Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Diversion - Judge, NYY Nearly Neutralize HOU Appeal

Yankees phenom Aaron Judge nearly ran the Astros out of an inning-ending appeal play by distracting Houston while they attempted to execute an appeal on him in the 4th inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

Technically, Judge's strategy worked—the Astros did fail their appeal—but, effectively, Judge just traded one kind of out (appeal for a missed base touch) for another (tag out on a caught stealing). In some circles, one might even say that the Astros did successfully complete their appeal, albeit in unorthodox fashion (seeing as Houston did, ultimately, tag out the very baserunner whose maneuver was the subject of appeal).

Judge tries to beat Correa's tag at second base.
The Play: With one out and one on (R1 Judge) in the bottom of the 4th inning, Yankees batter Gary Sanchez hit a 0-0 knuckle-curve from Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. on a fly ball to right fielder Josh Reddick as Judge, running on the pitch, arrived at and passed second base. As it became apparent that Reddick would catch the fly ball, Judge scrambled back to first base, arriving along with Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel, resulting in an out call from 1B Umpire Jerry Meals, who ruled Gurriel tagged Judge (or the base) before Judge returned to first.

Replay Review: Upon Replay Review as the result of a Manager's Challenge by Yankees Manager Joe Girardi, Replay Official Chad Fairchild overturned 1B Umpire Meals' out call to that of "safe," leading Astros Manager AJ Hinch to direct his team to execute an appeal of Judge's touch (or lack thereof) at second base, where 2B Umpire Jim Reynolds had observed Judge's failure to touch the base on his return to first.

SIDEBAR: Here's our Replay Review conundrum. If Hinch knew that Judge missed retouching second base, he should have directed his club—before the ball became dead during the initial play—to appeal at second base, just in case Meals' call at first base were to be overturned. Of course, Hinch's Astros wouldn't have known or anticipated the out call at first base would be overturned, so they would have had no reason to "retire" Judge for a second time at second base: therein lies the Replay Review conundrum that effectively places the defense at a disadvantage due to the 1B Umpire's erroneous "out" call in real time...assuming, of course, that had Meals called Judge safe, Houston would have immediately appealed at second base before returning the ball to the pitcher and calling for "Time."

Originally ruled out, Judge returned to first.
Yankees Distract Astros: In an attempt to cause Houston to lose their opportunity to appeal, R1 Judge—back at first base—took off for second base as HP Umpire Chris Guccione put the ball back in play, hoping that Astros shortstop Carlos Correa would take the bait and attempt to tag Judge instead of following through with the appeal by stepping on second base. The strategy worked—kind of—in that Correa was indeed distracted by Judge's oddly-timed stolen base attempt, and placed a tag on Judge as he slid toward second base, rather than tagging second base itself.

SIDEBAR: This is why it's so important, at levels that require it, that the ball be formally made live ("Play!" or "Play Ball") before the appeal is honored. The pitcher should be on the mound, batter in the box, and runners at their bases. In leagues and levels where dead ball appeals are authorized, this sidebar does not apply.

Official Scoring: Fortunately for Houston, Judge was well off the base at the time of Correa's tag, resulting in an inning-ending caught-stealing out call. The much anticipated traditional appeal of Correa calmly tagging second base never did occur.

Rule: Official Baseball Rule 5.06(b)(1) explains why Judge would have been out had Houston appealed by Correa's touch of second base: "In advancing, a runner shall touch first, second, third and home base in order. If forced to return, he shall retouch all bases in reverse order, unless the ball is dead."

Judge failed to retouch second, so his base-running was illegal.

The Astros, and umpire Reynolds, saw that Judge failed to retouch second base, so Houston attempted to bring their recognition of the illegal act to the umpire's attention by executing an appeal, as in Rule 5.09(c)(2): "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when—with the ball in play, while advancing or returning to a base, he fails to touch each base in order before he, or a missed base, is tagged."

The Yankees, anticipating Houston's appeal, attempted to cause Houston to lose the right to appeal, as in OBR 5.09(c): "Any appeal under this rule must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play." For instance, had the pitcher thrown the ball away (or balked) as Judge stole second, had Correa been unsuccessful with the tag, or had something similar gone wrong, the appeal would have effectively been neutralized—and Judge would very likely be standing on second or third base, to boot.

In other words, by prompting Correa to make a play on the stealing runner Judge, Houston committed a "play or attempted play," meaning that their window of opportunity to appeal Judge's illegal baserunning from the prior play had closed. Had Correa tagged Judge only after Judge slid into second base, as in a successful stolen base, Judge would be safe at second and any successive appeal disallowed: had there been another runner on base, this would apply to all other potential appeals, as well (e.g., a runner from third base who "left early" would not be eligible for appeal if the Astros had already executed a non-appeal play or attempted play on stolen base candidate Judge).

In sum, nice try, New York. It almost worked. | Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Judge's adventure between first and second results in an inning-ending out (FS1)


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