Saturday, August 27, 2016

MLB Ejections 142-145 - Mike Everitt (3-6; 4 DET Tigers)

HP Umpire Mike Everitt ejected Tigers DH Victor Martinez for arguing a strike one call in the bottom of the 3rd, Tigers Hitting Coach Wally Joyner and Manager Brad Ausmus for arguing a strike three call in the bottom of the 5th, and Tigers RF JD Martinez for arguing a strike three call in the bottom of the 6th inning of the Angels-Tigers game. In the 3rd, with two out and none on, Martinez took a 0-0 fastball from Angels pitcher Brett Oberholtzer for a called first strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and knee high (px -.436, pz 1.580 [sz_bot 1.540]), the call was correct. In the 5th, with none out and none on, Tigers batter Ian Kinsler took a 2-2 slider from Angels pitcher Jhoulys Chacin for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the heart of home plate and below the hollow of the knee (px .096, pz 1.365 [sz_bot 1.510 / MOE 1.427]), the call was incorrect. In the 6th, with none out and one on, Martinez took a 1-2 fastball from Angels pitcher Chacin. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half home plate and and at the hollow of the knee (px -.603, pz 1.611 [sz_bot 1.690 / MOE 1.607]), the call was correct. At the time of all four ejections, the Angels were leading, 3-1. The Angels ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

This is Mike Everitt (57)'s third, fourth, fifth, sixth ejection of the 2016 MLB regular season.
Mike Everitt now has 14 points in UEFL Standings (10 Prev + 4*[2 MLB] + 2*[2 QOCY] - 2*[4 QOCN] = 14).
Crew Chief Mike Everitt now has 14 points in Crew Division (12 Prev + 2 Correct Calls + 0 QOCN = 14).

This is the 142nd, 143rd, 144th, 145th ejection report of the 2016 regular season.
This is the 68th, 69th player ejection of 2016. Prior, to ejection the Martinezes were 1-1 & 1-3 in the contest.
This is 56th Manager ejection of 2016.
This is Detroit's 7-10th ejection of 2016, 1st in the AL Central (DET 10; CWS 7; MIN 6; CLE, KC 5).
This is Victor Martinez's first ejection since July 11, 2015 (Marty Foster; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Wally Joyner's first ejection since May 21, 2008 (Jim Reynolds; QOC = U [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Brad Ausmus' 3rd ejection of 2016, 1st since May 16 (Doug Eddings; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is JD Martinez's first career MLB ejection.
This is Mike Everitt's first ejection since June 30, 2016 (Mike Matheny; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).

Wrap: Los Angeles Angels vs. Detroit Tigers, 8/27/16 | Video available via "Read more"

MLB Ejection 141 - Mike Winters (3; Bryce Harper)

HP Umpire Mike Winters ejected Nationals RF Bryce Harper for arguing a strike three call in the bottom of the 10th inning of the Rockies-Nationals game. With none out and none on in the bottom of the 10th, Harper took a 2-2 fastball from Rockies pitcher Jake McGee for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer edge of home plate and thigh high (px -.886, pz 2.259) and that all preceding pitches during the at-bat had been properly officiated, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 4-4. The Rockies ultimately won the contest, 9-4, in 11 innings.

This is Mike Winters (33)'s third ejection of the 2016 MLB regular season.
Mike Winters now has 10 points in the UEFL Standings (6 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 10).
Crew Chief Mike Winters now has 4 points in Crew Division (3 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 4).

This is the 141st ejection report of the 2016 regular season.
This is the 67th player ejection of 2016. Prior to ejection, Harper was 1-4 (3 SO) in the contest.
This is Washington's 4th ejection of 2016, 4th in the NL East (ATL 7; MIA 6; NYM 5; WAS 4; PHI 1).
This is Bryce Harper's 2nd ejection of 2016, 1st since May 9 (Brian Knight; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Mike Winters' 1st ejection since July 21, 2016 (AJ Pierzynski; QOC = Y-C [Obstruction]).

Wrap: Colorado Rockies vs. Washington Nationals, 8/27/16 | Video available via "Read more"

Friday, August 26, 2016

Case Play 2016-9 - A Backswing on Strike 3 [Solved]

Tampa Bay scored a double play after Ron Kulpa ruled Red Sox batter David Ortiz interfered with a catcher's attempted throw to second base, having himself struck out swinging on a 2-2 fastball.

The Play: With one out, one on (R1), and a 2-2 count, Red Sox batter David Ortiz swung at and missed a 93-mph fastball from Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger while Red Sox baserunner R1 Xander Bogaerts attempted to steal second base. Replays indicate this pitch was then caught by Rays catcher Bobby Wilson, who appeared poised to throw to second base and make a play on R1 Bogaerts, until B1 Ortiz's bat made contact with Wilson's helmet, effectively ending the catcher's throwing attempt.

HP Umpire Ron Kulpa thereafter ruled Bogaerts out for Ortiz's interference and Ortiz out on the third strike.

Question: Given the aforementioned play, what is the proper call for each of the following scenarios?
(A) Call the play as is (one out, R1, 2-2); was Kulpa's ruling correct?
(B) All else equal, the count was 2-1 (one out, R1, 2-1);
(C) All else equal, there were two outs and the third strike was dropped (two outs, R1, 2-2, Dropped 3K). Note: Part (C) calls for consideration of backswing contact so that F2 Wilson can't make any play.

Solution: The solution to this play, at the professional level, is archived at this very website from an odd Replay Review from July 5, 2014 featuring plate umpire Mike DiMuro and an overturned call at second base. In that play, DiMuro ruled the batter's backswing on a swinging third strike unintentionally struck the catcher as R1 tried stealing second base. 2B Umpire Jerry Layne initially ruled R1 out, so DiMuro's call was waived, but after a challenge that reversed Layne's call to "safe," DiMuro properly reinstated his backswing ruling and ordered the now-safe R1 back to first base as a result of the dead ball. B1, naturally, was out on the third strike.

KEY POINT: "Backswing interference" is a misnomer: Unintentional backswing contact is not interference.
(A) If the ruling is that Ortiz deliberately interfered, then a double play as the result of interference is correct. If the ruling is solely that Ortiz's forceful backswing unintentionally hit the catcher, the proper call is a dead ball strike, since follow through/backswing contact is not interference in OBR. Ortiz is out, but R1 Bogaerts is returned to first base with two out.
(B) Same as [A], except that Ortiz inherits a 2-2 count (unless he is called for "true" interference by stepping across home plate, deliberately hitting F2 with the bat, or for some other action).
(C) The inning is over and Ortiz is out, as the ball becomes dead as soon as his backswing unintentionally hits the ball. Unfortunately for the batter, this dead ball occurs during his third strike.

NOTE ABOUT RULES DIFFERENCE IN HIGH SCHOOL: Under NFHS rules, Scenario (A) results in a double play, since the follow-through contact is interference in high school (assuming R1 could have been thrown out). In NCAA/college, however, it is not interference: "on a third strike, the ball is dead; the batter is out." Oddly enough, PBUC has the exact same interpretation as NCAA ("on a third strike, the ball is dead and the batter is out"). In other words, backswing (which occurs pre-pitch) or follow-through (which occurs post-pitch) contact is interference in high school, but not in college or pro. Because of this difference, the runner is out in high school for the follow-through interference of his recently-retired teammate (e.g., B1), but not in college/pro, because in college/pro, the just-retired B1 did not commit interference, since backswing contact with the catcher is not true interference.

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 5.09(a)(2): "A batter is out when—A third strike is legally caught by the catcher."
OBR 6.01(a)(5): "It is interference by a batter or a runner when—Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate."
OBR 6.03(a)(3): "A batter is out for illegal action when—He interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base."
OBR 6.03(a)(3) Comment: "If the batter interferes with the catcher, the plate umpire shall call 'interference.' The batter is out and the ball dead. No player may advance on such interference (offensive interference) and all runners must return to the last base that was, in the judgment of the umpire, legally touched at the time of the interference. If, however, the catcher makes a play and the runner attempting to advance is put out, it is to be assumed there was no actual interference and that runner is out—not the batter. Any other runners on the base at the time may advance as the ruling is that there is no actual interference if a runner is retired. In that case play proceeds just as if no violation had been called. If a batter strikes at a ball and misses and swings so hard he carries the bat all the way around and, in the umpire’s judgment, unintentionally hits the catcher or the ball in back of him on the backswing, it shall be called a strike only (not interference). The ball will be dead, however, and no runner shall advance on the play."

Video available via "Read more"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Rare Off-The-Cowboy-Joe Double - Rule 5.06(c)(6)

After a ground ball struck 2B Umpire Joe West's foot in shallow center field, Cubs batter Willson Contreras took advantage, hustling into second base with a double as the Padres fielders recovered during Tuesday's game in San Diego.

With two out and none on, Contreras grounded a base hit up the middle and onto the outfield grass, where the ball bounced into Joe West as he began his run toward the infield, the added delay of Padre retrieval allowing Contreras to achieve second base ahead of the throw. Score it an umpire-assisted double.

Cowboy Joe West plays soccer at Petco Park.
As previously discussed in Umpire Interference, Rule 5.06(c)(6) [or 5.09(f) under old-format OBR] states that a batted ball becomes dead when, "A fair ball touches a runner or an umpire on fair territory before it touches an infielder including the pitcher, or touches an umpire before it has passed an infielder other than the pitcher; runners advance, if forced."

In regard to remedial action for this scenario, 5.06(c) continues, "The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out."

Diagram of the play, which is past the infield.
Although rare, a batted ball that has already passed the entire infielder staff, only to then touch an umpire, is a live ball. This is what occurred Tuesday in San Diego, as B1 Contreras' batted fair ball bounded past at least one Padres infielder (for the sake of technicality, it was the shortstop) before touching Cowboy Joe in shallow center field, meaning that West and his crew properly kept the ball alive and in play.

Earlier this month, we explored the case of a batted ball striking a second base umpire who works inside, or on the infield grass. In that play, a batted ball deflected off the pitcher before bouncing off the second base umpire and rolling to the shortstop, who stepped on second base and threw to first for a double play. That, too, was properly officiated, as the batted ball first touched a defensive player (the pitcher) before touching an umpire. Had the ball merely passed the pitcher without him touching it, however, only to then strike the inside umpire, the proper call would be dead ball, and a one base award to the batter and any forced runners, since the pitcher is not considered a full-fledged infielder specifically for the purpose of Rule 5.06(c)(6).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Torre's Warning Leads to Coach, Not Manager, Ejections

One month ago, Joe Torre told managers to stop arguing balls and strikes with the help of video evidence to support their case, and the stats confirm, Torre's warning worked...Kind of...Maybe...Not really.

Fewer managers are getting tossed for pitches.
Since Monday July 18 and the first series since MLB's Chief Baseball Officer distributed his managerial memo, just two managers have been ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

They would be Boston's John Farrell, who was ejected by Gabe Morales on July 31 in Boston, and Milwaukee's Craig Counsell, who got the boot courtesy of Bill Miller on August 12. In both cases, the umpire's call was correct and the ejected skipper was wrong.

In comparing these two ejections over the course of 394 games and one month to the 25 managerial ball/strike ejections over 1,344 games prior to Torre's directive, we find that the rate of ejection prior to Torre's edict was one managerial ball/strike ejection per 53.76 games, compared to one such ejection per 197 games since, which is approximately a 72% drop in these types of ejection.

Gibbons has stopped getting himself run.
For example, Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons, who led baseball with six ejections from Opening Day through July 1, suddenly stopped getting ejected altogether: he has zero ejections since.

So Torre's warning worked, right? The answer is "yes," if the only consideration is whether a manager has been ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Otherwise, it's not that simple.

Since Torre's memo, more assistant coaches (bench, base, hitting, and pitching coaches, etc.) have received pitch call ejections while their respective skippers have stayed in the ballgame.

Coaches like Barry Bonds are getting ejected.
Over the same 394 game period beginning July 18, six coaches—including one assistant of an assistant—have been ejected exclusively for arguing balls and strikes: that's one ejection for every 65.67 games played. Combining all manager and coach ejections for arguing balls and strikes over that period, we see that managers/coaches have been tossed on the order of once every 49.25 games played, which is similar to the previous period's rate of 53.76 games per managerial ball/strike ejection.

Non-managerial coach ejections historically have occurred less frequently than those of managers and players: for example, just 12 coaches were ejected prior to July 18 (one per 112 games), compared to 53 players and 47 managers for that same period, meaning that coaches comprised 11% of all ejections over that time. Since then, however, coaches have made up a greater share of overall ejections, essentially doubling their ejection representation rate (six coaches / 29 ejections = 21% of ejections are coaches).

Conclusion: As was the case when baseball first introduced expanded Replay Review in 2014, ejections did not decrease as the result of MLB's attempt to ease the team-umpire relationship through a new initiative (whether via instant replay in 2014 or Torre's bulletin in July 2016); in contrast, ejections actually increased (in 2014), but more notably, the reason for ejection shifted drastically in 2014 (and 2015). Instead of getting ejected for arguing a simple out vs. safe call at first base, team personnel switched to more vehement ball/strike arguments, which effectively kept their ejection numbers at levels comparable to, and in no way less than, the previous season's.

Farrell argues 3B Coach Butterfield's ejection.
Now that baseball and Torre are trying to crack down on this ejection reason shift by telling managers to stop getting ejected under certain circumstances, teams are evolving once again: Managers are dutifully pulling back and taking a seat...while their coaches and assistants take ejections on their behalf, so as to preserve the baseball tradition that is arguing with and getting ejected by the umpire. In fact (see picture of John Farrell to the right), some coaches and assistants potentially are getting ejected so as to provide their manager with an excuse to argue with the umpire, without subjecting the skipper to an ejection, akin to the queen's sacrifice in chess, which is exactly what baseball arguments have become: a chess match.

So, has Torre's message worked? It depends on how literal you want to be.