, and universal insult—see Joe West's ejection of Tim Anderson—but suggesting that an umpire's career, well-being, or presence on the field should be altered as the result of a perceived wrong, such as Carlos Gomez's September 2018 social media statement, "if anyone needed to be ejected out of tonight's game it was Andy Fletcher" and associated comments, takes the criticism to another, personal, level. Threatening an umpire's career or well-being is never acceptable (or should never be acceptable).
Related PostMLBUA Calls for BOC Action After Latest Umpire Abuse (9/23/18).

Although ESPN/MLB/X Games' Shred Hate bullying prevention program seeks to create a "tangible reduction of bullying incidents in schools by igniting the compassion of youth," Kinsler and now Sabathia have shown anything but compassion and MLB's inadequate action belies its commitment to Shred Hate while suggesting internal hypocrisy. Maybe just ditch the league-wide moniker altogether and leave Mike Trout as the campaign's sole role model, or substitute an antonym for "shred."

OSIP helps officials experiencing abuse.
TIME!
On this October 10 World Mental Health Day, if you have experienced abuse or want to prepare yourself for officiating abuse, please consult our 2017 World Mental Health Day article at the end of this paragraph. You can also visit our Plate Meeting Podcast sponsor OSIP Foundation, which runs the Officials Anonymous hotline at www.osipfoundation.org/offanon.html for officials experiencing non-clinical issues related to abuse. And if you still don't think abuse is a problem, refer to articles such as Washington Post's Verbal abuse from parents, coaches is causing a referee shortage or USA Today's Abuse, pay driving referees away in public high schools.
Related PostLet's Talk - Mental Health in an Abusive Environment (10/10/17).

PLAY!
We've followed this storyline since 2017 when WUA noted that not only did players engage in a greater tendency to rail on umpires personally to the media after games or appearances that didn't go their way (sparked by Kinsler's comments), but that the league failed to adequately address the escalating umpire abuse. That spurred us to dig into the archives.

You can follow our timeline of the deteriorating WUA-MLB relationship at the following link, when WUA announced its white wristband protest in response to MLB's failure to, in WUA's determination, adequately discipline a player:
The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires. The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead [he] got far more lenient treatment—a fine. He shrugged that off and told reporters that he has 'no regrets' about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez's career. 
The Office of the Commissioner's lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It's 'open season' on umpires, and that's bad for the game.
Related PostWUA-MLB Relations Deteriorate with New Umpire Protest (8/19/17).

Umpire abuse tends to be good for ratings.
You'll notice that MLB's failure to adequately act isn't limited to player criticism of Hernandez; for instance, the League similarly issued no suspension when Jonathan Papelbon said of DJ Reyburn, "he sucked...he probably needs to go back to Triple-A" (for the record, since that comment, Papelbon is out of baseball and Reyburn is a full-time MLB umpire), even when the league's own documentation provides ample opportunity for discipline.

When MLBUA implored in September, "The MLBUA expects ACTION from the Commissioner's Office to uphold not only the integrity of THEIR umpires but the integrity of the game itself," it utilized language consistent with the MLBPA-MLB basic agreement, which holds that the Chief Baseball Officer may suspend a player without pay for, amongst others, "making public statements that question the integrity of the game, the umpires, the Commissioner and/or other Commissioner's Office personnel."

Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre is supported by Peter Woodfork, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations. Woodfork's responsibilities include "oversight of umpiring and instant replay, among other baseball operations functions," which suggests he oversees Randy Marsh, Director of Major League Umpires. Might this crew of umpire executives do something to address MLBUA's concerns?

When Rob Manfred named former MLB pitcher Chris Young as Vice President of On-Field Operations, Initiatives & Strategy in May 2018, the press release indicated that Young would report to Senior VP Woodfork and assist with on-field standards and discipline, suggesting, naturally, that Woodfork oversees said discipline.

In May, the New York Times wrote that three men are ultimately responsible for issues related to discipline, rules, pace of play, and umpires: Torre, Woodfork, and the newly-installed Young.

But Young was named to MLB in 2018...WUA n/k/a MLBUA's problems with the Commissioner's Office predated Young's arrival by quite some time, leaving just Torre and Woodfork in the hotseat.

Garagiola suspended Votto in 2015.
We would be remiss if we didn't mention the name Joe Garagiola, Jr., who previously served in the role of Senior VP of Standards and On-Field Operations for MLB. Garagiola is no longer in that role (he's now a consultant per his Arizona College of Law professor biography), which, again, refers to "on-field" discipline. (And, to the contrary, Garagiola during his tenure was credited in press releases with issuing a handful of suspensions for umpire abuse-related misconduct, such as Joey Votto's two-game suspension for his spat with Bill Welke in 2015...these days, perchance with Woodfork as the Senior VP of record, suspensions for umpire abuse seem rather rare, having been recently replaced with fines [Kevin Cash confirmed in September 2018 that Torre and Woodfork are in charge of discipline]).
Related PostMLB Ejections 196-197: Bill Welke (3-4; Votto, Price) (9/9/15).

Or is this a case of "not-my-department-itis" since the violations technically occur off the field (though, why would Gomez be fined for a Periscope video rant if it was off the field...clearly discipline is intended to address and has been applied to off-field behavior as well)?

There's a good chance the basic agreement doesn't specifically address Twitter, but the league's social media policy for players does. Baseball-Almanac got a hold of MLB's 2012 Social Media policy memo to players, which stated, in part, "In addition to the prohibition on the use of electronic equipment during the period beginning thirty minutes prior to a game and ending upon the conclusion of a game that is contained in Baseball Operations Bulletin A-2, Players may not engage in the following conduct with respect to the use of Social Media...Displaying or transmitting Content that questions the impartiality of or otherwise denigrates a Major League umpire" (emphasis added).

But with specific regard to Hernandez, could MLB have an ulterior motive? After all, Hernandez is the umpire who is suing the league over allegations of racial discrimination. After all, what motivation does the league really have to save Hernandez's reputation or well-being (I suppose, perhaps, a hostile work environment claim with EEOC if it gets to a point where the league continues to tacitly encourage abuse of one of its umpires), especially given, as the suit alleges, Torre's purported animus toward Hernandez?
Related PostAngel Hernandez Sues MLB for Racial Discrimination (7/3/17).

If MLB's strategy in the lawsuit is to argue that Hernandez's job performance disqualifies him from consideration for Crew Chief or World Series selection, could it perversely be in MLB's best interest to allow players (past and present), coaches, media, and fans to rake the 25-year big league veteran over the coals?

For example, after Hernandez's ALDS appearance, and the backlash he received even in spite of scoring the highest plate percentage in the series, the damage already done during Game 3 (but let's be honest, Hernandez would have received fan and media criticism for his plate performance even if he called a perfect game...facts don't seem to matter), MLB would have an easier time showing that it would not be in the league's best interests to assign him the 2018 World Series—the negative response would just be too great. Or does the league have a duty to ensure that one of its Network personalities (e.g., Pedro Martinez) doesn't continually denigrate another one of its employees (e.g., Angel Hernandez)? Perhaps that's a question for another time.

Yes, Hernandez did get overturned thrice on replay during Game 3...and then nailed his Game 4 plate job.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ballad of Angel Hernandez - An Umpire's Controversy

As Angel Hernandez, an accomplished MLB umpire who happens to court controversy, especially after three overturned Replay Review calls in Monday's Red Sox-Yankees ALDS Game 3 in New York, who sued the Commissioner's Office over racial discrimination charges, takes the plate for Tuesday's Game 4, we explore why is this 25-year big league veteran such an explosive figure.

Ump Hernandez is in baseball's hot-seat again.
The following article was meant to be simple and factual, and to an extent, simple facts will pepper the piece. The original story here was that Judge Michael R Barrett of the Ohio Southern District Court granted the MLB Commissioner Office's motion to transfer venue of the Hernandez v. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al lawsuit to the Southern District of New York.

The original story was that Hernandez's lawsuit alleging employment discrimination took another step this month, but things changed once AH started trending up the Twitter charts.

The fact of the matter is, at this point, some people simply want Hernandez to fail. Whether it's their blanket dismissal of Hernandez's lawsuit and racial charges therein, bandwagon animosity devoid of facts, stubborn clinging to incidents from the 20th century, or otherwise, a swath of the baseball community simply doesn't like what it perceives Hernandez to stand for, and wants him, as the embodiment of these issues, to lose. These are the people who won't acknowledge them when they're up (such as Angel's second-highest plate scores during the 2016 AL and NL Championship Series games and 2015 AL and NL Division Series round), but can't wait to kick 'em when they're down.

And in a blowout ballgame, when there's nothing left to root for other than the final score, it's that much easier to turn the attention to an umpire.

Perhaps the easiest prediction any one of us can make is that when Hernandez takes the plate for Game 4, his first borderline ball or strike call, regardless of Quality of Correctness (which, statistically speaking, will most likely show as Correct), will generate an entirely disproportionate level of charged criticism from all angles, as if baseball's latest dam of hate has been opened.

Hernandez' suit against MLB remains pending.
Pedro Martinez took a disliking to Hernandez from the get-go, on Monday imploring MLB "to do something about Angel...he's as bad as there is," and Jeff Passan similarly concluded, "the culprit is far likelier the fact that he's not particularly good at his job."

Yet...individuals critical of Hernandez fail to supply any factual evidence to support such claims, other than the three-overturns-in-a-game evidence that we saw Monday night, which any statistician can quickly tell you is an incredibly small and insufficient sample size with which to make a generalization.

Frankly, it's surprising in a sport valued so highly for its statistical data analysis and which invented the term, "sabermetrics," that we haven't so much as heard a hint of numerical caution as to the Hernandez ranting.

Then again, other than us, who really pays objective, fair and balanced attention to the umpires anyway?

We'll get to all of that in a minute (three overturns in a game is rare, unique for a postseason game, but not unheard of overall), but suffice it to say, Hernandez has become a target for troubled tongues: a true embodiment of what it is to scapegoat a sports official, whether or not his on-field performance supports the criticism (and, frankly, it generally refutes as much).
Related PostGil's Call: The Blame Game (Umpire Scapegoating) (8/8/14).

If you haven't yet read our analysis of Angel Hernandez's lawsuit against MLB alleging racial discrimination, and discussing baseball's historical trend toward a nearly-universal umpiring underrepresentation of protected classes, you might want to consult the following links:
Related PostAngel Hernandez, MLB, and Discrimination (Part 1) (7/12/17).
Related PostAngel Hernandez, MLB, and Discrimination (Part 2) (7/13/17).

Larry Vanover also had 3 overturns in a game.
Replay Reviews: What spurred the Hernandez-hating hashtag to begin with on Monday was his being overturned via Replay Review on three occasions. That dropped Angel from a league-wide rank of 52nd with a .471 Review Affirmation Percentage (RAP) prior to the playoffs to 66th with a .409 RAP. All that really needs to be said about overall RAP numbers is that a handful of Division Series umpires ranked even with or less than Hernandez's 52nd and nonetheless got the assignment—Jerry Layne (T-52), Andy Fletcher (T-52), Chris Conroy (55), Mike Winters (62), Gary Cederstrom (T-65), Tom Hallion (T-65), Doug Eddings (T-65), Todd Tichenor (77).

From this list, Fletcher and Conroy were selected to the Division Series for the first time.

Hernandez may be in the bottom half, but with 90 total spots, he's certainly not "as bad as there is." If anything, Hernandez slots in to a fairly average MLB crew chief's performance—on the whole, crew chiefs are below average on Replay Review, so Hernandez's numbers are nothing all that unusual for someone in a quasi-but-not-really-crew chief position.

That said, three overturns in one game is an oddity, but it's happened before to names attached to a lot less infamy. In August 2017, after Larry Vanover was flipped thrice in Detroit, we ran a brief analysis finding that, to that point of that season, just two umpires (Vanover and John Libka) had experienced three overturned calls in one game; there were plenty of umpires with two overturned calls, and Angel Hernandez was not one of them. Yes, three overturns is rare, but it's not unheard of. That said, this is a first for the postseason where managers get two challenges instead of one, just like Boston scoring 16 runs to New York's one.
Related PostReplay Oddity - Vanover Overturned 3 Times Thurs (8/11/17).

It just so happened that Hernandez's rarity coincided with a postseason blowout ballgame. He had a bad day and perhaps a tough series, but it's irresponsible to blow this out of proportion.

Hernandez talks through a Craig Counsell EJ.
Ejections: The fact of the matter is that Angel Hernandez isn't remarkable in his statistical ejection tendencies—two in 2018, two in 2017, two in 2016, two in 2015, three in 2014, five in 2013, zero in 2012, and so forth—unless you take race into consideration. Dating back to 2005, Hernandez ranks ninth overall in ejections, but first amongst non-white umpires. Lightning-rod Joe West is at the top of the list, sure, but under-the-radar names like Bill Welke, Hunter Wendelstedt, and Tim Timmons all precede Hernandez.

More recently—within the past five seasons or less—Hernandez is middle-of-the-pack or even below average in ejection count. So it's not quantity of ejections that makes Angel stand out.
Related Page: Historical Data - Umpire Ejection Fantasy League Portal.

Hernandez received the UEFL's 20102012 and 2014 Noteworthy Umpire of the Year Award and was also voted the Most Improved Umpire of the Year in both 2015 and 2016. There clearly must be some disconnect for an umpire to have been voted into five awards in eight years, yet still see such a barrage of attacks from outsiders.
Related Page: UEFL Awards - Umpire Ejection Fantasy League Portal.

Ian Kinsler: Hernandez found himself the target of an Ian Kinsler personal attack following a 2017 ejection, which spurred MLB to issue a paltry $10,000 fine, representing just .09% of the player's salary. You may recall the umpires protested with a wristband, the Commissioner's Office threatened to take action against WUA if they continued to protest, and so forth.
Related PostToken Gesture - Kinsler Fined $10k, .09% of $11m Salary (8/21/17).
Related PostWUA-MLB Relations Deteriorate with New Umpire Protest (8/19/17).

Ian Kinsler confronts Angel Hernandez.
So while Kinsler is a symptom, he's surely not the cause.

Bad Attitude: We've heard the hearsay stories regarding a purported "attitude" issue with Hernandez, but from every Hernandez "mic'd up" feature we hear in the modern era, we see an umpire whose personality serves the game in a positive way. From his service as chairman of the Miracle League charity board to a Binks Forest School Helping Hand Award recipient, Hernandez's extracurriculars tend to refute the negative attitude argument.

When Hernandez rung up Cubs batter Anthony Rizzo to end an early August 2018 game, Rizzo said, "the call is unacceptable" with Manager Joe Maddon adding "egregiously bad" to the criticism. The next day, Hernandez described the pitch as "a cut fastball, three inches off the plate...Rizzo was right...I'm not perfect."

Rizzo and Hernandez go back to the 2016 NLCS (and most likely prior to that), when FS1 captured a positive conversation between the two that did anything but provide corroborating evidence for the "attitude" argument.
Related Video: Rizzo Apologizes to Umpire for Actions (Game 4 NLCS) (10/19/16).

That said, it perhaps didn't used to be that way.

When it comes to "attitude," it's not just Hernandez that shows up in the criticism column, though according to a 1999 USA Today poll, he ranked 34th of 36 NL umpires in temperament, 32nd in respect for players, 32nd in consistency, and 31st in "worst overall."
Related PostPot & Kettle - Baez Criticizes West for Confrontation (9/1/18).

In 2001, an apparently inebriated Steve McMichael said over the loudspeaker, regarding a close call at home plate Hernandez had made, "Don't worry, I'll have some speaks with that home plate umpire after the game. Boo!" Though popular lore holds that Hernandez ejected McMichael over the comments, the myth is false. It was crew chief Randy Marsh who phoned the press box to have McMichael removed.
Related VideoSteve McMichael calls out Angel Hernandez (Cubs Rockies 8.7.01).

In 2000, Joe Torre's Yankees took issue with what they perceived as a shrinking strike zone during the American League Championship Series against Seattle, while Mariners player Mike Cameron deemed the zone 'especially wide.'

AH's suit alleges Torre's personal animus.
In 1998, Devon White portrayed Hernandez as aggressive: "The first time, he went at me like he was going to kick my butt. I dont' stand for that. It hasn't been a good relationship. I think he definitely has a vendetta. (NL president) Leonard Coleman should look at the situation."

In 1996, Mike Hargrove said, "It was very obvious that he was looking to kick somebody out...[Kicking Lofton's bat after Lofton dropped and left the bat on home plate after a called third strike] was the most unprofessional thing I've ever seen an umpire do."

If that's the attitude Pedro grew up with, speaking of vendettas, it's a little easier to understand why the Hall of Fame pitcher would be so quick to criticize Hernandez in such a personal way.

As fas as attitude is concerned, Hernandez v Commissioner's complaint alleges that Joe Torre harbors a "general negative attitude toward Hernandez."

In fact, Hernandez's complaint submits several more recent evaluations, all of which praise Hernandez's attitude:
Hernandez claims that both 2011 evaluations are at odds with individual observers' reports that consistently praised Hernandez as "calm," "professional," "businesslike," and/or "composed." The suit cites several observer comments to suggest BOC's remarks were off-base, including "Amgel [sic] is a hard worker and great example for other umpires," and "[Hernandez] is a very good umpire."
Reputation: Could this be a case of a pre-2000 reputation getting in the way of objective analysis of an umpire's present body of work? Say it ain't so, level-headed fans, but Hernandez, in claiming Torre holds animus from his time with the Yankees, might support such a hypothesis.

Racism: Hernandez's lawsuit against baseball, as we previously wrote, reminds the sports world of its largely discriminatory history that the suit argues persists to this day. Angel Hernandez alleged racially motivated discrimination as to his lack of a World Series assignment since 2005 and failure to promote him to Crew Chief.

Hernandez received praise in evaluations.
Hernandez's complaint laid out the facts, his positive evaluations and stats, and an impressive postseason history dating back to 1997 (Hernandez is officiating his 10th Division Series, on top of seven League Championship Series and two World Series).

But as we wrote, if the problem is racially motivated, it doesn't especially matter just how good or not Hernandez is at his job. Where there's smoke, there's usually fire, so if we remove Hernandez from the equation, there just might be a clue to find somewhere else.

We discussed the merits of Alfonso Marquez's CV over five other (white) umpires that had been promoted to crew chief ahead of him. Fonzie has worked more recent World Series assignments (2011, 15), with similar overall postseason experience (2017 Wild Card Game, eight Division Series, five League Championship Series), has similar experience in the number-two back-up crew chief role, but like Hernandez, has not been promoted to full-time crew chief.

In the end, there is enough of a case for Hernandez's lawsuit to proceed—that much is factually clear. The only publicity problem, naturally, is that Hernandez, this purportedly terrible umpire without quantitative evidence to support the claim, reminds baseball of something the sport much rather forget.

Passan's subtle jab at AH's Cuban heritage.
Closing Time: To conclude, I'll drop one quick example of the underlying racist attribute—a sociologist might call it a racial microaggression—affiliated with some of the Hernandez criticism. Interpret it as you choose.

When Passan issued his "awful at his job" summation, he made to sure to seek out the "A" and "e" characters with accents—just to make it clear that Ángel Hérnandez is, indeed, an ethnic name.

By contrast, Hernandez's official bio in MLB's Umpire Media Guide contains no accented characters.