Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Replay Rewind - Hollywood Magic at Dodger Stadium

Something about Dodger Stadium's Hollywood magic fooled LA's video replay coordinator on Monday for the second time this season. With the Mets in Los Angeles, a Todd Frazier non-catch and Alex Verdugo legal failure to touch a base are our two featured non-reviews in today's edition of Replay Rewind.

Frazier may not have actually caught the ball.
Play #1 (Frazier's Sleight of Hand): In the 2nd inning of Monday's Mets-Dodgers game, Mets infielder Todd Frazier ranged to his right in pursuit of a foul fly ball off the bat of Dodgers hitter Alex Verdugo, leaping into the stands along the short wall in foul territory and appearing to complete a remarkable catch for the third out of the inning, called as such by 3B Umpire Mark Wegner.

Analysis #1: As SNY's own investigation discovered, however, Frazier, in crashing into the stands, had knocked a second baseball-like sphere out of a fan's bag and onto the ground, where Frazier's quick sleight of hand was good enough to fool not just Wegner, but the Dodgers as well, who failed to challenge the play (it was both an issue of catch in the outfield and a boundary call).

Mike DiMuro calls an out in 2012.
Related: We all remember when 3B Umpire Mike DiMuro ejected Indians player Jack Hannahan after he ruled Hannahan out on a fly ball to Yankees left fielder Dewayne Wise, who jumped into the stands and feigned a catch, all while a fan nearby held up the game ball as DiMuro held up his fist. After the game, DiMuro conceded that the ball was dropped and said, "In hindsight, I should have asked [Wise] to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision."
Related PostEjection 078: Mike DiMuro (2) (6/12/18).

As for Wegner, the old switcheroo would have made even this "show me the ball" approach susceptible to error, lest we ask our umpires to now ask to examine the ball to make sure it's the genuine article after each highlight-reel grab.

As it stands, in magic terminology, magician Frazier successfully completed his sleight of hand through a crash-filled misdirection that drew everyone's attention away from the actual game ball.

As Penn & Teller: Fool Us would say, Todd Frazier is a Fooler.

The runner has missed his physical base touch.
Play #2 (Verdugo's Missed Base; NYM's Missed Appeal) : With the Mets leading 4-1 in the bottom of the 9th inning, Dodgers batter Alex Verdugo kick-started a potential comeback with a single up the middle. With Verdugo at first base, ensuing batter Cody Bellinger hit a line drive down the first base line, ruled foul by 1B Umpire Ryan Blakney. Upon Replay Review, the call was reversed to a fair ball, with Verdugo placed at third and Bellinger at first.

Analysis #2: Though the main points of contention here are whether the line drive landed at or past Blakney's position (it did; had it not, the play would not have been eligible for review) and whether batter Bellinger should have been awarded a double or single (because the bounding ball appeared to carom directly to the right fielder, the batter-runner was held at first base), this analysis has absolutely nothing to do with either of those issues.

Instead, we look at an innocuous baserunning quirk that came into being thanks in part to a humorous play from a 2012 overturned replay call.

When Wegner removed the headsets and signaled the baserunning awards, Verdugo and Bellinger were gathered together at first base, but shortly thereafter, Verdugo cut across the diamond without touching second base.

Although Rule 5.06(b)(4)(I) Comment states:
The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases. For example: Batter hits a ground ball which an infielder throws into the stands but the batter-runner missed first base. He may be called out on appeal for missing first base after the ball is put in play even though he was 'awarded' second base.
And 5.09(c)(2) continues: "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," with 5.06(b)(1)'s "In advancing, a runner shall touch first, second, third and home base in order"), the Mets didn't bother appealing Verdugo's clear miss of second. What would have precluded the Mets from appealing this play?

Morse's "HR" complied with touch rules.
Runner Legally Allowed to Skip Over Base: It turns out that when a runner is awarded a base via replay, the Replay Official's placement of the runner carries with it a legal touch of any intermediary bases (in this case, second), such that Verdugo is assumed to have legally touched second base en route to third, because the Replay Official determined that he would have achieved third base had the original ruling been proper.

According to a credible source with knowledge, the runner's requirement to physically touch bases during the dead ball period after a replay decision was eliminated after a bit of fun six years ago involving the Washington Nationals.

Morse Code: Remember Michael Morse's grand slam in 2012, originally ruled in play and overturned to a home run via (limited) instant replay? There's a reason Jeff Nelson's crew sent Morse back to home plate to mime his four-bagger, with Morse touching every base during the course of his phantom HR trot. It's the same reason that a plate umpire remains on the field during a walk-off home run until the batter touches home plate.

The ball being dead doesn't absolve the runner of legal baserunning responsibility, and at the time, Morse (and all other runners) were required to touch their bases after review.
Related LinkMichael Morse hits a replacement home run with an imaginary ball (WAS)

At some point after the Morse play, however, runners were absolved of their responsibility to touch each intervening base in order after a Replay Review—maybe as a time-saving precaution, or perhaps as an effort to ensure that no runner was put at a disadvantage as the result of an overturned Replay Review decision. If the Replay Official places R1 at third base, R1 can go directly to third without touching second.

As fate would have it, the last missed base (that was, in fact, a missed appeal as well) occurred at Dodger Stadium earlier this season as Los Angeles failed to appeal Phillies baserunner Maikel Franco's failure to touch home plate as he scored a run on May 31. Unlike the Verdugo play, Franco was required to touch home plate (since this occurred during the play itself and didn't involve the dead ball period during Replay) and the non-appeal proved quite costly for LA, as the Dodgers lost to Philadelphia, 2-1.
Related PostVideo Loss - Failure to Appeal Costs LA Run, Game (5/31/18).
It must be that Hollywood magic in LA.

Conclusion & Gil's Call
: What this all stresses in this modern era of expanded video review is the importance of hiring an observant and inquisitive video coordinator—someone in the clubhouse that is dedicated to reviewing every intricacy of every play. You never know when that missed out or run will come back to bite you.

Just ask the Dodgers vs Philly on May 31.

Then again, you never know when a player will swap out a fake baseball and try to pass it off as... you get the idea.

Sidebar: Didn't that used to be called the old Potato-into-Left-Field trick care of Double-A catcher Dave Bresnahan who, during an Eastern League game, carried a peeled potato with him onto the field and, with a runner on third, threw it wildly down the line, drawing the runner toward home plate, where Bresnahan was waiting to apply a tag.

HP Umpire Scott Potter awarded the runner home for Bresnahan's deception, and the Cleveland Indians organization released Bresnahan the very next day for his travesty of the game antics.

For what it's worth, in terms of Team Success Percentage (TSP), the Dodgers are the 18th-most successful team in MLB when it comes to Replay Review, while the Mets are 20th in the league (Kansas City is 1st, San Francisco 2nd, New York-AL 3rd). In terms of raw number of overturned calls, through September 4, the Dodgers are ranked 19th and the Mets 26th (KC 1st, Cubs 2nd, Yankees 3rd). For more, visit our Replay Review Stats page.
Related LinkMLB Umpire Replay Review Statistics and Sabermetrics.

Who's the best replay coordinator in baseball? That's easy. Kansas City's Billy Duplissea has consistently placed his Royals in the top spot on our Replay Review teams' leaderboard for several years running. As Ned Yost once said, "He's just really, really good."

Video as follows:
Alternate Link: Mets' Frazier fakes a catch while Dodgers' Verdugo misses a base entirely (Combo)


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