Thursday, September 6, 2018

Critique - ESPN's Triple-A Rant Was Over Full-Time MLBU

This edition of Commentary Critique is a fact check. During ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, broadcasters claimed MLB assigned too many minor league umpires to big time games. Problem: The ump referenced is a full-timer.

Stu Scheurwater is a staff umpire for MLB.
The Claim: With Stu Scheurwater behind the plate for Sunday's Angels-Astros game, ESPN play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian and color commenter Alex Rodriguez took aim at the umpiring crew (what else is knew), and particularly the home plate umpire, criticizing the league for assigning two minor league umpires to a pennant chase game (for Houston, that is).

Said Vasgersian during the game's top of the 4th inning:
It is a pair—not just one, but two Triple-A umpires on this crew this weekend, one at third and then Stu Scheurwater at the plate is also a Triple-A umpire. That's Ramon De Jesus at third...Am I nuts for suggesting that in a meaningful game in September —Astros have just a two-game lead in the division—I think it's exceedingly rare to have two backup umpires working a September game with pennant implications.
Added Rodriguez:
Gary Cederstrom, the crew chief at first to see him in a big game behind the plate, one of the best umpires in baseball. To have two youngsters—uh, it's a lot with a game with such recourse.
Fact Check: FALSE. As we first reported in December 2017, and later confirmed in February 2018, contrary to Vasgersian's repeated criticism, Scheurwater is a full-time, MLBUA-member umpire.

Corollary Fact Check, K-Zone: What's worse, Scheurwater's ball four call, which jumpstarted Vasgersian's remarks about Triple-A umpires, received a QOC of Correct.

Even 3D K-Zone doesn't paint the entire picture.
When Vasgersian said, "Not that we have any skin in the game... you kind of want to see the game called the right way. I don't get it," he relied on ESPN K-Zone in making a determination on Scheurwater's ball four call.

Too bad 3D K-Zone is misleading, just like 2D K-Zone.

Math: Angels batter Eric Young Jr.'s bottom of the strike zone, as measured by sz_bot, was 1.763 during this pitch, while Cole's pitch height (pz) was 1.737. Accordingly, had an ejection occurred, Scheurwater's call would be deemed correct because pz was less than sz_bot. And that's before MOE.

Conclusion: The computerized strike zone box, whether 2D or 3D, is still not a pitch calling panacea.
Related PostAnalyzing Strike Zone Analysis - Not So Easy or Simple (10/27/16).

Cederstrom crew schedule, 8/26 - 9/3.
A-Rod as Umpire Scheduler: Furthermore, to address Rodriguez's remarks, the Angels-Astros series was a four-game set with Sunday's game the series finale; accordingly, Cederstrom had the plate for the first game of the series on August 30.

Generally speaking (and it might be a CBA issue, too), umpires won't work the plate twice in less than a four-game span (in-game injuries and other events can lead to a one-off situation where an umpire works the plate more frequently), and, furthermore, the only series to feature plate duplicates was, generally, the best-of-seven League Championship Series and World Series up until just a few seasons ago, when MLB integrated the Replay Official into a seven-umpire crew, thus eliminating the former two-plates-per-LCS/WS rotation schedule.

Even so, the Cederstrom crew's series prior to Angels-Astros was Mets-Cubs; like the Astros, the Cubs are similarly competing for a postseason berth...the Cederstrom crew's schedule pertaining to plate work from August 26 through early September is attached; the crew was off the field the week beginning 9/3.

History: Though Scheurwater was a minor league fill-in umpire through 2017, he had 253 games of Major League experience heading into 2018, following his 2014 debut in Los Angeles. De Jesus, who is on the fill-in slate, had similarly officiated over 200 games at the big league level as of the 2018 All-Star Break.
Related PostFuture MLB Hiring Outlook at the 2018 Break (7/16/18).
Related PostSource - Stu Scheurwater Hired to Full-Time MLB Staff (12/23/17).
Related PostMajor League Umpiring Debut: Stu Scheurwater (85) (4/25/14).

Gil's Call - Philosophical Question: How might one hope to get young umpires big league experience without putting them behind the plate during a game with, per Vasgersian, "pennant implications"?

Or, perhaps it might be wise to start with the correct information about which umpire holds which employment status before suggesting how MLB assign its umpires, or to understand why Umpire X is at first base instead of behind the plate before criticizing base assignments within the crew.

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Vasgersian and A-Rod criticize MLB's use of "Triple-A umpires" in Houston (ESPN)


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