Thursday, February 14, 2019

Plate Meeting Podcast - Episode 10 - Rich Garcia

The 10th Plate Meeting podcast episode features 25-year American League veteran umpire Rich Garcia, who joins the show to discuss his officiating career, a major league umpire strike and labor dispute, and his brief foray into the movie business as an umpire in the Kevin Costner-driven film, For Love of the Game.

Rich also had a stint as a broadcast analyst and was on-air for the Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant play in the 1991 World Series. We talk about some ejections—such as Tim Foli over a dispute regarding how the baseballs were rubbed before the game—and also ask Rich if he had any odd plays in right field during his postseason career, and if he ever heard of a guy named Vic Carapazza.

Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 10 - Rich Garcia Umpired for Love of the Game" 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 10 - Rich Garcia Umpired for Love of the Game.

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:

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

Related Video #1: Hrbek and Gant meet at first base during the 1991 WS (54:00).
Related Video #2: Scene from For the Love of the Game with a cast of MLB umpires (57:00).
Related Video #3: The infamous Jeffrey Maier play and Derek Jeter home run in 1996 (1:11:00).

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tmac's Teachables - Snap Pickoff at First Base

It's time for another Tmac Teachable brought to you by the good folks at ProUmpireCamp.com! Today's retro moment features 1B Umpire Bill Kunkel's ejection of Twins runner Mike Cubbage and Manager Gene Mauch over a back-pickoff play that retired Cubbage at first base. What angle should umpires take to receive such a play and how should officials respond to a runner who acts as Cubbage did?

Before we dig in, Pro Umpire Camp is the only three-person camp that will have college assignors and supervisors from the Atlantic League, Can-Am League, and the American Association. Whether you're just trying to learn three-man or looking to be seen this camp is a great place to start!
This offseason's Tmac's Teachable Moments are brought to you by Pro Umpire Camp.
It's important to remember a couple items as we dig into this edition, and this ejection. First, we are looking at this play from a 2019 prism. We're not focused on the judgement of the call, but rather how in today's world we can get this play right. Today's officials are: HP Umpire Al Clark; 1B Umpire Bill Kunkel; 2B Umpire Bill Deegen; and 3B Umpire Terry Cooney. This is the second game of a doubleheader.

1B Umpire Kunkel officiates the pickoff play.
On our upcoming podcast with American League veteran Rich Garcia, we talk about Kunkel and Cooney. In our situation today, we have runners on first and second and one out. The pitch is a swing and a miss and there is a back pick to first base. Our goal is to have the glove coming at us so we're going to want to be to the side Kunkel is on, but from an angle standpoint we want to be able to see the tag and the front of the bag that the runner is sliding into, so our best spot is probably a couple steps into foul territory toward the back edge of the bag.  If we are engaged with the moves of our first baseman this will be easy.

As fans of the Teachables know, I'm a proponent for getting your nose into a play like this, but we always suggest doing what makes your assignor happy. Most good assignors are happy when we get this play right in the three- and four-umpire system.

Cubbage and Mauch outnumber the umpire.
So now that we know where we should be (foul ground, not moving if possible), reading the first baseman's movement, what about the aftermath? Well, once Mike Cubbage, the player who was called out, is ejected for launching his helmet, the crew chief needs to get him out of there. It's a near certainty that the Manager (or head coach as the case may be) will be visiting shortly.  If the crew chief is involved in the call the "two" on the crew (aka backup crew chief) needs to get into the action and help lead Cubbage to the dugout. This is especially the case if no other coaches or players are helping.

Now it gets tricky. The manager of the Twins, Gene Mauch, immediately makes contact with Kunkel and is summarily ejected.

The tantrum continued in the Twins dugout.
Now, all umpires need to be engaged with the situation.  Once contact is made it's all hands on deck. Kunkel, a former MLB pitcher, whose son also played in MLB, handles himself well here. I could do without the wave off, but under the circumstances I understand. Also, while the announcers were mostly fair, did you head one of them say it was a delayed call? Didn't look delayed to me! At least not nearly as delayed as the time we had to wait to resume play after Minnesota littered the field with bats.

As we get ready to either watch baseball (if you're stuck in the cold), or head on the field, a few simple reminders: Read the rulebook—don't be the guy who doesn't know the rules! Second, be engaged! It's really hard, especially in rough weather to stay focused. Third, always think about the next possible play and be sure to be ready! Finally, have fun—you're umpiring a baseball game!  What's better than that?! Until next time, Happy Umpiring Everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Pitcher Spins Away from Batter - Legal Delivery?

NOC Tonkawa junior college pitcher Trevin Michael's unique windup and delivery has spurred discussion as to its legality as, with his right foot in contact with the pitcher's plate, he spins 360° and away from the batter before throwing the pitch. Is this a balk or a legal maneuver?

The following discussion is broken down into three levels of baseball: we'll start with the professional level and OBR, move to NCAA—college, and conclude with NFHS—high school.

Michael's Move: First and foremost, before the rules discussion, let's begin by stipulating what, exactly, our pitcher is physically doing. He begins with his right foot (pivot foot) on the pitcher's plate and his left foot (free foot) in front of and to the left of the plate. He begins the delivery by taking a diagonal step back with his free foot, which lands behind the rubber, then rotates on his pivot foot, which may or may not break contact with the pitcher's plate as he spins on it. As he completes his 360-degree spin, his pivot foot parallels the front edge of the rubber while his left leg kicks out and he throws his pitch. The pitching hand stays in contact with the ball the entire time.

Immediate Disqualifier: If your interpretation is that the pitcher's pivot foot has broken contact with the pitcher's plate by virtue of the pitcher jumping in mid-air so as to assist his spinning action, this move is illegal under all codes. Your work is done. Otherwise, read on...

OBR: The Official Baseball Rules for the pros (and Little League) authorize Windup and Set positions, and we see a pitcher working out of Windup here: "The pitcher shall stand facing the batter, his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate and the other foot free...He shall not raise either foot from the ground, except that in his actual delivery of the ball to the batter, he may take one step backward, and one step forward with his free foot."

OBR 6.02(a)(5) is the "illegal pitch" balk, and Rule 5.07(a) Comment states, "The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b)."
Related PostCarter Capps Throws Illegal Pitch, Ejected After Hitting Ump (6/26/17).

SIDEBAR: As for twirling around, even with his back to the batter, we know from the days of Hideo Nomo that this, on its own, is a legal move. Naturally, Nomo maintained a legal pivot foot during this motion. We also stipulate this is Michael's natural movement, which he is not interrupting nor altering. If this is coming out of the blue on his 50th pitch of the game, we can deem it unnatural, but if this is what we see as the first pitch of the game, it pretty much establishes this as a natural move.

Does F1 "reset" his pivot foot?
Take a look at the accompanying animated GIF: Has Michael "reset" his pivot foot? If all the pitcher has done is rotated his pivot foot, or spun on the foot, then he is legal. If he has actually hopped on his foot or "reset" it, then we have a balk. This is no Carter Capps crow-hop, and it appears our pitcher is doing his best to maintain contact with his plate using the toe of his pivot foot. If he executes it correctly in this manner, his move is legal under OBR.

NCAA: Prepatory to the pitch, the college book wants the free foot "touching or behind (breaking) the plane of the front edge of the pitcher's plate." That suggests Michael's free foot, in front of the front edge, is illegal (penalty: illegal pitch if no runners are on base, or, a balk if runners). But let's assume Michael can easily correct this issue of pre-pitch free foot placement—let's talk about the delivery itself.

NCAA is better than MLB about the "reset" of the pivot foot rule. Unlike OBR, NCAA doesn't actually use "reset" language and instead states in 9-1-a-8, "The pitcher shall not take a forward step with the pivot foot in using the windup delivery. This is commonly known as 'running into the pitch' and is an illegal pitch."

NCAA also makes reference to "habitual" motion (e.g., 9-1-a-2's "the pitcher shall pitch to the batter immediately after making any motion with any part of the body such as the pitcher habitually uses during the delivery," which also appears in balk rule 9-3-g). This means that if he does it every windup, we're good. If he just brings this move out occasionally for shock value, then it's illegal.

NFHS: The National Federation rules committee just elected (for 2018-19) to eliminate the requirement that the pitcher's entire pivot foot be in contact with the pitcher's plate, as in 6-1; otherwise, this move would be highly illegal. THAT SAID, Wind-up Position Rule 6-1-2 requires that before starting delivery, "The pitcher’s non-pivot foot shall be in any position on or behind a line extending through the front edge of the pitcher’s plate" (similar to NCAA). The reason for this is that 6-1-3, pertaining to Set Position, requires that the non-pivot foot be placed in front of the front edge of the pitcher's plate (NFHS wants a clear difference between the two). These rules make Michael's move illegal at the high school level (penalty: ball is dead & a ball is added to the count if no runners are on base, or, a balk if runners).

Video as follows:

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

2019 Rule Change Proposals - Pitch Clock & NL DH?

MLB, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, and the Players Association, have discussed various rules proposals and changes, including a handful of pace-of-play measures (the pitch clock idea is back, as is a batters-faced minimum) and a universal designated hitter for both National and American Leagues. The proposal sheet also features several hypothesized changes to rosters, draft, and trade procedures meant to reward winners and punish losers.

According to The Athletic, Baseball has proposed the following rules changes (I've arranged them by type of change):

Pace of Play
> 20-second pitch clock with no runners. At this point, the pitch clock is a pace-of-play broken record as Manfred seemingly proposes this every year and the MLBPA rejects it every time. In 2018, MLB implicitly and unofficially floated the possibility that Manfred could use a provision of the CBA with the union to override the players' veto. Naturally, this did not happen and no pitch clock was used in the majors. That said, the pitch clock remains a standard gameplay device in Minor League Baseball.
Related PostPlayers Reject Pace of Play Proposal, Override Probable (1/19/18).
Related PostMinor League Baseball Issues 2018 Pace of Play Rules (3/14/18).

MLB wants to further limit mound visits.
> Pitchers must face a minimum of three batters OR end an inning. The idea here is to prevent bullpen use of one-batter specialists and require pitchers to be worth their while through a three-batter (or end-of-inning) requirement. Succinctly, if a team brings in a new pitcher (or the starter throws a pitch to the first batter he faces), under this proposed rule, that pitcher will have to not only face that batter, but two additional batters as well, unless the team gets a third out and ends the inning before the third batter, in which case, the pitcher is relieved of the three-batter requirement. This rule would allow for very narrow exceptions, including injury.

> Reduction in Mound Visits from Six to Five. In 2018, MLB introduced a mound visit limit of six per game, designed to prevent habitual time-wasting by catchers who routinely would meet with their pitchers. The 2019 proposal thus further cracks down on mound visit limits by taking the number from six to five. Umpires would still be authorized to permit an excess visit under limited circumstances.
Related Post2018 Pace of Play Changes Limit Mound Visits, No Clock (2/19/18).

> Extra Inning Tie-Breaker Rule (Pre-Placed Runner at Second Base). After a 2017 test run in the Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues, Minor League Baseball in 2018 adopted the extra inning tie-breaker rule throughout its Rookie-to-Triple-A leagues. Now, MLB wants to bring this overturn speed-up rule to the bigs—but not yet to the regular and post-season. MLB wants to adopt this rule specifically for Spring Training and the All-Star Game...for now.
Related PostMinor League Baseball Issues 2018 Pace of Play Rules (3/14/18).

P/DH Shohei Ohtani could get NL work.
Additional Gameplay Rules
> Universal DH. This rule would allow National League clubs to make use of the Designated Hitter in NL ballparks, essentially an attempt to inject more offense into a game that has been decried for its lack of excitement.

> Expansion of Rosters from 25 to 26 players, and maximum of 12 pitchers. This gives the MLPA something they'd like (expanded rosters), while giving MLB something it would like (limit on pitchers). If combined with the three-batters-per-pitcher-minimum requirement, the idea is that teams would have no reason to add more than 12 pitchers to the roster in the first place, making the 12-pitcher maximum a redundancy more than a rule.

MLB wants to punish perennially losing teams.
> Single Trade Deadline Before All-Star Break. Instead of a July 31 trade deadline and August 31 waiver-trade deadline, MLB wants to combine the transactions date into one overall trade deadline before the All-Star Game.

> Draft Penalty for Losing Teams, Reward for Winning Teams. This would change the draft order for the purpose of rewarding teams that win by offering them greater draft position, while punishing teams that habitually lose by penalizing them in the draft...this proposal is very much the opposite of what other sports, such as basketball or hockey, do with their drafts. MLB believes that by punishing teams that lose, the teams will respond by winning games.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Overturned 49% by Replay, Umpires Still 99.5% Accurate

When we investigated the 49.3% of umpire calls shipped to video review that have been overturned (4,046 out of 8,212) since expanded replay's 2014 inception, we found that umpires were 99.5% accurate. With MLB overturning umpires at a nearly 50-50 clip, how do we reconcile a documented 49.3% overturn rate with 99.5% replay-eligible accuracy? Are umpires getting better or worse and what does 49.3%, or 4,046, really signify?

Today's edition of Ask the UEFL is stats-based and comes from Sam Ryan's question, which represents what quite a few baseball fans ordinarily think upon seeing that umpires are overturned at a rate of 49%:
Would any expert on this site mind commenting on a statistic that I find shocking? Ever since instant replay was installed, umpires have been adjudicated wrong an average of 48% of the time!! I am NOT trying to start an argument. It's a sincere question. I know I couldn't keep my job with that record, and I don't quite understand how MLB umps keep theirs. I make plenty of mistakes in my job.....but if I was proven wrong half the time I assure you my Board of Directors would hand me a pink slip.
Definitions: To discuss overturn rates, we must define the term "overturn rate" itself. It's vitally important to know that a 48 or 49% overturn rate isolates only those calls that fit several criteria. For one, these calls tend to be bang-bang decisions, though they also include those once described by Tona La Russa and others as "the obvious miss." We also must define "the time" in Sam's statement, "...proven wrong half the time." As we will discuss below, "the time" does not refer to an entire regulation game or season, but instead to a very small part of some games that corresponds to less than one third of one inning.
Related PostReplay History - Overturned Calls Outnumber Upheld (7/27/16).

Graphic: Umpire Overturn Rate.
Second, the calls selected for review are subject to bias. With an approximate ratio of nine Manager's Challenges for one Crew Chief Review (in 2018 it was 146 Crew Chief Reviews out of 1398 total reviews), we see that approximately nine of every ten reviews are subject to a team deciding whether to challenge a call based on confounding variables, such as (a) whether an overturn will help the team, or (b) whether the team has a chance of winning the challenge.

This is different than, for instance, ESPN's 2010 study, which led off with the headline that umpires err on 20% of their non-ball/strike close calls (e.g., the ESPN study did not filter out calls that [a] failed to benefit a given team, or [b] were correct to begin with; however, the study did fall into the trap of excluding calls that weren't defined as "close," pursuant to a subjective framework).

Yet these biases fall glaringly short on the fact that umpires do much more than adjudicate close plays. We have no publicly available metric to rule on issues such as umpire positioning or game management, but even so, we still have many other calls that occur every game that don't wind up under review.

And therein lies the discrepency and difference between an umpire's overturn rate and an umpire's accuracy rate.

Overturn Rate is based only on calls that go to replay, which sometimes spur controversy and occasionally result in ejection when New York Replay HQ reaches a decision that fails to satisfy one team or another—ejections over upheld or overturned replay rulings still exist. In a career such as Sam describes, these are the few decisions one makes on the job that is bound to upset someone, whether right or wrong.
Related PostMLB Ejections 173-174 - Joe West (3-4; CWS x2) (9/22/18).

If reviewed, this call is computed for both rates.
If not reviewed, it is only part of accuracy rate.
Accuracy Rate includes all calls eligible for replay, whether or not they actually go to video review. They include all aforementioned close calls that serve as the basis for the overturn rate as well as less-controversial rulings and similar "easy" declarations. In a career such as Sam describes, these are the bulk of the decisions one makes, including the no-brainers as well as the controversial ones that just might be wrong.

For instance, while ESPN's 2010 study highlighted the 20% miss statistic front-and-center, it failed to fully extrapolate the data, which found that umpires miss one call for every 220 chances, which corresponds to an overall accuracy rate of 99.55%. See the trend? 20% would correspond to a pre-replay version of an overturn rate, while 99.55% was umpiring's overall accuracy rate.
Related PostBerating Officials: The Grand New American Pastime? (10/10/12).

Numerical Analysis: We experienced 1,356 regular season replay events in 2018, which over a 2,430-game season, is one review for every 1.79 games played (or 0.559 reviews per game). Of these, umpires were overturned 666 times. 666 overturns over 2,430 games corresponds to one overturned call for every 3.649 games played.

Plays like these are only counted once in the #s.
Assuming umpires adjudicate a bare minimum of 52 decisions per game (51 outs [8½ innings] + 1 run-producing play), we find that .559 reviews-per-game equates to .559 reviews-per-52 decisions.* Applying a 49.3% overturn rate to our .559 reviews-per-game yields a result of .276 overturns-per-game. .276 overturns for every 52 decisions equates to one overturn for every 188 decisions, or an overall accuracy rate of 99.47% for MLB umpires on replay-eligible calls.

Remember, 99.47% is a bare minimum rate and the real accuracy rate is likely higher. For instance, HP Umpire David Rackley's six calls in six seconds from a Houston walk-off in July forced the umpire to make at least six decisions on no less than six different rules during one play. In the end, the bare minimum methodology would count this as just one decision (if even that...the game likely already saw 52 decisions, which means Rackley's rapid response was more than likely ignored entirely using the bare minimum method...even so, none of these decisions were replay-eligible to begin with).
Related PostWild Walk-Off - Analysis of 6 Rules for 1 Play in Houston (7/11/18).

Conclusion: In 2010, ESPN found that umpires were 99.55% accurate on all non-ball/strike (incl. check swing) calls. In 2019, we found that umpires are at least 99.47% accurate on all replay-eligible decisions. As a drop of .08% is not statistically significant, especially given how 99.47% is a minimum value, we cannot conclude that umpires are worse than they were at the decade's start (nor can we conclude that they are better). On the contrary, we would hypothesize that technology is improving, meaning that it is easier now than it was even 10 years ago to discern an incorrect call.

Overall, 49.3% as an overturn rate, while factually correct, can be misleading if taken out of context. As the earlier pie chart and bar graphic indicates, the 49.3% figure is taken from such a relatively small part of the game that it is rather akin to picking apart one minute out of a three-hour movie (at one review for every 1.79 games played, it's more like one minute out of a five hour, 22 minute film) and performing the analysis from there.

Nonetheless, with the league staff as a whole erring on approximately one decision every 188 chances [2014-18]—or once every 3.649 games [2018]—we conclude that just like Sam Ryan, umpires do make mistakes on the job, but unlike Sam's initial assertion, umpires are not proven wrong "half the time"—unless "half the time" applies strictly to those 0.559 times per game that Replay Review is invoked.

*There's no perfect way of figuring out how many replay-eligible decisions or calls an umpire makes per game. 52-per-game assumes every batter is retired in order through the top of the ninth and then the first batter in the bottom of the frame wins it for the home team in walk-off fashion. This fails to account for non-replay eligible rulings (such as strikeouts, air outs on the infield, interference, etc.), but also assumes all 2,430 regular season MLB games experience the bare minimum of batters. We take both failures on opposite sides of the spectrum and, very roughly, cancel them out to produce the one-per-188 figure.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Latin Ejection Lesson - Stay with the Pitch

A Serie Latinoamericana ejection that preceded Los Caimanes de Barranquilla (Colombia)'s comeback victory over Argentina's Falcones de Cordoba reminds us all to stick with the pitch and batter's strike zone as well. With one out and none on in the bottom of the 8th inning, Colombia batter Robinson Cabrera took a 1-2 pitch from Argentina pitcher Carlos Parra for a called third strike, Cabrera tagged out by catcher Omar Prieto after the uncaught third strike while arguing the call, having been ejected for spiking his helmet in protest. Shortly thereafter, Cabrera was joined by his manager and two base coaches in arguing with the home plate umpire. At the time of the ejection, Argentina was leading, 4-3. Colombia ultimately won the contest, 5-4.

With replays indicating Cabrera greatly reduced his stance height as the pitch crossed the plate (the pitch was above the hollow of the knee as it traversed the strike zone [see accompanying image with superimposed pitch trajectory]), let this Latin America ejection be a simple reminder to all: a batter dropping down to meet a perceivably low pitch increases the risk that the baseball will wind up at or above the knees, while an umpire must remain vigilant throughout the entire pitch in order to judge its location relative to the batter.

In the major leagues, HP Umpire Tim Timmons' 2013 ejection of Red Sox DH David Ortiz illustrates a similar principle (and another problem with the computerized zone on the vertical axis, but I digress). As Orioles pitcher Jairo Asencio delivered a 3-0 pitch to Ortiz, Big Papi gave up on the pitch, stood upright, and backed away from home plate as the baseball passed through. By maneuvering in this manner, Ortiz effectively increased the height of his strike zone, such that Asencio's pitch, which may have otherwise been too high had Ortiz remained in his stance, crossed home plate at the height of the standing Ortiz's belt (indicated by the graphic's red line). Timmons thus ruled the pitch a strike, Ortiz argued, ultimately struck out, and destroyed a Camden Yards dugout phone in anger, culminating in a most predictable ejection from MLB's then-biggest hothead player.
Related PostMLB Ejection 105: Tim Timmons (5; David Ortiz) (7/28/13).
Related PostDetermining The League's Biggest Hothead (It's Big Papi) (6/11/15).

We recall that the vertical strike zone falls between "a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap."

It is determined from "the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."

There is debate as to what this actually means, as in when exactly *the moment* occurs when the stance height shall be taken—or if it remains variable throughout the entire pitch sequence up until the pitch's arrival at home plate.

As far as the spirit and history of the rule is concerned, consider that in 1963, the strike zone's time-of-capture was changed from the preceding, "when [the batter] assumes his natural stance" to "The umpire shall determine the Strike Zone according to the batter's usual stance when he swings at a pitch." In 1988, we arrived at the modern "prepared to swing at a pitched ball" phrasing (1988 also changed the upper boundary of the zone, or as NL umpire supervisor Ed Vargo once said, "the nipple line, but they didn't want to put 'nipple line' in the rule book"). In 1996, the zone's lower limit moved from the top of the knees to the bottom (hollow) of the knees.

The effective natural-stance to prepared-to-swing change is rather rudimentary.

Natural Stance (Obsolete/Old Rule): A batter's "natural stance" is generally a consistent crouch regardless of the pitch and requires the umpire to calculate where this "natural stance" exists for each pitch, regardless of where the batter physically stands when the baseball gets to home plate. For example, a batter squaring to bunt rarely is in "his natural stance," which could theoretically make pitch-calling complicated (and somewhat nonsensical). The "natural stance" principle is used in most modern computerized pitch tracking applications (which is another reason why the computers are deficient). Finally, 1969's "as he swings"—which serves as the basis for capture (implicitly, this means the umpire should judge the zone as the pitch is actually crossing home plate)—has one glaring error: the batter can't possibly swing at any callable pitches, for by swinging, the pitches are no longer callable (e.g., a swing takes away the ball vs. called strike judgment call).

Prepared to Swing (Modern Rule): By removing the "natural stance" and "as he swings" terminology, the umpire is now free to call the strike zone relative to the batter's actual physical position as the pitch arrives, with no implication of an actual swing (though, again, this complicates bunt attempts and situations, like Ortiz's, when the batter gives up on the pitch). Both "natural stance" and "prepared to swing" are designed to prevent batters from doing things like deliberately ducking to the ground in order to minimize their strike zone height, but only "prepared to swing" allows the umpire to make modifications on the fly that may deviate from the static image conjured up by a "natural stance."

Conclusion: Umpires should bear in mind that a strike zone's lower and upper limits are never truly finalized until the pitch arrives at home plate. Common sense and fair play principles should dictate how to adjudicate the strike zone when the batter is on the move, with greater consideration reserved for ensuring the batter isn't trying to "game" the system by deliberately ducking or jumping away from a pitch that would otherwise be ruled a strike.

Wrap: Argentina vs. Colombia (Serie Latinoamericana), 1/28/19 | Video as follows:

Monday, January 28, 2019

Triple-A Call-Up and Fill-In Results - 2018-19 Offseason

As we prepare for the upcoming 2019 season, we take a look at the Triple-A call-up and fill-in outlook following 2018 and the Arizona Fall League. As this is a contract year for the MLB Umpires Association (MLBUA), we don't expect much in the way of staff umpire retirements or changes, but MiLB might still do some minor shuffling. The following is a look at the 2018 call-ups heading into 2019.

Note that 2018 call-up numbers were elevated due to greater MLBU games lost due to staff injury/DL (most notably, Mike Everitt and Dana DeMuth). In 2018, MiLB call-ups handled 1,471 out of 9,720 (15.1%) MLB assignments, compared to 1,062 out of 9,720 (10.9%) in 2017, an increase of 409 assignments.

*New: The Fill-In Outlook for 2019 follows our midseason review from June 2018 and is part of our Umpire Scouting series for the upcoming draft. Stay tuned for instructions regarding league registration and to sign up for the 2019 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League season.
Related PostTriple-A Call-Up Progress - June 2018 (6/21/18).

Tier 1 - Most Likely to be Hired (upon MLBU vacancy)
Chris Segal, Nic Lentz, Ryan Blakney, Chad Whitson - Segal, especially, is running toward a Drake/Guccione situation in surpassing the 500-games threshold with no MLB job available due to a lack of vacancies. If he stays the course in 2019, expect a promotion to staff in 2020. Lentz is 2016's Blakney with a spike in game assignments; it'll surely decrease in 2019 and likely follow Blakney's pattern of consistent-yet-manageable work, having proven his workhorse capability. Whitson's prospects look solid for a potential mass-hire situation following the impending ratification of a new CBA, assuming MLBU retirements follow.

Tier 2 - Good Progress So Far
Ben May, Sean Barber, Nick Mahrley - May has slowly but steadily increased his MLB exposure while Barber had a resurgence of sorts in 2018. Mahrley in his sophomore season doubled his workload, not bad for an umpire who didn't appear in the bigs until the second half of 2017.

Tier 2.5 - The Rookies
Jansen Visconti, Jeremie Rehak - Visconti and Rehak, both 2018 AFL invitees, impressed in their debut seasons. The newest umpires ordinarily are relegated to Tier 3, but these two kept succeeding in the spotlight at an elevated rate.
Related Post2018 Arizona Fall League Umpire Roster (10/1/18).

Tier 3 - Watch and Wait
Tom Woodring, Ramon De Jesus, Ryan Additon, Roberto Ortiz, John Libka, Shane Livensparger - Woodring is the veteran and leader of this tier, but how long will he wait? De Jesus is in a middle-pack predicament while Additon has received interesting treatment from the league, having officiated his first game of 2018 in June and vaulting to 74 assignments to close out the year. Ortiz and Libka are in wait-and-see territory while Livensparger for whatever reason is the only umpire with less than 50 games in each of his first two call-up years since Whitson in 2014-15.

Click the column headers to sort by that metric.

Rk (2018)Rk (Total)Umpire20182017201620152014Total Gms
16Lentz, Nic149109105363
21Segal, Chris14112421116111513
27Whitson, Chad1411245287332
42Blakney, Ryan12611914288
475
53May, Ben113104698830404
64Barber, Sean10967675892393
711Visconti, Jansen108



108
813Rehak, Jeremie98

98
98DeJesus, Ramon829781

260
105Woodring, Tom811073654102380
1111Mahrley, Nick7731
108
1210Additon, Ryan7455129
139Ortiz, Roberto68668142
1415Libka, John581977
1514Livensparger, Shane464086

**1471 of the 9720 (15.1%) umpire assignments in MLB games in 2018 (2430 regular season games) were handled by AAA call-ups.
**In 2017, 1062 of the 9720 umpire assignments (10.9%) were handled by Minor Leaguers.

Legend: Rk (2018) and Rk (Total) refer to the umpire's rank of MLB games assigned in 2018 and all-time, respectively.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Plate Meeting Podcast - Episode 9 - Pro Ump Camp

In this ninth episode of The Plate Meeting, a LF Umpire Podcast from CloseCallSports.com, we interview Ron Teague and Kevin Winn, American Association and CanAm umpire supervisors who attend the Pro Umpire Camp.

A former MiLB official, Ronnie Teague is the Director of Umpires for the American Association. While on the field of affiliated ball, Ron was the umpire who famously called two pace-of-play (batter's box violation) strikes to punch out a minor league batter and stood in for one of Joe Mikulik's patented temper tantrums. We talk about these plays and more on the show.

Kevin Winn is the Executive Director for the Can-Am League, who several years ago saw an alumnus—Will Little—make it to the MLB level, the first CamAm product to crack the majors, followed shortly by fellow alum Adam Hamari. Winn was the Director of Umpires on duty who supervised Hamari and Little in the CanAm.

Pro Umpire Camp (proumpirecamp.com) helps umpires gain experience as they advance in all levels of baseball from Little League to the Minor Leagues, offering classroom and on-field education and instruction regarding the three-umpire system, video analysis, and a chance to be seen by independent league decision-makers, including the American Association, CanAm, Atlantic, and Pecos Leagues.
Sponsored Link: ProUmpireCamp.com.
Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 9 - Pro Umpire Camp with Ron Teague and Kevin Winn" 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 9 - Pro Umpire Camp with Ron Teague and Kevin Winn.

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:
The following section contains relevant links, notes, and additional material that correlate with conversations during the show. Click the following related video/article links to be taken to that relevant item.

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

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Related Link #1 (14:30): Minor Teague Ball: The One Pitch Strikeout and Ejection (8/4/13).
Related Video #1 (14:30): Ron Teague ejects Vinnie Catricala after one-pitch SO in Texas.
Related Link #2 (16:45): MiLB Ejection: Ron Teague (Joe Mikulik) (7/7/15).
Related Link #3 (25:00): Featured MiLB Ejection - Ron Teague (2 Aces, 1st Inning) (4/19/16).
Sponsored Link: ProUmpireCamp.com.

Former MLB & Canadian HOF Umpire Jim McKean Dies

28-year AL and MLB umpire Jim McKean died Thursday morning at the age of 73. The Montreal, Canada native began his career in the Florida State League in 1970, joined the American League staff care of the International League in 1973, retired in 2001, and joined the MLB office as a supervisor in 2002. He officiated three AL Division Series (1981, 95, 99), five AL Championship Series (1977, 83, 87, 91, 98), and three World Series (1979, 85, 95). He concluded his big league career with 62 ejections

As the last full-time full-time Canadian on the Major League staff until Stu Scheurwater's hiring in 2018 (British Columbia-raised MLB umpire Ian Lamplugh [2002] was born in England), McKean received a slew of honours. He was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame in 2004, received the NDG Baseball (Montreal's version of Little League) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015, and, most recently, entered the Florida State League Hall of Fame in November 2018.
Related PostJim McKean Inducted into FSL Hall of Fame (11/13/18).

McKean also officiated junior hockey and played in the Canadian Football League (quarterback/punter) in the mid-1960s, winning the CFL's Grey Cup with the championship Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1966.

McKean (1945-2019) was 73 years old.

We spoke with Dale Scott about Jim McKean, whom he worked with during their time together in the American League. That minisode of the Plate Meeting Podcast is available as follows:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Colombia Ejection - Manager Attacks Umpire Prochoron

Colombian League Manager Jos茅 Mosquera of Los Toros de Sincelejo attacked umpire Johan Prochor贸n after being ejected during the Colombia B茅isbol championship series, repeatedly pushing the LCBP official after a ball/strike dispute didn't go his way, ultimately resulting in a team-led assault on the six-umpire officiating crew during which multiple players also physically charged the umpires.

HP Umpire Johan Prochor贸n ejected Toros Bench Coach Jorge Cort茅s, Manager Jos茅 Mosquera, pitcher Samuel Gervacio, and catcher Juan Camilo Zabala (balls/strikes & fighting/Unsportsmanlike-NEC) in the top of the 7th inning of the Caimanes-Toros game. With two out and one on (R3) in the top of the 7th inning, Caimanes de Barranquilla batter Christian Correa hit the 0-0 pitch from Toros pitcher Jose Ortega on a ground ball to left field, driving in baserunner R3 Audy Ciriaco from third base. Following the RBI single, Prochor贸n ejected Cort茅s from the dugout and eventually ejected Mosquera as Mosquera arrived at home plate to argue.

Immediately after Prochor贸n signaled the ejection, Mosquera attacked the plate umpire, repeatedly pushing him.

After covering home plate with dirt and throwing first base onto the infield, los Toros returned to the dugout and threw equipment, including bats, helmets, and other projectiles, onto the playing field, as the Toros' mascot (a bull) pawed at the warning track dirt and signaled toward the umpires, simulating an impending attack of his own.

As the umpires waited for the ejected parties to leave the field and dugout, Prochor贸n ejected Gervacio from the dugout, sparking another bench-clearing incident during which Gervacio elbowed a field umpire and Zabala battered the plate umpire.

As a result of the repeated attacks, the umpires left the field and suspended the game, ultimately returning to resume the championship-deciding affair some 90 minutes later, after all ejected persons had left the field.

At the time of the ejections, los Caimanes were leading, 8-3. Los Caimanes ultimately won the contest, 13-4, thus clinching Colombian league title.

Wrap: Caimanes de Barranquilla vs. Toros de Sincelejo (Colombia Final), 1/20/19 | Video as follows: