Saturday, June 2, 2018

Light Up the Halo & Clear the Benches - Slide INT Part II

MLB's crisis du jour is officially the bona fide take-out slide, as benches cleared in Anaheim after Rangers baserunner R1 Rougned Odor slid well wide of second base and into Angels SS Andrelton Simmons as he turned a game-ending double play, umpire Chris Conroy ruling the play a legal slide as first baseman Albert Pujols made it all for naught, successfully stretching to receive Simmons' throw as Simmons and Odor chirped and both benches emptied to the tune of "Paradise City" backed by pyrotechnics and Angels Win graphics.

TEX R1 Odor slides into LAA SS Simmons.
The Play: With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the 9th inning of a 6-0 ballgame, Rangers batter Ronald Guzman hit a ground ball to Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler, who threw to shortstop Simmons, who tagged second base and stepped away to throw onto first baseman Pujols to complete the double play as Rangers baserunner R1 Odor slid toward Simmons.

The Call: 2B Umpire Conroy called Odor out at second base, but did not rule that Odor had committed interference pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.01(j). Since first baseman Pujols was able to catch Simmons' throw and keep his foot in contact with first base, 1B Umpire CB Bucknor ruled batter-runner Guzman out for the third and final out, thus ending the game and rendering the interference issue at second base a moot-yet-technical point, as Chief Fieldin Culbreth's crew watched the benches clear over Odor's questionable slide.

Analysis: As we did Monday, and again on Wednesday, it's time to review the four criteria of Rule 6.01(j)'s bona fide slide and apply them to Odor's slide into second base. Same rules apply:
(1) begins his slide (namely, makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base [YES];
(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot [YES];
(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide [YES];
(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder [YES].

To be frank, this conclusion (that the slide was bona fide) surprised me too. In my mind, in no way should Odor's attempt to kick at Simmons be a legal slide, but, according to the rule, it is.
Related Post: Revenge - Benches Clear After Pirates Slide vs Cubs (5/30/18).
Related Post: Source - MLB Admits Rizzo Slide Was Illegal, Interference (5/29/18).

Disclaimer: We make no judgment as to whether Odor's was a "dirty slide" or not, just its legality by rule.

Odor's pathway remains relatively unchanged.
On Monday, Bryant clearly changed his pathway to contact catcher Diaz by crossing from foul to fair territory, and on Wednesday, Musgrove failed to remain on the base, but on Friday, Odor didn't change his pathway—Odor made a bee-line for the right-field side of second base from the moment the ball was hit.

The way the professional rule is written, the runner mustn't change his pathway, but if the runner's chosen pathway well in advance of the impending play takes him to the right of the base, he is legally allowed to maintain that heading, as long as he is able to fulfill all other criteria of the bona fide slide (e.g., touch and remain on the base), and as long as he doesn't initiate illegal contact.

Rule Review: OBR 6.01(j) begins by declaring when an interference infraction occurs:
If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01.
Angels and Rangers meet after the final out.
Because Odor engaged in a bona fide slide, as portrayed above, the "and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play" clause becomes meaningless.

Like the fabled nuclear launch, 6.01(j) requires both the "not a bona fide slide" and "initiates/attempts to make contact" keys to be turned: Because the "not a bona fide slide" key doesn't exist, "initiates/attempts to make contact" is worthless on its own: we don't have interference, at least not yet.

Grammatically Speaking: If intentional contact were meant to stand on its own, the proper terminology would be OR, not AND. But...the rules' is an "AND" statement...Let's dig on.

As specified above, Odor clearly does initiate contact with the fielder—he elevates his right foot into Simmons' shin—but under the professional rule 6.01(j), this is actually legal: "A slide shall not be a 'bona fide slide' if a runner engages in a 'roll block,' or intentionally initiates (or attempts to initiate) contact with the fielder by elevating and kicking his leg above the fielder’s knee or throwing his arm or his upper body."

Precent: Choo legally kicks a middle infielder.
Because Odor initiated leg contact with Simmons below the fielder's knee, and did not roll (he slid on his side, but never rolled into second base), this play is perfectly legal.

Precedent: Before jumping to Simmons' defense, consider this 2017 play in which MLB—via Replay—established that kicking or tripping a middle fielder is legal, as long as the kick or elevated leg remains below the fielder's knee, and—wouldn't you know—it too involved a Rangers baserunner.

In July 2017, 2B Umpire Gabe Morales ruled that Rangers baserunner Shin-Soo Choo violated Rule 6.01(j) by kicking his left leg into White Sox second baseman Yolmer Sanchez as Sanchez attempted to turn a double play. Following a challenge by Rangers Manager Jeff Banister, the Replay Official overturned Morales' call, ruling that Choo's kicking/tripping slide was legal.
Related Post: Replay Overturns Slide Rule Violation Call for 1st Time (7/2/17).

6/1/18: Example of an illegal/interference slide.
By contrast, Replay Review has overturned slide violation no-calls to interference-aided double plays before (in fact, such an overturned occurred Friday night in St. Louis as a Cardinals baserunner used his upper body to impede a Pirates middle infielder from turning a double play), but as portrayed above, the standard for the runner's legs is different, and more lenient, than that for the runner's arms (leg contact is legal below the knee, while throwing the arm is never legal).

To reiterate: the leg may be elevated to a height lower than the fielder's knee, but the upper body or arms cannot be used to initiate contact with the fielder.
Related Post: Force Play Slide Rule Makes First Appearance of 2017 (4/7/17).

NCAA FPSR's legal slide diagram.
NCAA/NFHS Reminder: In NCAA college and NFHS high school, Odor's slide is illegal even without the kick via the force play slide rule simply because Odor slid outside of the baseline directly between first and second base (aka "the channel") and into the fielder's protected area. These codes' "a slide is illegal if—the runner slashes or kicks the fielder with either leg" rule is a solid guide, as well.

SIDEBAR: A common alternative response when 6.01(j) doesn't directly apply is Rule 6.01(a)(5), which calls for interference when, "Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner," or Rule 5.09(a)(13) ("A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play").

That's a fine consideration, but remember that 1) a runner is allowed to continue to advance after being put out with no penalty of interference, and, 2) that means a runner between first and second base is allowed to slide after being put out, as long as the slide is legal, without fear of interference. Even if the runner "hinders or impedes a following play," said runner is not guilty of interference, as long as the runner is legitimately running the bases, which includes the recently-retired runner's engagement in a bona fide slide (Wendelstedt interpretation).

Click through to revisit the landmark Boston retired runner's interference no-call in which retired runner Matt Holliday's slide clearly—and legally—impeded the fielder's ability to pursue a baseball.
Related PostBoston File Protest Over Odd Interference No-Call (7/15/17)
Related PostMLB Denies Boston's Protest, Interference No-Call Upheld (7/17/17).

As for 5.09(a)(13) Comment (the "deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base" rule), Odor actually did reach and remain on second base, and, as stated above, never actually left the baseline (because he was notably to the right of the line to begin with). Because 5.09(a)(13) Comment instructs umpires to "See Rule 6.01(j)," we come full circle and start over, finding again that Odor's slide is bona fide, so on, and so forth.

It's tough to prove willful and deliberate interference when Odor's actions check all of the "bona fide" boxes and don't quite meet the criteria about "leaving the baseline" or failing to reach the base.

Can of Worms: The Angels, oddly enough, should be thankful 2B Umpire Chris Conroy didn't rule an automatic double play due to slide rule interference. If Texas challenged the call, there stands a chance it would be overturned—just as Replay Review did with Morales' call on Choo—and, if so, there stands a chance the batter-runner would be declared safe at first base due to the dead ball created at the time of interference. In this case, no call turned out to be the better strategic call from the home team's perspective, thanks in great part to Pujols' athleticism at first base.

Gil's Call: If applicable to the level of play, malicious contact may be a proper consideration for an umpire who judges that the runner intentionally or flagrantly kicked the fielder in a decidedly non-baseball play. For instance, NFHS 2-32-2d clearly makes kicking illegal, and it is up to the umpire's best judgment to determine whether this action is worthy of such MC ruling. For instance, the 2014 NFHS Points of Emphasis suggest "intentional excessive force" or "intent to injure" as possible considerations for malicious contact, but NFHS leaves the matter open to interpretation.

Precisely because NFHS leaves malicious contact open to interpretation, unlike OBR's willful and deliberate rule which has more hoops to jump through, it becomes easier for an umpire to conclude, "that's malicious."

For instance, it might be reasonable to conclude that sliding and kicking spikes up on a fielder's leg is malicious in NFHS (also illegal in NCAA 8-4c), but nothing violative in OBR because 6.01(j) specifically states that kicking above the knee is illegal.

This best be called interference in school ball.
If so ruled as malicious, it would be prudent to eject the offender for this unsportsmanlike act, especially if one were to view the runner's intentional kicking action as an attempt to injure the fielder.

In my view, under this framework, Odor's slide (despite its bona fide status at the professional level) is worse than Bryant's for the simple reason that Odor intentionally kicked Simmons, whereas Bryant recklessly slid into a defenseless catcher: With Bryant, I cannot conclusively gauge intent with regard to injury potential, but with Odor, the optics suggest nefariousness.

Unfortunately—or perhaps by intentional design—the professional baseball Rules Committee has opted to afford its runners the opportunity to intentionally contact a middle infielder (or fielder at another base, as appropriate) outside of the baseline during a double play attempt, as long as the runner's leg remains below the fielder's knee and no part of the upper body is used to intentionally contact the fielder.

This bona fide slide provision thereby comes across as a hybrid rule—somewhere in between old school "anything goes" baseball and the NCAA/NFHS force play slide rules. The big loophole, from my perspective, is allowing a runner to choose a pathway before the batted ball is fielded. That allows a runner like Odor to run well outside of the physical baseline and initiate legal contact with a fielder that, in all other codes of baseball, is decidedly illegal.

Maybe it's time for major league teams to order a bulk supply of shin guards.

Videos as follows:

Friday, June 1, 2018

UEFL's MLB Umpire Sabermetrics - May 2018

UEFL's MLB Umpire Sabermetrics report for May 2018 features 51 ejections and 478 Replay Reviews through 834 regular season games played (34.3% complete). Click here for last month's stats.

Though ejections are projected to decrease year-over-year, based on current rates, replays are projected to enjoy a modest increase.

The attached Most & Least Accurate Umpires, Replay Review contains the top and bottom of the Replay Review table ordinarily found in the "Read More" detailed section of the monthly report.

Related: Visit our Replay Review Statistics and Sabermetrics page for daily-updated umpire stats. This page includes Replay Review Rankings sorted by umpire, by team, and by call type. Daily ejections information is available at our Ejection List page.

Summary, Ejections.
>> 51 Total Regular Season Ejections through May 31, 2018 (on pace for 149 ejections this season).
>> Umpires were 63.2% accurate on calls associated with ejection.
>> The New York Yankees led MLB in ejections. The D'Backs/Padres led the National League.
>> Manager John Gibbons led MLB in ejections.
>> Umpire Brian Gorman led all umpires in ejections.
>> Chief Brian Gorman's crew led all umpire crews in ejections.
>> Most ejections occurred in the 3rd inning; Ejections from 7th and on comprised 43% of all tosses.
>> Most ejections occurred on Wednesday. Weekend series (Fri-Sun) featured 41% of all heave-ho's.
>> The most common reason for ejection was Balls/Strikes, followed by Fighting.
>> All else equal, a team tied at the time of ejection ended up winning the game 65.0% of the time.

Summary, Replay Reviews.
>> 478 Total Replay Reviews, of which calls were affirmed 51.7% of the time (48.3% overturned).
>> The Atlanta Braves used replay more than any other team, but were fairly unsuccessful.
>> The Kansas City Royals were the League's most successful team in review (13-for-15).
>> The BAL Orioles experienced fewer reviews than any other team, and were 29th best in MLB.
>> The San Diego Padres were the worst MLB team in terms of Replay success (2-for-14).
>> Umpires Danley, O'Nora & Wendelstedt were most reviewed.
>> Larry Vanover's crew led all of baseball in replay activity, and performed at league average.
>> Umpire Ben May led in accuracy with all calls affirmed by replay (4/4).
>> Umpire Phil Cuzzi experienced the highest rate of calls overturned by replay (0/5).
>> Umpire Angel Hernandez had the most number of calls overturned by replay (7 overturns).
>> The 8th inning had more reviews than any other inning. 44% of all reviews occurred from 7th-on.
>> Most reviews occurred on Saturday; Weekend series (Fri-Sun) featured 47% of all replays.
>> The most common reason for review was Out/Safe (Force - 1st) followed by Out/Safe (Tag - In).

Most & Least Accurate Umpires, Replay Review (sorted by Review Affirmation Percentage [RAP]).
1. Ben May - 100.0% RAP (4/4).
2. Gary Cederstrom - 100.0% RAP (3/3).
3. Tom Woodring - 100.0% RAP (2/2).
4. Chad Fairchild, Stu Scheurwater - 83.3% RAP (5/6).
6. Gerry Davis - 80.0% RAP (4/5).
7. Ted Barrett - 75.0% RAP (6/8).
8. Barber, Visconti, Tumpane, Estabrook, Rackley, Timmons - 75.0% RAP (3/4).
14. Hunter Wendelstedt - 72.7% RAP (8/11).
15. Ed Hickox, Gabe Morales - 71.4% RAP (5/7).
17. Kerwin Danley - 70.0% RAP (7/10).
---
73. Angel Hernandez - 30.0% RAP (3/10).
74. Tony Randazzo, Mike Winters - 28.6% RAP (2/7).
76. Sam Holbrook - 25.0% RAP (2/8).
77. Todd Tichenor - 25.0% RAP (1/4).
78. Tom Hallion, Quinn Wolcott - 20.0% RAP (1/5).
80. Jeff Kellogg, Jerry Meals - 14.3% RAP (1/7)
82. Brian Knight, John Libka, Shane Livensparger - 0.0% RAP (0/1).
85. Adam Hamari - 0.0% RAP (0/3).
86. Phil Cuzzi - 0.0% RAP (0/5).

Umpires with Fewest and Greatest # of Overturned Calls [NEW]
0 Overturned Calls: Gary Cederstrom, Ben May, Tom Woodring, Mike Everitt
1 Overturn: [Many Tied].
---
6 Overturns: Cooper, Holbrook, Kellogg, Meals, O'Nora, Ripperger.
7 Overturns: Angel Hernandez.

For detailed sabermetric analysis of MLB umpire ejections and instant replay review outcomes, including a Replay Review umpire leaderboard, follow the "read more" link below.

UEFL Case Play 2018-4 - Bicep of Bellino [Solved]

When plate umpire Dan Bellino caught a pitch in his right bicep in Colorado over the weekend, he called "Time" and awarded Reds runners an extra base, the makeshift arm/elbow/oblique "umpire's mitt" at home plate appearing to cause confusion as Rockies Manager Bud Black came out to ask why his opponent's baserunners were being advanced on a ball that never left the home plate area.

Bellino catches a 91-mph pitch & awards bases.
The Play: With none out and two on (R1, R2) in the top of the 8th inning of the Reds-Rockies game, Reds batter Joey Votto took a 1-2 fastball from Rockies pitcher Mike Dunn that eluded his catcher and nestled in the natural glove between Bellino's right arm and body, where it remained as Bellino immobilized his arm, called "Time" & carefully removed the slightly-stuck baseball.

Case Play Question: Amongst the several theories posited by the various broadcasters were balk, no pitch, and doesn't make sense because the umpire is part of the field of play. Indeed, both clubs' broadcasts treated the event as "no pitch" and kept the count at 1-2...even though the runners advanced ("I'm wondering why they automatically get to advance the base...isn't the umpire part of the field of play?").

Is this a lodged ball pursuant to the terms of Official Baseball Rule 5.06(c)(7) [see rules library, below], and is this a "no pitch" as the broadcasters surmised (what was Bellino signaling)? Why or why not, and what should the proper call be?

Answer: Because the ball wedged between the umpire's arm and body, and remained there, this can be considered a lodge in the umpire's paraphernalia. In general, a lodged ball is a ball that has both become stuck (in this case, in the umpire's paraphernalia), remains stuck, and is inaccessible to the defense.

A ball trapped in the umpire meets all criteria and, thus, is to be deemed lodged. Compare and contrast this play with last season's first Case Play, when a dropped third strike produced a pitched ball that stuck to the front of catcher Yadier Molina's chest protector, but remained readily accessible to the fielder throughout the play.
Related PostCase Play 2017-1 - A Baseball Made of Velcro [Solved] (4/10/17).

This play from 2017 was not a lodged ball.
Had Bellino immediately opened his arm and released the ball from his person, it would not be lodged, since it would not meet the "remains out of play" criterion. With a lodged ball, the proper call is "ball two," dead ball, and runners advance one base from time-of-pitch (or return if the lodge occurred on a foul ball, or if the runners had advanced more than one base from TOP when the ball became lodged).

The ruling is the same at all levels, but is different than handling a live ball, which would occur if the umpire voluntarily reaches for a live ball. In NCAA/OBR, the ball would remain live, while in NFHS, the ball would become dead.

Finally, Bellino's signal to both dugouts concerned the pitcher and indicated that the Rockies were not charged with a mound visit.

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 5.06(c)(7): "The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when—A pitched ball lodges in the umpire’s or catcher’s mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play, runners advance one base."

Video as follows:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Video Loss - Failure to Appeal Costs LA Run, Game

Philadelphia spoiled Clayton Kershaw's DL return, defeating Los Angeles 2-1 as the Dodgers failed to appeal that Maikel Franco missed home plate, an internal instant replay error that cost LA a run and, possibly, the game. Whether John Pratt, LA's video coordinator, Bench Coach Bob Geren, Manager Dave Roberts, or even catcher Yasmani Grandal failed to launch the appeal effort, the home team lost by just one run, signaling that in the expanded replay era, a failure to challenge can cost a team a win.

Dodgers staff failed to appeal Franco's touch.
The Play: With two out and two on (R1, R2) in the top of the 2nd inning, Phillies batter Jorge Alfaro hit a 1-1 curveball from Dodgers pitcher Kershaw to center fielder Bellinger, who threw to catcher Grandal as Phillies baserunner R2 Franco attempted to score. Replays indicate that although Grandal did tag Franco, he had dropped the ball well in advance of making contact, while Franco himself failed to touch home plate.

The Call: After surveying the situation, HP Umpire Will Little employed a "safe" mechanic. Although the Dodgers had the opportunity—and even effected a mound visit—with Aaron Nola set to bat, Los Angeles neglected to appeal Franco's failure to touch home plate before Kershaw threw his first pitch to Nola, thus cementing Franco's baserunning as legal and officially giving Philadelphia the first run of the ballgame.

The Rule: Official Baseball Rule 5.06(b)(1) describes the simple objective of a runner: "In advancing, a runner shall touch first, second, third and home base in order."

OBR 5.09(c)(2) and 5.09(c)(4) govern the relevant appeal and state, "Any runner shall be called out, on appeal, when—(2) 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..(4) He fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to that base, and home base is tagged."

Lest one thinks that Grandal simply stepping on home plate while holding the ball constitutes a valid appeal, the rulebook is very clear: it's not (Rule 5.09(c)(4) comment is as follows).
An appeal should be clearly intended as an appeal, either by a verbal request by the player or an act that unmistakably indicates an appeal to the umpire. A player, inadvertently stepping on the base with a ball in his hand, would not constitute an appeal.
Mechanical Analysis: The MiLB Umpire Development (PBUC) Umpire Manual expressly covers the case of a runner who misses home plate, while the MLB Umpire Manual merely suggests a course of action.

For illustration, the PBUC literature states, in part, "On a play at the plate, should the runner miss home plate and the fielder miss the tag on the runner, the umpire shall make no signal on the play. As outlined in the previous paragraph, the runner must then be tagged if he attempts to return to the plate; if he continues on his way to the bench, the defense may make an appeal."

Little signals "safe" as Grandal steps on home.
The MLB Umpire Manual is very similar to PBUC, with one glaring difference (highlighted in blue): "...should the runner miss home plate and the fielder miss the tag on the runner, it is preferable that the umpire make no signal on the play."

In other words, this is a mandatory mechanic at lower levels ("shall") , but not at the Major League level ("preferable"): Little's mechanics, thus, are not inherently correct nor incorrect, since MLBUM suggests, but does not require, the demonstration of no signal on this play.

To illustrate further, only a mechanic of "out" here without a tag and without a proper appeal would be conclusively and strictly incorrect. After all, the runner is technically not out until and unless a proper appeal is executed.

Play Analysis: Mechanics aside, the rules and manuals place the onus on recognizing that a runner has missed home plate on the defense ("The defense is required to recognize that the plate has been missed"). Though more astute teams and players may understand that no mechanic from the plate umpire generally signifies a missed base and missed tag, those with an even greater understanding of the rules realize that the option to appeal is never nullified by an umpire's real-time call (especially in the expanded replay era).

The defense always retains the opportunity to timely and properly appeal prior to an ensuing play (pitch) or attempted play—an umpire's "safe" mechanic doesn't change nor prevent that.

And regardless of what Little's mechanic was or wasn't, the Dodgers had ample time to review the play and opt to file an appeal...yet the home team failed to do both.

Franco runs through and past home plate.
Accordingly, we have no way of knowing for certain (as it should be) whether Little would have ruled Franco out on appeal for missing home plate or if this would have resulted in a Manager's Challenge, meaning that Replay Review Regulation V.F.3. had no chance of coming into play ("The Replay Official shall rule the runner "safe" at home plate unless the defensive Manager appeals the failure of the runner to touch home plate prior to the Crew Chief making contact with the Replay Official").

Conclusion: Just as Replay HQ missed a call earlier this week, Los Angeles' internal replay staff missed a call here. The only difference is that in failing to appeal Franco's non-touch, Los Angeles conceded an undeserved run to Philadelphia, eventually losing the game by just one.

Mechanically speaking, while it is preferable to make no signal, MLB allows its umpires the opportunity to declare the runner safe, be it "safe—no tag" or, simply, "safe" on its own.

In the minors, however, unless the "safe" ruling is on potential obstruction/interference or a swipe tag away from the base (or, naturally, that the runner has touched home plate before being tagged), the umpire "shall make no signal on the play."

No, there was no interference nor obstruction on this play.

Injury Scout - Marty Foster Out in Detroit

Three innings after a foul ball struck his facemask, Marty Foster left Thursday's assignment due to injury.

Head hit stuns HP Umpire Marty Foster in Detroit.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning of the Angels-Tigers game, Tigers batter Pete Kozma fouled a first-pitch 91.7-mph sinker from Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney into the the center portion of Marty Foster's traditional-style facemask.

Foster remained in the contest following the traumatic hit, but left the game in the middle of the 6th inning as 2B Umpire and Crew Chief Greg Gibson took over behind home plate, leaving 1B Umpire Mark Ripperger and 3B Umpire Doug Eddings to work the bases.

Relevant Injury History: In June 2015, Foster exited a game in New York following a foul ball injury to the chin area. Similar to Thursday in Detroit, Foster completed the half-inning during which the injury occurred before leaving the game during a subsequent inning break.
Related PostMarty Foster Leaves Game on Foul Ball Injury (6/16/15).

Last Game: May 31 | Return to Play: June 25 | Time Absent: 24 Days | Video as follows:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Revenge - Benches Clear After Pirates Slide vs Cubs

Benches cleared in Pittsburgh, days after Chicago's Anthony Rizzo illegally slid into Pirates catcher Elias Diaz on Monday, resulting in Manager Clint Hurdle ejection for arguing umpire Bill Welke's interference no-call and New York's erroneous ruling that the slide was bona fide, as the Pirates exacted a measure of revenge Wednesday evening, when a Bucks baserunner slid hard into second base during an unsuccessful Cubs double play attempt.
Related PostMLB Ejection 051 - Mark Carlson (1; Clint Hurdle) (5/28/18).
Related PostSource - MLB Admits Rizzo Slide Was Illegal, Interference (5/29/18).

Welke rules no interference on hard slide.
The Play: With none out and one on (R1) in the bottom of the 3rd inning of Wednesday's Cubs-Pirates game, Pirates batter Josh Harrison hit a ground ball to Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who threw to second baseman Javier Baez as Pirates baserunner R1 Joe Musgrove slid into second base, resulting in a collision between the two players. As he did Monday, 2B Umpire Bill Welke ruled on the force play and declined to call interference, thus allowing batter-runner Harrison to remain at first base...and resulting in a bench-clearing incident.

Replay Review: Upon request from Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, Crew Chief Gerry Davis consulted Replay Review, which informed him that the play was not reviewable (officially an umpires' rules check)

Analysis: As we did Monday, let' review Musgrove's slide for bone fide legality pursuant to Rule 6.01(j):
(1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base [YES];
(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot [YES];
(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide [NO];
(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder [YES].

Accordingly, Musgrove's slide was not bona fide because he failed to remain on the base after completion of his slide.

HOWEVER: If Wednesday's slide was not bona fide, then why was no double play declared?

Answer: Replays indicate that after tagging second base, 2B Baez did not attempt to throw onto first to play on batter-runner Harrison. Because he did not attempt to complete a play on the following runner, Rule 6.01(j) regarding bona fide slides does not apply, meaning there was no call to review or overturn. If 6.01(j) does not apply, the play is not reviewable for that reason alone.

Pursuant to a 2016 rule interpretation put out by MLB, the standard when considering Rule 6.01(j) is whether the fielder is "hindered and impeded [in his] ability to complete a double play." If there is no attempt to complete a double play, then there can be no hindrance or interference, which makes no-call the correct call. See the following link for a related slide rule interference no-call that was not reviewable because the fielder did not throw to first.
Related PostMLB Ejection 010 - Alan Porter (3; Brian Butterfield) (4/21/17).
Related Post: MLB Adds Impediment to Bona Fide Slide Rule Interp (5/18/16).

Video as follows:

Manfred Talks Robot Umps - Tech is "Way Up"

Echoing 2017 comments downplaying opposition to an electronic strike zone as a replacement for the home plate umpire's pitch-calling role, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred painted a picture welcoming robot umpires, explaining that improving technology has led to greater accuracy and consistency in the computers' own pitch-calling abilities.

Manfred in 2017 initially stated that he opposed implementation of an electronic strike zone during live play, but appeared to conduct an about-face just days later, explaining that when computer accuracy surpasses human umpire accuracy regarding balls and strikes, it might be time to think of a change.
Related PostVirtual Reality for Umpires & Manfred's Strike Zone (8/24/17).

Video: Ump Show Video Game (4/1/18). Coming soon?
Explained Manfred this season, "The accuracy is what up—way better than what it was a year ago. The technology continues to move...and it actually moved a little faster than I might have thought."

The precise numbers—other than the human umpires' greater-than-95% accuracy figure—were not disclosed, though, in an apparent, though potentially inadvertent, snub and potshot at SMT Sportvision, which this year sued MLBAM alleging it stole PITCHf/x technology in the use of Statcast and Trackman pitch tracking services, Manfred said that, "we have worked very hard on PITCHf/x": not MLBAM's "PITCHcast," not Statcast...but SMT Sportvision's product name, "PITCHf/x."

According to SMT/Sportvision's lawsuit, MLBAM breached its contract by continuing to reap the benefits of PITCHf/x under the rebranded title PITCHcast, without compensating SMT for its proprietary technology and trade secrets, also constituting theft and patent infringement.
Related PostPitch f/x SMT Sportvision Sues MLBAM for StatCast 'Theft' (5/21/18).

Rob Manfred praised pitch-tracking technology.
Manfred's comments seems to have gotten some players thinking: after hearing Manfred's praise of electronic strike zone technology, Boston media reported that pitchers David Price and Drew Pomeranz "are curious about [the] possibility." Said Price, "It would be a consistent strike so that's good. But it would be kind of weird at first. I like having the umpire. I understand how tough the job they have to do is, especially the guys behind home plate."

Pomeranz didn't want to take human umpires entirely out of the equation either, and proposed a compromise: "I could see them going to some kind of hybrid."

Added reliever Heath Hembree, "At the end of the day everything evens out with an umpire behind the plate now and it'll still even out with a robot."


Gil's Call: Not withstanding arguments concerning the art of pitch framing or how a myriad of "expected" calls will no longer be called as "expected" if technology makes its way behind the plate, the premise of judging accuracy relative to an electronic strike zone is somewhat flawed, with a heavy dose of circular logic. The problem with judging human and computer strike zone accuracy is, largely, one and the same.

Pitch f/x, Zone Evaluation, Statcast, Trackman, and PITCHcast are all cut from the same elemental cloth: at each product's basic level, there is an underlying reliance on electronic measurement and adjudication based on algorithms and other computing properties.

Accordingly, we're asking a computer to grade both humans and to grade itself. While having a computer grade humans is an acceptable, albeit flawed, practice, asking a computer to grade itself exposes and compounds the holes and errors in the technology itself—how is a computer to know when it has missed a pitch if it thinks it got the call right in the first place? By the same token, how is a human umpire to know when he has missed a pitch if the umpire thinks the pitch was correctly called in the first place?

The answer is a blend of human-and-tech, which MLB first attempted to solve with QuesTec, then Zone Evaluation, and now, whatever they want to call that which is being contested in SMT's lawsuit.

When MLB adopted Statcast, the vertical errors only increased.
Graph: FiveThirtyEight.
For instance, the computer's accuracy Manfred refers to may pertain to the horizontal bounds of the strike zone—whether the pitch nicked the inner/outer edge of home plate or not—but the computer still doesn't have a great idea of how to measure the vertical properties of the zone: while the horizontal variable of home plate remains constant at 17" across + two 2.94" diameters of a baseball (= 22.88" working strike zone), the vertical varies at-bat to at-bat, and even pitch to pitch (right now, the computer uses "averages" and generally fails to adjust these average sz_bot and sz_top values once a game has begun, no matter how the appropriate batting stance evolves over the course of nine innings).

Still, the data refutes Manfred's claim of "way up" accuracy—see accompanying graph for details.

Based on what happened to vertical error when MLB changed PITCHf/x to PITCHcast in 2017 (error increased significantly), Manfred's claim that the technology is "way up" in accuracy may, itself, be misleading: if Manfred is comparing "a year ago" to the 2018 season, since we have no publically-distributed figures for 2018, Manfred could theoretically refer to a decrease in vertical error caused in the first place by MLB's own decision to switch from PITCHf/x to PITCHcast—a net gain/loss of zero when compared to 2016 and PITCHf/x.

The claims are far too vague to mean all that much.

Then there's the 3D zone and other issues of error we've discussed ad nauseam, but the overarching theme and conclusion here is that the electronic vertical strike zone still needs a lot of work.
Related PostDude, What Happened Last Night? About Pitch f/x Error (8/30/16).
Related PostAnalyzing Strike Zone Analysis - Not So Easy or Simple (10/27/16).

One of these days, they'll surely figure it out, but we're certainly not there yet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Source - MLB Admits Rizzo Slide Was Illegal, Interference

A Major League Baseball source confirmed precisely what we wrote yesterday: that MLB's Replay Official failed to overturn Monday's bona fide slide rule interference no-call in Pittsburgh, finding that Cubs runner Anthony Rizzo's force play slide on Pirates catcher Elias Diaz was illegal, did not meet all four criteria for that of a legal bona fide slide, and should have been deemed interference.

In verifying that the League considered Monday's Replay Review decision an incorrect outcome, the unnamed source told ESPN that both teams had been informed of the league's bona fide mistake and that Rizzo and Chicago batter-runner Chris Gimenez should have both been ruled out.
Related Post (and Video)MLB Ejection 051 - Mark Carlson (1; Clint Hurdle) (5/28/18).

This is simply the latest in a string of Replay Review controversies.

> In April 2018, Tigers Manager Ron Gardenhire claimed that MLB admitted it erred when a Replay Official overturned a safe call at home plate. In response to Detroit's claim that MLB admitted wrongdoing—namely that the review took too long (three-and-a-half minute) and that the play was overturned despite a lack of clear and convincing video evidence—the League put out its own statement in which it disputed Gardenhire's account, stating that the Replay Official made the correct call, and used conclusive evidence to do so.
Related PostTigers Feud with MLB Over Alleged Replay Wrongdoing (4/2/18).

> In September 2017, MLB admitted it botched a home run Replay Review in San Francisco, incorrectly ruling that a batted ball that would have hit the green metal roof in fair territory in AT&T Park's right field area if not for a fan's touch was not a home run, thus overturning 1B Umpire Tom Woodring's on-field ruling of "home run." The proper call was Woodring's original call of "home run."
Related PostMLB Admits HR Replay Error in Giants Game (9/1/17).
Related PostReplay Review, Ground Rules, and Levi's Landing (9/1/17).

> In August 2017, 2B Umpire Mike Everitt ejected Yankees Manager Joe Girardi for arguing a bona fide slide rule interference no-call affirmed as legal by Replay Review. The call concerned Mariners baserunner R1 Jean Segura, who slid into second base with his arms raised and having appeared to deviate from his direct pathway to second base in order to interfere with Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious' subsequent throw to first base. Despite the Replay Official's decision that the play should stand as legal, the UEFL Appeals Board reviewed and determined in a 6-3 ruling that the interference no-call was itself an incorrect call.
Related PostMLB Ejection 153 - Mike Everitt (3; Joe Girardi) (8/27/17).

> In May 2017, MLB admitted its staff improperly failed to accept for Replay Review Boston's Manager's Challenge pertaining to the issue of whether a pitched ball hit the batter or missed him entirely (dead ball strike vs. no touch), despite the on-field crew's attempt to review the play. After the game, the League issued a statement explaining that the Replay Official and Replay Supervisor both misinterpreted the call on the field and thus incorrectly determined the reviewable play to be non-reviewable. MLB's statement declined to state what the misinterpretation was.
Related PostMLB Admits Error on Swinging HBP Strike Non-Review (5/26/17).

Monday, May 28, 2018

MLB Ejection 051 - Mark Carlson (1; Clint Hurdle)

1B Umpire Mark Carlson ejected Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle (Replay Review decision that affirmed HP Umpire Bill Welke's bona fide slide rule violation no-call on force play at home plate; QOCN) in the top of the 8th inning of the Cubs-Pirates game. With none out and the bases loaded, Cubs batter Chris Gimenez hit a 1-0 fastball from Pirates pitcher Kyle Crick on the ground to shortstop Sean Rodriguez, who threw to catcher Elias Diaz to force out Cubs baserunner R3 Anthony Rizzo, as Diaz attempted to throw to first base, resulting in a throwing error that allowed Cubs baserunners R2 Javier Baez and R1 Kyle Schwarber to score as batter-runner Gimenez advanced to second base. Upon Replay Review as the result of a challenge by Pirates Manager Hurdle, HP Umpire Welke's ruling that Cubs runner R3 Rizzo did not violate the slide interference rule was affirmed (call stands). Replays indicate baserunner Rizzo, by virtue of changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with catcher Diaz, did not engage in a bona fide slide, the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Cubs were leading, 5-0. The Cubs ultimately won the contest, 7-0.

This is Mark Carlson (6)'s first ejection of 2018.
Mark Carlson now has -1 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Prev + 2 MLB - 2 Incorrect-Crewmate = -1).
Crew Chief Mark Carlson now has -2 points in Crew Division (-2 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = -2).
RelatedMLB Ejection 153 - Mike Everitt (3; Joe Girardi) (8/27/17; another QOCN bona fide slide Replay).
RelatedVideo Analysis of New Bona Fide Slide FPSR Rule 6.01(j) (3/1/16; primer on this rule).

*Official Baseball Rule 6.01(j) governs slide rule interference and requires a runner to engage in a bona fide slide when sliding to bases on double play attempts. This includes home plate. The four criteria with which to determine whether a runner has engaged in a bona fide slide are (as pertains to Rizzo, green highlighting indicates he has satisfied the criterion, while red indicates a violation):
(1) begins his slide (i.e., makes contact with the ground) before reaching the base [YES];
(2) is able and attempts to reach the base with his hand or foot [YES];
(3) is able and attempts to remain on the base (except home plate) after completion of the slide [YES; N/A];
(4) slides within reach of the base without changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder [NO].

Gil's Call: Replay Review clearly erred here.
Gil's Call: In order to adjudicate this play, one must see the entirety of the replay that begins when Rizzo first commenced his run toward home plate—shortly after the shortstop fields the ball. This requires rewinding the tape to far in advance of the clip provided by the Cubs' deficient broadcast. Replays conclusively indicate that Rizzo's pathway to home plate placed him parallel to, and on the foul side of, the third base foul line. When Rizzo began his slide, he vaulted into fair territory and toward the catcher, clearly changing his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder. This is textbook slide rule interference and a very concerning missed call by the Replay Official. UIC Welke is 1BL extended for the force, which is fine, and why he might have not seen this in real-time. This needs to be picked up on Replay Review and indicates perhaps that more training is needed or, if baseball wants this slide to stay in the game legally, it requires a revision to the rule. One or the other: under present Rule 6.01(j), this is interference.

At the college level, the force play slide rule (NCAA 8-4) makes this really simple ("On any force play, the runner must slide on the ground before the base and in a direct line between the two bases"). Because Rizzo didn't slide directly to the base (the rule also requires his body to fit within the confines of the baseline, which it clearly does not), he and batter Gimenez would be out for FPSR interference under the NCAA code (other runners return to bases of origin).
Related PostNCAA CWS - Force Play Slide Rule Negates LSU Run (6/27/17).

Iso: Rizzo's pathway begins in foul territory.
At the high school level, in addition to the requirement that, "on a force play, [a runner] slide in a direct line between bases" (NFHS 8-4-2-b), a plate umpire additionally may wish to consider whether a slide such as Rizzo's qualifies as malicious contact due to intentional excessive force and/or intent to injure, in the runner's attempt to break up a double play. Offensive malicious contact, by rule, is automatically interference. Though I don't believe the contact herein is malicious, it is reckless and/or negligent, and should be called interference, placing out both the runner (out on the force) and batter (out on interference) and requiring the remaining runners return to their bases of origin.

Conclusion: Because Rizzo failed to satisfy the fourth criterion of the Bona Fide Slide Rule, he committed interference with intent to break up a double play—at all levels, this should be called (either bona fide slide rule interference [pro], or FPSR interference [NCAA/NFHS]). The penalty for bona fide slide interference at the professional level is as follows (per Rule 6.01(j)):
If the umpire determines that the runner violated this Rule 6.01(j), the umpire shall declare both the runner and batter-runner out. Note, however, that if the runner has already been put out then the runner on whom the defense was attempting to make a play shall be declared out.
*IMPORTANT: This is not a violation of the home plate collision rule for one simple reason: "This Rule 6.01(i)(2) [the home plate collision rule] shall not apply to force plays at home plate."

This is the 51st ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 22nd Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Pittsburgh's 2nd ejection of 2018, 3rd in the NL Central (CHC, MIL 3; PIT 2; CIN, STL 0).
This is Clint Hurdle's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since April 26 (Mike Winters; QOC = Y [Out of Base Path]).
This is Mark Carlson's first ejection since June 13, 2016 (Robin Ventura; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, 5/28/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejections 049-50 - Mark Ripperger (1-2; LAA x2)

HP Umpire Mark Ripperger ejected Angels C Martin Maldonado and Manager Mike Scioscia (strike three call; QOCY) in the top of the 7th inning of the Angels-Tigers game. With one out and one on (R1), Maldonado took a 1-2 fastball from Tigers pitcher Louis Coleman for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px -.373, pz 1.456 [sz_bot 1.535 / RAD 1.413]), and that all preceding pitches during the at-bat were properly officiated, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Tigers were leading, 5-0. The Tigers ultimately won the contest, 9-3.

These are Mark Ripperger (90)'s 1st and 2nd ejections of 2018.
Mark Ripperger now has 5 points in the UEFL Standings (-3 Prev + 2*[2 MLB + 2 Correct Call] = 5).
Crew Chief Greg Gibson now has 3 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 2 Correct Call = 3).
*This pitch was located 1.518 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

These are the 49th and 50th ejections of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 24th player ejection of 2018. Prior to ejection, Maldonado was 0-2 (SO) in the contest.
This is the 21st Manager ejection of 2018.
This is LA-AL's 2/3rd ejection of 2018, 1st in the AL West (LAA 3; HOU, SEA 2; TEX 1; OAK 0).
This is Martin Maldonado's first career MLB ejection.
This is Mike Scioscia's first ejection since September 9, 2017 (David Rackley; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Mark Ripperger's first ejection since September 1, 2017 (Ryan Braun; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Detroit Tigers, 5/28/18 | Video as follows:

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Featured Minor Ejection - Jones & Ump Thurmond

A CanAm League ejection and bench-clearing incident precipitated by a balk & catcher's interference no-call featured an animated discussion between umpire Tyler Thurmond and Miners Manager Bobby Jones, much finger pointing, and a helmet thrown from the dugout at the home plate ump during, what Sussex County promotes as, Family Fun Sunday. Oh, and the benches cleared, too.

Video: Jones & Thurmond argue a call.
With two out and two on (R1, R3) in the bottom of the 8th inning of the Ottawa Champions-Sussex County Miners game, Miners batter Christian Correa took a 1-1 pitch from Champions pitcher Tyler Knigge for a called second ball, resulting in argument and ejection as Miners Manager and 3B Coach Jones contended that Champions catcher Tyler Nordgren had interfered and/or that Knigge had balked.

Replays indicate that while Knigge legally completed his delivery through release from the pitcher's plate, catcher Nordgren stepped in front of home plate without possession of the ball, and caught the pitch entirely on the infield side of the front edge of home plate; this is catcher's interference, the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the Miners were leading, 11-10. The Miners ultimately won the contest, 12-11.

Related Yet Different: Earlier this season (May 6, 2018), Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada delivered a 0-2 pitch to Rays batter CJ Cron as baserunner R3 Mallex Smith attempted to steal home. Replays indicate that Blue Jays catcher jumped the delivery and caught Estrada's pitch before it travelled through the strike zone, and, in doing so, interfered with Cron's opportunity to receive Estrada's pitch. Although this should have resulted in a balk and catcher's interference ruling pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.01(g), it was incorrectly ruled a legal pitch (a called first ball, even though the pitch was located in the strike zone [not legally, just positionally]), and an inning-ending caught stealing.
Related PostCase Play 2018-3 - No Strike, No Balk, No Steal [Solved] (5/10/18).

As stated above, a catcher may not jump in front of home plate during a pitch without possession of the ball: this is catcher's interference and, if a runner on third is attempting to advance, a balk. Corresponding OBR 6.01(g) states:
If, with a runner on third base and trying to score by means of a squeeze play or a steal, the catcher or any other fielder steps on, or in front of home base without possession of the ball, or touches the batter or his bat, the pitcher shall be charged with a balk, the batter shall be awarded first base on the interference and the ball is dead.
If, as in the Thurmond/Jones ejection CanAm play, the runner from third did not try to score (and the defense merely thought [incorrectly] that the runner was trying to steal), this is catcher's interference, but not a 6.01(g) balk since the rule's chief criterion ("trying to score") was not satisfied.

The relevant rule for catcher's interference is OBR 5.05(b)(3):
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when—The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play...
CI occurs when a fielder "hinders or prevents a batter from hitting a pitch" (Definitions/Interference), while a pitch is "delivered to the batter by the pitcher." If the catcher interrupts completion of a pitch by preventing the ball from getting to the batter, it is catcher's interference because the batter has been deprived of his free choice.

Wrap: Ottawa Champions vs. Sussex County Miners (CanAm League), 5/27/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 048 - Tony Randazzo (1; AJ Hinch)

HP Umpire Tony Randazzo ejected Astros Manager AJ Hinch (strike three call; QOCN) in the top of the 6th inning of the Astros-Indians game. With none out and one on (R1), Astros batter Alex Bregman took a 2-2 fastball from Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located off the outer edge of home plate and waist-high (px 1.089, pz 2.667), after which Randazzo called three consecutive balls to ensuing batter Jose Altuve, the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Indians were leading, 3-1. The Indians ultimately won the contest, 10-9, in 14 innings.

This is Tony Randazzo (11)'s first ejection of 2018.
Tony Randazzo now has -3 points in the UEFL Standings (-1 Prev + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = -3).
Crew Chief Bill Welke now has -1 points in Crew Division (-1 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = -1).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
*The 2-2 pitch was located 2.100 horizontal inches from being deemed a correct call.

This is the 48th ejection of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 20th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Houston's 2nd ejection of 2018, T-1st in the AL West (HOU, SEA 2; LAA, TEX 1; OAK 0).
This is AJ Hinch's first ejection since September 24, 2017 (Will Little; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).
This is Tony Randazzo's first ejection since August 10, 2015 (Pat Murphy; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Indians, 5/27/18 | Video as follows: