Friday, February 16, 2018

Mark Wegner Promoted to Crew Chief for 2018

Mark Wegner is now a permanent MLB crew chief, filling the vacancy left by the retirement of veteran umpire Dale Scott. His promotion and new supervisory status was quietly included alongside the 2018 Spring Training umpires' roster.

Mark Wegner is MLB's Newest Crew Chief.
With 20 years of Major League experience since his 1998 National League debut, Wegner has served as an interim crew chief on several occasions, and most recently served in the backup role ("Umpire 2") on Mike Winters' "M Crew" (the "M" stands for Mike Winters, Mark Wegner, Marty Foster, and Mike Muchlinski).

For Winters' "M crew" to persist in Wegner's absence, baseball will need to assign as a replacement Mark Carlson or Marvin Hudson (both presently Umpire 2s on other crews), or Ump3/4s Mike DiMuro, Mike Estabrook, Manny Gonzalez, or Mark Ripperger.

Wegner most recently officiated behind home plate during Game 7 of the 2017 World Series (his sixth straight postseason since suffering a torn calf muscle injury in 2011), and won the UEFL's Best Umpire of the Year Award in November.
Related Post2017 UEFL Award for Umpire of the Year - Mark Wegner (November 10, 2017)

Wegner will leave behind the fabled "M Crew."
In January, we discussed the potential candidates for baseball's only opening for the leadership position ahead of the 2018 regular season, identifying Angel Hernandez, Jim Reynolds, Alfonso Marquez, Mark Wegner, and Ron Kulpa as the top five candidates based on statistics alone.
Related Post: Running the Numbers for MLB's Next Crew Chief (1/12/18).

Wegner comes into the role as the statistical fourth-most qualified, behind Hernandez, Reynolds, and Marquez.

Wegner first assumed a regular "Umpire 2" (backup crew chief) role in 2013, as did Marquez; Kulpa became an Ump2 in 2012, Reynolds in 2010, and Hernandez in 2002. Wegner's 12 postseasons are fifth-most amongst eligibles (Hernandez [16]; Eric Cooper, Greg Gibson, Kulpa [13]), and his Review Affirmation Percentage (RAP) since 2014 ranks 12th best in the league, behind only one other candidate (Marquez, 3rd).

The statistically most-qualified Umpire 2, Hernandez, sued MLB's Officer of the Commissioner in 2017, alleging, amongst others, racially-motivated discrimination in baseball's failure to promote him to Crew Chief, while promoting less qualified white umpires instead.
Related PostAngel Hernandez Sues MLB for Racial Discrimination (7/3/17).

Keep reading to hear White Sox legend Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's thoughts on Wegner's promotion:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018 MLB Spring Training Umpire Roster

Announcing the first sign of baseball season, it's the 2018 Spring Training Umpire roster. Comprised of 91 umpires, including 76 full-time MLB + 15 minor league call-ups and invitees, this preseason's officiating list for Arizona's Cactus and Florida's Grapefruit Leagues contains 11 less umpires than the 2017 Spring Training list (102 umpires). This decrease is due in large part to the absence of a World Baseball Classic tournament this spring; the 2016 Spring Training roster, a year which similarly did feature a World Baseball Classic, consisted of 95 umpires.

The following roster includes sleeve numbers for all applicable umpires; Minor League Baseball umpires with numbers are deemed Call-Ups and may fill in during the regular season at the Major League level, while MiLB umpires without numbers are the Spring Training invitees and are not yet on MLB's fill-in list. The MiLB umpire in bold is new to the Spring Training list.

MLB Spring Training Umpires' Roster - 2018 Pre-Season
MLB StaffMLB StaffMiLB Invitees & Call-Ups
Baker, Jordan 71
Barksdale, Lance 23
Barrett, Lance 94
Barrett, Ted 65
Barry, Scott 87
Bellino, Dan 2
Blaser, Cory 89
Bucknor, CB 54
Carapazza, Vic 19
Carlson, Mark 6
Cederstrom, Gary 38
Conroy, Chris 98
Cooper, Eric 56
Culbreth, Fieldin 25
Cuzzi, Phil 10
Danley, Kerwin 44
Davis, Gerry 12
DeMuth, Dana 32
Diaz, Laz 63
DiMuro, Mike 16
Drake, Rob 30
Dreckman, Bruce 1
Eddings, Doug 88
Emmel, Paul 50
Estabrook, Mike 83
Everitt, Mike 57
Fairchild, Chad 4
Fletcher, Andy 49
Foster, Marty 60
Gibson, Greg 53
Gibson, Tripp 73
Gonzalez, Manny 79
Gorman, Brian 9
Guccione, Chris 68
Hallion, Tom 20
Hamari, Adam 78
Hernandez, Angel 5
Hickox, Ed 15
Hoberg, Pat 31
Holbrook, Sam 34
Hoye, James 92
Hudson, Marvin 51
Iassogna, Dan 58
Johnson, Adrian 80
Kellogg, Jeff 8
Knight, Brian 91
Kulpa, Ron 46
Layne, Jerry 24
Little, Will 93
Marquez, Alfonso 72
Meals, Jerry 41
Miller, Bill 26
Morales, Gabe 47
Muchlinski, Mike 76
Nauert, Paul 39
Nelson, Jeff 45
O'Nora, Brian 7
Porter, Alan 64
Rackley, David 86
Randazzo, Tony 11
Reyburn, D.J. 17
Reynolds Jim 77
Ripperger, Mark 90
Scheurwater, Stu 85
Tichenor, Todd 13
Timmons, Tim 95
Torres, Carlos 37
Tumpane, John 74
Vanover, Larry 27
Wegner, Mark 14
Welke, Bill 3
Wendelstedt, Hunter 21
West, Joe 22
Winters, Mike 33
Wolcott, Quinn 81
Wolf, Jim 28
Additon, Ryan 67
Barber, Sean 29
Blakney, Ryan 36
De Jesus, Ramon 18
January, Javerro "JJ" -
Lentz, Nic 59
Libka, John 84
Livensparger, Shane 43
Nick Mahrley 48
May, Ben 97
Ortiz, Roberto 40
Rehak, Jeremie -
Segal, Chris 96
Whitson, Chad 62
Woodring, Tom 75

(15 MiLB Umpires)
(76 MLB Umpires)
(91 Total Umpires)

Information obtained by
UEFL on 2/15/2018.
www.closecallsports.com
Some observations, year-over-year:
  • > MiLB invites decreased by 11 (from 2017, which featured a March World Baseball Classic).
  • > 2018's roster of 15 MiLBU is comprised of 2 invitees and 13 regular-season call-up umps.
  • JJ January is the only new invitee; Jeremie Rehak is the only returning, non-call-up invitee. 
  • > Umpires who appeared on the 2017 Spring Training MiLB invitee list, but who have been cut from the 2018 preseason are: John Bacon (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Toby Basner (2012-17 MLB Call-Up), John Bostwick (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Mike Cascioppo (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Travis Eggert (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Clint Fagan (2011-17 MLB Call-Up), Dan Merzel (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Garrett Patterson (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Ron Teague (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Alex Tosi (2017 MLB Spring Training Invitee), Junior Valentine (2017 Spring Training Invitee).
  • > Toby Basner and Clint Fagan are the only two 2017 call-ups not to appear on 2018's roster.
  • > Dale Scott retired from the MLB staff, and Stu Scheurwater was hired to fill his spot.
  • > Angel Hernandez appears to have switched from #55 to #5, formerly worn by Dale Scott.
The 2018 Crew Chief promotion announcement will follow this update in the coming days.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

ABL Ejections - Takahito Matsuda & Bench Clearing

Sunday's decisive Australian Baseball League Championship Series Game 3 featured a bench-clearing incident and two ejections by 2B Umpire Takahito Matsuda en route to a Brisbane Bandits 4-2 victory and ABL win over the Canberra Cavalry.

First, the bench clearer. With two out and none on in the bottom of the 6th inning, Bandits batter Andrew Campbell took a 2-2 fastball from Cavalry pitcher Frank Gailey inside for a hit by pitch, resulting in a bench clearing incident. Replays indicate the pitch hit Campbell in the upper back, the call was irrecusable, resulting in warnings from HP Umpire Mal Mackay and an extended conversation with both managers; relief pitcher Steven Kent replaced Gailey following the at-bat. At the time of the incident, the Bandits were leading, 4-0.

One pitch later, 2B Umpire Matsuda ejected Bandits 1B Coach Adrian Lamb for fighting during a second bench-clearing event that started after Bandits baserunner Campbell was caught stealing at second base, and Manager Dave Nilsson for arguing the incident. The Bandits ultimately won the contest, and the Championship Series, 4-2.
Related Historical EjectionABL Ejections - Takahito Matsuda (Dave Nilsson, E Green) (1/9/16).

After the game the League issued a statement concerning the incidents:
The Australian Baseball League will continue to follow the established disciplinary protocols and procedures in reviewing all reported incidents from Game 3.
This review will include the behaviour of players, coaches and officials during the game.
Any official finding will be published in line with the ABL regular reporting processes.
Matsuda is a Minor League Umpire and spent the 2017 season on the Double-A Eastern League staff.

Wrap: Canberra Cavalry vs Brisbane Bandits (ABL Championship), 2/11/18 | Video as follows:

UEFL Profile of MLB Umpire Adam Hamari

Presenting the UEFL Profile of MLB Umpire Adam Hamari.
Name: Adam Curtis Hamari
Date of Birth: May 25, 1983
Place of Birth: Marquette, Michigan
MiLB Leagues Worked: New York-Penn, Midwest, California, Florida State, Southern, Eastern, International, Pacific Coast.
MLB DebutJune 25, 2013
Level: MLB
Umpire Uniform Number: 78
Crew Chief: No

2017 Ejections: 1.
Ejection 048 (SEA M Scott Servais; QOC = Y).

2016 Ejections: 4.
Ejection 179 (ATL M Brian Snitker; QOC = Y).
Ejection 178 (ATL LF Matt Kemp; QOC = Y).
Ejection 063 (NYM M Terry Collins; QOC = U).
Ejection 062 (NYM P Noah Syndergaard; QOC = U).

2015 Ejections: 3.
Ejection 174 (TEX 3B Adrian Beltre; QOC = Y).
Ejection 131 (CHC M Joe Maddon; QOC = Y).
Ejection 080 (CIN RF Jay Bruce; QOC = N).

2014 Ejections: 1.
Ejection 026 (SEA 1BC Andy Van Slyke; QOC = Y). *First Career MLB Ejection*

2013 Ejections: None.
Ejection History: 0 (2013), 1 (2014), 3 (2015), 4 (2016), 1 (2017).

UEFL History: Adam Hamari

Postseason and Special Events History
World Baseball Classic: -
All-Star Game: -
Wild Card Game: -
Division Series: -
Championship Series: -
World Series: -

UEFL Fill-In Umpire of the Year: 2016

Notes: Hired to the full-time MLB staff prior to the 2017 season.
» Graduated from the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring (JEAPU) in 2006.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Analysis - Tennessee Wins on Walk-Off Obstruction Call

The Tennessee Lady Vols won a weekend softball game against Utah after an umpire's obstruction call on a game-ending play at the plate scored the winning run. Was the call correct pursuant to NCAA rules or should the game have continued?

Utes catcher Martinez blocks plate too early.
The Play: With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 7th inning and Utah leading, 5-3, Tennessee batter Abby Lockman hit a 2-1 pitch from Utah pitcher Miranda Viramontes to left field, scoring baserunners Chelsea Seggern and Scarlet McSwain. Utah left fielder Julia Noskin retrieved and threw the ball to catcher Kelly Martinez, who received the throw as R1 Brooke Langston arrived at home plate, resulting in a game-ending obstruction call from HP Umpire Vince Price, who signaled a delayed dead ball as soon as the violation occurred.
Video at bottom of post.

Still image of catcher's tag of baserunner.
Analysis: Replays indicate that Utah catcher Martinez caught the ball and tagged baserunner Langston before the latter touched home plate, but also suggest that Martinez positioned herself in front of home plate and between the plate and baserunner Langston before gaining possession of the ball. Key to the analysis is a college softball rules change, enacted just in time for the 2018 season.

The Rule: Pursuant to the NCAA Softball Rules Committee's recommendation over the winter, the sport's new Rule 9.5.1, regarding obstruction, states:
Obstruction occurs when a defensive player, not in possession of the ball or in the act of fielding a batted ball, impedes a batter's attempt to make contact with a pitch or impedes the progress of any runner who is legally running bases on a live ball. It can be intentional or unintentional. It is obstruction if a defensive player is blocking the whole base/plate or base path without the ball and/or the runner does not have a clear path to the base/plate. (See also Rule 12.13.)
Rationale: College softball's move toward eliminating the defense's opportunity to block the plate without the ball follows both NCAA and MLB baseball's move to eliminate this area of potential contact. For instance, both baseball and softball agree that once in possession of the ball, the catcher may be positioned between the runner and plate, and all rules codes allow for the runner to be called out if, not withstanding the catcher's positioning, she would have been out by a throw that clearly beat her. College softball's obstruction rule formerly referred to a catcher in the act of fielding a throw (baseball still allows this); softball's present rule requires possession first, in a "Catch=>Block=>Tag" sequence of legality, thus rendering "Block=>Catch=>Tag" explicitly illegal.

An example of a legally positioned catcher.
Baseball Equivalent: OBR's Rule 7.13 came into existence ahead of the 2014 season, and outlawed certain collisions at home plate by prohibiting the catcher without possession of the ball from blocking the pathway of the runner while prohibiting the runner from deviating from his path to initiate contact with the catcher.
Related PostTest Yourself: MLB Adopts Home Plate Collision Rule 7.13 (2/25/14).

The rule also allows a catcher to move up the line to catch a thrown ball, even if such a catch would take the catcher into the runner's path, and dictates that a runner shall be called out if he would have been out "notwistanding the catcher's improper positioning in front of the plate."
Related PostMLB Issues Rule 7.13 Plate Blocking Clarification (9/10/14).

After the catch, F2 legally blocks home.
SIDEBAR: One notable difference between the codes is that, in softball, this form of obstruction can occur on a force play. In MLB baseball, however, force plays are excluded from the plate blocking rule (MLB added this exclusion in June 2014 after a force play was called off due to the catcher's blocking of home plate; the formal language went into effect for the 2015 season under 6.01(i)(2)).
Related PostHow to Illegally Block the Plate with the Bases Loaded (6/4/15).

Still, this rule (now known in OBR as 6.01(i)(2)) has caused its fair share of controversy in baseball, most recently resulting in Cubs Manager Joe Maddon's ejection from Game 1 of the 2017 National League Championship Series for arguing a Replay Review decision that overturned an out call to that of a Rule 6.01(i)(2) violation, thus scoring a Dodgers run.
Related PostMLB Ejection P-2 - Mike Winters (2; Joe Maddon) (10/14/17).

An example of an illegal catcher.
As was the case during the 7th inning of Utah-Tennessee softball, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras had positioned himself in front of home plate—and, specifically, between the plate and scoring baserunner Charlie Culberson—such that even though the throw was up the line, and Contreras may have legally moved into the runner's path in order to field the throw, he nonetheless violated MLB's plate blocking rule simply because he started the play positioned illegally between the runner and the plate.

Conclusion: As such, HP Umpire Price's obstruction call to end the Utah-Tennessee softball game was correct; Utah's catcher started the play in an illegal position between the scoring runner and home plate, thus forcing the runner to alter her path toward home even before the throw arrived in the vicinity of the plate.

In other words, the NCAA wants the play-at-the-plate sequence to read "Catch=>Block=>Tag." By changing the sequence to "Block=>Catch=>Tag," Utah committed obstruction in contravention of Rule 9.5.1, and awarding Tennessee the game-winning run was indeed the proper call.

Wrap: Tennessee vs Utah (NCAA Division I Softball), 2/10/18 | Video as follows: