Saturday, April 22, 2017

MLB Ejections 011-012 - Jordan Baker (1-2; Boyd, Sano)

HP Umpire Jordan Baker ejected Tigers P Matthew Boyd and Twins 3B Miguel Sano (Throwing At & Fighting) in the bottom of the 5th inning of the Tigers-Twins game. With one out and none on, pitcher Boyd threw a first-pitch fastball behind batter Sano, resulting in a bench-clearing incident during which Sano threw a punch at Tigers catcher James McCann. Replays indicate the pitch was located significantly inside and head-high, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the Tigers were leading, 3-2. The Tigers ultimately won the contest, 5-4.

This is Jordan Baker (71)'s first, second ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Jordan Baker now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 2*[2 MLB + 0 Irrecusable] = 4).
Crew Chief Mike Everitt now has 6 points in Crew Division (4 Previous + 2*[0 Irrecusable Call] = 6).

This is the 11th, 12th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 3rd player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Boyd's line was 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 3 SO. 0 HBP.
This is the 4th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Sano's was 1-2 in the contest.
This is Minnesota's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st in the AL Central (MIN 2; DET 1; CLE, CWS, KC 0).
This is Detroit's 1st ejection of 2017, 2nd in the AL Central (MIN 2; DET 1; CLE, CWS, KC 0).
This is Matthew Boyd's first career MLB ejection.
This is Miguel Sano's first ejection since April 10, 2016 (John Hirschbeck; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Jordan Baker's first ejection since March 22, 2017 (Bill Haselman; QOC = Y [Equipment]).

Wrap: Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins, 4/22/17 | Video via "Read More"

Friday, April 21, 2017

MLB Ejection 010 - Alan Porter (3; Brian Butterfield)

3B Umpire Alan Porter ejected Red Sox 3B Coach Brian Butterfield (Replay Review/slide rule interference no-call by 2B Umpire Andy Fletcher) in the bottom of the 8th inning of the Red Sox-Orioles game. With none out and one on (R1), Orioles batter Mark Trumbo hit a 3-2 slider from Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly on the ground to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who threw to second baseman Dustin Pedroia as Orioles baserunner R1 Manny Machado slid into second base, ruled out by 2B Umpire Fletcher on a ruling challenged by Orioles Manager Buck Showalter (pulled foot), and confirmed by Replay Review; Farrell did not challenge this play and Fletcher ruled that, due to the poor quality of Bogaerts' throw, Pedroia was not "hindered and impeded [in his] ability to complete a double play," pursuant to MLB's previously-issued interpretation regarding slide rule interference.^ Replays indicate Pedroia fielded the throw and tagged second base prior to Machado's touch of the base, and that Machado engaged in a bona fide slide into second base; although his foot 'spiked' and injured Pedroia, replays indicate that the Machado's right foot incidentally slid off the top of second base and into Pedroia's ankle after he began the slide before second base, reached the base with his foot, remained on the base with his left foot (complicated by Machado's attempt to brace Pedroia), and slid within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with Pedroia: though the contact was significant, this is not a violation of the bona fide slide interference rule, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Orioles were leading, 2-0. The Orioles ultimately won the contest, 2-0.

This is Alan Porter (64)'s third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Alan Porter now has 11 points in the UEFL Standings (4 Previous + 2 MLB + 3 Correct Call [C] = 11).
Crew Chief Hunter Wendelstedt now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
^In May 2016, MLB added impediment to its bona fide slide rule interpretation, noting that in order for slide interference to be called, "the Replay Official must still find that the runner's actions hindered and impeded the fielder's ability to complete a double play."
*Rule 6.01(j) regarding Sliding to Bases on Double Play Attempts states, "If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01. A “bona fide slide” for purposes of Rule 6.01 occurs when the runner:
(1) Begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base;
(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot;
(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide; and
(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder.
A runner who engages in a “bona fide slide” shall not be called for interference under this Rule 6.01, even in cases where the runner makes contact with the fielder as a consequence of a permissible slide."

This is the 10th ejection report of 2017.
This is Boston's 1st ejection of 2017, 2nd in the AL East (TB 2; BOS 1; BAL, NYY, TOR 0).
This is Brian Butterfield's first ejection since August 18, 2016 (Scott Barry; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Alan Porter's 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st since April 20 (Paul Molitor; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).

Wrap: Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles, 4/21/17 | Video via "Read More"

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Check Swings

A flurry of check swing calls from plate umpires is today's Tmac's Teachable Moments lesson.

We specifically look at the concept of multiple umpire configurations and the popular question, "Whose call is that, anyway?" [Hint: The idea of "ask for help," on a swing call, is a myth.]

Which umpire has the batter as his primary?
The idea that a base umpire always has a better view then the plate umpire is flat out wrong and if you work with a guy for any length of time who doesn't get check swings on the plate, the likelihood of him not getting them on the bases is also high.  Let us take a look at some details of one of the most disputed plays in baseball.

First, the rule. In the Major Leagues, check swing is not specifically defined in the rulebook, but is interpreted as "the batter's attempt to strike the pitched ball" (A STRIKE is a pitch "struck at by the batter and is missed").

BRD: In high school (NFHS), we're looking for the barrel of the bat passing the batter's body, and in college (NCAA), it's the barrel head passing the batter's front hip; no longer is "front edge of home plate" a rule. Pro/OBR codes make no reference to physical landmarks of the bat, body, or hip.

So whose call is it? Rule 8.03(a)(4) states that the umpire-in-chief (usually called the plate umpire or UIC) shall, "Make all decisions on the batter." 8.03 also has the UIC call and count balls and strikes.

Rule 8.02(c) states, "Appeals on a half swing may be made only on the call of ball and when asked to appeal, the home plate umpire must refer to a base umpire for his judgment on the half swing."

E-072: Is this a swing and can it be appealed?
This language ("...plate umpire must refer to a base umpire...") contributes to the great misconception that all check swing calls should be handled by the base umpires, which, of course, is not true. Although the beginning of the sentence states "...may be made only on the call of ball," the strong language and tenor associated with the word "must" tends to overpower the condition that brings about its very existence:

IF the call is ball AND the defense requests an appeal, then the home plate umpire must refer to a base umpire. IF the call is strike, then an appeal cannot be made.

As for the nuts and bolts of actually seeing this play, there are times when a plate umpire will get blocked out: perhaps the catcher slides in front of him on a pitch that misses a spot or he jumps up to grab a high pitch out of the zone. There are other times, however when the plate umpire has the best view in the ball park.

E-009: With the pitch clearly a ball in the dirt,
plate umpire Alan Porter observes the swing.
One of the keys to getting check swings is realizing when to give up on the pitch and focus on the bat.  This is usually best done on pitches in the dirt when an umpire can focus on bat and ball as both are in the umpire's line of vision (it is also easier to do with a ball going significantly away). In this instance, the plate umpire will have the best view in the yard.

However, on any pitch that is a strike or borderline, one of the hardest things for a young umpire to do is remain locked into the ball. We always want to get the primary call right, and for a plate guy, our primary call is the pitch.

Ejection for leaving dugout to argue.
How often have you said, "No he didn't go" and have the dugout ask you, "Where was the pitch?" and then you realize, "Oh crap I lost the ball so I could watch the bat." Always stay focused on the ball until you're 100% it's a ball. After all, as long as the ball stays in the strike zone, you're going to ring the batter up on a called strike, as opposed to a swinging one: the call of strike due to pitch location essentially renders moot the issue of swing/no swing. This aspect of umpiring is NOT easy and it takes working plenty of games to get right.

For instance, in Ejection 008 (Larry Vanover/Kevin Cash, April 19, 2017), the ball appears to be 6-8 inches of the outer edge, which allows plate umpire Vanover to shift his focus onto what the bat does, and he makes an outstanding and correct call of "swing," subsequently ejecting Rays Manager Kevin Cash for arguing the proper ruling.

E-053|054: Timmons calls a swinging strike.
And, like Cash, players, managers, and coaches may subscribe to the aforementioned "ask for help (on a call of 'strike')" myth that we debunked using rudimentary logic, bolstered even further by another portion of Rule 8.02(c) Comment, which states, "The manager may not complain that the umpire made an improper call, but only that he did not ask his partner for help."

Taken out of context, this portion of 8.02(c) Comment seems to give managers quite a bit of ammunition due to the sentence not explicitly stating something of the sort, "*Only applies to call of 'ball.'"

In context, however, the sentence directly preceding it reads, "The manager or the catcher may request the plate umpire to ask his partner for help on a half swing when the plate umpire calls the pitch a ball, but not when the pitch is called a strike." Put both sentences together, in context, and the issue of redundancy explains why the second sentence about complaining doesn't make mention of whether the initial call was ball or strike.

Nonetheless, due to this and other ambiguous or misleading phrases throughout the rulebook, the myth of always-get-help persists, which means umpires must consider whether a manager's complaint has met the Standards for Removal from the Game and, is thus, worthy of ejection or other discipline.

So let's recap:  Stay with the pitch and get your primary responsibility right.  Once you are sure it's a ball get those check swings.  Understand that we don't want to be a guy a passes on every check swing.  The more games you work the better you'll get.

As a sidebar, Rule 8.02(c) helps answer our Case Play 2017-2 - Stealing an Extended Walk, in which the baserunner from first base overran second base on a 3-2 pitch, ruled ball four, and whose check swing was affirmed as "ball/no swing" by the base umpire. At the time, some commenters mentioned that the base runner should be given lee-way due to the "confusing" check swing situation that could reverse the ball four call, but 8.02(c) gives the runner no such privilege: "Baserunners must be alert to the possibility that the base umpire on appeal from the plate umpire may reverse the call of a ball to the call of a strike, in which event the runner is in jeopardy of being out by the catcher’s throw...The ball is in play on appeal on a half swing." In high school, for instance, such remedy may be made, but only if the call is reversed on appeal (e.g., not a "no swing" affirmation).

I hope this helps your umpiring.  Have a great season.

Video available via "read more."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

MLB Ejection 009 - Alan Porter (2; Paul Molitor)

HP Umpire Alan Porter ejected Twins Manager Paul Molitor (check swing strike three call) in the bottom of the 8th inning of the Indians-Twins game. With two out and one on (R1), Twins batter Jason Castro attempted to check his swing on a 1-2 slider from Indians pitcher Andrew Miller, ruled a swinging strike by Porter. Play reviewed and adjudicated by the UEFL Appeals Board, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Indians were leading, 4-2. The Indians ultimately won the contest, 6-2.

This is Alan Porter (64)'s second ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Alan Porter now has 8 points in the UEFL Standings (4 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 8).
Crew Chief Hunter Wendelstedt now has 1 point in Crew Division (0 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 1).

This is the ninth ejection report of 2017.
This is the 7th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Minnesota's 1st ejection of 2017, 1st in the AL Central (MIN 1; CLE, CWS, DET, KC 0).
This is Paul Molitor's first ejection since May 4, 2016 (Scott Barry; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Alan Porter's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since April 10 (Pete Mackanin; QOC = U [Warnings]).

Wrap: Cleveland Indians vs. Minnesota Twins, 4/20/17 | Video via "Read More"

Queue Theory & Petty Baseball - Streamlining Replay

Quick quiz: How can baseball improve its pace-of-play problem?
Answer: Minimize superfluous Replay Review in the game by streamlining its review process.

Plotting Replay Review exposes a new issue.
Exhibit A: After Rays batter Kevin Kiermaier hit a home run during Thursday's Tigers-Rays game in Tampa Bay, Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus elected to challenge that Kiermaier had failed to touch second base on his trot around the bases. Following an unsuccessful appeal and "safe" ruling by 3B Umpire Joe West (himself filling in for Larry Vanover), Ausmus requested a Replay Review, which confirmed West's call. In other words, the Replay Official found clear and convincing [editor's note: absolutely indisputable] evidence that Kiermaier touched second base, right in front of the rotating Country Joe.

The Problem: How can we fix that? How can we eliminate completely unnecessary challenges for slam-dunk plays, without resorting to attacking the game itself (e.g., by adding/taking away outs, baserunners, etc.)?

Well, maybe we don't have to...

The Replay Review solution may lie in going to the tape, literally. Above, we have diagrammed "The Mechanics of Replay," illustrating what happens to three important people—the calling umpire (in blue), Crew Chief (maroon), and Replay (Headset) Technician (yellow)—when a Manager's Challenge is filed. This diagram exposes a key issue of how baseball addresses replay—and, notably, what it ignores—and why simply shortening review times in New York on its own won't fix the system.

Though the longest Replay Review in baseball history was 10 minutes and 55 seconds (July 3, 2014; Toronto @ Oakland; overturned call), and the longest Replay for an upheld ruling was 6 minutes and one second (4/30/16), the average Replay Review these days hovers in the 1:30-to-2:00 category, but this naturally doesn't account for three of the four phases of a Replay Review.

The Four Phases of Replay: The four phases of the Replay Review process are as follows...
(1) Time from the end of the play until the Manager decides to challenge;
(2) Time from filing until umpires apply the headsets, having walked/jogged over to the replay spot;
(3) Time from headset application to removal [what is presently reported as"Replay Review time"];
(4) Time from headset removal until play is ultimately resumed [includes the "out"/"safe"/etc. sign].

Phase (4): Resetting and Restarting Play.
For home run reviews and late-game requests, add a subsection to Phase (1), as (1a): The time it takes for a Manager to convince the umpires to utilize the Crew Chief Review. For complex plays, add another subsection as (1b): The time it takes for a Manager to communicate to the Crew Chief his "specificity of the challenge," pursuant to Replay Review Regulations, which require that a Manager dictate, specifically, what part of the play he is challenging (e.g., HP Collision or slide rule interference vs. pulled foot vs. timing of the force out).

For longer reviews—such as the aforementioned 10+ minute review—phases (1), (2), and (4) are proportionally trivial when compared with phase (3). However, with reported Replay Review times on the decline (Phase [3] is taking less and less time), the other forgotten phases of Replay suddenly become significant.

In other words, while baseball fortuitously introduced a 30-second Manager's Challenge time limit to address issue (1) and a two-minute guideline for Replay Officials as to Phase (3), no proposed time limit can really fix issues (2) and (4), which will continue to be significant factors in Replay's overall delay regardless of how short New York takes to conduct its review. The on-field umpires still have to travel to and from Points A/B/D, and play has to be restarted.

Phase Not Considered: Ump Conference.
Additional Phases Not Accounted For
We're naturally failing to take into account three significant phases of Replay whose statistics don't reliably exist. First is Manager "hold" strategy, wherein the manager holds up play, but, ultimately, elects not to challenge it. We're not "Turning the Umpire" anymore, but we are still holding plays. Second is the classic umpire conference, which admittedly was a part of baseball long before Replay, but does no favors for pace-of-play when combined with a Replay Review.

The simple time-wasting reality of Phases (2), and (4)'s physical movement—the umpires walking or jogging toward the headsets, the technician untangling the wires to give to the umpires, and, when all is said and done, getting back to their positions while resetting and then restarting play—reminds me of a MythBusters experiment known as queue theory.

As such, it doesn't especially matter whether replay continues to "go to New York" or whether a fifth person is added to the umpiring crew and conducts the process in the Stadium: Phase (3) is not the problem anymore.

Mythbusters and the Great Queue Experiment.
Queue Theory: In this myth, the MythBusters crew ran an experiment to determine which of two proposed queue strategies would save customers the most time in a busy supermarket scenario with multiple checkout stands. In Scenario A, customers were free to choose their own register to line up at (the way most supermarkets tend to work). In Scenario B, customers were all corralled into one serpentine queue, and from this master line, were directed to the next available register (as seen in many bookstores, for instance).

The hypothesis was that Plan B would save time over A, to account for odd delay contingencies as customers paying by check, using extra coins, or an extended price check.

In the end, customers in Scenario A, on average, spent less time in line than customers in B, in conflict with the experiment's hypothesis.

Crew Chief Alfonso Marquez & Joe West.
Applying the Lesson Learned: So how does this scientific method relate to baseball and Replay Review? Well, it turns out that the reason Scenario B didn't quite work out was that the hypothesis didn't take into account the time spent simply walking from the back of the line to the front of the line, and from the front of the line to the next available cashier. In other words, the serpentine master queue didn't save time, in great part, because there was no way to get rid of the time it takes for a shopper to walk from one end of the store (or line) to the other (or cash register).

As for us, it's about getting the calling umpire, Crew Chief, and Replay Technician to a common meeting area known as the replay spot. Travel to and from the replay spot in Phases (2) and (4) will always take time, no matter how much Phases (1) and (3) are streamlined.

Example: Let's return to Thursday's wholly unnecessary Replay Review in Tampa Bay, wherein West ruled on Detroit's appeal at second base at 1:19 of the attached video. Almost immediately after West's "safe" call (at 1:21), Ausmus filed his Manager's Challenge with HP Umpire Alfonso Marquez in a lighting-quick breeze through Phase 1 (Time, Phase 1: two seconds).

At 1:46, Crew Chief Marquez (this isn't West's crew, and West didn't enter the game until after first pitch) applied his headset, with West following shortly thereafter (Time, Phase 2: 25 seconds).

At 2:25, Marquez and West removed their headsets, having received a decision from New York (Time, Phase 3 [aka, "Time of Review"]: 29 seconds).

Although the video ends at 2:33, video of the game's entirety indicates the game resumed approximately 35 seconds after the conclusion of Phase 3 (Time, Phase 4: 35 seconds).

Total time of Phases 1-4: 91 seconds (1:31) minus Total time of Phase 3: 29 seconds =
Total time of Phases 1, 2 & 4: 62 seconds (1:02).
Portion of Entire Review Process that was not Phase 3 (1, 2 & 4), as a percentage: 67.4%.

One-and-a-half minutes may not seem like much, and 1:30 really isn't—not until you consider there were 1468 Replay Reviews in 2016 that averaged 1:36 each, for a total of 1 day, 15 hours, 8 minutes, and 48 seconds—but again, this fails to account for Phases (1), (2), and (4): "1 day, 15 hours, 8 minutes, and 48 seconds" only describes Phase 3 in 2016. Mathematically, the shorter Phase (3) is, the greater proportion of the entire process Phases (1), (2) & (4) will encompass.

Since, as the queue myth demonstrates, Phases (2) and (4) [and to a lesser extent, Phase (1)] are fairly static entities subject to less variability in duration than Phase (3) [and, also, to a lesser extent, Phase (1)], a shorter Replay Review for a no-brainer "Confirmed" call [and, to a lesser extent, Overturned one] will still waste a requisite amount of time: it will still add nearly one minute to every game, no matter how "fast" the reported Replay Review [e.g., Phase (3)] actually is.

Sidebar: Phases (1) (and/or [1a/1b]) and (2) generally add up to 30-45 seconds, as the longer a Manager takes to decide whether to challenge in Phase (1), the more likely the calling umpire, Crew Chief, and Replay Technician are to move closer toward the replay spot in anticipation of a Replay Review, so as to minimize the length of Phase (2). As such, Phases (1) and (2) may bleed into each other.

Conclusion: Accordingly, baseball's next approach should be to address Phases (2) and (4). Petty replays on obvious calls (whether confirmed or overturned) will always be a part of the game just as superfluous appeals will occasionally appear, and these will be taken care of by a relatively quick Phase (3). Short of launching the calling umpire, Crew Chief, and Replay Technician out of three cannons pointed at the replay spot, baseball isn't going to be able to save much time getting these three parties from Points A/B/C to Point D, even if everyone sprints into position. Having the Crew Chief use a microphone to explain the call from Point D after the verdict—not a bad idea at all—won't save time either, but at least that would be an acceptable use of time because it would be productive by virtue of its informative value.

Instead of thinking too much about travel time, since that's a fairly static entity, if baseball seeks to reduce overall Replay Review time—and thus, improve pace-of-play—it will need to go wireless: equip the Crew Chief with a headpiece and microphone—somewhat similar to soccer—and have New York communicate with this umpire remotely, while the umpires are still in their normal positions. This will reduce the time spent in Phase (2) dramatically and, depending on how baseball decides to announce its review results, could also expedite Phase (4) as well. Replay can be faster, but it requires the appropriate on-field official(s) to wear in-ear technology.

Post-Script: By the way, the four-pitch intentional walk baseball got rid of? Throwing four wide ones added, on average, 11.4 seconds to each of the 2430 regular season games—nearly 50 seconds less than just Phase 3 of Replay, and likely 1:30 less than all of the phases of Replay combined.

Video via "Read More"

Injury Scout - Larry Vanover Out, Joe West In for DET-TB

Injury Scout: Joe West replaced umpire Larry Vanover for Thursday's Tigers-Rays game in Tampa Bay. The media received word that Vanover's absence was due to a personal matter. The UEFL reports the information as a personnel transaction, and requests privacy for Vanover (both in the content of this post and the comment section).

West, whose most recent game was Sunday, April 16, was on vacation from his regular crew (currently led by West's regular-season #2, Hunter Wendelstedt), which presently is in Minnesota.

Umpires Alfonso Marquez (HP), Chad Fairchild (1B), and David Rackley (3B) started Thursday's game in a three-person alignment, with Marquez serving as Crew Chief, until West arrived at Tropicana Field later in the first inning. West took over field duties at third base, as Rackley slid over to the second base position.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MLB Ejection 008 - Larry Vanover (1; Kevin Cash)

HP Umpire Larry Vanover ejected Rays Manager Kevin Cash (check swing strike three call) in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Tigers-Rays game. With none out and the bases loaded, Rays batter Steven Souza Jr. attempted to check his swing on a 3-2 fastball from Tigers pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, ruled a swinging strike by Vanover. Play reviewed and adjudicated by the UEFL Appeals Board (9-0-0), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Tigers were leading, 7-6. The Rays ultimately won the contest, 8-7.

This is Larry Vanover (27)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Larry Vanover now has 3 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 3).
Crew Chief Larry Vanover now has 3 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 3).

This is the eighth ejection report of 2017.
This is the 6th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Tampa Bay's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st in the AL East (TB 2; BAL, BOS, NYY, TOR 0).
This is Kevin Cash's first ejection since April 29, 2016 (Mark Ripperger; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Larry Vanover's first ejection since June 30, 2016 (Tyler Flowers; QOC = U [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 4/19/17 | Video via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 007 - Bill Welke (1; Jeff Banister)

HP Umpire Bill Welke ejected Rangers Manager Jeff Banister (foul ball call) in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the Rangers-Athletics game. With none out and none on, A's batter Khris Davis hit a 2-2 changeup from Rangers pitcher Martin Perez on the ground to third baseman Joey Gallo, ruled fair by 3B Umpire Mike Everitt, as Gallo threw to first baseman Mike Napoli prior to Davis' arrival for an apparent first out; however, as Napoli received Gallo's throw, Welke motioned for "Time," so as to call the ball foul. Replays indicate the batted ball appeared to traverse the left field foul line at the front edge of third base and did not appear to contact Davis while he was in the batter's box, the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Athletics were leading, 4-0. The A's ultimately won the contest, 9-1.

This is Bill Welke (3)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Bill Welke now has -2 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = -2).
Crew Chief Mike Everitt now has 1 point in Crew Division (1 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 1).
*Although the fair/foul call beyond the front edge of first/third base is ordinarily reserved for the base umpire, U3 Everitt clearly called the ball fair while plate umpire Welke clearly called it foul. Thus, in regards to ejector classification (UEFL Rule 6-2-c-1) this is deemed an "incorrectly ruled call by the ejector," as in UEFL Rule 4-2-b-3. Due to Welke's foul ball call, Everitt is deemed secondary while Welke is deemed the calling umpire (as Welke's foul ball call prevailed).

This is the seventh ejection report of 2017.
This is the 5th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Texas' 1st ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL West (SEA, TEX 1; HOU, LAA, OAK 0).
This is Jeff Banister's first ejection since September 19, 2016 (Joe West; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).
This is Bill Welke's first ejection since August 15, 2016 (Don Mattingly; QOC = U-C [Check Swing]).

Wrap: Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics, 4/19/17 | Video via "Read More"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bucknor's False Strikeout, Non-Ejection (Jayson Werth)

Nationals LF Jayson Werth charged at HP Umpire CB Bucknor after umpires reversed a strikeout call with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Nationals-Braves game during a chaotic sequence for Bucknor and fellow umpires led by Crew Chief Fieldin Culbreth.

Bucknor appeared to initially call "Time."
With two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th inning of a three-run game, Braves batter Chase d'Arnaud swung at a 1-2 slider from Nationals pitcher Shawn Kelley for an apparent third strike to end the game. After appeal from Braves 3B Coach Ron Washington, home plate umpire Bucknor alongside crewmates Manny Gonzalez (1B), Culbreth (2B), and Mark Carlson (3B) convened, and ultimately determined that d'Arnaud had fouled the ball into the dirt, and ordered play resumed with d'Arnaud still at bat with a 1-2 count. Replays indicate d'Arnaud's bat did not make contact with the baseball and that Bucknor appeared to call "Time" after the pitch's completion, the call was incorrect. Kelly struck out d'Arnaud in earnest on the ensuing pitch to give Washington a 4-1 victory.

Werth tears into Bucknor after the final out.
After the game's conclusion, Nats LF Werth approached Bucknor while yelling and gesticulating with such intensity that teammates had to physically restrain Werth as Bucknor walked off the field, accompanied by Gonzalez. Werth previously expressed dissatisfaction over strike calls made during a fourth-inning at-bat in which Bucknor called Werth out on strikes. Replays indicated two of the three called strikes, including the called third strike, were located off the plate.

This unofficial ejection discussion is presented as an Umpire Odds & Ends post, pursuant to UEFL Rule 8-2, which governs unofficial ejections and unique umpiring situations that may not lead to an ejection. While no ejection mechanic appeared to have manifested during the strange sequence, the situation—and Werth's apparent unsporting conduct—merits further discussion.

Bucknor's most recent ejection on Sunday, April 16 also concerned a mechanically unclear play.

Wrap: Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves, 4/18/17 | Videos (2 videos) via "Read More"

Umpire Microphones May Arrive in MLB This Year

MLB umpires may soon wear microphones to explain Replay Review decisions and other complex rulings, according to AP sources familiar with the situation and speaking on condition of anonymity.

Crew Chiefs could soon speak to the crowd.
The move would bring baseball officials into the mic'd up fold most commonly associated with referees in college football, the NFL, and NHL, who all presently utilize the stadium or arena PA systems when announcing penalties and touchdown/goal review decisions.

Under one proposed plan, the first game to feature a microphone-equipped Crew Chief may be the July 11, 2017 All-Star Game in Miami, before the experiment becomes a reality in the postseason.

This and any other potential plans to outfit umpires with microphones would have to gain approval from the World Umpires Association—the umpiring union—and be agreeable to the League. The AP report declined to specify a timetable for when (or if) such agreement may be reached nor whether Crew Chiefs would utilize the public address system in order to explain complex rulings that may not be subject to Replay Review.

If implemented, the MLB microphone plan is expected to clear up the confusion that exists between "Call Stands" and "Call Confirmed" rulings, which both presently result in the Crew Chief displaying the same mechanic (e.g., "out" or "safe"), but for different reasons. Baseball umpires in Japan already use microphones to explain complicated or confusing plays.

NHL referees are mic'd during hockey games.
In football and hockey, the referee mic system has provided additional entertainment on occasion.

For instance, NHL referee Mike Leggo once scolded a player over the PA: "You can't do that," and Wes McCauley has had fun toning his dramatic muscle in announcing a goal (and fighting penalties)...though Brad Watson once confused Anaheim with Atlanta [].

In the NFL, referee Ed Hochuli has become somewhat of an officiating celebrity through his physique and extensive use of the PA to explain complex football rules, though microphones have also produced their fair share of football referee bloopers.
NFL referees use PA mics to explain calls.

"Give the Crew Chief a microphone" was bullet point number one in the pre-season "Tmac's Teachable Moments - Let's Fix Replay" discussion of Replay Review. Thus far, we have already seen two of tmac's proposals see the light of day, as managers now have a 30-second time limit in which to file a Manager's Challenge, and Replay Officials have a guideline of two minutes for rendering a decision.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

MLB Ejection 006 - CB Bucknor (1; Scott Servais)

1B Umpire CB Bucknor ejected Mariners Manager Scott Servais (fair vs foul ball call) in the bottom of the 6th inning of the Rangers-Mariners game. With two out and one on, Mariners batter Leonys Martin hit a 0-0 cutter from Rangers pitcher Tony Barnette on the ground and along the right field foul line to first baseman Mike Napoli, who fielded the grounder and stepped on first base to retire Martin, who hadn't left the home plate area. Replays indicate the batted ball bounded directly over first base, in fair territory, and did not appear to strike Martin in the batter's box (properly no-called by HP Umpire Mark Carlson), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Rangers were leading, 6-5. The Mariners ultimately won the contest, 8-7.

This is CB Bucknor (54)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
CB Bucknor now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 4).
Crew Chief Fieldin Culbreth now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).

This is the sixth ejection report of 2017.
This is the 4th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Seattle's 1st ejection of 2017, 1st in the AL West (SEA 1; HOU, LAA, OAK, TEX 0).
This is Scott Servais' first ejection since June 26, 2016 (Carlos Torres; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).
This is CB Bucknor's first ejection since May 4, 2016 (Eric Hosmer; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Texas Rangers vs. Seattle Mariners, 4/16/17 | Video via "Read More"

Phantom Tags - Not Obstruction in Pro Ball, OBS in HS

MLB's recent phantom tag phenomenon is a great time to review the obstruction rule, and what qualifies as obstruction at the professional level. (Hint: Phantom tags are generally not obstruction.)

Most fake tags do not qualify as obstruction.
However, just because obstruction and fake tags don't mix at the professional level doesn't mean the obstruction call should be foregone in scholastic or youth baseball. Here is a discussion of the obstruction rule differences, by level of play that delves into a core baseball philosophy: the pros are expected to have situational awareness while younger levels may be more forgiving.

OBR/Professional: Like most monikers in baseball nomenclature, Obstruction is described in the Definition of Terms section of the rules book: "OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."

A fake tag certainly satisfies the "not in possession of the ball" (and potentially the "not in the act of fielding the ball") criterion, but the key consideration here concerns impediment: did the fake tag impede the progress of any runner?

Under professional rules and standards, this impediment generally must be physical in nature: the runner's progress is physically affected by the fielder's illegal actions. The most often case, of course, is a runner colliding with a fielder without the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball (see "Reviewing Jim Joyce's Game-Ending Obstruction Call" from the 2013 World Series for an example of this type of obstruction, and an explanation of what "in the act of fielding the ball" actually means).

A classic case of Obstruction.
Obstruction, naturally, can also occur with no physical contact between runner and fielder: a fielder standing in the runner's way, which inherently forces the runner to alter his/her route may also be deemed as impeding the runner's progress, with or without contact.

The final case of obstruction concerns an even smaller part of the definition: "progress of [a] runner": what is progress, anyway?

Progress is a runner's attempt to advance (or retreat): we're looking for a bona fide illegal action on the fielder's part that plainly inhibits the runner's ability to engage in this voluntary activity. For this voluntary action to occur, the runner must intend to progress (or stay put, as the case may be). This principle is very similar to that discussed in Case Play 2017-2 - Stealing an Extended Walk: in pro ball, it is up to the offensive player to know the situation, unless the defense's illegal actions obstruct him/her from acquiring that knowledge.

The MLB Umpire Manual specifies the specific case of obstruction when a "fielder's actions are a deliberate effort to block the runner's view." This may occur during a fly ball if the third baseman intentionally attempts to block the baserunner (R3)'s view of the play in the outfield or a first baseman jockeying in front of the baserunner (R1) so as to block his view of the pitcher on a pickoff play: the key is that the runner is hindered from engaging in the voluntary activity of timing the tag-up, or seeing the play in front of him/her. If the play is ordinarily accessible or visible to the runner, but the runner "bites" on the fielder's fake and looks at the phantom tag instead, there can be no obstruction as the runner was not physically impeded from seeing the ball/play.

If the runner, due to a fake, does not attempt to advance or retreat, then that runner's progress cannot possibly be impeded. In the attached play (Rangers-Angels, Andrus/Maybin), had baserunner Maybin attempted to advance to third base and been impeded by fielder Andrus' actions, only then would obstruction have been the proper call. A deke or fake on its own, however, is entirely legal in MLB.

For more on obstruction, see "Rule 7.06 [now known as Rule 6.01(h)]: Obstruction, What a Pickle!"
For more on A vs B obstruction, see "Type A: BR Overlay Obstructed on Ground Ball to Infielder."

Table of Obstruction Rules Differences.
NCAA: College baseball actually has a rule specifically for what MLB interprets as visual obstruction: "Visual obstruction by a defensive player may be called if a fielder interferes intentionally with a base runner’s opportunity to see the ball on a defensive play" [NCAA 8-3-f]. Other than that, NCAA is similar to OBR in regards to obstruction.

NFHS: The biggest difference at the high school level is that in addition to the above obstructions, a fake tag is considered obstruction (Rule 2-22-2). Nearly all other fakes (e.g., simulating a caught fly ball, faking a throw [other than pitcher/balks], etc.) are legal; the phantom tag, though, isn't. Federation also outlaws verbal obstruction, whereas NCAA and OBR do not. As interpreted, "offensive players [in NCAA and Pro] are expected to know the difference between their coaches' voices and the voices of their opponents." In high school, however, that's verbal obstruction.

Note About Verbal Interference: Under OBR, there is no such thing as verbal interference, but under NCAA (specifically, Rule 2-50), visual or verbal acts to hinder or impede the defense, by definition, constitute interference. NFHS, obviously, makes illegal both verbal obstruction and verbal interference. Accordingly, verbal conduct by the offensive team designed to confuse the defense (see: A-Rod yelling "Ha!" while running past a fielder) is legal under OBR, and illegal under both NCAA and NFHS, as far as a call of interference is concerned. Obviously, if the content of the utterance is objectionable in another sense (e.g., profane or unsporting), then the umpire may warn or eject the offender for unsportsmanlike conduct, as in Rule 8, but may not rule interference.

Verbal Interference Case Play: With one out and one on (R1), the batter hits a towering fly ball to the left side of the infield. As the fielder entitled to protection from interference prepares to catch the batted ball in flight, baserunner R1 runs by and (A) yells or says "Ha!" at, (B) yells or says an obscenity at, (C) deliberately jumps in front of or places his hands in front of the fielder's eyes ("face guards"), or (D) runs into the fielder, who, in turn, is unable to catch the ball. What is the ruling for each level of baseball?

(A) (R1 yells at fielder): Legal play in OBR, interference in NCAA/NFHS.
(B) (R1 curses at fielder): Warning or ejection at all levels. No INT in OBR; INT in NCAA/NFHS.
(C) and (D) (R1 face guards or contacts fielder): Interference at all levels of baseball.