Saturday, March 24, 2018

Site News - All Connections Now Secure via HTTPS

Following up on our site remodel announcement in January, Close Call Sports & Umpire Ejection Fantasy League is now exclusively available over a secure connection via HTTPS. All "old" links to unsecured HTTP URLs will automatically redirect to the new secure hypertext transfer protocol.

This change means little for viewability and navigation, but securing all connections via HTTPS encryption means that the integrity of information you send and receive here is protected and privacy assured. You can verify the secure connection to CCS/UEFL by clicking the "lock" icon (🔒) in your browser.
Related PostSite Remodel Announcement (1/31/18).

Friday, March 23, 2018

2018 Pacific Coast League Umpire Roster

The Pacific Coast League released its 2018 roster of staff umpires. The PCL is one of Minor League Baseball's two Triple-A leagues, the other being the International League, whose umpires have not yet been formally announced.

The 2018 PCL list of umpires features five Triple-A rookies, and two transfers from the International League.

The roster furthermore features eight umpires who also appear on the Major League fill-in list and may be called up to MLB during the regular season to cover for vacationing or injured big leaguers.

Pacific Coast League Umpire Roster - Start of the 2018 Season
PCL Umpire and Sleeve Number2017 League and Years in Triple-A
Allen, Sean 11^Texas (Double-A) | Rookie (Note: Award '14)
Arrieta, David 23Pacific Coast (PCL) - 2nd Year in Triple-A
Blakney, Ryan 5* (MLB #36)PCL - 6th Year in Triple-A
Bostwick, John 25PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Cascioppo, Mike 44PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Ceja, Nestor 40PCL - 2nd Year in Triple-A
Clemons, Paul 9PCL - 3rd Year [2nd Full] in Triple-A
Czajak, Matt 21PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
De Jesus, Ramon 18* (MLB #18)PCL - 5th Year in Triple-A
Eaton, Derek 20PCL - 2nd Year in Triple-A
Felix, Blake 29PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Fields, Bryan 27*PCL - 4th Year in Triple-A
Hamm, Clayton 43PCL - 2nd Year in Triple-A
January, Javerro "JJ" 6*PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Libka, John 30* (MLB #84)PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Mahrley, Nick 3* (MLB #48)PCL - 5th Year in Triple-A
May, Ben 97* (MLB #97)PCL - 7th Year [2nd PCL] in Triple-A
Meyers, Lee 22PCL - 2nd Year in Triple-A
Ortiz, Roberto 40* (MLB #40)International - 5th Year [1st PCL] in Triple-A
Park, Clay 7PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Ryan, Sean 10PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Segal, Chris 96* (MLB #96)International - 8th Year [1st PCL] in Triple-A
Starkovich, Jason 16^Southern (Double-A) | Rookie
Terry, Brett 19PCL - 4th Year in Triple-A
Tomlinson, Nate 24Texas (Double-A) | Rookie
Valentine, Junior 14PCL - 3rd Year in Triple-A
Vondrak, Clint 15Southern (Double-A) | Rookie
Williams, Lew 39Southern (Double-A) | Rookie
Woodring, Tom 75* (MLB #75)PCL - 6th Year in Triple-A
Ziegler, Alex 2PCL - 2nd Year in Triple-A
*Indicates umpire regularly officiated Spring Training | ^ Indicates promotion to AAA.
Bold text indicates umpire is on Major League Baseball's call-up list.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ejections S1-5 - Hallion (Boyd, Frazier, Kapler, Beato, RT)

HP Umpire Tom Hallion ejected Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd (throwing at Phillies CF Odubel Herrera) in the bottom of the 5th, Phillies pitcher Parker Frazier and Manager Gabe Kapler (throwing at Tigers CF Derek Hill; QOCU) in the top of the 8th, and Phillies pitcher Pedro Beato and Bench Coach/Acting Manager Rob Thomson (throwing at Tigers RF Dylan Rosa) in the top of the 9th inning of the Tigers-Phillies game. In the 5th, with two out and none on, batter Herrera took a 3-1 fastball from Boyd for a hit-by-pitch. Replays indicate the pitch was located inside and struck Herrera on the right elbow, following a 0-1 pitch that sailed above Herrera's head, the call was irrecusable. At the time of Boyd's ejection, which resulted in automatically issued warnings, the Tigers were leading, 5-1.

In the 8th, with one out and none on, Tigers batter Hill took a 1-2 slider from Frazier for a hit-by-pitch. Replays indicate the pitch was located inside and struck Hill on the back of the left thigh, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the Hill and Kapler ejections, the Tigers were leading, 5-2.

In the 9th, with none out and one on (R1), Tigers batter Rosa took a 1-1 fastball from Beato for a hit-by-pitch. Replays indicate the pitch was located inside and struck Rosa on his left hip, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the Beato and Thomson ejections, the Tigers were leading, 5-2. The Tigers ultimately won the contest, 6-2.

These are Tom Hallion (20)'s first, second, third, fourth, and fifth ejections of 2018 Spring Training.
This is the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth ejections of 2018 MLB Spring Training.
This is the first player ejection of the preseason. Prior to ejection, Boyd's line was 4.2 IP, ER.
This is the second player ejection of the preseason. Prior to ejection, Frazier's line was 1.1 IP, 0 R.
This is the first Manager ejection of the preseason.
This is the third player ejection of the preseason. Prior to ejection, Beato's line was 0.2 IP, 0 R.
This is Matthew Boyd's first ejection since April 22, 2017 (Jordan Baker; QOC = U [Throwing At]).
This is Parker Frazier's first career MLB ejection.
This is Gabe Kapler's first ejection since July 24, 2004 (Bruce Froemming; QOC = U [Fighting]).
This is Pedro Beato's first career MLB ejection.
This is Rob Thomson's first ejection since August 24, 2017 (Dana DeMuth; QOC = U [Throwing At]).

Wrap: Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Grapefruit League), 3/22/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Assigns New Fill-Ins Rehak, Visconti Sleeve Numbers

Major League Baseball added two umpires to its Minor League call-up roster, assigning Wendelstedt School alums Jeremie Rehak and Jansen Visconti, both of Triple-A's International League, sleeve numbers and placing the junior umps on MLB's fill-in list for the 2018 season. Rehak and Visconti effectively replace the departed Toby Basner (IL) and Clint Fagan (Pacific Coast League), who had served in the hybrid MiLB/MLB role for a combined 13 years.

#35 Jeremie Rehak: After graduating from the Wendelstedt Umpire School in 2011, Rehak was assigned to the Gulf Coast League, earning promotions to the Appalachian, Florida Instructional, Midwest, California, Eastern, Arizona Instructional, and International Leagues. Rehak, who is 30 and resides in Pennsylvania, enters his 3rd season in Triple-A. His uniform number, #35, was last worn by the late Wally Bell, who passed away during the 2013 postseason.

#52 Jansen Visconti: Another 30-year-old from Pennsylvania (both Rehak and Visconti are from Westmoreland County, PA) who graduated from Wendelstedt's, Visconti earned a spot on the Gulf Coast League roster in 2010, subsequently officiating the New York-Penn, Florida Instructional, South Atlantic, Carolina, Arizona Instructional, Eastern, and International Leagues; 2018 will be Visconti's 4th full year at the Triple-A level. His assigned number, #52, was last worn by Bill Welke, who traded in #52 for brother Tim Welke's #3 following Tim's 2016 retirement.

The 2018 Umpire Roster & Crews page has been adjusted accordingly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Forgetful Infield Fly - Reversing Calls Across Levels

Umpires reversed an erroneous force out call during an infield fly rule play in Grapefruit League action, scoring a run that had seemingly been nullified just moments earlier. By now, we know what the infield fly rule is and how to communicate when a potential IFR situation occurs, but what happens if an umpire or entire crew forgets to call "infield fly" when it occurs? Is the batter still out or are runners forced to advance—and what happens if a fielder attempts to force out a baserunner or a time play occurs at home, as was the case in Florida?

Recap: To briefly review the infield fly rule's three criteria: 1) First and second (at least) occupied with less than two out; 2) batter hits a fair fly ball that is not a line drive nor a bunt, that; 3) can be caught by any infielder using ordinary effort. For more about the infield fly rule, including its definition, ordinary effort, and pre-play communication, see the following two articles:
Related Post: Infield Fly and a Double Play - Back to Basics for Phillies (4/11/16).
Related PostKnowing the Situation - Infield Flies and Time Plays (9/15/17).

Mechanics confusion reigned in Florida.
So now that we know what should happen during an infield fly play, it's time to explore what happens when things go awry, including rules differences amongst the NFHS, NCAA, and OBR codes.

Perhaps true to the Spring Training moniker, umpire Jeff Kellogg's crew encountered an infield fly situation over the weekend that took an odd turn when the plate umpire forewent an infield fly signal as a fly ball dropped untouched on the infield with the bases loaded.

The Play (Annotated with the infield fly criteria): With one out and the bases loaded, Twins batter Byron Buxton swung and hit a fair fly ball in front of home plate, where Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart, in what should have been a routine catch, bobbled and dropped the batted ball. Pitcher Rick Porcello picked up the loose ball, tagged home plate, and thew to second baseman Brock Holt, who tagged Twins baserunner R2 Bobby Wilson between second and third base.

Sidebar, in case you were wondering: the infield fly rule takes precedence over the intentional drop rule; this is due, in part, to the fact that an infield fly is declared before the ball reaches the fielder [i.e., before the fielder has a chance to intentionally drop it].
Related Post: Phillips' DP Attempt Reversed by Intentional Drop Rule (9/19/17).

The Call: Confounding the issue, while 2B Umpire Tim Timmons properly signaled the infield fly (batter out), plate umpire Kellogg signaled baserunner R3 out upon F1 Porcello's tag of home plate; no call was immediately made when F4 Holt tagged R2 Wilson (who appeared to have given up as a result of observing both B1 and R3 being declared out for outs #2 and #3), as Timmons' back was to the tag.

This produced a logically impossible double play: Once the batter (or any trailing baserunner) is declared out, the force on any preceding baserunner is removed; R3 should not have been declared out via force at home.

2B Umpire Tim Timmons calls Buxton out.
The End Result: After discussion amongst the three umpires, batter Buxton was declared out pursuant to the infield fly rule, R3 Aybar's out was reversed to a run scored, and R2 Wilson was declared out because of F4 Holt's tag. The problem, naturally, lies in the erroneous out call on the fake force/tag at home, upon which Aybar ceased to exist as a baserunner (and took away the potential for a time play, as would normally occur with a runner trotting home from third base with two outs, as was the case when Wilson was tagged for the final out of the inning, though U2 didn't call the out when it occurred because he wasn't facing the play [and because three outs had already transpired, however erroneous the third out was]). Did Kellogg's force-out mechanic cause Boston to give up on R3 Aybar? (Logically, it has to be yes, since R3 had already been "retired.")

Not as clear, however, is its effect on R1 Zack Granite (who advanced to second) and R2 Wilson (who abandoned ship after the phantom "third out" at home plate). By rule, Kellogg's force out call caused Aybar to disappear, meaning the umpires had to correct an error. The relevant rule under OBR to correct the mistake is 8.02(c), which states, in part:
If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call, disregarding interference or obstruction that may have occurred on the play; failures of runners to tag up based upon the initial call on the field; runners passing other runners or missing bases; etc., all in the discretion of the umpires.
Kellogg spots the error and convenes his crew.
To be crystal clear, the "call that they are reversing" in this situation was Kellogg's force out call of Aybar at home plate; no other call was reversed. Timmons' earlier infield fly call was not modified in any way.

If the crew believed that, had Kellogg made the correct call in real-time (which would have been a no-call on R3 at home), Aybar would have scored, then the solution to "eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing" is to score the run, whether or not Aybar physically touched home plate prior to F4 Holt's tag of R2 Wilson (since, again, Aybar technically did not exist as R3 after the phantom force, and F4 Holt's tag of R2 Wilson was superfluous [and a fourth out in its own right]).

Gil's Call: There are probably three realistic options for this play, all of which involve declaring the batter out pursuant to the infield fly rule, as declared by Timmons in real-time.

The first option is what Kellogg's crew decided to do: B1 out, R3 scores, R2 out. The second is the same as the first, except that R3's run does not count. The third essentially "kills" the play at the moment of error: B1 out, R1 to 1st, R2 to 2nd, and R3 to 3rd (this approach is rather similar to an NCAA procedure for changing "no catch" to "catch" [see below]).

However, because of Rule 8.02(c)'s requirement to place runners "where [the umpires] think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call," options #1 or #2 are likely most reasonable. There stands a good chance that R1 Granite would have attempted to advance to second base even without Kellogg's call at home, meaning that R2 Wilson would have been hung out to dry regardless of the incorrect initial call. Which solution is "more correct?" That's for the umpires on the field to decide, likely taking into consideration Aybar's speed for a mental time play calculation.

> QOC Consideration: Pursuant to precedent established in Dale Scott's 2012 ejection of Padres Manager Bud Black for arguing an inadvertent "time" mechanic-turned triple play, QOC here is likely incorrect.
Related PostEjections: Dale Scott (1) (4/15/12).

Rules Difference: The aforementioned is the pro (OBR) rule, but what of NCAA college or NFHS high school?

NCAA: The college book doesn't directly address the case of a changed infield fly, but does include a section called "Appendix E: Getting the Call Right." Similarly, this portion of the rules book does not specifically address bungled infield fly plays (though it does specifically state what must happen when a call of "catch" is changed to "no catch" [dead ball, batter awarded first, baserunners awarded one base from time-of-pitch] and "no catch" to "catch" [dead ball, batter out, baserunners returned to bases occupied at time-of-pitch], both on balls hit into the outfield or any foul ball [or, if an infield-bound "no catch" call is changed to a "catch," when that decision would result in the third out or no runners are on base]).

In high school, teams must know the situation.
There exists a note within Appendix E which states, "The Crew Chief and crew should be conservative on their placement of base runners," and, additionally, "Some calls cannot be reversed without creating larger problems." Nonetheless, Part D of Appendix E states, "Both NCAA philosophy and umpire integrity – consistent with NCAA rules – dictate that calls are reversed in this situation [when the umpire's initial decision is clearly erroneous]." Judgment calls exempted from reversal include tag plays when the fielder clearly holds on to the ball (e.g., stolen base attempts), force plays (when the ball isn't dropped and the foot not pulled), and pitch location ball/strike calls. The Porcello/Buxton/Aybar play is not, however, a judgment call; it is a rules application issue that should be addressed.

NFHS: The high school case book states that players and teams are responsible for knowing when an infield fly situation exists, even when the umpire erroneously forgets to call "infield fly" or calls it at an inappropriate time ("both teams have the responsibility to know when conditions exist for an infield fly" 10.2.3 Situations F & G). High school explicitly requires a batter erroneously declared out to attempt to reach base safely in order to be awarded the base after the play. By that token, NFHS would likely score Aybar's run based on the crew chief's duty to "rectify any situation in which an umpire's decision that was reversed has placed either team at a disadvantage," since the teams were responsible for knowing the infield fly situation. In the end, perhaps this is a situation in which the umpires legitimately do not know whether Aybar beat the third out (due to, again, the erroneous force play for the premature third out at home plate), in which case, a healthy dose of game management will be most vital.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Media - Danley, Muchlinski (AZ) & Timmons (FL) Talk Shop

Spring Training 2018 has produced a nearly unprecedented level of umpire interviews, with Kerwin Danley a featured speaker at MLB's Dream Series, and local profiles of Mike Muchlinski in Arizona and Tim Timmons in Florida. Meanwhile, Ted Barrett sat down for an extended conversation about new rules and replay.

Kerwin Danley: In a recently-published video from the 2018 Dream Series, MLB umpire Kerwin Danley spoke alongside former pitcher LaTroy Hawkins to a group of high school athletes about officiating, and complaints about balls and strikes, which have increased dramatically since the adoption of expanded replay review
It's the pitching coaches first. Hitting coaches, you don't hear from them that much,'re having a bad day, then you hear from them.
The data support Danley's observation: just two hitting coaches were ejected in 2017, compared to seven pitching coaches.

MLB Umpire Mike Muchlinski is in Arizona.
Mike Muchlinski: Cincinnati, Ohio's WCPO-TV shadowed Muchlinski during a day at Goodyear Ballpark, the Reds' and Indians' shared-use stadium in Arizona's Cactus League, discussing his path to the major leagues and how umpires prepare for the regular season, including enforcement new rules, rotation between the bases, and the rigors of spending months away from home and family. A brief glimpse of Muchlinski and Adam Hamari discussing what is and isn't a mound visit appears as well.
We prepare every day to get every call right. Realistically, that's not going to happen, so it's a good thing to be able to fix the big errors, especially when it comes to a decision that affects the outcome of a game.
MLB Umpire Tim Timmons is in Florida.
Tim Timmons: In Florida, local station WFTX joined Tim Timmons at Jet Blue Park to get the Grapefruit League perspective. Like Muchlinski, Timmons described his journey to the big leagues and recounted the story of his first interaction with Hank Aaron, who told a group of aspiring minor league umpires, "If you give to this game, it will repay you ten-fold."

Explained Timmons concerning the villainy of the umpire, "the jeers pay the bills." As Muchlinski stated in Arizona, the downside of professional umpiring is the time spent away from family.

MLB Umpire Ted Barrett is in Arizona.
Ted Barrett: Fresh off his in-game interview with Angels baseball, veteran crew chief Ted Barrett sat down with ESPN to discuss MLB's new mound visit limit, replay, technology, and fan perception.
Related PostSpring Feature - Ted Barrett Interviewed During Game (3/16/18).

Barrett foresees that MLB will tie up any loose ends concerning mound visits by Opening Day. For example, when a catcher took a foul ball off his mask in late February, the plate umpire charged the defensive team with a mound visit because the pitcher had walked to home plate to check on his battery mate. Although MLB still hasn't formally addressed that specific play, the League has issued clarification that a catcher visiting the mound to buy an injured umpire some time after a similar foul ball situation would not be deemed a mound visit.
Related PostSo it Begins - Mound Visit Charged on Injury Timeout (2/27/18).

Regarding replay, Barrett likened having a call of his overturned to that of a batter striking out: "Anytime you fail, that's tough. You have to get over it. And it's not just when the game is on the line: I would feel bad if I cost a guy a base hit."

Certain strike zone plots can be misleading.
In admitting he has never called a catcher for blocking the plate in real-time, a trend that holds true for every big league umpire—MLB has yet to experience an umpire calling a blocking-the-plate violation in real-time...such a play was only overturned from "no violation" to "violation" via replay, thus scoring a run, once out of 13 total reviews in 2017, and that was during the postseason, resulting in an ejection—Barrett explained that such a call is difficult to see in real time.
Related PostMLB Ejection P-2 - Mike Winters (2; Joe Maddon) (10/14/17).
If it's blatant, I'll call it. Otherwise, replay will do the overturning.
Improved technology has also led to electronic (albeit faulty) ball/strike calculations, which have most popularly spawned a series of statistical umpire rankings, although the tech used from one system to the next may not be consistent (nor accurate). Instead, Barrett relies on the innovation to help with reviewing technique, such as positioning or stance consideration: "It's a never-ending self-analysis."
Related PostAnalyzing Strike Zone Analysis - Not So Easy or Simple (10/27/16).

Finally, Barrett discussed fans, how he generally tunes them out, and how the World Umpires Association turned to Twitter (@MLBaseballUmps) to try and get the umpires' viewpoint out into a world that hasn't always allowed sports officials to speak up.

For instance, the WUA used the account to communicate the circumstances surrounding its white wristband protest of escalating verbal attacks and the Commissioner's deficient response to such unsportsmanlike acts during the 2017 season.
Related PostWUA-MLB Relations Deteriorate with New Umpire Protest (8/19/17).

The protest lasted all of one day before Commissioner Rob Manfred agreed to meet with the umpires. Barrett serves on the WUA Governing Board.
Related PostWUA Secures Commissioner Meeting, Suspends Protest (8/20/17).

Barrett wanted to make it known that despite popular grumblings to the contrary, umpires are held to standard:
That's the biggest thing I want to get across to people that say, "Big league umpires have no accountability." Every play and pitch we call is analyzed. We get reviewed on everything. It's not always public, just like internal things with players and teams aren't always public. We make every effort to be at our best. 
Videos (3x) and Source Links as follows: