Thursday, May 26, 2011

Umpire Odds & Ends: Replacement Ball

Baseball is a sport in which, unlike basketball, football, or hockey, dozens and dozens of game balls are routinely used throughout the course of a contest. We all know the home plate umpire carries replacements on his person, and if one ball is taken out of play, he replenishes the supply by making a replacement available to the defensive team. Over time, we have seen there are two ways to do this: first, the home plate umpire may give the ball to the catcher who then throws it to his pitcher, or second, the home plate umpire may directly throw the ball to the pitcher.

There are certain advantages and disadvantages to each approach. When giving the ball to the catcher to throw to his pitcher, the game might be lengthened by a few seconds or the "flow" might be disrupted; when throwing the ball directly to the pitcher, as Jim Wolf (78) demonstrates, the umpire may look more "athletic" or more involved. On the other hand, if an umpire doesn't quite have a great arm, giving the ball directly to the catcher is the safer bet. Especially at the amateur levels, high school, or college ball, an errant throw to the pitcher could potentially land a well intentioned umpire on the wrong end of a personal injury lawsuit, if the throw happens to hit a pitcher in the head, for instance. In that case, handing a new ball to the catcher is the better option.

When an umpire throws the ball to a pitcher, it might look crisper and jibe better with the game. But when an umpire throws the ball to a pitcher, that throw better be accurate lest the "Umpire Fail" winds up on YouTube or as a 30 second ribbing on ESPN, as was the case with Jim Wolf last season in Toronto or CB Bucknor this season in San Francisco... or you could just watch a related video of Mr. Bucknor's to see a remix of his strike three swinging mechanic from the May 23, 2007 contest in New York... you still have a few more days to vote in our (called) strike three mechanic poll, just in case that remix influenced you.


Anonymous said...

That strike three swinging call was great because earlier the Red Sox were arguing a check swing. So CB took that opportunity to stick it to them. Love him for it.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing that Jim Wolf toss. Must've gotten stuck. I never thought about giving it to the catcher so the kid doesn't sue me. Guess that's the kind of world we live in now, huh. Must be why I like "throw back" days at the major league parks so much.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the bigs Cory Blaser:

Anonymous said...

I think Doug Eddings consistently has the most emphatic throw back to the pitcher.

J said...

That Jim Wolf toss is just brutal. BALK!

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