Saturday, May 26, 2018

Game of Millimeters - Hoskins Talks West's Strike 3 Call

When plate umpire Joe West called Phillies batter Rhys Hoskins out on strikes with one out and two on in the bottom of the 9th inning of a one-run game, the home team grew frustrated. After the game, Hoskins explained he felt the pitch was "a little off," but concluded with a self-critique: "It's too close to take in that situation. It's unacceptable. You've got to put the ball in play and give yourself a chance."

Hoskins takes pitch #5 for a called third strike.
How close was the 2-2 pitch, ruled a third strike, to the outer edge of home plate, anyway?

It turns out the pitch barely scraped the strike zone—and barely is putting it mildly. Oh, it was a strike and caught the plate to be sure, but by less than a single millimeter.

"Too close to take" undersells just how close the pitch was.

The following bit of math explains just how close the edge of Blue Jays pitcher Ryan Tepera's pitch was to the outer strike zone boundary.

The px value of 0.828 was in Kulpa Rule's borderline range.
The pz value of 2.065 was fully in the strike zone.

Px (the horizontal coordinate) is the value we care about, and to figure out whether a ball centered 0.828 feet from the center of home plate is still partially over the plate, we begin by converting a 17-inch plate to feet: the width of home plate, in feet, is 1.417, half of which is .708 feet.

Pitch tracking math tells us what happened.
Since we know that px is designed to measure the center of the baseball, we know that a ball with a px value of -.708 or +.708 is centered over the edge of home plate.

Official Baseball Rule 3.01, entitled The Ball, states that, "It shall...measure not less than nine nor more than 9 1/4 inches in circumference."

Using significance to the thousandths decimal position, the mathematical formula for computer radius from circumference is C=2πr [r=C÷(2π)], which leads us to r=9.250÷(2π), which is r=9.250÷6.283, or r=1.472.

A radius of 1.472 inches converted to feet is .123, which, added to .708, is .831 feet.

Thus, the maximum distance the center of a baseball can be from the edge of home plate for a slim portion of the ball to still pass through the strike zone is px .831, assuming a margin of error of zero.

HP Umpire Joe West pulled the trigger on px .828, which provides for .003 feet, or .036 inches of overlap. That's a strike by a razor-thin margin ("any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone") as baseball's game-of-inches came down to less than a millimeter (.914mm to be exact).

Video as follows:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rectify - Crew Consultation and Getting the Call Right

Crew Consultation and Getting the Call Right is an important officiating concept when an umpire's clearly incorrect call or mechanic occurs during a play that is to be reversed. Such a play occurred Tuesday in Toronto when Angels batter Kole Calhoun hit a sinking line drive to left field where outfielder Curtis Granderson attempted to make a sliding catch.

As the the ball fell to the outfield turf, Angels baserunner R2 Zack Cozart ran toward third base as Granderson recovered and threw to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who tagged Cozart while off his base.

Immediately following the play, it became clear that 3B Umpire Mike DiMuro had incorrectly signaled that left fielder Granderson caught batter Calhoun’s batted ball on the fly.

Video: Umps Reverse Catch Call in Toronto.
Ok, so the umpire has made an incorrect call—he saw a catch by an outfielder who turned away from him, thus blocking or screening him from seeing the ball, and realized far too late that the ball was loose. Talking about positioning, timing, or any other mechanic won’t help now, because an improper call has already been made and the play already complete. During a game, knowing what to change mechanically won't help with a plainly missed call that has already been made.

How is an umpire to fix such a mistake?

The answer is crew consultation.

We previously spoke of the importance of the call on the field relative to crew consultation and forming an initial call ahead of a Replay Review due to the importance of defaulting to an on-field ruling in the case of inconclusive video evidence ("call stands").
Related PostCrew Consultation - Importance of the Call on the Field (6/22/17).

The current discussion pertains to clearly erroneous calls to be corrected without the use of Replay Review (or a clear miss that the crew fixes on the field, thus making video review an inaccessible option).

Crew Consultation: The answer to a problem.
Official Baseball Rule 8.02(c) states, “If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call.

Upon consultation amongst chief Mark Wegner's crew, the umpires elected to rule baserunner Cozart out on the play at third base, and place batter Calhoun at first on the fielder’s choice.

The NCAA rule is a bit more strict and precise.
NCAA: The college rule provides a little more guidance for that level of play, which is different than the professional rule. Had this play occurred at the NCAA level, Appendix E entitled Getting the Call Right states that if an outfield call of “catch” is changed to “no catch,” then the ball is dead, the batter placed at first base, and each base runner is advanced one base from that occupied at time of pitch.

Conversely, a “no catch” to “catch” reversal in college requires the base runners returned to their bases of origin and the batter declared out—no sacrifice flies are possible.
Related PostNCAA Rule - Reversing a Catch Call's Runner Placement (6/13/17).

Under college's catch to no catch rule, the Angels would have had the bases loaded with none out.

NFHS: In high school, the rule is similar to the professional code, as NFHS Rule 10-2-3 states that the umpire-in-chief is authorized discretion on changed calls to “Rectify any situation in which an umpire’s decision that was reversed has placed either team at a disadvantage.

Regardless of level, it is important to know that umpire consultation is possible for certain clearly erroneous calls or those where a crewmate has additional information that could seriously help get the call right, such as trouble balls hit to the outfield, pulled foot issues between base and field umpire at first base, whether a batter has fouled a ball off a foot or leg at home plate, etc., while other calls (such as balls and strikes [pitch location]) should likely never result in a crew consultation.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

MLB Ejection 047 - Brian Knight (1; Scott Servais)

HP Umpire Brian Knight ejected Mariners Manager Scott Servais (strike three call; QOCY) in the top of the 9th inning of the Mariners-Athletics game. With two out and one on (R2), Mariners batter Ben Gamel took a 2-2 slider from A's pitcher Blake Treinen for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the heart of home plate and at the midpoint (px 0.017, pz 3.458 [sz_top 3.319 / RAD 3.444 / MOE 3.527]), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 2-2. The Mariners ultimately won the contest, 3-2, in 10 innings.

This is Brian Knight (91)'s first ejection of 2018.
Brian Knight now has 3 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 3).
Crew Chief Brian O'Nora now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*This pitch was located 0.828 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 47th ejection of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 19th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Seattle's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st in the AL West (SEA 2; HOU, LAA, TEX 1; OAK 0).
This is Scott Servais' 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since May 15 (Jeff Nelson; QOC = Y [Interference NC]).
This is Brian Knight's first ejection since July 2, 2016 (Chip Hale; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics, 5/22/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 046 - Angel Hernandez (1; Craig Counsell)

HP Umpire Angel Hernandez ejected Brewers Manager Craig Counsell (ball four/walk call; QOCN) in the top of the 9th inning of the Diamondbacks-Brewers game. With none out and none on, D'Backs batter Jake Lamb took a 2-2 fastball from Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel for a called third ball and 3-2 fastball for a called fourth ball. Replays indicate the 2-2 pitch was located off the outer edge of home plate and belt-high (px -.795, pz 2.470) and the 3-2 pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and thigh-high (px .502, pz 2.029 [sz_bot 1.601 / RAD 1.726 / MOE 1.809], the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Brewers were leading, 1-0. The Brewers ultimately won the contest, 1-0.

This is Angel Hernandez (5)'s first ejection of 2018.
Angel Hernandez now has -7 points in the UEFL Standings (-5 Prev + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = -7).
Crew Chief Larry Vanover 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.
*The 3-2 pitch was located 2.952 horizontal inches from being deemed a correct call.
*The 3-2 pitch was located 2.640 vertical inches from being deemed a correct call.

This is the 46th ejection of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 18th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Milwaukee's 3rd ejection of 2018, T-1st in the NL Central (CHC, MIL 3; PIT 1; CIN, STL 0).
This is Craig Counsell's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since April 15 (Hunter Wendelstedt; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Angel Hernandez's first ejection since August 14, 2017 (Ian Kinsler; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 5/22/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 045 - Pat Hoberg (1; Aaron Boone)

HP Umpire Pat Hoberg ejected Yankees Manager Aaron Boone (strike one call; QOCY) in the top of the 6th inning of the Yankees-Rangers game. With two out and one on (R1), Yankees batter Gary Sanchez took a 1-0 fastball from Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels for a called first strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer half of home plate and below the midpoint (px 0.543, pz 3.416 [sz_top 3.467]) and that all callable pitches were properly officiated, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Rangers were leading, 6-1. The Rangers ultimately won the contest, 6-4.

This is Pat Hoberg (31)'s first ejection of 2018.
Pat Hoberg now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 4).
Crew Chief Gerry Davis now has -3 points in Crew Division (-4 Previous + 1 Correct Call = -3).
*This pitch was located 3.102 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 45th ejection of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 17th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is New York-AL's 5th ejection of 2018, 1st in the AL East (NYY 5; TOR 3; BAL, BOS 1; TB 0).
This is Aaron Boone's first ejection since June 13, 2007 (Brian Knight; QOC = U [Fighting]).
This is Pat Hoberg's first ejection since September 1, 2017 (Adam Jones; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers, 5/22/18 | Video as follows:

Protection Question - HS Obstruction on Fielding Catcher

A collision and tangle between batter and catcher as the latter attempted to field a bunt up the first base foul line resulted in an umpire's ruling of obstruction, helping Reagan High School defeat Lake Travis in Texas HS playoff action, an interference vs obstruction vs "that's nothing" debate following shortly thereafter.

VIDEO: Analysis of the Texas HS OBS play.
The right-of-way rules concerning which player's ability to perform his/her actions unimpeded by the opponent takes priority generally follow a rather simple theme, as follows:

On a batted ball, the fielder has the right to field it.*
At any other time, the runner has the right to run along.

In other words, the default condition requires the fielder to avoid the runner...unless the fielder is fielding a batted ball.

So why, in this case, did the home plate umpire call obstruction on the catcher during such a batted ball?

Because of the asterisk (*), naturally. The one qualification for a batted ball holds that only one fielder is entitled to the obstruction override protection/interference benefit. How does an umpire choose which fielder to pick for this exclusive privilege? Crack open the books, here's the answer:

NFHS: This play comes to us from high school baseball, so it's only fitting to begin with the National Federation of High Schools' rule. NFHS Rule 2-22-1 states that:
Obstruction is an act (intentional or unintentional, as well as physical or verbal) by a fielder, any member of the defensive team or its team personnel that hinders a runner...
Offensive interference, on the other hand, occurs when the team at bat (in this case, the batter-runner) "interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play" (2-21-1a).

On a batted ball, a runner is out for interference when (s)he "hinders a fielder on his initial attempt to field a batted ball." So how could this possibly be anything but interference? Answer: Rule 8-4-1g.

A batter-runner is called out for interference.
Rule 8-4-1g1 states, "If two fielders try to field a batted ball and the runner contacts one or both, the
umpire shall decide which one is entitled to field the ball and that fielder only is entitled to protection." This means that if both the pitcher and catcher attempt to field a bunt, only one may be protected. In this case (assuming proper rules application), the umpire deemed that the pitcher and not the catcher was the fielder who should be protected.

How about "that's nothing?" Read on...

NCAA & OBR: The upper level codes agree—obstruction on this play would require the umpire to have deemed that the pitcher was the one defensive player entitled to field the ball and that the batter-runner's collision with the catcher was the catcher's fault because he, himself, was not protected...but OBR carries with it a heavy helping of handy heedfulness.

Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment disclaims, "When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called...'Obstruction' by a fielder attempting to field a ball should be called only in very flagrant and violent cases because the rules give him the right of way."

The NCAA equivalent is 7-11f Exception 4, which states, "If a batter/runner and a catcher fielding the ball make contact, no call shall be made unless either player attempts to alter the play."

NFHS is stuck with an interpretation, but no explicit rule, regarding this brand of incidental contact.

The rule of thumb here is the closer to home plate the entanglement, the greater the chance that nothing should be called. The farther away from home plate the entanglement occurs, however, the greater chance that someone has committed a violation.

So let's say to heck with Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment—the contact wasn't incidental. In that case, OBR 6.01(a)(10) states, "Any runner is out when—he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball."

If the catcher wasn't protected and obstruction is to be called, this is obstruction type 1, which, during a bunt ground ball, would produce an immediate dead ball (6.01(h)(1)).
Penalty: BR gets first base; other runners placed where they would have reached if not for OBS.

NCAA is 8-5d ("A runner is out when: The runner interferes intentionally with a throw or thrown ball, or interferes with a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball") and its approved ruling ("If two fielders attempt to field a batted ball, the umpire shall determine which fielder is more likely to make the play and only that fielder is protected from interference by the runner").

Under NCAA, the ball also is dead and the batter-runner is awarded first base (6-3d-1).

Umpire Greg Gibson rules obstruction on F3.
Precedent: We saw a similar play in MLB when HP Umpire Greg Gibson called the Athletics for obstruction at Angel Stadium in 2014 after batter-runner Erick Aybar collided with pitcher Dan Otero as Otero and first baseman Brandon Moss as both defensive players simultaneously attempted to field the batted ball.

Otero, who had actually fielded the ball, was not the player Gibson ruled obstruction on; that honor went to first baseman Moss, who blocked Aybar's base path and, in doing so, obstructed the runner, who was awarded first base. As a general rule of thumb, when two fielders stand side-by-side to block a runner's base path during a batted ball, one of them is there illegally since a maximum of one fielder may be protected.
Related PostSolution for Case Play 2014-4: Batter-Runner Obstruction

Mark Carlson no-called this play.
As for interference, in 2011, HP Umpire Dan Iassogna ruled Dodgers batter Matt Kemp out for interfering with Angels catcher Hank Conger on a softly-hit ground ball in front of home plate.
Related Video: A mic'd-up Dan Iassogna calls Kemp out (ESPN)

Two years later, it was Iassogna who ejected Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel for arguing an interference no-call by crewmate Mark Carlson in Philadelphia during a sacrifice bunt play from Rockies batter-runner Clint Barmes.
Related PostMLB Ejection 017: Iassogna/Manuel (4/25/13).

The greatest difference between these two plays is the batter-runner's action: Kemp gives up and stands in Conger's way whereas Barmes attempts to run, and is then pushed by catcher Kratz into Kratz's own fielding lane. In Philly, both Barmes and Kratz are "going to first base" when contact occurs. In Anaheim, Kemp is clearly not attempting to run the bases, so he has interfered.

The Armbrister tangle/untangle play in 1975.
As UEFL Appeals Board member RichMSN then-opined, "Classic Armbrister tangle/untangle." Like Barmes, Reds batter Ed Armbrister moved toward first base when he collided with Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk in Game 3 of the 1975 World Series, resulting in a no-call from HP Umpire Larry Barnett.

You Make the Call: So go back to Reagan & Lake Travis' playoff game, and make a call. Was this obstruction on a catcher not entitled to protection because the pitcher was the player for whom the batted ball was intended, interference on the batter-runner for hindering the protected catcher's ability to field the ball, or is this an Armbrister tangle/untangle?

Gil's Call: Whether you're in the obstruction, interference, or nothing camp, I'd like to point out one optical illusion that plagues these types of plays, specifically as it relates to deciding which fielder to protect when more than one fielder pursues a batted ball.

Catcher fields the bunt in front of his pitcher.
In this particular play, because the catcher altered his path due to the batter-runner—willfully or otherwise—he was delayed in getting to the batted ball. Meanwhile, his pitcher jogged unimpeded toward the ball, appearing to pull up just as the catcher fielded the baseball, giving an odd appearance that the hassled catcher cut-off his own pitcher in his zeal to make up for his collision with the batter-runner.

Why did it look like the pitcher was going to get there first if not for the catcher? Because the pitcher, unlike the catcher, wasn't hindered by a batter-runner, so his path to the ball was never altered like the catcher's was. Absent the interaction between catcher and runner, I surmise the catcher would have fielded this ball without the pitcher giving the impression of being "cut-off" by his own teammate.

Video as follows:

Monday, May 21, 2018

MLB Ejection 044 - Jeremie Rehak (2; Mark Trumbo)

HP Umpire Jeremie Rehak ejected Orioles DH Mark Trumbo (check swing strike three call; QOCY) in the top of the 9th inning of the Orioles-White Sox game. With one out and none on, Trumbo attempted to check his swing on a 0-2 changeup from White Sox pitcher Joakim Soria, ruled a swinging third strike by HP Umpire Rehak. Replays indicate that absent the matter of the check swing, the 0-2 pitch was located over the heart of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px -.070, pz 1.484 [sz_bot 1.627 / RAD 1.503 / MOE 1.420]), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Orioles were leading, 3-2. The Orioles ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

This is Jeremie Rehak (35)'s second ejection of 2018.
Jeremie Rehak now has 7 points in the UEFL Standings (3 Prev + 2 AAA + 2 Correct Call = 7).
Crew Chief Bill Miller now has -6 points in Crew Division (-7 Previous + 1 Correct Call = -6).
*UEFL Rules 6-2-b-6-a and 6-5-c-5 have been applied. 6-2-b-6-a states, in part, "Quality of Correctness is governed by the (in)correctness of the call made, not by the quality of reasoning given for such a call." Therefore, reason (check swing) is superseded by QOC pertaining to the call made (strike three; QOCY).
*This pitch was located 0.768 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 44th ejection of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 22nd player ejection of 2018. Prior to ejection, Trumbo was 1-4 (3 SO) in the contest.
This is Baltimore's 1st ejection of 2018, T-3rd in the AL East (NYY 4; TOR 3; BAL, BOS 1; TB 0).
This is Mark Trumbo's first career MLB ejection.
This is Jeremie Rehak's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since May 6 (John Gibbons; QOC = Y [Balk]).

Wrap: Baltimore Orioles vs. Chicago White Sox, 5/21/18 | Video as follows:

Pitch f/x SMT Sportvision Sues MLBAM for StatCast 'Theft'

After MLB Advanced Media ejected Sportvision's PITCHf/x in favor of Statcast, SportsMedia Technology Corp (SMT) filed a lawsuit against MLBAM, alleging patent infringement, trade secret theft, and breach of contract related to Statcast and MLBAM's decision to replace Pitch f/x prior to the 2017 season in favor of newer and more refined pitch-tracking tech. Sportvision is a subsidiary of SMT.

MLB traded PFX for Statcast in 2017.
Specifically, SMT and Sportvision allege in a complaint that MLBAM willfully tried "stopping Sportvision from receiving any revenue" for PITCHf/x and instead installed an MLB system (Statcast's Trackman and PITCHcast) ahead of 2017, and several years before the SMT-MLBAM contract was to expire on December 31, 2019.

In alleging that MLBAM breached its contract, SMT wrote that MLBAM "wanted to take the fruits of Sportvision's labors for MLBAM's benefit alone, and began a campaign to bring the PITCHf/x system in-house."

For instance, SMT found that after Sportvision Vice President and General Manager of Baseball Ryan Zander left the company in 2016—just two hours after SMT acquired Sportvision—and was hired by MLBAM, it was Zander who allegedly told SMT that professional baseball would not longer require Sportvision's services. Zander is presently MLBAM's Vice President of Business Development.

SMT wrote that Sportvision invented certain technology, including Strike Zone Rendering and Pitch Location Rendering, which were protected by patents, and that MLBAM's use of these and other PITCHf/x "trade secrets" in its Statcast program constituted infringement and trade secret theft, in addition to breach of contract.

SMT alleges that MLBAM breached terms of exclusivity, performance (e.g., failing to fulfill its contractual and operational obligations to Sportvision), and willful misappropriation of Sportvision's trade secrets, including MLBAM's use of PITCHcast, a component of Statcast.

MLBAM ejected SMT, which is now suing.
According to the complaint, MLBAM created a derivative product of PITCHf/x called PITCHcast by replacing core components of PITCHf/x with third party components from competitors Trackman and ChyronHego in alleged preparation for shutting Sportvision out of professional baseball's pitch tracking technology.

Specific alleged incidents of infringement include At Bat VR (including MLB's At Bat mobile app), MLBAM's umpire evaluation app, and MLB.com pitch visualizations.

Charged SMT, "MLBAM's Executive Leadership was so determined to stop Sportvision from receiving any revenue for the tracking and rendering of MLB pitches using a league-wide installed system that he became blind to the legal facts and legal reality of the situation."

SMT alleges that MLBAM hired Zander to oversee the "MLBAM process of reverse engineering and misappropriating the Sportvision Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets in the PITCHf/x System," relying on his "intimate Trade Secret knowledge" of PITCHf/x in order to do so.

The complaint states that Sportvision employees, including Zander, were required to sign a proprietary information, inventions, and non-solicitation agreement, that would have barred an employee from communicating trade secrets to a third-party or outside source.

PITCHf/x-reported amount of tracking error.
SMT also accused MLBAM of failing to perform several required acts, including funding the PITCHf/x budgets, paying for PITCHf/x expenses, hiring and paying for PITCHf/x equipment operators, providing Sportvision with access to stadiums and facilities, and providing Sportvision with access to the PITCHf/x master data.

The complaint features juicy tidbits, such as, "Everyone knew that MLBAM's Executive Leadership and Sportvision's Executive Leadership hated each other. They had been at odds for years—in fact, there had been literal scream tests between the two of them right in [MLBAM's New York offices]."

According to the suit, the greater issue of alleged nefariousness came to light in March 2018, when an SMT account manager inadvertently received a series of e-mails from MLBAM and a FoxSports associate discussing SMT competitors, including Doppler radar-centric TrackMan, and optical-tracking system ChyronHego.

SMT's suit contends that MLBAM had tried to get out of its Sportvision relationship "for years" and that MLBAM attempted to make a legal argument that it had not "terminated" the PITCHf/x agreement/contract, even though MLBAM replaced PITCHf/x with Statcast prior to the 2017 season (the counterargument purportedly contends that PITCHf/x simply became PITCHcast, so in using Statcast, PITCHcast, previously-known-as PITCHf/x, still exists, even if, allegedly, MLBAM is not obligated to pay SMT because PITCHcast is a different product).

History of Pitch Tracking Technology: The story begins at the turn of the century, when MLB merged the AL and NL umpiring staffs and, in doing so, attempted to unify and standardize its umpiring operation throughout the major leagues.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

MLB Ejection 043 - John Tumpane (1; Kyle Schwarber)

HP Umpire John Tumpane ejected Cubs LF Kyle Schwarber (strike three call; QOCY) in the top of the 7th inning of the Cubs-Reds game. With two out and two on (R1, R2), Schwarber took a 2-2 fastball from Reds pitcher David Hernandez for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and below the midpoint (px .386, pz 3.511 [sz_top 3.371 / MOE 3.454 / RAD 3.579]), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Cubs were leading, 6-1. The Cubs ultimately won the contest, 6-1.

This is John Tumpane (74)'s first ejection of 2018.
John Tumpane now has 6 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 6).
Crew Chief Jim Reynolds now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*This pitch was located 0.81 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.
*A strike is a pitch which "Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone."

This is the 43rd ejection of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 22nd player ejection of 2018. Prior to ejection, Schwarber was 2-4 (HR, 2 SO) in the contest.
This is Chicago's 3rd ejection of 2018, 1st in the NL Central (CHC 3; MIL 2; PIT 1; CIN, STL 0).
This is Kyle Schwarber's first career MLB ejection.
This is John Tumpane's first ejection since August 20, 2017 (Torey Lovullo; QOC = U [Warnings]).

Wrap: Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds, 5/20/17 | Video as follows:

Batted Ball Caroms off Wall Into Stands - HR or 2B?

On Saturday, Jose Altuve's batted fly ball exited Houston's playing field unusually as it hit the top of the padding on a lower portion of the outfield fence, bouncing over the right-center field wall and into the stands: Is this a A) home run, B) double, or C) Let's just have Replay Review sort it out?

Bouncing batted ball in Houston: HR or 2B?
The Play: With one out and none on in the bottom of the 8th of Saturday's Indians-Astros game, Altuve hit a 0-1 slider from Indians pitcher Neil Ramirez on a fly ball to right field, where it struck the lower padded portion of the outfield fence and caromed directly into the stands, without ever touching the ground nor any player.

The Call: After 2B Umpire Jeremie Rehak's initial home run ruling and consultation with Crew Chief Bill Miller (working third base) and crewmates Todd Tichenor (HP) and Alan Porter (1B), Miller declared the play a home run, drawing a brief dissent from Indians Manager Terry Francona, and an immediate election to initiate a Crew Chief Review.

Bill Miller announces the result of a Replay.
Replay Review: After a brief review, the Replay Official deemed the play a two-base award, determining that the ball hitting the wall's midsection constituted a bounding ball. By rule, any bounding ball that exits the playing field is a two-base award. The answer to the above question is C B.

All jokes aside, there is no option C (instant replay) at most levels of ball, so knowing this rule is of great importance. Here's why this is a two-base award:

Precedent: What's unusual about Saturday's play in Houston is that a very similar play transpired just three years ago and the umpires acted nearly identically as they did Saturday. In 2015, Gerry Davis' crew similarly encountered a batted ball that deflected off the middle of an outfield wall in Kansas City and subsequently bounced over an adjacent portion of the wall. Like Miller's crew, Davis' crew originally ruled the play a home run, a decision subsequently overturned via Replay Review to a two-base award.
Related Post2B Bounding Ball Over Ground Rules-Less Kauffman

See Official Baseball Rule 5.05(a)(7) ("A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases"), which establishes that a bounding ball that exits the playing field results in a two-base award.

This is obviously not a traditional ball-hits-ground situation, is not covered by the Minute Maid Park nor Universal Ground Rules, and is not covered by the MLB Umpire Manual's interpretation that a ball which strikes the top of the wall and exits the playing field is a home run.

The top of the wall is in play until it isn't.
However, Wendelstedt shares a NFHS interpretation of this particular play (8.3.3) that finds that the ball must clear the fence in flight or on deflection from a fielder in order to be considered a home run, which, in OBR, is Rule 5.05(a)(5) ("A fair ball passes over a fence or into the stands at a distance from home base of 250 feet or more") and Rule 5.05(a)(9) ("if deflected [by a fielder] into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run"); the middle of the fence is not "in flight" enough. See: Jose Canseco for more.

SIDEBAR: A batted ball in flight deflected by a fielder into the stands in foul territory (to the foul side of the pole) is a two-base award.

The reason that a ball that hits the top of the wall and immediately bounces out of play is considered a home run even though the ball is not physically "in flight" once it touches the top of the wall is because MLBUM specifically interprets the issue of a ball striking the top of the wall and no further permutation or possibility. This same interpretation holds that the top of the wall is considered both in play (insofar as a ball that strikes the top of the wall and caroms back into the playing field is in play) and out of play (insofar that a ball that comes to rest on the top of the wall is considered dead).

For more on the top-of-the-wall interpretation, see this incorrect Replay Review decision from 2017.
Related PostReplay Review, Ground Rules, and Levi's Landing (9/1/17).

Spirit of the Rule: An interesting note about related Ground Rules history pertains to a recent change to the Dodger Stadium ground rules, which suggests the spirit in which the home run rule exists. In the past, Dodger Stadium featured a ground rule that held that if a batted ball in flight hit any part of a bullpen gate in the outfield and bounced into the stands, the ruling would be a home run.

Illustration of Dodger Stadium's ground rule.
Upon review, this ground rule was found to be in conflict with the Official Baseball Rules, which, according to Rule 4.05, is illegal ("ground rules...shall not conflict with the official playing rules").

As a result, the ground rule was changed to "Batted ball hitting bullpen gate in either left or right field at a point above the lower wall and continuing over the lower wall in fair territory: Home Run."

The purpose of this change was to bring the ground rule into compliance with the prevailing interpretation that a ball must achieve the wall's height in order to be eligible to be considered a home run pursuant to Rule 5.05(a)(5) [there is no minimum height issue for a batted ball deflected by a fielder, as in 5.05(a)(9)]. This explains why a ball bouncing into the stands from the top of the wall is a home run and why a ball bouncing into the stands after bouncing off the wall at a height below its top is considered a bounding ball and not a home run.

Minute Maid Park agrees: "Batted ball strikes higher wall or railing at a point above the lower wall and rebounds over lower wall: Home Run." There is no ground rule for a point lower than the top of the lower wall.

Without a Ground Rule to address it, as in KC, a less-than-top-of-wall-to-stands hit is two-bases.

Miller grabs the headsets in Houston.
Conclusion: The ball did not strike the top of the wall in Houston; it bounced off the middle of the fence below the height of the top of the wall it bounced over. For that reason, this bounding ball was subject to Rule 5.05(a)(7), making it eligible for a two-base award upon subsequently clearing the adjacent outfield wall at a point higher than at which it initially struck the padded fence (making it ineligible for the aforementioned Houston ground rule). Score it a double for Altuve.

As far as Replay Review is concerned, this is a rare instance in which the Replay Official overturned a matter of rule interpretation, as opposed to a simple judgment call...unless, somehow, the umpires did not see the ball striking anything below the height of the lower fence-adjacent wall in right field.

That's Odd: Maybe this rule interpretation reversal has something to do with Miller's Friday snappiness with Houston's on-field Replay Technician...

Video as follows: