Saturday, May 20, 2017

MLB Ejections 042-044 - Scott Barry (1-3; NYY, TB)

HP Umpire Scott Barry ejected Yankees Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild & Manager Joe Girardi (balls/strikes) in the bottom of the 5th and Rays pitcher Matt Andriese (Throwing At Yankees batter Aaron Judge) in the top of the 6th inning of the Yankees-Rays game. In the 5th, with one out and the two on (R1, R2), Rays batter Evan Longoria walked and batter Logan Morrison took three called balls from Yankees pitcher Giovanny Gallegos before singling on a 3-2 count. Replays indicate that of the seven ball calls eligible for QOC consideration, all seven were properly officiated (7 / 7 = 100% accuracy), with a closest all-else-equal px of -.834 and closest all-else equal pz of 1.635 (sz_bot 1.589 / MOE 1.672), the call was correct. In the 6th, with none out and none on, Judge took a first-pitch fastball from Andriese for a hit-by-pitch. Replays indicate the pitch was located significantly inside and belt-high; it was the third hit batsman of the game (second by TB), warnings had not been issued, the call was irrecusable. At the time of all ejections, the Rays were leading, 9-4. The Rays ultimately won the contest, 9-5.

This is Scott Barry (87)'s first, second, third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Scott Barry now has 12 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Previous + 3*[2 MLB] + 2*[2 Correct] = 12).
Crew Chief Paul Emmel now has 7 points in Crew Division (4 Previous + 2 Correct + 1 Irrecusable = 7).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.

This is the 42nd, 43rd, 44th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 23rd Manager ejection of 2017.
This is the 16th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Andriese's line was 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 5 SO.
This is New York-AL's 3/4th ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL East (NYY, TB, TOR 4; BAL 3; BOS 2).
This is Tampa Bay's 4th ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL East (NYY, TB, TOR 4; BAL 3; BOS 2).
This is Joe Girardi's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since May 3 (Bill Welke; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Larry Rothschild's 1st ejection since September 26, 2016 (Todd Tichenor; QOC = U [USC-NEC]).
This is Matt Andriese's first career MLB ejection.

Wrap: New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 5/20/17 | Videos via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 041 - Mike Winters (1; Bob Melvin)

2B Umpire Mike Winters ejected A's Manager Bob Melvin (base award/runner placement) in the bottom of the 2nd inning. With one out and two on, A's batter Josh Phegley hit a 0-1 fastball from Red Sox pitcher Drew Pomeranz on the ground to catcher Christian Vazquez, whose throw to first base was wild and bounded out of play by lodging in the right field bullpen.* Accordingly, the umpires awarded the batter-runner and base runners two bases from their location at the time of the pitch, pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(G), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Red Sox were leading, 2-1. The A's ultimately won the contest, 8-3.

This is Mike Winters (33)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Mike Winters now has 3 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 3).
Crew Chief Mike Winters now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*According to Oakland Coliseum Ground Rules, a ball lodging on, under or in the bullpen seating area is Out of Play. A ball is considered "lodged" when, in the umpire's judgment, it is unplayable.
^Rule 5.06(b)(4)(G) states, "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—two bases when...a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench [bullpen]...When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched."

This is complicated by the Oakland Coliseum's large playing surface.
5.06(b)(4) Approved Ruling: "The term 'when the wild throw was made' means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands. The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower’s hand is the key in deciding the award of bases. If the batter-runner has not reached first base, the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners. The decision as to whether the batter-runner has reached first base before the throw is a judgment call."
This is the 41st ejection report of 2017.
This is the 22nd Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Oakland's 2nd ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL West (OAK, TEX 2; SEA 1; HOU, LAA 0).
This is Bob Melvin's 1st ejection since July 15, 2016 (Mark Wegner; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Mike Winters' 1st ejection since March 24, 2017 (Avisail Garcia; QOC = U [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Boston Red Sox vs. Oakland Athletics, 5/20/17 | Video via "Read More"

Friday, May 19, 2017

MLB Ejections 038-040 - Carlos Torres (1-3; MIA-LAD)

HP Umpire Carlos Torres ejected Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling (Throwing At Marlins batter Giancarlo Stanton) and Marlins Manager Don Mattingly & Dodgers Bench Coach Bob Geren (Fighting) in the top of the 9th inning of the Marlins-Dodgers game. With none out and none on, Stanton took a first-pitch fastball from Stripling for a called first ball. Replays indicate the pitch was located significantly inside, thrown behind Stanton, and waist high, resulting in a bench-clearing incident, the call was irrecusable; there were two prior HBP (one for each team); warnings had not been issued. At the time of the ejections, the Dodgers were leading, 7-0. The Dodgers ultimately won the contest, 7-2.

This is Carlos Torres (37)'s first, second, third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Carlos Torres now has 7 points in the UEFL Standings (1 Previous + 3*[2 MLB + 0 QOCU] = 7).
Crew Chief Dana DeMuth now has 4 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 3 Irrecusable Call = 4).

This is the 38th, 39th, 40th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 15th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Stripling's line was 0.2 IP, 0 ER.
This is the 21st Manager ejection of 2017.
This is LA-NL's 2nd/3rd ejection of 2017, 1st in the NL West (LAD 3; COL, SD 1; ARI, SF 0).
This is Miami's 5th ejection of 2017, 1st in the NL East (MIA 5; NYM, PHI, WAS 1; ATL 0).
This is Ross Stripling's first career MLB ejection.
This is Don Mattingly's 4th ejection of 2017, 1st since May 9 (Andy Fletcher; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Bob Geren's first ejection since May 27, 2011 (Angel Campos; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Carlos Torres' 1st ejection since September 10, 2016 (Hernan Perez; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 5/19/17 | Video via "Read More"

MLB Ejection 037 - Nic Lentz (1; Mike Matheny)

HP Umpire Nic Lentz ejected Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny (ball four call) in the top of the 7th inning of the Giants-Cardinals game. With two out and one on, Giants batters Brandon Belt and Buster Posey both walked. Replays indicate all eight pitches from Cardinals pitcher Matt Bowman to Belt and Posey were located outside of the strike zone (the closest-to-a-strike px value with proper pz was -1.15 , and the closest-to-a-strike pz value with proper px was 1.494 [sz_bot 1.535]), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Giants were leading, 3-2. The Giants ultimately won the contest, 6-5.

This is Nic Lentz (59)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Nic Lentz now has 5 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 3 AAA + 2 Correct Call = 5).
Crew Chief Tom Hallion now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.

This is the 37th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 20th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is St. Louis' 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st in the NL Central (STL 3; MIL 1; CHC, CIN, PIT 0).
This is Mike Matheny's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since April 23 (John Tumpane; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Nic Lentz's first career MLB ejection.

Wrap: San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 5/19/17 | Video via "Read More"

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ask the UEFL - Protested Game-Ending Appeal Force Play

A runner declared out for failure to touch a base cancelled a run on appeal, prolonging a tied ballgame and sending it to extra innings as the apparent winners filed a protest over the call. How will that protest play out?

Such is the question posed in this edition of Ask the UEFL, concerning a recent Federation playoff game between Lee County and Johns Creek High Schools in Georgia.

Executive Summary: The rules-related controversy stems from, what else, but an attempt to apply professional baseball rules (OBR) to a high school game, which is subject to National Federation of High School (NFHS) rules. The umpires enforced the NFHS rule correctly; this protest should be denied.

From the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) website:
The controversy arose during the seventh inning of the second game of the Class 6A semifinal doubleheader in Leesburg Wednesday. Lee County won the first game 7-4, but Johns Creek appeared to even the series at one game apiece when the Gladiators received a bases-loaded walk with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning of the second game.
Lee County coach Brandon Brock approached the umpires with the contention that the Johns Creek runner on second base had not completed the play by touching third base. After a lengthy discussion, the umpires ruled that Brock was correct and, therefore, the winning run was disallowed.
The game then proceeded into extra innings and Lee County won 5-3 to apparently sweep the series 2-0 and advance to next week’s state championship.
Play Summary: B7, tie game, two outs, bases loaded. B1 walks to force all runners, scoring R3 for the apparent winning run. Prior to the umpires leaving the field, defensive manager files a dead ball appeal asserting that R2 failed to touch third base. Umpires declare R2 out for this base-running error and game proceeds to an eighth inning.

The Primary Protest: The Johns Creek HS complaint relies on a so-called NFHS Rule 5.08(b) [4.09(b)], which allegedly states, "When the winning run is scored in the last-half inning of a regulation game...the umpire shall not declare the game ended until the runner forced to advance from third has touched home base and the batter-runner has touched first base."

NFHS vs OBR. Click image for larger view of the two rules.
The only problem is, naturally, that the NFHS is not formatted as Number.Number(Letter). That's the professional rule's formatting (and yellow is our color for OBR's highlighting), and right there is the problem. Furthermore, the fact that two numbers are listed (5.08(b) and 4.09(b)) is a tell-tale sign this is a professional rule, as OBR changed its rules numbering in 2014, and keeps both the new and old citations on file for reference.

Yes, OBR 5.08(b) states exactly what has been cited regarding the runner forced to advance from third touching home base and the batter-runner touching first base, but that's not the high school rule.
Related: Arizona walks off with 4-3 win when security guard touches live ball in outfield (8/10/15).
Related: Jaksa/Roder Manual: time play criteria do not apply to forced-to-advance runners (6/30/13).

Table of specified Baseball Rule Difference, OBR vs NFHS.
The High School Rule: The equivalent of OBR 5.08(b) in High School is Rule 9-1-1 Note 2, which states, "When the winning run is scored in the last half inning of a regulation game, or in the last half of an extra inning, as the result of a base on balls, hit batter or any other play with the bases loaded which forces the runner on third base to advance, the umpire shall not declare the game over until all runners have advanced to the next base."

See the difference? OBR talks about "the runner forced to advance from third" and "the batter-runner," whereas NFHS refers to "all runners."

NFHS Rule 9-1-1 EXCEPTION is even more detailed: "A run is not scored if the runner advances to home plate during action in which the third out is made as follows...when a third out is declared during a play resulting from a valid defensive appeal, which results in a force out (this out takes precedence if enforcement of it would negate a score)."

Primary Conclusion: Because of Johns Creek's failure to parse the difference between OBR Rule 5.08(b) and NFHS Rule 9-1-1 Note 2, the high school mistakenly believes a rule was misapplied, when, in fact, the rule was properly enforced. This is a slam dunk decision and should never have risen to the level of protest, which GHSA recently stated is prohibited by bylaw unless specifically authorized by the NFHS rulebook for the applicable sport. The NFHS baseball rulebook, naturally, says a protest only is authorized if the State allows for it. Talk about an infinite loop of "don't ask me, ask them."

The judgment call of whether the runner actually touched third base, naturally, cannot be protested or appealed. Rule 10-1-4: "Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as whether a hit is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final." Rule 4-5: "It is optional on the part of a state association as to whether protests are permitted. When allowed, protests are permitted regarding rules one through nine only."

The Secondary Protest: Though one agency reported the Johns Creek protest concerned non-existent NFHS "Rule 5.08(b)," a competing news organization reported that the protest concerned the umpire's allowance of a dead ball appeal.

Apparently, GHSA Coordinator of Officiating Ernie Yarbrough told local WALB-TV that, "The National Federation of State High School Associations rules do not address this type of situation directly. Johns Creek is appealing that no Lee County player ever tagged third base, meaning the runner should not be called out."

The late Carl Childress published Baseball Rules Differences
It looks like Carl is sorely needed in Georgia.
Again, this is an attempt to apply a professional baseball rule to a high school game. Under OBR, only live ball appeals may be entertained. Under high school rules, a dead ball appeal may be lodged verbally and without actually holding the baseball.

NFHS Rule 8 concerns baserunners, and Section 2 is titled, "Touching, Occupying and Returning to a Base." 8-2-1 requires the runner to touch every base, in order, including any awarded bases. The penalty for violation of 8-2-1 authorizes an appeal, which may be made during a live ball immediately following the play, or a dead ball. We're specifically looking at the final play of the game, for which the procedure states: "A dead-ball appeal may be made by a coach or any defensive player with or without the ball by verbally stating that the runner missed the base or left the base too early...On the last play of the game, an appeal can be made until the umpire(s) leave the field of play."

Rule 8-2-6-j states, "If any situation arises which could lead to an appeal by the defense on the last play of the game, the appeal must be made while an umpire is still on the field of play." 8-2-9: "All awarded bases must be touched in their proper order."
Related LinkCase Play 2017-5 - Dead Ball Missed Base Appeal [Solved].

Secondary Conclusion: It is absolutely baffling that (1) a team can confuse professional rules with high school rules and rely on the professional rule when filing a formal protest whose submission theoretically requires the team to cite the rule they are protesting, (2) the state officiating coordinator's comments are paired with a situation that is clearly addressed by NFHS rule, and (3) that GHSA is actually entertaining this seemingly meritless appeal wherein their bylaws supposedly do not allow for protests.

At the end of the day, the appeal decision to declare baserunner R2 out was a judgment call not subject to protest, and all NFHS rules were properly administered, including the dead ball appeal procedure.

The only thing about this play that could possibly be subject to protest would be if the umpires had left the field (and thus their jurisdiction ended) prior to the defensive coach's appeal. Only under this circumstance would the call be improper.

Gil's Call: It is very sad to see that a school—and a state association—is advocating a protest based upon rules that do not exist for the level at which the game is played, and that these actors are furthering the miscommunication and dissemination of materially incorrect information at a level of scholastic play whose purpose is not revenue nor popularity, but instead is education.

My prediction is that the Appeals Board will allow Lee County to keep its extra-inning win, and Johns Creek will feel cheated out of a chance to play for the Georgia State Championship.

*Update 5/19*: As predicted above, GHSA's Appeals Board has denied the appeal; game stands as called.
*Update 5/22*: GHSA Trustees break precedent & affirm appeal; explicitly cite judgment as rationale.

Video via "Read More"

Permissible Conduct - Multiple Bench Clears in Atlanta

"What you permit, you promote" is an officiating axiom that may apply to bench clearings, as yet another rhubarb took place in baseball, this time between the Blue Jays and Braves in Atlanta.

Like the first bench clearer of Wednesday—Dodger vs Giants Bench-Clearer and Division of Halves—the twilight edition in Atlanta featured a batter upset with the way a pitcher threw a pitch, and both teams responded by encroaching upon the playing field, as they did for a second time just one inning later when one team took umbrage at a batter celebrating a home run.

Is it getting ridiculous or is it entertainment? We'll discuss that in a minute, but first, here are the plays:

O'Nora tries peacekeeping after Pillar's action.
With two out and none on in the top of the 7th inning of an 8-3 ballgame, Blue Jays batter Kevin Pillar prepared to face 0-2 pitch from Braves pitcher Jason Motte, which came as a swinging strike cutter for the third out of the frame...except that Pillar was upset with Motte's accelerated cadence in delivering the pitch, and verbalized some complaint to that effect, causing Motte to walk towards the plate and Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki to attempt a confrontation of his own as Pillar turned away in a "I want the last word" type of maneuver.

As far as quick pitches are concerned, Ramon De Jesus recently (on April 23) ejected Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons for objecting to his illegal pitch, automatic ball call. For that situation, replays indicated that the batter was not ready to receive the pitch when Gibbons' pitcher delivered it, while in Atlanta, Pillar did appear set to face Motte's pitch—Pillar just did not expect Motte's cadence to be so quick.

The field naturally is halved after Pillar's K.
The key distinction lies in Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment, which states, "A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted."

Thus, because Pillar was reasonably set in the batter's box when Motte effected his delivery, the pitch was legal and, by rule, not a "quick pitch." Thus, HP Umpire Brian O'Nora—who passionately motioned to the Atlanta bench to return to the dugout—allowed it, and the strikeout stood.

Benches clear a second time in Atlanta.
Just one inning later, Blue Jays batter Jose Bautista hit a solo home run off pitcher Eric O'Flaherty to bring Toronto to within four runs, and flipped his bat in celebration. Upon his arrival at home plate, he became engaged in a verbal entanglement with Braves catcher Suzuki, who, already displeased with Pillar's conduct, wasn't happy that Bautista had celebrated his home run in such fashion. Earlier in the home run trot, Braves first baseman Jace Peterson had attempted to confront Bautista, but Bautista ignored him.

Again, the benches cleared, again the umpires broke up the fray, and again no ejections resulted.

Toronto's most recent bench clearing incident occurred on September 26, 2016, and resulted in four ejections.
Atlanta's most recent bench clearing incident occurred on September 14, 2016, and resulted in one ejection.

Did the benches really need to clear for this?
Prior to this, the Blue Jays fought the Texas Rangers on May 15, 2016, while the Braves fought the Brewers on September 25, 2013 (also as the result of a catcher unhappy with a batter's home run celebration).

Last year, we discussed Psychology & Marketing - Why MLB Discipline is Weak. The premise of the  discussion concerned MLB's aloof attitude regarding discipline for misconduct: without question, a bench clearing incident in high school or college will likely result in at least one ejection, if not an outright forfeited game. In the Majors, however, bad behavior is theatre, and nothing stirs up ratings quite like two entire teams out of their dugouts (and bullpens).

We also discussed authority to impose discipline:
An umpire derives his/her authority from a league office, assignor, conference, UIC, etc., who entrusts said official with carrying out the umpire's duties on game day. Thus, the umpire's decision to dismiss a disrespectful player/coach who has violated the game's rules, logically, must be supported by the office/assignor/conference/UIC, lest the umpire's (and any other umpire's) jurisdiction be diminished and his/her ability to officiate compromised.
If the League itself doesn't particularly care to punish teams who needlessly delay the game with unsporting acts, then its umpires are not in a position to do so either, unless absolutely necessary. In conclusion, "baseball tacitly encourages ejection-able behavior [and bench clearing incidents] through its weak penalties because, as a business—as the American pastime hoping to retain relevance in the new era—it must."

In conclusion, whether this counts as entertainment or a ridiculous mockery of baseball, one thing is for sure: Repeated bench clearing incidents aren't good for baseball's vaunted pace-of-play dilemma. Video via "Read More"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dodger vs Giants Bench-Clearer and Division of Halves

The Dodgers-Giants rivalry took a bench-clearing turn Wednesday afternoon after an up-and-in fastball from SF pitcher Johnny Cueto flew past LA batter Yasmani Grandal's head and to the backstop.

Yet the benches didn't clear at the point—it was idle talk that rose to fighting strolling words following a pop fly to conclude Grandal's at bat, a lackadaisical snooze of a bench-clearer that allowed the umpire crew to employ the separation strategy informally known as division of halves: exactly as its name implies, this time-aided strategy is effected by separating the teams and corralling them onto their half of the field (that which includes their dugout), so as to prevent any future hotspots from flaring up. Wednesday's game was helped by the fact that the Giants' home stadium, AT&T Park, features bullpens along the first and third base foul lines, beyond the dugouts.

We previously discussed Handling a Bench Clearing Incident - Battle of Texas regarding a more physical inter-squad altercation in Houston in early May, and the various game management strategies imposed by various umpiring crews.

Umpires take their positions to calm the teams.
Wednesday's game in San Francisco turned into a half-hearted incident between the teams, and 2B Umpire & Crew Chief's Mike Winters' group opted for a similarly casual—yet strategic—approach. As Grandal and Cueto appeared the two primary verbal combatants, 1B Umpire Marty Foster intervened to physically escort Grandal back to his dugout while 3B Umpire Mark Wegner walked Cueto away from the fracas. Meanwhile, HP Umpire Mike Muchlinski returned to the infield to keep San Francisco on its side of the diamond while 2B Umpire Winters ran back in from his outfield position to assist.

Two umpires extract a Giant from LA's half.
Notice in the attached diagram that U3 Wegner is in perfect position to confine San Francisco to the third-base side of the infield while U1 Foster is preparing to contain Los Angeles on the first-base side. Meanwhile, umpires Muchlinski and Winters are moving towards the midfield line (green line) between home plate and second base—Muchlinski is specifically preparing to herd the stray Giants on the Dodgers' side of the field back onto their own side so as to end the temporary encroachment.

Later on in the lazy incident, we observed two umpires escort Giants #10 (Eduardo Nunez) out of harm's way by placing themselves between Nunez and the gaggle of Dodgers, before turning him around and bringing him back to San Francisco's half of the field, so as to keep the teams separated.

Naturally, the best gift of Wednesday's bench-clearing incident—for peace's sake—was the event's lack of enthusiasm, which gave the crew time to separate the parties.

Video via "Read More"

Boundary Call - Spectator Interference vs Out of Play

A fielder reached into the stands to catch a foul fly ball, and ended up with a fan's hat in his glove alongside it. Today's lesson from the UEFL University concerns boundaries: specifically, what constitutes a legal catch, spectator interference, and a ball deemed out of play.

UEFL University
About the UEFL University: In conjunction with the UEFL Video Rulebook, the UEFL University is a perpetual work-in-progress educational program that discusses various Official Baseball Rules. Eventually, the various "Rules Reviews," "Video Analyses," and "Tmac's Teachable Moments" will be catalogued and organized by topic. For now, though, refer to the Labels system to browse for a specific rule or concept (e.g., the label "Umpire Interference" corresponds to all archived discussions concerning that concept).

The Play: With none out and none on, Indians batter Edwin Encarnacion hit a fly ball toward the boundary wall in foul territory beyond first base. Rays first baseman Logan Morrison prepared to field the descending fly ball, and reached into the stands in order to do so, ultimately catching both the baseball and a wayward Cleveland fan's hat in his glove as 1B Umpire Gabe Morales declared Encarnacion out on the catch.

Topic of Discussion: On such a boundary call, when is a ball considered live vs dead—in play vs out of play—a catch vs a foul ball—spectator (aka "fan") interference vs a no-call?

Fan interference only exists on/over the field.
Analysis: In order for spectator interference to occur, the following definition of spectator interference must be satisfied: "a spectator reaches out of the stands, or goes on the playing field, and (1) touches a live ball or (2) touches a player and hinders and attempt to make a play on a live ball." Furthermore, the spectator must reach beyond the plane of the field-facing front of the padded wall for interference to exist.

For ballpark security administrators considering whether or not to eject the fan pursuant to MLB and stadium regulations, note that a ball that sits atop a wall, or is touched by a spectator while over the flat portion of any boundary wall, is not spectator interference for the spectator is required to reach out of the stands and over the playing field's airspace for interference to exist. This type of a top-of-the-wall-touch is simply considered "out of play" (not interference). Think: tie goes to the fan.
Diagram of potential fan interference.

In other words, imagine that the field-facing plane of the wall extends infinitely to the sky. Fans are allowed to do nearly anything on their side of the extended plane, as long as they don't cross over into restricted airspace (see accompanying diagram from Game 2 of the 2013 Detroit-Boston ALCS).

The penalty for spectator interference is: "the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference. APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out" (Rule 6.01(e)).

Bartman did not interfere, either.
Replays indicate fielder Morrison reached into the stands to attempt his catch (his arm, thus, left the airspace over the playing field), meaning that spectator interference does not apply: "No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference."

With the interference question solved, we turn to the definition of in- vs out-of-play: in this situation, what else could cause the ball to become dead?

Specifically, we're looking to answer the question of whether the ball simply touching a fan's person, clothing, or accessories over dead-ball-territory (aka out of play, the stands, etc.) is enough to kill the play.

The answer is "yes," and comes from Rule 6.01(e) Comment: "There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player."

We're specifically isolating the portion of the rule that states, "...touching a spectator thereby being out of play..."As soon as a spectator or any other object (a chair, a bird, or even a fan's hat) touches or is touched by a ball on the dead-ball side of the demarcation or boundary line, the play is dead.

Morrison's glove catches two objects.
That said, it appears fielder Morrison was able to pocket the baseball on one side of his glove while gathering the fan's hat on the opposite side. But did the hat help Morrison hang onto the ball—what if it did?

Rule 5.09(a) specifies that a batter is out when: "his fair or foul fly ball (other than a foul tip) is legally caught by a fielder." The rule continues, "A catch is the act of a fielder in getting secure possession in his hand or glove of a ball in flight and firmly holding it; providing he does not use his cap, protector, pocket or any other part of his uniform in getting possession... In establishing the validity of the catch, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that he has complete control of the ball and that his release of the ball is voluntary and intentional."

Conclusion: As long as the fly ball did not touch the hat prior to the ball's entry into the glove, and, in the umpire's opinion, Morrison did not use the hat to gain possession of the ball, this is a legal catch. Naturally, if the ball touched the foreign cap prior to entering the glove—or assisted Morrison in getting possession after entry—this is not a legal catch, and, based on the preceding analysis, is not fan interference, either (it is simply "out of play"). That said, had this entire sequence occurred on the playing field side of the boundary wall, it would be subject to consideration of spectator interference and the corresponding penalty.

Video via "Read More"

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MLB Ejection 036 - Tripp Gibson (1; Don Cooper)

HP Umpire Tripp Gibson ejected White Sox Pitching Coach Don Cooper (ball four call) in the bottom of the 7th inning of the White Sox-Angels game. With one out and the bases loaded, Angels batter Luis Valbuena took four consecutive pitches from White Sox pitcher Dan Jennings for called balls. Replays indicate all four pitches to Valbuena, including the decisive fourth ball located off the outer edge of home plate (px -1.01, pz 2.00), and all eligible pitches during the preceding Albert Pujols at-bat (which also resulted in a walk), were located outside of the strike zone or within borderline territory as specified by UEFL Rules 6-2-b-1, the "unrealistic outcome" clause of 6-2-b-3 (closest px value was -.759), and contributory pitch provision of Rule 6-5-c-5-d, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Angels were leading, 4-2. The Angels ultimately won the contest, 7-6, in 11 innings.

This is Tripp Gibson (73)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Tripp Gibson now has 6 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 6).
Crew Chief Brian Gorman now has 0 points in Crew Division (-1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 0).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-3: "In the event of a called ball four, in an at bat that has lasted no more than four pitches, including the called ball four, the four called balls shall be adjudged to have been correctly ruled, provided that the Pitch f/x chart for the at bat does not include any pitch within the bounds of the strike zone. Borderline pitches in a four-pitch walk at bat shall be deemed as having been correctly called, due to the unrealistic chance of an alternative outcome."

This is the 36th ejection report of 2017.
This is Chicago-AL's 2nd ejection of 2017, T-1st in the AL Central (CWS, MIN 2; DET 1; CLE, KC 0).
This is Don Cooper's first ejection since August 10, 2016 (Pat Hoberg; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Tripp Gibson's first ejection since June 6, 2016 (Joe Maddon; QOC = N [Check Swing]).

Wrap: Chicago White Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 5/16/17 | Video via "Read More"

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Wild Check Swing Plate Play

Here's a Tmac's Teachable Moment about wild pitches and ensuing plays at home plate. I had a few people ask me about this play a while back so let's take a look at a complicated play from an interleague game between the Cubs and Red Sox.

The Play: 2-2 count, one out, runners on 1st and 2nd. The pitch comes in, it's in the dirt, and we have a check swing. Our home plate umpire uses a mechanic that many umpires have trouble with, especially in situations where the batter-runner could run. Here, if we have a swing on appeal to the 1st base umpire, the batter-runner would be out, whether or not the third strike is dropped (first base occupied with less than two out). For purposes of discussion, let us pretend that there are two outs, such that a runner on first base doesn't automatically put the batter out on a dropped third strike.

Dreckman files an immediate swing appeal.
You'll notice at five seconds of the video, Bruce Dreckman, working the plate, points to ask for an appeal, and 1B Umpire Jordan Baker rules "no swing." With a runner on first and two outs you don't want to give the defense an unfair opportunity to gather the baseball, then tag the runner, and then appeal, so we like to see an immediate appeal initiated by the plate umpire to mediate this (using the left arm to appeal). If such an uncaught third strike play happens, and you're on the bases with 100% certainty of the swing, it's not a bad idea to come up with a swinging strike mechanic even before your HP umpire asks. You may not want to do this advanced mechanic on lower levels of say high school or below, but if you are, you're way ahead of the game. Remember, though, we're talking about a two-out play where the batter can run to first base on a dropped strikeout.

And you're supported by professional umpiring mechanics. The MLB Umpire Manual addresses such check swing appeals, calling the wild pitch auto-appeal a "Voluntary Strike":
In the situation where the third strike eludes the catcher on a half-swing and the batter-runner is entitled to run to first base, the appeal should be made to the base umpire instantly (without waiting for a request from the defense); but even if the appeal is not instant, the appropriate base umpire should immediately and voluntarily make a call of strike IF the base umpire is going to reverse the plate umpire's call. This will give the batter the immediate opportunity to run.

That type of situation is hard enough, but a following play occurs with some unusual angles. Everyone can umpire a play that happens hundreds of times, it becomes second nature; however, this second play is unusual as we have a pitcher covering the plate and the throw coming from the 3rd base side behind the plate.

Diagram of the play at the plate.
Dreckman has to make an educated guess based on what he thinks is the most likely place he will have the best look on this play. Plays like this are not an exact science. At nine seconds, you'll notice the starting position of a potential tag play at the plate may be a little too deep. If you're closer to this play which develops super fast you can get away with taking a step or two instead of five or six. Dreckman's instincts are correct: He figures the tag will be on the foul territory side and he wants to be there to avoid looking through bodies, but about the same time he makes his decision, the play changes course and it's not Dreckman's fault.

The play develops away from the umpire.
The runner attempting to score makes a slide to the fair side of home and our plate umpire is completely blocked from seeing anything that happens.  Sometimes things happen on a play we can't control, and one of the hardest things to learn in life is we can only control what we can control.  Here, the only thing our HP umpire could have done would be to shadow the pitcher who would be attempting the tag a little bit more, but it's hard to fault him because he has to clear the catcher and read the play.

Here are some takeaways from this edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments:  In situations where as the plate umpire you have a checked swing and the batter runner has an opportunity to run immediately ask for an appeal. In regards to the play at the plate or any play that comes from an unusual spot, trust your instincts, do the best you can and if something happens you can't control don't worry. It's happened to us all. Don't get down on yourself and keep working hard. Until Next Time: Happy Umpiring!

Video via "Read More"

Sunday, May 14, 2017

MLB Ejection 035 - Phil Cuzzi (1; Neil Walker)

HP Umpire Phil Cuzzi ejected Mets 2B Neil Walker (strike two call) in the top of the 9th inning of the Mets-Brewers game. With none out and none on, Walker took a 0-1 knuckle curve from Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel for a called second strike before flying out on an ensuing fastball. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer edge of home plate and below the midpoint (px -.837, pz 3.288 [sz_top 3.49]), the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Brewers were leading, 11-9. The Brewers ultimately won the contest, 11-9.

This is Phil Cuzzi (10)'s first ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Phil Cuzzi now has 5 points in the UEFL Standings (1 Previous + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 5).
Crew Chief Tom Hallion now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.

This is the 35th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 14th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Walker was 3-5 in the contest.
This is New York-NL's 1st ejection of 2017, T-2nd in the NL East (MIA 4; NYM, PHI, WAS 1; ATL 0).
This is Neil Walker's first career MLB ejection.
This is Phil Cuzzi's first ejection since July 5, 2015 (Bruce Bochy; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: New York Mets vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 5/14/17 | Video via "Read More"

Umpiring Legend, MLB Sup Steve Palermo Has Died

Former American League Umpire and MLB Umpiring Supervisor Steve Palermo has died at the age of 67.

Former AL Umpire Steve Palermo has died.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1949, Palermo's career in the American League spanned from an October 1976 debut through his final game 15 years later; his on-field career came to an abrupt conclusion on July 7, 1991 when he was shot in the back while trying to help a robbery victim in a Dallas restaurant parking lot. Following his injury, surgery, rehabilitation, and an initial prognosis that he would never walk again, Palermo regained his ambulation through crutches and, eventually, a cane.

AL Umpire Palermo recorded a total of 47 ejections in 1,871 regular season games officiated. Palermo worked the 1986 All-Star Game, 1981 AL Division Series, three American League Championship Series (1980, 82, 89), and the 1983 World Series.

After his field days were over, Palermo in 1994 joined Major League Baseball as a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Major League Executive Council before his ascension to MLB Umpire Supervior in 2000, as part of the unified Major Leagues' realignment at the turn of the 21st century. Palermo was one of the principals involved in the development of the first MLB Umpire Manual.

Palermo, who resided in Kansas City, Missouri, had reportedly been battling cancer before he passed away.

A black memorial "SP" patch will be made available for umpires to wear on their sleeve in honor of Palermo.

This brings the number of memorial patches worn by MLB umpires in 2017 to three. The three black patches worn on umpire sleeves in 2017 are MJ, RG, and SP:

1) MJ - Mark Johnson. Passed away October 26, 2016 at the age of 65. Umpired in the American League (1979-99).
2) RG - Russ Goetz. Passed away March 15, 2017 at the age of 86. Umpired in the American League (1968-83).
3) SP - Steve Palermo. Passed away May 13, 2017 at the age of 67. Umpired in the American League (1976-91).