Friday, March 3, 2017

Injury Scout - Rob Drake Works 1st Game of Spring

Rob Drake returned to umpire Friday, March 3's Dodgers-Diamondbacks game after an absence extending from September 11, 2016 to March 2, 2017 (173 days, though most of this was offseason). Drake's last game officiated was the September 10 Brewers-Cardinals game, constituting an approximate 15-games missed during the closing weeks of the 2016 regular season, in addition to any postseason games he may have been assigned. He had worked the postseason every year since 2012, or four consecutive playoff assignments.

Drake manned home plate in his Cactus League return alongside base umpires Brian Gorman (crew chief), Jordan Baker, and call-up Tom Woodring.

Drake, alongside retiree John Hirschbeck, received the 2016 UEFL Award for Honorable Umpire of the Year. His return from the Bereavement List leaves Bruce Dreckman as the only umpire who finished 2016 on the Disabled List and has not yet returned to work Spring Training.

UEFL Injury Scout Report
Date of Last Game: September 11, 2016 | Return: March 3, 2017 | Total Absence: 15-20 Games

Thursday, March 2, 2017

2017 Rules Mods, Including IBB Change, Announced

MLB officially announced several rules changes, including a 30-second challenge time limit and no-pitch intentional walk. The following modifications were agreed upon by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, and will go into effect for the 2017 season:

> No-Pitch Intentional Walks. As first reported last month, traditional intentional walks have been eliminated in favor of a no-pitch "take your base" solution, which is expected to save time.
> 30-Second Manager's Challenge Decision Time Limit. Also reported last month, Managers will no longer be permitted to indefinitely delay or "hold" their decision of whether or not to exercise their Manager's Challenge. The new time limit for this decision is 30 seconds.
Say goodbye to Turning the Umpire.
> Two-Minute Guideline for Replay Officials in NY. Similarly, umpires viewing video replay will now be subject to a two-minute guideline for making their decision. The 2:00 time is conditional and subject to various exemptions, such as a Replay Supervisor's override request.
> Crew Chief Reviews Now Begin in the 8th Inning. The previous Replay Review Regulation stated that a Crew Chief Review could be initiated on behalf of a team out of challenges beginning in the 7th inning. This modification changes the 7th inning (2014-2016) to the 8th inning (2017-). Home-run reviews are not affected and will continue in their present form.
> Markers on the Field Prohibited. Fielders may no longer use any foreign markers on the field of play for reference (e.g., defensive positioning).
Base coaches shall stand within their box.
> Balk (5.07, 6.02(a), 6.02(b)). Pitchers may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset a pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. Penalty: Balk (runners on) or Illegal Pitch (bases empty). Video: Carter Capps' crow-hop is now illegal.
> Base Coaches (5.03). 1B and 3B Coaches are prohibited from standing in front of (closer to home plate) the coach's box line perpendicular to the foul line and inside of (closer to the base) the coach's box line parallel to the foul line prior to a ball being put in play, and may not interfere or draw a throw once play has begun. In other words, coaches must stay in their boxes until play begins.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pitchless Intentional Walks May Begin This Week

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred hinted that pitchless intentional walks could start within the week, having discussed the still-unofficial free pass rules change ahead of Tuesday's Grapefruit League action.

Manfred said IBB changes may begin shortly.
According to an AP report, Manfred's Major League Baseball Office is nearly through discussing the proposed change with teams, suggesting that the intentional walk with no pitches concept has cleared the MLBPA hurdle that previously drew the Manfred criticism, "there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," while MLBPA boss Tony Clark said that changes would be "an uphill battle."

Last week, we discussed baseball's sayonara to the four-pitch intentional walk, and revisited some memorable moments from when intentional walks have gone wrong, including a handful of wild pitch mishaps during Major League games, including several that resulted in a baserunner scoring an eventual game-winning run. Click here to see a list of intentional walks-gone-wrong.

Spring Injury - Paul Emmel Clipped by Flying Bat

The first injury of Spring Training befell HP Umpire Paul Emmel in Florida's Grapefruit League, as the newly minted Crew Chief was struck by an errant bat on the final day of February.

Emmel in 2016. Tuesday's game not televised.
With one out in the top of the 3rd inning of the Blue Jays-Pirates, Blue Jays Reese McGuire swung and missed at a third strike from Pirates pitcher Brett McKinney, losing his grip on the bat and sending the barrel spinning backward, where it struck Emmel.

Emmel was replaced behind home plate by 2B Umpire Jeremie Rehak, while 1B Umpire Bill Welke and 3B Umpire John Bacon manned the corners in a three-person alignment. H/T: Bill Brink

Removed from the Toronto-Pittsburgh game for precautionary reasons, Emmel most recently left June 23, 2016's Athletics-Angels game after being cut above the forehead by a flying bat in Anaheim. After receiving stitches to close the wound, Emmel sat out 12 days before returning to play on July 8.

Date of Injury: February 28, 2017 | Return to Play: March 2, 2017 | Total Time Absent: One day.

Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 Australian Baseball Championship Umpires

Umpires for the 2017 Australian Baseball League Championship Series watched Brisbane defeat Melbourne two games to none earlier this month, with the following officials selected work the ABLCS:

Game 1 Assignment - Game 2 Assignment: Umpire Name.
HP - 3B: Takahito Matsuda.
1B - HP: Mal Mackay
2B - 1B: Trent Thomas.
3B - 2B: Tom West.

> Matsuda also presided as Crew Chief during the 2016-17 ABL All-Star Game in Melbourne, and officiates in the Minor League Baseball system.
> Mackay and Thomas officiated the exhibition series between the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Team Australia during MLB's 2014 Opening Series festivities in Sydney.
> West, like Matsuda, officiates MiLB ball.

Umpires who officiated the postseason's semifinal round/play-in series included (*ABLCS Umpire):
Blake Halligan (U3 [Gm 1] at Adelaide)
Paul Latta (U2 [Gm 2] & U2 [Gm 3] at Brisbane)
Takahito Matsuda* (PU [Gm 1] at Adelaide)
Mal Mackay* (U3 [Gm 2] & PU [Gm 3] at Brisbane)
Ian Reval (U2 [Gm 1] at Adelaide)
James Shields (U1 [Gm 2] & U3 [Gm 3] at Brisbane)
Payne Sowter (U1 [Gm 1] at Adelaide)
Tom West* (PU [Gm 2] & U1 [Gm 3] at Brisbane)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Much Patience and Good Judgment - Reversing a Call

In officiating, patience and timing are key. In baseball, umpires are trained to fully process plays before issuing a judgment decision. Most of the time, patience and timing make an appearance during the play itself, but sometimes, the patience to get the call right shows up only after the play is over.

After initial out, Tosi correctly changed a call.
In the top of the 4th inning of Saturday's tied White Sox-Dodgers game, Sox baserunner R1 Yolmer Sanchez attempted to steal second base as second baseman Logan Forsythe attempted to tag Sanchez before Sanchez's foot touched second base, generating an out call from 3B Umpire Alex Tosi.

One slight issue arose when it became clear that Forsythe had not caught his catcher's throw and the ball was rolling along the infield dirt, resulting in Sanchez's hasty retreat to first base (he had started jogging back toward the White Sox's first base dugout after Tosi's out call and picked up his pace after seeing the loose ball).

Jean Segura also had an adventure.
Sanchez's actions tend to remind us of Brewers baserunner Jean Segura, who famously stole second base in 2013 before running back to first base, and then later tried to steal second base again during the same baserunning appearance. The only difference between the Sanchez and Segura plays is that 2B Umpire Phil Cuzzi hadn't incorrectly declared Segura out: Segura only thought he had been declared out.

Tosi, on the other hand, actually did incorrectly declare Sanchez out. Thus, after calling "Time" and convening crewmates Lance Barrett and Pat Hoberg, Tosi changed his call to "safe," and placed Sanchez on second base, ruling that had the proper call (of "safe") been made, that is the base that Sanchez would have reached.

What does the rulebook say about this? Rule 8.02(c) states, "If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call."

Although Rule 8.02(c) is a failsafe for mistakes, the General Instructions to Umpires section of the code seeks to prevent premature calls: "Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play. It is more vital to know just where a fly ball fell, or a thrown ball finished up, than whether or not a runner missed a base. Do not call the plays too quickly, or turn away too fast when a fielder is throwing to complete a double play. Watch out for dropped balls after you have called a man out...Wait until the play is completed before making any arm motion."

Video: Confusion in Cattleback thanks to an out call, dropped ball, and missed tag (LAD; 1:11:19)

As Dodgers broadcaster Charlie Steiner remarked, "It's Spring Training for everybody," though Tosi's premature call places him in the company of other MLB greats, such as Greg Gibson, whose early out call at Dodger Stadium in 2012 occurred during a game-deciding sequence of events.
Relevant Post: Greg Gibson Reminds All Umpires: Patience is a Virtue (7/15/12).

With two out and two on (R2, R3) in the top of the 9th inning of the July 14, 2012 Padres-Dodgers game, the Dodgers were all set to win their 10th straight contest at home against San Diego as the Blue Crew clung to a 6-5 lead. Closer Kenley Jansen had worked methodically and—much to Joe Torre's chagrin, I'm sure—slowly to a two-strike count and was considering which pitch to throw for his final strike of the game.

Gibson prematurely punches out Cabrera.
Padres baserunner R3 Everth Cabrera, alertly, saw Jansen's full focus on pitching and not on the runners, so when Jansen turned his back to home plate and ventured behind the pitcher's plate, Cabrera pounced, catching Jansen off-guard. Jansen's throw to catcher AJ Ellis was high, but Ellis jumped for it and slapped a tag on Cabrera just before the Padre's foot slid into home plate.

"Out!" exclaimed plate umpire Greg Gibson, emphatically seeking to end the game in thrilling fashion.

The only problem, of course, was that Jansen's throw had evaded Ellis and the baseball was not in AJ's glove, but rolling around freely in foul territory.

Upon realizing this—partly due to Cabrera's protest of the out call—Gibson reversed course, signaled Cabrera safe, and extended the game. For better or for worse, all this added confusion allowed the runner from second base Will Venable to score the go-ahead and winning run as Jansen arrived late to cover the plate. Controversially, replays indicate Jansen did not hustle to cover the plate until after Gibson had reversed his improper call, and Venable was already within several strides of home plate.

Remember the General Instruction to Umpires: "It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment."