Monday, August 15, 2011

Polls: Toughest Calls

The Umpire Ejection Fantasy League routinely rules on Quality of Correctness, and for the majority of ejections we see, the umpire is right & QOC is correct. In today's world of replay technology, pitch f/x, and infinite interpretation, there seems to always be a probable QOC to determine: rarely is the "inconclusive" QOC used. Still, for the umpire on the field, who has one chance in real time, there is no luxury of contemplation: terms such as "impedes the fielder," "voluntary release," or "naturally associated with" must be deeply and completely ingrained; the play must fully be seen the first time. In this poll, we'll ask for the most difficult play to call, but first...

Previous Poll (Most Often Ejection) Results: Our previous poll, Polls: He Gone, asked who you eject most often when you eject a person. Combining your votes on the blog and on our Facebook page, we see a strong trend. For the purposes of which level of ball these ejections occur in, we refer to Polls: Umpiring Experience, in which most UEFL'ers umpire organized youth (including High School) leagues (Total Votes: 231):
  • Managers & Coaches - 62% - Especially at the organized youth levels (from Little League to High School), coaches are the unquestionable captains of the ship. As such, coaches tend to be the team representative to have the most interaction with umpires over close calls and tough plays. This simply gives coaches the greatest chance of being ejected. This isn't to say that coaches aren't ejected at the recreational (unorganized), adult, or professional levels, but coach ejections tend to comprise a larger proportion of those ejected most often in organized youth & school sport.
  • Players - 31% - On the field, players outnumber coaches anywhere from 5-9:1, yet according to our poll at our levels and in our proportions, their "most often ejected" numbers are only half of their coaches' respective numbers. This reflects the notion above, that players give way to coaches, that players at these levels by and large behave more politely, and that players are still in it to have fun, rather than to win or make money (at the amateur level, let's at least hope that last one is true).
  • Spectator: Parent - 6% - Backing the notion that players are well behaved and they leave arguments to the adults, it appears parents at times feel responsibility in speaking for their children. Parents by and large tend to be ejected (or removed) from their younger child's games, wherein the association between parent ejection #s and player's age tends to be inversely proportional.
  • Spectator: Other - <1% - Simply put, fans are fans, and by the time fans care who care about the team rather than the team's players (their children) enter into the picture, the stands are probably far enough removed, the number of fans far more significant, and the ambient noise loud enough, that the umpire doesn't notice any particular individual of this variety of fan as much.
Current Poll: In your opinion, of the following what is the most difficult call to make? You may consider any level of ball in which you have worked or have observed/watched and you may place yourself at any position in which you believe you would have primary responsibility for such a call (e.g., HP, 1B, or 3B for Check Swings, 2B for Lob to Base, etc.).

What is the toughest call to make?


Anonymous said...

I would rank those in this order (toughest to least):

1. Interference/Obs.
2. Check Swing
3. Safe/Out Tag
4. Lob to base/force out
5. Throw to base/force out
6. Balls and Strikes on pitched ball
7. Balk
8. Catch/No catch
9. Fair/Foul
10. HR/ no HR
11. Safe/Out: Foot Race to bag

This based off a one or two man mechanic. I think once you know it is a foot race, that call is easy, because you can just watch the feet. Interference/Obstruction is difficult depending on the position that you are in. One that I didn't see here that I have the most difficulty with is TAGGING UP on fly balls.

Anonymous said...

the ones that I have the toughest time with is cathcer's interference and fair/foul when its right in front of the plate and may/may not have hit the BR

Anonymous said...

There should be a category that says "other". I think from top to bottom I can make an argument that each one of these calls can be difficult. The toughest call for me is Weather. Now if you work leagues that don't have ground crews, or the ground crews are the teams, I think it's easier to call a game because of rain. But when you do have ground crews available, it becomes harder to decide. Normally, and in most leagues, you just play until lightening arrives or the field is to wet to play. But with a crew available, you want to save the field, so your more likely to stop and wait. And then when it does stop raining, and the crew says it will take 90 minutes to get the field ready, a can of worms now becomes open. Teams will say their players have to go to work, or some other excuse they will use to avoid resuming a game they are losing. In the minors, with the G.M. breathing down your back to continue the game, because he (gm) doesn't want to give rain check out, he wants the money he's already taken in for the evening. After weather, darkness on unlighted fields, is another tough call.

Cricket said...

I do not understand the "check swing" popularity. It is completely in the umpire's discretion based on the lack of a 2.00 definition ("attempt to strike" really gives you leeway)...

If you know the rules and definitions involving obstruction and interference, these are really not difficult calls most of the time.

As for balks, read chapter 8 of the OBR. A couple thorough reads will really engrave the balk into your mind. Usually balks are easy to notice and to call, except perhaps the lefty pickoff to first (with the whole "45 degree" notion) and the righty fake-to-third, throw-to-first move (insuring the first step is a definitive one towards third and the pitcher does not spin).

For me, simply calling balls and strikes is most difficult, especially once you begin umpiring age groups which throw 4 or 5 different pitches. I always feel it takes me an inning or so to really get the "feel" behind the plate.

Anonymous said...

Check swings can be the toughest, especially when you work the levels where the batters have the strength to actually stop the swing.

Regargless of the call, the most important thing for any umpire (especially the beginner) is proper timing.

Timing is everything....
One must allow the play to occur to completion, then allow the playback in the memory.

The closer the play the better (longer) the timing needs to be. Regardless of how fast the MLB umpires bang one at first base. They have seen thousands of close plays.

Sure rules need to be One must understand what constiutes a balk, check swing, and/or obstruction/interference.

The remander of the list are the more frequent calls made during a game.

The correctness of calls at any level would increase if proper timing was a priorty.

How many times have we seen the pitch called way to quickly, or the bang-bang play at first being called as the ball hits the first baseman's glove?

It is nothing until the umpire calls it. So take the time to get it right the first time.

As can't always fix bad judgement regardless of how long it takes to make the call.

Anonymous said...

Good question. I'm enjoying reading everyone else's responses and reasons.

I chose the "lob to base" option, as in the ground ball up the middle that a shortstop dives for, catches, and while sprawled, lobs the ball to the covering second baseman who is running by. That's always a toughie because working from inside (as you would with a runner on), your angle to receive that play is pretty limited considering where the lob is coming from. You have to judge when possession is established versus a runner hitting the base, when you are all but straightlined by the backside of the glove, and on a soft toss, the customary glove squeeze sometimes doesn't happen, the ball simply lodges in the pocket, without you being able to see it from the other side. That's a pretty tough play to call. As we all know, throw is about sound and foot races are about positioning and timing - you can set up and prepare for those. The lob is more unpredictable, and that's why I chose it.

The tag up time play on a sac fly is all about getting that angle, which if the fly is high, is easy enough, but occasionally the time play third outs are tough when the tag is made on the outfield side of the base (runner sliding into 3rd with you as the UIC staying home). If you have a good partner helping you (2-man for instance), that play isn't as hard as it can be if you're working solo. If you're solo, most all time plays are tough if not absolutely impossible.

Balks are all about experience. I found balks really hard to call early in my career. Working games upon games really formulated the concept of the balk in my mind, as did solid mentors and crew chiefs along the way. Similar with balls and strikes, it's an experience thing. When you're moving up to a level where the curves and sliders come into play, and then become nastier and nastier, that's where you go from the 2D strike zone that you pick up as a beginner to a 3D strike zone that a good umpire knows how to call. It always amazes me at the MLB level that a pitch that ends up in the dirt is called a strike by the HP Umpire (and correctly I might add).

Check swings are a crap shoot. If the league has a strict rule about bat head crossing the edge of the plate, etc., it's easy. If not, then it's a judgement call that's easy enough to make if you formulate your interpretation ahead of time, have a good pre-game, etc.

Tags & catches are angle plays, fair & foul is about tracking the line and seeing if the projectile bounces on the left or right, HR/No HR is really only an issue with weird stadiums (many MLB stadiums) with convoluted places for yellow lines and whatnot. Most cookie cutter stadiums prove little challenge, though I admit when the foul pole is short and it's a fair/foul HR issue, that can be a tricky call.

Interference/Obstruction is largely situational and tests your ability to watch off ball (trust your partner to go out, etc.). If it's the first action off a batted ball, it's likely interference. If it's off ball during a play, it's likely obstruction. If it's during a rundown or other play, you're probably keyed in enough to make a good call. Again, this one is all about watching off ball and trusting your partner to rule on any pertinent on-ball issues. Catcher's interference and foul tips versus foul balls versus hit by pitches versus swinging strikes are similar to the throw out in that you're listening for sounds, but also that you're looking for change in direction. Experience helps with those, too. If the glove flies off, that also helps.

Anonymous said...

Although the situation is not very prevalent at the amateur level, at the professional level, pitchers throwing at hitters, aka "beanballs", are the most difficult thing to ajudge. Despite the fact that certain instances lend themselves to more opportune times in which they occur, they are nonetheless by far the most difficult to determine. You may ask any minor league or major league umpire, and you will more than likely get the exact same response.

Anonymous said...

Ejections are clearly the toughest calls to make. Also, wood bat foul tips can be tough, especially when the ball hits the ground about the same time as the swing. The ball hitting the ground, and a foul tip on a wood bat CAN sound the same. However, and I'm giving away this info free of charge, if you hear 3 sounds, you know you have a foul ball. The ball hits bat slightly (1). Ball hits ground (2). Ball hits glove (3). If you hear only 2 sounds, now it becomes difficult, unless you can see it. The scenario with only 2 sounds makes life tough, now you must figure out was it the bat 1st or the ground 1st, and the second sound would be the glove.

I think in the big leagues, the force play at 1st MUST be the toughest. Without the ability to hear the ball hitting the glove, and/or the inability to hear the foot hitting the bag, because of the fan noise, would make me cringe. I need to hear both. If I hear 1 sound, he's safe. If I hear 2 sounds, now I must decide (or flip a coin, boy I hope a coach reads this!)

jrd said...

As a high school ump, I have no fear of balk, inf/obs, and other rules bc I, like many on this site, have studied them and know them front and back.

But that pitch at the knees on the outside corners still haunts my dreams. That is why I chose balls/strikes

Anonymous said...

al oeste Joe es un hombre gordo

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