Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Pickoff Tag at First Base

One of our most often overturned calls at the MLB level this year and the most missed in 3-person crews is the pickoff at first base. Today's edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments concerns this type of play, why the call's accuracy might be lower than that of other calls, and how its QOC might be improved.

Umpire Mike Estabrook finds The Keyhole.
This call occasionally gets missed when umpires are unable to see the actual tag attempt and the reason for this is because we are blocked out on a pickoff by the runner. This occurs when a throw from the pitcher results in a tag not on the hand, but rather into the body. Think about it: we're positioned behind the play, and if the throw is short, the entire action takes play on the plate-facing of the runner whereas we're standing on the outfield-facing side of the runner. In response, a lot of umpires are now attempting to get into what I affectionately call, "the keyhole." The keyhole is the small window of daylight where you find the angle, no matter how small, to see the play. In the accompanying diagrammed photo, you'll note that the keyhole gets the umpire in position to see over top of the sliding runner, so he can actually see the action area on the runner's plate-facing side.

In the accompanying video, Mike Estabrook does a textbook job in finding that spot and getting the call right.  Estabrook reads the play and understands he has more time because the runner from 1st took his initial step on the pick off to 2nd base. If you feel like you are going to get blocked, why not take a step or two in this case due to a poor throw or the runner's delayed return slide?  Reading the play is so important on the bases and this is the new wave approach to plays at 1st.  About 20 years ago, Joe West started doing this and I remember thinking, "Wow."  West has always been a man ahead of his time.  Now you see several of the best taking this play from much closer to the bag where you can actually see the play.  We live in an age where getting the call right is the most important thing no matter if we're moving or not on a tag play.  So, keep in mind that it's not wrong to be moving, as long as it leads to a better position.

Video: Estabrook runs into the frame at the key moment of Freeman's tag on Hosmer ("Read more")
Alternate Link: Royals lose challenge on a pickoff play at first base vs Atlanta (ATL)


Post a Comment