Friday, May 5, 2017

Official Rule, Procedure for No-Pitch Intentional Walk

Our friends at Umpire-Empire came across this dandy regarding no-pitch intentional walks in the 2017 MLB Umpire Manual, which instructs umpires on how to administer the new-for-2017 free pass:

If a defensive team's manager notifies the umpire that he would like to intentionally walk the batter:
  • > Prior to the at bat beginning: As the batter approaches the plate the umpire will call "Time," the ball is dead, and the umpire shall award the batter first base and advance any other runner(s) forced to advance by the batter being walked.
  • > During an at bat: The umpire will call "Time," the ball is dead, and the umpire shall award the batter first base and advance any other runner(s) forced to advance by the batter being walked.
If a substitute batter is being entered into the game, the plate umpire should confirm and officially signal the batter into the game prior to addressing the defensive Club's request to intentionally walk the batter.

Manager notifies umpire of intent-to-walk.
This last sentence (regarding pinch hitters) heads off a potentially confusing situation wherein the defense intends to intentionally walk the batter (e.g., to create the potential for a force out), but the batter-to-be-walked has not yet been solidified. As such, the plate umpire now has a specific responsibility and procedure for addressing the case of a pinch hitter-to-be-walked.

The pitchless IBB procedure also makes clear that the ball is dead during an intentional walk, and, thus, no runner may be thrown out for overrunning an awarded base. Similarly, the dead ball situation does not count toward the pitcher's overall pitch count, as the scoring simply reads, "(no pitch) intentional walk."

Although Rule 5.05(b)(1) remains unchanged: "The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when - four “balls” have been called by the umpire," the rules committee modified its Definition of Terms to specify the game's new element:
A BASE ON BALLS is an award of first base granted to a batter who, during his time at bat, receives four pitches outside the strike zone or following a signal from the defensive team’s manager to the umpire that he intends to intentionally walk the batter. If the manager informs the umpire of this intention, the umpire shall award the batter first base as if the batter had received four pitches outside the strike zone
If you're so inclined, be sure to check out the 2017 MLB Umpire Media Guide, also from U-E!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

MLB Ejection 025 - Mike Muchlinski (2; Ryon Healy)

HP Umpire Mike Muchlinski ejected Athletics 3B Ryon Healy (strike three call) in the top of the 8th inning of the A's-Twins game. With one out and the bases loaded, Healy took a 2-2 curveball from Twins pitcher Ryan Pressly for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and below the midpoint (px -.701, pz 3.056 [sz_top 3.411]), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the A's were leading, 6-3. The A's ultimately won the contest, 8-5.

This is Mike Muchlinski (76)'s second ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Mike Muchlinski now has -2 points in the UEFL Standings (-4 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct = -2).
Crew Chief Mike Winters now has 3 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 3).
*The Kulpa Rule begins at px value |.748|.
Related Video: R1, R2, 0 out, 9th, 8-5 game: Muchlinski takes a direct groin shot from A's pitching.

This is the 25th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 10th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Healy was 2-5 (3 SO) in the contest.
This is Oakland's 1st ejection of 2017, T-2nd in the AL West (TEX 2; OAK, SEA 1; HOU, LAA 0).
This is Ryon Healy's first career MLB ejection.
This is Mike Muchlinski's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since April 9 (Kevin Kiermaier; QOC = N [B/S]).

Wrap: Oakland Athletics vs. Minnesota Twins, 5/4/17 | Video via "Read More"

MiLB - Wilhelms Ejects Lopez on Hidden Ball Trick Play

Carolina's successful hidden ball trick resulted in HP Umpire Ryan Wilhelms' ejection of Buies Creek Astros Manager Omar Lopez on Wednesday after the Single-A Advanced Mudcats employed the tricky live ball maneuver during the 7th inning of their eventual shutout victory.

Umpires Wilhelms & Jones listen to Lopez.
With one out and two on (R1, R2) in the top half of the inning, Carolina's baserunners attempted and completed a double steal with R1 Dexture McCall advancing to second base and R2 Kyle Tucker checking into third base ahead of the catcher's throw to third baseman Lucas Erceg.

Following field umpire Austin Jones' "safe" call on Tucker, Erceg opted to feign a throw back to pitcher Wuilder Rodriguez and keep the baseball hidden in his glove. Erceg then played the waiting game, hoping that baserunner Tucker would step off of the third base bag so he could tag him out.

As Erceg waited, so too did Umpire Jones, who diligently kept his eye on (or, more accurately, shifted his attention between) both ballcarrier Erceg and pitcher Rodriguez to watch for Erceg's attempted play on Tucker while ensuring that Rodriguez didn't engage in anything illegal during the sequence.

Following a 20-second standoff in which neither team appeared to have requested "Time," Tucker finally stepped off of third base and Erceg applied the tag.

Ersig tags Tucker as U1 Jones watches F1.
The only portion of the Official Baseball Rules that concerns delay-of-game is Rule 5.07(c), which states, "When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds after he receives the ball." Because the bases were not unoccupied (and pitcher Rodriguez never received the ball), this rule does not apply to this play. 6.02(a)(8) also makes it a balk for a pitcher to "unnecessarily delay[] the game" (but, again, that's a rule for the pitcher, not a fielder).

That said, Rule 7.03(a)(2) states, "A game may be forfeited to the opposing team when a team—Employs tactics palpably designed to delay or shorten the game." Yikes...but the spirit of this rule is intended for teams delaying for reasons concerning the whether/rain, getting a pitcher ready in the bullpen, or for other "non-live-ball" events, not for hidden-ball-trick schemes.

As for pitcher legality during a hidden ball trick, "It is a balk when—The pitcher, without having the ball, stands on or astride the pitcher’s plate or while off the plate, he feints a pitch" [Rule 6.02(a)(9)].

Rule 6.02(a) Comment clarifies why the balk rule exists and further explains provision nine of the rule: "Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner...(A) Straddling the pitcher’s rubber without the ball is to be interpreted as intent to deceive and ruled a balk."

Is F1 Rodriguez astride the pitcher's plate?
Replays indicate Rodriguez stepped onto the mound and stomped his feet onto the white cleat cleaner that appears a few yards behind the pitcher's plate on most professional mounds, but no angle indicates whether Rodriguez actually approached the pitcher's plate itself nor whether he stood astride it (e.g., straddled it) during the play (thus, we are irrecusable).

In 2013, we considered a failed hidden ball trick in San Diego (Case Play 2013-07: Hidden Ball Trick Fails due to Time Out). Although this play ultimately proved unsuccessful because "Time" was out when the fielder tagged the runner, we discussed Rule 6.02(a)(9) [then known as Rule 8.05(i)], noting that under the Official Baseball Rules (OBR), a pitcher must actually be positioned in close proximity to his rubber/plate in order to balk: he must straddle it, touch it, or otherwise simulate that he has mounted and assumed his normal pitching stance. Standing on the mound without the ball is legal in professional baseball.

In NCAA college, the pitcher must be completely off the mound during this play lest he be called for a balk ("While not in possession of the ball, the pitcher stands with either foot or both feet on any part of the dirt area (circle) of the mound during a hidden-ball-play attempt," NCAA Rule 9-3-f).

In NFHS high school, the pitcher will balk on this play if he "positions himself within approximately five feet of the pitcher's plate without having the ball" (NFHS Rule 6-2-5).

Case Play 2017-5 - Dead Ball Missed Base Appeal [Solved]

HP Umpire Chad Stears declared a runner out on appeal for failing to touch home plate during a home run celebration. As fate would have it, the out occurred after the ball-over-wall hit had apparently tied the game (which ended up as a one-run ballgame).

Executive Summary: Batter hits out-of-the-park home run, but while rounding the bases, misses home plate. On the way to the dugout, a coach appears to physically stop B1, alerting the batter-runner to the missed base. B1 then returns to touch home plate before finally entering the dugout. This is a legal run and not subject to the base coach interference rule.

Hemphill is ruled out on appeal after her HR.
The Play: With two out and none on in the top of the 3rd inning of the Alabama-Ole Miss NCAA softball game, Alabama batter Bailey Hemphill hit a solo home run and jogged around the bases, punctuating her celebration with a jump upon her return to home plate...except that she jumped clear over home plate and failed to make contact with the base.

After leaving the vicinity and celebrating with hear teammates and coaches, Hemphill attempted to return to touch home plate, but by that point, Ole Miss had filed an appeal and HP Umpire Chad Stears declared Hemphill out for missing a base.

Like NFHS baseball, in NCAA softball, an appeal for missing a base may be made during a live- or dead-ball period ( Regarding an out-of-the-park home run, "The appeal cannot be ruled on until the player completes her base-running responsibilities." Rule 12.22.1 states, "A runner, in the course of running the bases, is considered to have acquired the base if she touches the base or passes the base (within a body’s length)."

Plate umpire Chad Stears explains his ruling.
As an aside, it is for this reason (amongst others) that a softball umpire will wait until the runner touches the final base of her award (or passes the final base of the award, as occurred here) before delivering a new ball to the defense, as a dead-ball appeal may only occur after the the umpire "places a new ball into the game" (as opposed to making the ball live, e.g., "put back into play"). Rule 12.22.3 states, "An appeal must be honored even if the base missed was before or after an award." The CCA Softball Umpires Manual states, "After the runner touches home plate, give a ball to the pitcher, catcher or closest infielder and return to the plate area."

Infinite Loop: The natural conundrum is that withholding the ball until the runner corrects her base-running blunder by physically touching home plate (or, more to the point, until the runner indicates that she has failed to do so) is a tip-off to both the defense and offense that the umpire observed the runner missing home plate, which, naturally, isn't something an umpire should be communicating to either team until and unless an appeal is requested.

The NCAA attempted to solve the crisis by issuing the following statement: "By rule, with the ball out of play, the defense cannot appeal a missed base until the ball is put back in play, the defense is in position, the next batter summoned to the batter’s box and the umpire indicates 'Play Ball.'"

As Jim pointed out, NCAA's interpretation is at odds with its rulebook (see above), which may necessitate a rules change this offseason to specifically cover this situation.

Even the aforementioned NCAA-issued bulletin incorrectly cites the phrase "ball is put back in play" for Rule when that specific rule says no such thing. It says "places a new ball into the game." "The game" encompasses all aspects of events on the field—from beginning to end—and includes both live and dead ball periods. "In play," however, refers only to live ball action. The language should be changed to reflect the rest of the rulebook to eliminate this inconsistency.

But that's softball, where dead ball appeals are valid, as they are in high school, where "Runners must be given ample opportunity, in the umpire’s judgment, to complete their base running responsibilities." What about professional baseball, where appeals may only be executed when the ball is live?

Case Play Question: All else equal, what is the proper ruling if this occurs during a Major League game? Would the runner's touch-correction be considered timely and legal in professional baseball?

Answer: Yes. Due to its live ball appeal policy (Rule 5.09(c) Comment: "Time is not out when an appeal is being made"), OBR-level baseball avoids the live ball/dead ball controversy completely, which leaves only the issue of whether the runner legally returned to touch home plate.

Rule 5.09(c)(2) Approved Ruling (B) states: "When the ball is dead, no runner may return to touch a missed base or one he has left after he has advanced to and touched a base beyond the missed base." In the case of a missed plate during a dead ball base award situation (e.g., an over-the-fence home run), this "base beyond" is considered to be the dugout. The runner can return to touch home plate at any point before entering the dugout.

Rule 6.01(a)(8) states that a runner is out for interference when—"In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base." Let us assume that after the batter-runner completed the home run trot (albeit without having touched home plate) that a coach physically assists the runner in returning to touch home plate. The preceding rule obviously does not address the specific case of assistance in returning to or leaving home plate (just first or third base), so the question is whether the rule can apply to the situation of a runner returning to touch a missed plate.

The reason the rule specifically mentions base coaches is that, during play, only base coaches are permitted on the infield while the remainder of the staff is relegated to the dugout, clubhouse, or on-field bullpen. Thus, the rule should apply to any coach who, by entering the playing field and physically assisting a runner, commits a similar brand of coach assist interference.

But the ball is dead! The Definition of Terms states, "Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." There is no play or potential play to be made during a dead ball period.

Furthermore, Rule 5.06(c)(2) states that, while the ball is dead, no player may be put out, no bases run, and no runs scored except as the result of acts that occurred while the ball was live (and the rule specifically lists "interference" as one of those acts which might have "occurred while the ball was alive"). Thus, while the ball is dead, the batter-runner cannot be put out due to the coach assist interference. Coach assistance interference is a live ball infraction.

Note that, because the ball is live during an appeal play, a runner can be called out for actions that occurred during a live or dead ball. This live => live or dead situation is not reciprocal: a runner can't be out for a live ball infraction that happens during a dead ball while the ball is still dead.

Here's another reason that coach assistance interference does not apply to a dead ball four-base award: "When a runner is entitled to a base without liability to be put out, while the ball is in play, or under any rule in which the ball is in play after the runner reaches the base to which he is entitled, and the runner fails to touch the base to which he is entitled before attempting to advance to the next base, the runner shall forfeit his exemption from liability to be put out" (Rule 5.06(b)(3) NOTE).

And, for good measure, Rule 5.06(b)(4)(A): "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out—to home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally."

On an out-of-the-park (dead ball) home run, the runner may be called out for: failing to touch a base (appeal play), passing a runner (see Rule 7.01(g)(3) Approved Ruling), abandonment, but not interference.

For the aforementioned play, score the run (assuming the runner has touched home plate).

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 5.05(b)(3) Comment: "If the batter-runner missed first base, or a runner misses his next base, he shall be considered as having reached the base."
OBR 5.06(c)(2): "While the ball is dead no player may be put out, no bases may be run and no runs may be scored, except that runners may advance one or more bases as the result of acts which occurred while the ball was alive (such as, but not limited to a balk, an overthrow, interference, or a home run or other fair ball hit out of the playing field)."
OBR 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."
OBR 5.09(c)(4): "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when—He fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to that base, and home base is tagged."

Video via "Read More"

UEFL's MLB Umpire Sabermetrics - April 2017

The first edition of UEFL's MLB Umpire Sabermetrics for the 2017 regular season is now available and features 21 ejections and 226 Replay Reviews through 369 games played.

The first month of the regular season produced more ejections than occurred in April 2016, and were about average historically for the month of April, which tends to have fewer ejections than other months of the regular season. Replays were about average in rate.

Summary, Ejections.
>> 21 Total Regular Season Ejections through April 30, 2017 (on pace for 138 ejections this season).
>> Umpires were 56.3% accurate on calls associated with ejection.
>> The Blue Jays, Rangers, Rays, Twins & Red Sox led the AL in ejections. The Cardinals led the NL.
>> Managers John Gibbons (Blue Jays) and Jeff Banister (Rangers) led all managers in ejections.
>> Umpires Alan Porter led all umpires in ejections.
>> Chief Mike Everitt's crew led all umpire crews in ejections.
>> Most ejections occurred in the 7th inning; Ejections from 7th and on comprised 67% of all tosses.
>> Most ejections occurred on Sundays. Weekend series (Fri-Sun) featured 62% of all heave-ho's.
>> The most common reason for ejection was Balls/Strikes.
>> All else equal, a team tied at the time of ejection ended up winning the game 100% of the time.

Summary, Replay Reviews.
>> 226 Total Replay Reviews, of which calls were affirmed 53.1% of the time (46.9% overturned).
>> The Tampa Bay Rays used replay more than any other team, but were fairly unsuccessful.
>> The Kansas City Royals were the League's most successful team in review (perfect 6/6 record).
>> The Baltimore Orioles experienced fewer reviews than any other team, and were average.
>> The A's and Blue Jays were the worst MLB teams in terms of Replay success (.200 TSP each).
>> Umpire Angel Hernandez had a league-leading 8 calls reviewed, and was average in outcome.
>> Ted Barrett's crew led all of baseball in replay activity, and performed at league average.
>> Umpires Marquez and Hudson led in accuracy with all of their calls affirmed by replay.
>> Umpire Sam Holbrook experienced the highest rate of his calls being overturned by replay.
>> The 7th inning had more reviews than any other inning. 49% of all reviews occurred from 7th-on.
>> Most reviews occurred on Sundays; Calls were most often overturned in daytime conditions.
>> The most common reason for review was Out/Safe (Force - 1st) followed by Out/Safe (Tag).

For detailed sabermetric analysis of MLB umpire ejections and instant replay review outcomes, including a Replay Review umpire leaderboard, follow the "read more" link below.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

MLB Ejection 024 - Bill Welke (2; Joe Girardi)

HP Umpire Bill Welke ejected Yankees Manager Joe Girardi (strike one call) in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Blue Jays-Yankees game. With none out and none on, Yankees batter Starlin Castro took a 0-0 fastball from Blue Jays pitcher Joe Biagini for a called first strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located off the inner edge of home plate and thigh high (px -1.028, pz 2.042), the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Blue Jays were leading, 6-5. The Yankees ultimately won the contest, 8-6.

This is Bill Welke (3)'s second ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Bill Welke now has -3 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Previous + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = -3).
Crew Chief Mike Everitt now has 4 points in Crew Division (4 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 4).

This is the 24th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 14th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is New York-AL's 1st ejection of 2017, 5th in the AL East (BAL 3; BOS, TB, TOR 2; NYY 1).
This is Joe Girardi's first ejection since September 26, 2016 (Todd Tichenor; QOC = U [Warnings]).
This is Bill Welke's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since April 19 (Jeff Banister; QOC = N [Fair/Foul]).

Wrap: Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees, 5/3/17 | Video via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 022-23 - Sam Holbrook (1-2; Gausman, Jones)

HP Umpire Sam Holbrook ejected Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman (Throwing At Red Sox batter Xander Bogaerts) in the bottom of the 2nd and Orioles CF Adam Jones (Balls/Strikes) in the 5th inning of the Orioles-Red Sox game. In the 2nd, with none out and none on, Bogaerts took a first-pitch slider from Gausman for a hit-by-pitch. Replays indicate the pitch was located 23.7 inches inside and hip-high, the call was irrecusable. Bogaerts was the first hit batsman of Wednesday's game, and second of the three-game series (Red Sox batter Rookie Betts received a HBP from Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy on Monday; Chris Sale threw behind Manny Machado on Tuesday, after which MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred warned both teams not to throw at each other). At the time of Gausman's ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. In the 5th, with one out and one on, Jones took a 1-2 fastball from Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz before striking out swinging on the ensuing pitch. Replays indicate the pitch was located over outer edge of home plate and above the midpoint (px .808, pz 3.556 [sz_top 3.411 / MOE 3.494]), the call was incorrect. At the time of Jones' ejection, the Red Sox were leading, 4-0. The Red Sox ultimately won the contest, 4-2.

This is Sam Holbrook (34)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Sam Holbrook now has -4 points in the UEFL Standings (-4 Previous + 2*[2 MLB] - 4 Incorrect = -4).
Crew Chief Sam Holbrook now has 0 points in Crew Division (-1 Previous + 1 Irrecusable Call = 0).

This is the 22nd, 23rd ejection report of 2017.
This is the 8th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Gausman's line was 1.0 IP, ER, BB, HBP.
This is the 9th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Jones was 0-3 (SO) in the contest.
This is Baltimore's 2nd/3rd ejection of 2017, 1st in the AL East (BAL 3; BOS, TB, TOR 2; NYY 0).
This is Kevin Gausman's first career MLB ejection.
This is Adam Jones' first career MLB ejection.
This is Sam Holbrook's first ejection since July 20, 2016 (Clint Hurdle; QOC = Y [Foul/Interference]).

Wrap: Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox, 5/3/17 | Video via "Read More"

Orioles Turn Triple Play on Contested Infield Fly No-Call

Baltimore turned an odd triple play in Boston thanks an infield fly rule no-call and batter's failure to run to first base and/or abandoning his effort to run the bases. It was the first triple play of the 2017 regular season.

Jim Wolf calls a double play at second base.
With none out and runners on first and second base in the bottom of the 8th inning of Tuesday's Orioles-Red Sox game, Sox batter Jackie Bradley hit a 3-2 pitch from Zach Britton high in the air to shallow left field, where Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy attempted to catch the fly ball. Instead, the ball fell untouched to the grass, whereupon Hardy retrieved it and threw to second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who tagged Red Sox baserunner R2 Mitch Moreland off of the base, stepped onto the second base bag, and threw to first baseman Chris Davis, who tagged first base as Red Sox baserunner R1 Dustin Pedroia stood on the bag, batter Bradley having failed to touch first base. Replays indicate none of the four umpires had declared an Infield Fly during the play and that Bradley returned to the dugout, indicating by his actions that he was out (see abandonment under Rule 5.09(b)(2)).

Holbrook entertains John Farrell's argument.
Upon conference amongst the crew comprised of HP Umpire DJ Reyburn, 1B Umpire and Crew Chief Sam Holbrook, 2B Umpire Jim Wolf, and 3B Umpire Greg Gibson, the triple play stood as the umpires ruled that the play did not qualify for an Infield Fly ruling.

This may seem like deja vu for Holbrook, who was the LF Umpire in Atlanta during MLB's first year of Wild Card Games in 2012, and made a controversial Infield Fly declaration.

As we discussed back then, the Infield Fly has three basic criteria: 1) First and second must be occupied with less than two out. 2) The batter must hit a fair fly ball which is not a line drive or bunt. 3) In the umpire's judgment, the fly ball can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort.

Yes, it WAS gusty at Fenway in the 8th.
Ordinary effort is defined in the Official Baseball Rules as "the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in [MLB] should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions." (Was it windy at Fenway during this play?)

All else equal, a shortstop "of average skill" in 2017 should be comparable to the same in 2012, and as we discussed during our 2012 analysis, "Ordinary effort pertains to the player, not the play. In other words, a shortstop tracking a fly ball into left field and preparing himself to make a play or attempt prior to the ball arriving, as in the STL-ATL play, constitutes ordinary effort."

Rule 5.09(a)(5) states, "A batter is out when—an Infield Fly is declared." Runners may advance at their own risk, but because the force is removed when the batter is out for having hit an Infield Fly, the runners are not obligated to advance. This would explain why Pedroia remained on first base, if he (incorrectly) thought that an Infield Fly had been declared.

Compare and Contrast: 2012 Infield Fly Call in Atlanta vs. 2017 Infield Fly No-Call in Boston
Flashback: Holbrook calls Infield Fly in 2012.
2012: Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma settled (the term "camped" was often used) underneath the location where the fly ball would eventually fall, and in doing so, established, in Holbrook's judgment, that he could catch the ball with ordinary effort.
Time of Ball's Flight (Bat-to-Ground): 6.2 seconds.

2017: Orioles shortstop Hardy never quite settled or camped underneath the ball's final resting place: he was at least a yard too shallow, which may have tipped 3B Umpire Gibson off that the fly ball could not be caught by an infielder employing "ordinary effort."
Time of Ball's Flight (Bat-to-Ground): 5.7 seconds.

2017: Hardy is too shallow to make a catch.
Thus, the main difference between the two fly-ball-into-left-field plays was that one shortstop positioned himself under the ball while the other shortstop never quite got there until it was too late. For what it's worth, Kozma also had approximately half-a-second longer than Hardy to position himself underneath the fly ball.

With no Infield Fly declaration, batter Bradley was not out, and thus, baserunners Moreland and Pedroia were forced to advance—a predicament solidified as soon as Hardy was unable to catch the ball in flight. Still, confusion reigned supreme as Moreland was tagged attempting to run back into second base, while Pedroia never left first base, and Bradley failed to run out his fly ball: In other words, a triple play.

Non-AER Affiliated Broadcasting Non-Award: Bob Costas said, "They had called the infield fly rule," even though replays clearly indicated that none of the four umpires signaled for an infield fly.

Video via "Read More"

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Handling a Bench Clearing Incident - Battle of Texas

Benches cleared in Houston after a pitch thrown behind Rangers batter Mike Napoli, spurring HP Umpire and Crew Chief Gerry Davis into an abbreviated exercise of situation handling.

Benches clear and get physical in Houston.
With two out and none on in the top of the 6th inning of Monday's Rangers-Astros game, Napoli took a first-pitch 97.7-mph fastball from Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. for ball one. Replays indicate the pitch was thrown significantly inside (behind Napoli's back) and approximately shoulder-high. Following the pitch, Napoli began walking toward the pitcher's mound and was intercepted at the edge of the dirt circle by HP Umpire Davis as pitcher McCullers walked about half the distance from the pitcher's plate to home plate before stopping.

Despite Davis' plea for the Rangers to remain in their dugout, no such peace transpired as both benches—and bullpens—cleared, and the two teams engaged in physical interaction with each other along the infield amongst Davis and his crew of Pat Hoberg (1B), Rob Drake (2B), and Tony Randazzo (3B).

No ejections resulted in the aftermath of the Houston altercation, though Davis ultimately issued warnings.

Tim Timmons intervening in a 2011 incident.
This bench-clearing incident in which umpires unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the teams from encroaching upon the playing field brings to mind Tim Timmons' 2011 ejection of former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano for throwing at Chipper Jones and the situation handling demonstrated by Timmons and crew—yes, there are circumstances under which preventing brawls and physically hostile bench-clearing events can be accomplished through game management and situation handling techniques.

During the Zambrano-Jones play, Timmons forcefully ordered the Braves dugout to remain off the field, assisted by 1B Umpire and Crew Chief Jeff Kellogg, who was quick to pick up on Timmons' command, and 3B Umpire Mark Carlson, who contained the visiting dugout with the assistance of 2B Umpire Eric Cooper.

Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, in describing Timmons' actions, stated:
We can debate whether or not [Zambrano] should have been tossed, but I think Tim Timmons handled this well because the Braves were coming out of the dugout, and we had a bench clearing situation that was about to start, and he stopped it. And that's the goal for an umpire.
Joe West handles ATL; Holbrook takes Harper.
As for the specifics of batter-pitcher animosity, Joe West in 2013 physically restrained Braves catcher Brian McCann as plunked Nationals batter Bryce Harper jawed with pitcher Julio Teheran while 1B Umpire Sam Holbrook ran to intercept Harper. 2B Umpire Adam Hamari concurrently ran interference between the Nationals' and Braves' respective dugouts and bullpens to prevent a physical altercation while 3B Umpire Rob Drake took Teheran.

Heads Up: Two Astros had been hit by pitches earlier in Monday's game; it was the first meeting of 2017 for the two Lone Star State ball clubs. Napoli's previous at-bat resulted in a home run.

Video via "Read More"

Monday, May 1, 2017

MiLB Ejection - Trash Can Thrown onto Field After Play

Double-A umpire Chris Scott's ejection of New Hampshire Fisher Cats Manager Gary Allenson and bench player Shane Dawson is our featured Minor League ejection.

With two out and two on during the 4/29 Fisher Cats-Rumble Ponies Eastern League game (yes, Rumble Ponies, formerly the Mets), Ponies batter Tomas Nido hit a two-RBI triple off of Fisher Cats pitcher Justin Shafer, resulting in a post-play argument from Manager Allenson, who was ejected for arguing a ball call thrown to a previous batter (no video available).

During Allenson's argument, bench player/off-day starting pitcher Dawson threw a trash can and chair out of the dugout and onto the playing field, resulting in his ejection as well, while Rumble Ponies ball boys were pressed into plastic-cup-cleanup duty as former Hartford Whalers victory march Brass Bonanza blared over the PA speakers.

Broadcasting Quote of the Play: "We're told that was Shane Dawson, for some bizarre reason."

Infield Interference - LeMahieu Collides with Pollock

An extra inning interference call against Arizona's AJ Pollock didn't hurt the Diamondbacks, who defeated Colorado three innings later, but drew the ire of D-Backs fans and broadcasters at the time.

Executive Summary: Due to the runner's actions in failing to avoid the protected fielder in pursuit of a batted ball, this is interference pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10).

Umpires meet to discuss the collision near 2B.
The Play: With one out and one on (R1), Diamondbacks batter David Peralta hit a ground ball softly to second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who ran into D-Backs baserunner R1 AJ Pollock on his way to second base. Initially ruled "no interference" by 2B Umpire Toby Basner, the call was reversed to that of interference on Pollock upon consultation amongst Jerry Layne's crew.

Relevant Rules: Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) is clear on the right-of-way rules when it comes to a fielder attempting to play a batted ball: "It is interference by a batter or a runner when—He fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball...The umpire shall call the runner out in accordance with Rule 5.09(b)(3) (former Rule 7.08(b))."

Rule 5.09(b)(3), for those wondering, states that a runner is out when he "hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball."

Diagram of the interference play in ARI.
Make no mistake, however, that "Of course such 'right of way' is not a license to, for example, intentionally trip a runner even though fielding the ball" (Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment). This same tenet applies to a fielder deliberately creating contact—or the appearance of hindrance—in order to draw an interference call.

Analysis: Pollock only has one obligation as a runner during a batted ball: "avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball" (or "avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball"), which is a phrase that appears three times in the Official Baseball Rules: once in 6.01(a)(10), once in Rule 5.09(a)(11) in regards to a batter-runner's legal exit from the three-foot-wide runner's lane, and once in Rule 5.09(b)(1) in regards to a runner's legal deviation from his established base path.

The reason that three rules make reference to the runner's obligation to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball—including two rules that go so far as to exempt the runner (or batter-runner) from compliance with runner's lane and base path restrictions—is that there is no function for the runner more important on a batted ball than avoiding contact with a fielder attempting to field said ball.

Side angle of the runner-fielder interaction.
With Pollock clearly failing to fulfill this #1 obligation (to avoid fielder LeMahieu), the only question is whether LeMahieu satisfied the portion of Rule 6.01(a)(10) regarding "a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball." If the answer is "YES," this is interference and Pollock is out with Peralta awarded first base. If the answer is "NO," this is either nothing or potentially obstruction and the most likely outcome would be Pollock at second base and Peralta at first.

Ready for the hockey analogy? Think of a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball like a goalie: run into him and it's likely an interference penalty. Why? Because, like a goalie with a puck, the fielder's first and only obligation on a batted ball hit toward him (and only him) is attempting to field it. Like a skater, a runner is allowed to screen the goalie/fielder (albeit, unlike a skater, the runner can't park in front of the fielder), as long as he avoids the defensive player. And, like a goalie who goes after an opposing player instead of fulfilling his obligation to the puck, a fielder who fails to attempt to field a batted ball and instead targets a baserunner may be called for a penalty of his own, in the fielder's case, obstruction. (Things get complicated with two or more goalies...take a look at two fielders interacting with a runner—or with a batter-runner).

A goalie playing shortstop. Photo:
Back to the play at hand, with runner Pollock having failed to avoid fielder LeMahieu, the benefit of the doubt is conferred upon the fielder, who, by rule, also possesses the right-of-way for this play. LeMahieu's route takes him to the left-field side of the batted ball, but Rule 6.01(a)(10) makes absolutely no consideration for the fielder's efficiency or route selection. It is immaterial; the only question is whether LeMahieu attempted to field the ball, regardless of his strategy in doing so. LeMahieu does appear to run in the general direction of the batted ball, and there is insufficient evidence to suggest he failed to attempt to field the baseball (Why? Because LeMahieu's contact with Pollock prevented us from seeing how the play would have transpired absent such an interaction). Thus, Pollock failed to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball and was properly ruled out for this interference.

Sidebar: Batter-runner Peralta was not credited with a single on this play (the "batter gets a single on interference" idea is a myth); it was a fielder's choice. Rule 9.05(b)(5) states, "The official scorer shall not credit a base hit when a—runner is called out for interference with a fielder attempting to field a batted ball, unless in the scorer’s judgment the batter-runner would have been safe had the interference not occurred."

Thus, the official scorer ruled that, absent interference, LeMahieu's attempt to field the batted ball would have actually retired Peralta at first base had he been able to complete his intended play.

Bad Broadcasting Award: "The runner is entitled to the baseline." (ARI)
Rationale: No rules support the assertion that on a batted ball, the runner is entitled to the baseline.

Video via "Read More"

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Case Play 2017-4 - Hurdling a Retired Runner [Solved]

A recently retired runner is guilty of interference upon hindering or impeding the defense's ensuing play after being put out. Having recently discussed diving over a fielder, we now turn our attention to hurdling over a runner.

Graveman tags two runners as Layne looks on.
The Play: With none out and two on (R1, R3), Angels batter Juan Graterol hit a ground ball back to A's pitcher Kendall Graveman, who tagged out Angels baserunner R3 Ben Revere in a rundown between third base and home plate, while trailing baserunner R1 Cliff Pennington attempted to advance to third base. After retiring Revere, Graveman then attempted to jump over the sliding Revere in an effort to tag out Pennington. Replays indicate that as Graveman began his jump, Revere completed his unsuccessful "pop-up" slide and accordingly began to stand, causing contact with the hurdling Graveman. Graveman's momentum allowed him to complete the play and successfully tag Pennington for a double play in front of 3B Umpire and Crew Chief Jerry Layne.

Is this interaction permissible contact?
Case Play Question: Assume Graveman was unable to complete the double play; that instead of rolling into Pennington, Graveman rolled past the trail runner without touching him. Note the retired baserunner Revere's contact with Graveman's undercarriage during the hurdling action. Based on Rule 6.01(a)(5) [see rules library, below], would the proper call on Pennington be "safe," due to no tag having been made, or "out," by virtue of Revere's actions after having been put out? If Pennington is to be declared out, would it still be interference had Revere not attempted to stand or "pop up," even if the same contact occurred?

Answer: Rule 6.01(a)(5) Comment granting the retired runner protection from interference by solely continuing to advance is interpreted as allowing the retired runner to continue to normally run the bases in the immediate aftermath of his retirement. For instance, the Wendelstedt manual specifies the precise case of a batter-runner who continues running to first base after being retired (say, on a caught bunt or a third strike that results in an out [e.g., a dropped third strike with first base occupied and less than two out]), and specifies that the retired batter-runner may be guilty of retired runner's interference if he interferes with the play being made back into first base while running outside of the running lane.

Retired (or just-scored) runner's INT.
It may help to considered the attached image of a runner colliding with a catcher. In April 2013, Marlins baserunner Juan Pierre scored on an RBI single by batter Greg Dobbs when the Mets unsuccessfully attempted to throw Pierre out at home plate, causing catcher John Buck to move to the third base line extended edge of the dirt circle in order to field the wide throw home. As Buck retrieved the ball and prepared to throw to second base in order to make a play on batter-runner Dobbs, already-scored runner Pierre crashed into him, preventing the play at second base. HP Umpire Jim Joyce ruled Dobbs out at second base for retired/just-scored runner Pierre's interference.

The distinction to make here is a retired runner completing his play or making a legitimate attempt to run the bases versus a retired runner moving unnaturally or along a part of the field that would not be a legal way to run the bases: for the retired batter-runner running to first base, that would be running outside of his running lane, and for the just-scored baserunner at home plate, that would be running into the catcher well away from home plate.

We obviously see many plays involving sliding runners going into bases that result in their retirement, and—assuming their slide doesn't violate any willful and deliberate, anti-collision, or slide rule interference clause—the resulting contact is generally legal and not retired runner's interference, even when it hinders the fielder's ensuing play on another runner.

In Anaheim and Case Play 2017-4, baserunner Revere legally slid into third base in an attempt to elude Graveman's tag. This is a legal running of the bases and itself is not cause for retired runner's interference. That said, if the umpire were to rule that Revere's attempt to rise while Graveman was in the process of hurdling what he thought was a player lying on the ground constituted an unnatural maneuver by the recently-retired baserunner: for instance, if the ruling was that Revere's movements were not in concert with a legitimate attempt to run the bases—or, obviously, if Revere's movements were judged to be an intentional attempt to interfere—then the proper call would be a double play due to retired runner's interference.

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 6.01(a)(5): "It is interference by a batter or 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 6.01(a)(5) Comment: "If the batter or a runner continues to advance after he has been put out, he shall not by that act alone be considered as confusing, hindering or impeding the fielders."
Definition of Terms (INTERFERENCE [a]): "Offensive interference is an act by the team at bat which interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play."

Video available via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 021 - Stu Scheurwater (1; Buck Showalter)

HP Umpire Stu Scheurwater ejected Orioles Manager Buck Showalter (balk call) in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Orioles-Yankees game. With two out and two on (R1, R2), Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day attempted to pick off Yankees baserunner R2 Starlin Castro and was called for a balk. Replays indicate O'Day started and stopped his delivery while failing to step towards second base before throwing to that base in an illegal pitching maneuver, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Orioles were leading, 4-2. The Orioles ultimately won the contest, 7-4, in 11 innings.

This is Stu Scheurwater (85)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Stu Scheurwater now has 5 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 3 AAA + 2 Correct Call = 5).
Crew Chief Jim Reynolds now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(1) states, "It is a balk when: The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery."
*Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(3) states, "It is a balk when: fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base. [COMMENT]: Requires the pitcher, while touching his plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base."

This is the 21st ejection report of 2017.
This is the 13th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Baltimore's 1st ejection of 2017, 4th in the AL East (BOS, TB, TOR 2; BAL 1; NYY 0).
This is Buck Showalter's 1st ejection since September 27, 2016 (Will Little; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Stu Scheurwater's first career MLB ejection.

Wrap: Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees, 4/30/17 | Video via "Read More"