Saturday, August 4, 2018

MLB Ejection 110 - Andy Fletcher (4; Tucker Barnhart)

HP Umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart (ball two call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 5th inning of the Reds-Nationals game. With none out and none on, Nationals batter Matt Adams took two fastballs from Reds pitcher Matt Harvey for called and second balls before hitting the next pitch for a home run. Replays indicate the first called ball was located off the plate (px 1.910) and the second called ball was located below the hollow of the batter's knee (pz 1.596 [sz_bot 1.7]), the call was correct.* At time of the ejection, the Nationals were leading, 5-2. The Nationals ultimately won the contest, 6-2.

This is Andy Fletcher (49)'s fourth ejection of 2018.
Andy Fletcher now has 4 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 4).
Crew Chief Jeff Nelson now has 3 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 3).
*This pitch was located 3.72 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 110th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 52nd player ejection of 2018. Prior to ejection, Barnhart was 0-2 (SO) in the contest.
This is Cincinnati's 3rd ejection of 2018, 3rd in the NL Central (CHC 6; MIL 4; CIN 3; PIT 2; STL 1).
This is Tucker Barnhart's first career MLB ejection.
This is Andy Fletcher's 4th ejection of 2018, 1st since July 22 (Cameron Maybin; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals (Game 2), 8/4/18 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 109 - Jerry Meals (3; Rick Renteria)

1B Umpire Jerry Meals ejected White Sox Manager Rick Renteria (Replay Review decision that upheld 2B Umpire Ed Hickox's out call; QOCN) in the top of the 5th inning of the White Sox-Rays game. With one out and one on (R1), White Sox batter Omar Narvaez hit a ground ball to Rays second baseman Joey Wendle, who threw to shortstop Willy Adames to first baseman Jake Bauers for a double play. Upon Replay Review as the result of a Manager's Challenge by Renteria, Hickox's ruling that Adames tagged second base prior to baserunner R1 Yolmer Sanchez's arrival stood. Replays indicate Adames did not appear to field Wendle's throw and tag second base prior to Sanchez's first touch of the base, the call was incorrect. Ruling was reviewed and affirmed by the UEFL Appeals Board (7-0-2), the call was incorrect. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 1-1. The White Sox ultimately won the contest, 2-1.

This is Jerry Meals (41)'s third ejection of 2018.
Jerry Meals now has 2 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Prev + 2 MLB - 2 Incorrect-Crewmate = 2).
Crew Chief Jerry Meals now has 4 points in Crew Division (4 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 4).

This is the 109th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 46th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Chicago-AL's 7th ejection of 2018, 1st in the AL Central (CWS 7; KC 4; DET, MIN 3; CLE 1).
This is Rick Renteria's 5th ejection of 2018, 1st since July 27 (Fieldin Culbreth; QOC = N [Check Swing]).
This is Jerry Meals' 3rd ejection of 2018, 1st since July 14 (Aaron Boone; QOC = Y-C [Dead Ball K3]).

Wrap: Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 8/4/18 | Video as follows:

Friday, August 3, 2018

MLB Ejection 108 - Adam Hamari (2; Alex Cora)

HP Umpire Adam Hamari ejected Red Sox Manager Alex Cora (warnings/non-ejection on high-and-inside fastball; QOCU) in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Yankees-Red Sox game. With none out and none on, Red Sox batter Mookie Betts took a first-pitch fastball from Yankees pitcher Luis Severino high-and-inside for a called first ball, resulting in warnings. Replays indicate the pitch was located near Betts' upper right shoulder and neck area, the call was irrecusable.* At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Red Sox ultimately won the contest, 4-1.

This is Adam Hamari (78)'s 2nd ejection of 2018.
Adam Hamari now has 2 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Prev + 2 MLB + Irrecusable Call = 2).
Crew Chief Phil Cuzzi now has 1 point in Crew Division (0 Previous + 1 Irrecusable Call = 1).
*Per MLB Standards for Removal policy, leaving the dugout to argue warnings is an automatic ejection.

This is the 108th ejection report of the 2018 MLB regular season.
This is the 45th Manager ejection of 2018.
This is Boston's 3rd ejection of 2018, T-3rd in the AL East (NYY 7; TOR 6; BAL, BOS 3; TB 1).
This is Alex Cora's first ejection since August 25, 2017 (Laz Diaz; QOC = U [USC-NEC]).
This is Adam Hamari's 2nd ejection of 2018, 1st since July 14 (Rick Renteria; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).

Wrap: New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox, 8/3/18 | Video as follows:

Prohibited Pitching Change? Mound Visits & Pinch Hitters

Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo was improperly denied a pitching change during Thursday night's game against the San Francisco Giants, crew chief Bill Welke telling a pool reporter that Arizona should have been permitted to substitute pitcher Brad Ziegler with TJ McFarland, according to D'Backs writer Zach Buchanan.

Umpires may have gotten a rule wrong in ARI.
In this edition of Ask the UEFL, we figure out what happened in Phoenix and what interpretation did the crew apparently get wrong?

Preliminaries: Baseball's pitching change rules are quite complex, which explains, in part, why a rules misapplication pertaining to this specific portion of the rulebook is possible.

To make things slightly easier, we've created a decision tree graphic for Rule 5.10, which anyone can use to answer the question, "Can I Change My Pitcher?"

The Play: With one out and two on (R1, R2) in the top of the 8th inning of the Giants-D'Backs game, Diamondbacks pitcher Ziegler surrendered a single to Giants batter Gorkys Hernandez to load the bases. Following the conclusion of play, Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Butcher visited the mound, after which San Francisco inserted Alen Hanson into the game to pinch hit for regularly-scheduled batter Chase d'Arnaud.

For those keeping score, Ziegler is a right-handed pitcher, d'Arnaud is a right-handed batter, and Hanson is a switch hitter. For SF, it would be more advantageous to put Hanson in the game to face Ziegler, and for ARI, it may have been more advantageous to replace Ziegler with a substitute.

Click the image to access the decision tree.
Lovullo exited his dugout shortly thereafter, purportedly looking to respond to San Francisco's substitution with a pitching change, but was allegedly told by HP Umpire Tony Randazzo that he could not substitute his pitcher.

The Rule: Official Baseball Rule 5.10 is entitled Substitutions and Pitching Change (Including Visits to the Mound) and covers this play.

The following discussion pertains to 5.10's relevance to this play, or you can click the corresponding decision tree graphic to see the relevant process in determining whether this is a legal pitching change request.

5.10(l)(3) is the rule Welke and his crew enforced in Arizona: "The manager or coach is prohibited from making a second visit to the mound while the same batter is at bat, but"

Technically speaking, Butcher visited the mound while d'Arnaud/Hanson's spot was at-bat. If 5.10(l)(3) was the totality of the rule, the umpires would be correct in prohibiting Lovullo's substitution request.

ARI has a mound visit upon d'Arnaud's at-bat.
However, there exists 5.10(l)(4)—which makes the terminal portion of provision (3) (", but") look less like a grammatical error and more like a deliberate attempt to draw attention to (4)—"if a pinch hitter is substituted for this batter, the manager or coach may make a second visit to the mound, but must remove the pitcher from the game."

5.10(l) Comment states that a manager who attempts to circumvent 5.10(l)(3) regarding a second visit to the same pitcher while the same batter is at-bat shall be warned to stop and if he continues through the umpire's order, the manager shall be removed from the game (e.g., ejected) and the pitcher required to pitch to the batter presently at-bat until the at-bat's conclusion, after which the pitcher shall be substituted for.

Hanson's PH entrance allows for a 2nd visit.
Obviously, the aforementioned 5.10(l) Comment does not apply here, since 5.10(l)(4) takes precedence over 5.10(l)(3), as a pitch-hitter was announced.

History: MLB has a history of improper application of Rule 5.10(l), formerly 8.06—it's a tricky rule!

In 2013, Tim McClelland's crew improperly required Dodgers pitcher Jonathan Broxton to leave the game immediately instead of forcing him to face the batter then-at-bat after Dodgers manager Don Mattingly made a second visit to the mound during the same at-bat (with no pinch hitter in the interim).
Related PostMound Visit Madness and MLB Rule 8.06(c) (7/10/13).

And in May of that year, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia protested a game against Houston after Fieldin Culbreth's crew improperly allowed Astros Manager Bo Porter to replace his relief pitcher in response to Anaheim's Los Angeles' decision to bring in a pinch hitter (by rule, a substitute pitcher newly introduced into the game must face a batter, even if the batter is a pinch hitter...a pitcher already in the game may be removed during or prior to such at-bat).
Related PostAngels Protest After Wright Exits Without Throwing a Pitch (5/9/13).

Conclusion: According to Buchanan, Welke's admission of error corresponds to the explanation and analysis provided above: a team cannot make a second mound visit during the at-bat unless the batter is replaced with a pinch hitter, in which case the defense can make a second mound visit, but must remove the pitcher from the game.

Taking it a step further, if the offense decided to replace its pinch hitter with another pinch hitter from the bench (which the team at-bat is legally allowed to do), the defense would not be permitted to replace its pitcher: a new pitcher into the game must face a batter (we learned this with the Angels protest in 2013). Since Ziegler was a pitcher already in the game, he should have been permitted to be removed as soon as San Francisco substituted Hanson for d'Arnaud.

Whereas Scioscia protested his game (it was a moot point—the Angels won), Lovullo did not protest Thursday night's game against San Francisco.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Injury Scout - Guccione Leaves Game on Foul to Mask

Chris Guccione left Wednesday's Cubs-Pirates game due to a foul ball injury to the jaw/face.

PIT catcher Francisco Cervelli holds up Gooch.
In the top of the 3rd inning, Cubs batter Jason Heyward fouled a 1-2 93.6-mph fastball from Pirates pitcher Steven Brault into the lower portion of Guccione's traditional-style facemask.

Guccione remained in the contest through Heyward and subsequent batter Javier Baez's at-bats, upon which he left the game, 2B Umpire Ed Hickox taking over behind the plate with 1B Umpire Ramon De Jesus and 3B Umpire and Crew Chief Jerry Meals remaining in the field.

Relevant Injury History: Guccione left the May 26, 2016 Diamondbacks-Pirates game, also in Pittsburgh, after a foul ball struck the jaw and chin portion of his facemask.

Last Game: August 1 | Return to Play: August 13 | Time Absent: 11 Days  | Video as follows:

Ask UEFL - About Close Call Sports' Strike Zone QOC

In today's mailbag, we found a question asking about our unique way of calculating Quality of Correctness for pitches—balls or called strikes. Sometimes, our QOC doesn't seem to match with what's seen on TV, BrooksBaseball, or another visual strike zone box/display. Which computer is best at calling balls and strikes anyway, and why is our site so umpire-friendly?

A pitch .03" into the strike zone is a strike.
It all goes back to the mission of Close Call Sports and the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League: to objectively track and analyze close calls in sport with great regard for the rules and spirit of the game.

The way a strike zone box seen on a television broadcast, Statcast (f/k/a Pitch f/x), or even Brooks Baseball's standard plot works is to convert a baseball's physical coordinates, tracked using an in-stadium measurement system, to a graphical representation. Everything gets coordinates assigned to it—including the strike zone "box"—and these coordinates dictate where these graphics will appear on the screen.

First, some terminology...
px = Horizontal measurement of the baseball, in feet, as measured from the center of home plate.
pz = Vertical measurement of the baseball, in feet, as measured from the ground.
sz_bot = Measure of the bottom of the batter's strike zone (hollow-of-knee). Often a static number.
sz_top = Measure of the top of the batter's strike zone (midpoint). Often a static number.
RAD = Radius of a baseball. Generally, + .123 feet, or 1.47-inches.
MOE = Margin of error. Per the manufacturer, it's about an inch, or .083 feet.

Values like px, pz, sz_bot, and sz_top come from MLB. RAD & MOE are calculated.

QOC = Quality of Correctness. Whether the pitch was properly officiated (QOCY) or not (QOCN).
Kulpa Rule (UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1) refers to horizontal location (px) and is as follows...
>> (Measures in feet, all else equal) |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
Miller Rule (UEFL Rule 6-2-b-2) refers to vertical location (pz) and is as follows...
>> (all else equal) BALL < sz_bot - RAD - MOE < STRIKE < sz_top + RAD + MOE < BALL.

Preliminary Reading - - Related Posts:
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).
Related PostZobrist - Computer Ump Would Have Called Strike 3, Too (8/15/17).
Related Post
Pitch f/x SMT Sportvision Sues MLBAM for StatCast 'Theft' (5/21/18).
Related PostGame of Millimeters - Hoskins Talks West's Strike 3 Call (5/26/18).

With Brooks, we sometimes disagree.
Brooks Baseball: I like to use Brooks' plots to explain because it's the simplest, most straightforward tool out there I know to pinpoint the px, pz coordinates of a ball and then represent this singular location on the screen. The problem, naturally, is Brooks gives, and displays, a pinpoint node for each pitch. By doing so, the physical properties of a baseball—namely its spherical volume, radius, etc.—are ignored, which is problematic when the definition of a strike holds that a pitch is a strike by location if any part of the baseball passes through any part of the strike zone.
A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which...(b) Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone. - Definition of Terms
The "full game" strikezone plots offered by Brooks, additionally, fail to account for individual batters' sz_bot and sz_top values, for if it did, the graphic would likely be unreadable. We refer to this as a non-normalized plot because the values on horizontal and vertical axes are to scale, specifically in feet.

Some plots offer a way to standardize the various batters' heights by applying a "stretch" variable such that sz_bot and sz_top will display consistently, in the same location, for all batters. We refer to this as a normalized plot because the values on the horizontal and vertical axes are not to scale, but in normalized units instead, so that sz_bot and sz_top will line-up properly for all batters regardless of their actual zone heights. The trade off here is that the pitched ball's locations are not absolutely represented, since they are relative to only one particular batter, which is indistinguishable from any other batter plotted on the same chart.

To account for these inconsistencies, we trace things back to the root of the problem: the graphics themselves. In lieu of strike zone graphics that are known to be inaccurate, subject to interpretation error, or other visual issues, we take the raw numbers for px, pz, and the zone heights, using only numbers in our QOC calculations. To account for the physical properties of a baseball, knowing that pz and px are measured at the center of the baseball, we use the radius of a ball in our Kulpa and Miller Rule calculations.

A baseball is a sphere with physical properties.
Margin of Error. Popular pitch trackers never take into account MOE despite the technology manufacturer's admission that the pitch trackers can be wrong by up to about one inch of MOE.

Because of our philosophy that an umpire should not be credited with having made an incorrect call unless there exists ample evidence ("clear and convincing," these days) to prove the incorrectness of the call, if a pitch is thrown within the margin of error such that either "ball" or "strike" could be accurate, depending on how close to an inch the error was (and in what direction the error was), we deem the call QOCY (correct) for a lack of evidence to conclusively prove otherwise.

Because we use numbers and not graphics, we don't have to worry about an image looking blurry or "busy" as a result of the various RAD and MOE applications. Refer back to Kulpa and Miller for further explanations of how we interpret the data.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

High School Roundup - Iowa Championship Series Slides

A bona-fide/force play slide rule double play at second base and violent home plate collision at Iowa's high school State Championship tournament are today's Ask the UEFL subjects pertaining to what is legal vs interference vs malicious contact vs obstruction.

Play 1 - Force Play Slide Interference Ends Game: Harlan Community High School defeated Waverly-Shell Rock Senior HS 7-6 in the state semifinal following a slide interference ruling at second base. With one out and one on, Waverly-Shell Rock's batter hit a ground ball to Harlan's shortstop, who threw to the second baseman for the force out at second base, and onto first base as Waverly-Shell Rock baserunner R1 slid into second base, resulting in contact with the middle infielder, ruled interference by the 2B Umpire for a game-ending double play.

The Rule, Play 1: National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) Rule 2-32-2f requires runners on a force play to "slide on the ground and in a direct line between the two bases," while 2-32-2 specifies other violations that would render a slide illegal. They are:
a) Rolling, cross-body, or pop-up slide into the fielder;
b) Runner's raised leg is higher than fielder's knee as the fielder stands;
c) Runner goes beyond the base and makes contact with/alters play of the fielder (except HP);
d) Runner slashes or kicks fielder with either leg;
e) Runners tries to injure the fielder.

Furthermore, a legal slide requires at least one leg and buttock to be on the ground and the slide must put a runner within reach of the base with either a hand or a foot.

Question of the play: Who has run into whom?
Analysis, Play 1: There are two video replay angles we will consider here: the first is from the television broadcast or mid-home press box camera, and the second is from field level beyond the third-base dugout.

The press box camera suggests the runner satisfied all criteria of NFHS's 2-32-2 except the requirement in a legal slide for at least one buttock to be on the ground. That said, when the runner begins his slide, the second baseman has just tagged second base and is now moving down the baseline between first and second base, toward first base and into the runner.

At this point, it would likely be most practical to consider whether the runner's slide was legal at the point at which the fielder began the play at the time when the runner began his slide, relative to whether the runner's buttock made contact with the ground before arriving at second base, or whether it would have had the fielder not made contact with the runner.

NCAA FPSR diagram.
The NCAA rules book contains an excellent diagram for the Force Play Slide Rule, delineating where a fielder is and is not protected by rule. As suggested by the accompanying graphic—which shares similarities to NFHS in that the fielder is protected in the gray area although NFHS itself doesn't use the diagram in its rules book (for one, there should be gray area beyond the base, as in NFHS 2-32-2c)—the second baseman is not protected from a hard slide that occurs directly in the baseline between first and second base, unless the slide is otherwise illegal.

It sure appears the runner remains within the baseline between first and second base and, thus, is legal in that regard.

To determine the extent of any further legality, we must turn to our second camera angle from the stands beyond third base.

Replays indicate the fielder catches the throw and begins his play to first base while even with the front edge of second base, and that he hops towards the runner as he prepares to throw to first base.

Camera 2: Did R1 intentionally twist into F4?
Replays also indicate that while the slide appears more vertical than horizontal, the slide's trajectory isn't part of the rule, unless one were to interpret this as a rolling slide (albeit without much of a roll).

Instead, we look at the runner's legs and cleats (both on the ground), while bearing in mind that the runner twists as he makes contact with the fielder; either way, one buttock does contact the ground prior to the point at which he would have contacted the fielder had the fielder not jumped toward the runner.

Is R1 attempting to pop-up? That's also illegal.
This can be interpreted in one of two ways: either the runner is attempting to protect himself from the collision, in which case the slide is legal, or the runner is attempting to alter the fielder's throw with a hard quasi-rolling slide, in which case the slide is illegal and interference should be called. If, as the second image indicates, the umpire deems the runner to be attempting a pop-up slide into the fielder, interference would be the proper ruling.

Because it's a force play, if the FPSR rule is invoked, the batter-runner is also out.

Play 2 - Obstruction or Malicious Contact: Here we have Wilton High School batter-runner Cory Anderson attempting to complete an inside-the-park home run as he encounters Denver High School catcher Kain Eagle standing in his way without the ball. A wild collision ensues. Who is at fault?

The Rule, Play 2: A catcher in high school is ordinarily treated like any other fielder when it comes to obstruction, which occurs when "The fielder without possession of the ball denies access to the base the runner is attempting to achieve" (2-22-3).

NFHS 3-3-1m states that it is unsporting to "initiate malicious contact on offense or defense" and that malicious contact's penalty shall be ejection from the game, an immediate dead ball and automatic out.

Malicious contact supersedes obstruction.
NFHS malicious contact is officiated as interference (2-21-1), but has no precise definition. The 2014 NFHS Points of Emphasis suggested "intentional excessive force" or "intent to injure" as possible considerations for malicious contact, but NFHS generally leaves the matter open to interpretation.

In this case, we have a runner who looks to lower his shoulder into the catcher in an attempt to push through a fielder who is plainly obstructing his pathway to the next base. The only question then is, with a fielder who has obstructed a runner and a runner who has interfered with a fielder by virtue of malicious contact, which violation shall take precedence?

Refer to Rule 8-4-2e for a simple solution: "Malicious contact always supersedes obstruction."

NCAA also has a flagrant collision rule, but this only applies when the catcher actually has the ball.

In sum, although OBR has a plate blocking rule that NFHS doesn't, this is because NFHS doesn't need a plate blocking rule: it already has a penalty for obstruction or malicious contact interference as the case may be.

Analysis, Play 2: This one is pretty simple, at least from the cheap seats. The catcher obstructs the runner, after which the runner initiates malicious contact upon the catcher. The camera angle from beyond third base along the stands in foul ground indicates the runner targeted the catcher for collision, which renders the resulting contact malicious.

Pursuant to Rule 8-4-2e, malicious contact supersedes the obstruction, which means the runner should be declared out as in 8-4-2e, and ejected from the game.

Videos as follows:

Monday, July 30, 2018

Comparison - Infield Interference or Only Obstruction?

A pair of similar-yet-seemingly oppositely-officiated plays occurred during this weekend's Nationals-Marlins and Dodgers-Braves series concerning the question of catcher obstruction (WAS-MIA) or batter interference (LA-ATL) on a batted ball in the vicinity of home plate.

Two similar plays met very different outcomes.
With both series' various broadcasters perplexed by the rulings from HP Umpire Tim Timmons (WAS-MIA obstruction) and Shane Livensparger (LAD-ATL interference)—not to mention a generous dose of "obstruction" vs "interference" terminology cross-contamination—the following analysis clarifies why the former was ruled obstruction and the latter interference.

In general, the following right-of-way rules apply:
On a batted ball, the fielder has the right to field it.*
At any other time, the runner has the right to run.

*Only one fielder is entitled to right-of-way protection.

In other words, the default condition for contact between fielder and runner is obstruction, unless the fielder is 1) actively attempting to field a batted ball and 2) receiving "protection" from the default condition of obstruction (e.g., determined to be the fielder entitled to the benefit of the rule).

Hint: We already discussed this exact issue earlier this year in both article and UEFL video form.

Related PostProtection Question - HS Obstruction on Fielding Catcher (5/22/18).

Related Video Analysis: Tangle/Untangle Between Batter-Runner and Catcher (UEFL)

Timmons ruled this Miami play obstruction.
The Play - Obstruction: With none out and one on (R1) in the bottom of the 10th inning of Saturday's Nationals-Marlins game, Marlins batter Miguel Rojas bunted a 1-0 fastball from Nats pitcher Kelvin Herrera in front of home plate, resulting in contact with catcher Spencer Kieboom as Kieboom ran toward the batted ball. HP Umpire Tim Timmons called catcher Kieboom for obstruction, awarding Rojas first base and forcing baserunner R1 Magneuris Sierra to advance to second base.

Rule - Obstruction: "OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner." (Definition of Terms). A batter-runner obstructed before he reaches first base on a ground ball or bunt to the infield is, by rule, an example of Obstruction Type 1/A (play being made on the runner at the time of obstruction...ball is dead, obstructed runner automatically awarded at least one base...6.01(h)(1)).

Livensparger ruled this ATL play interference.
The Play - Interference: With one out and one on (R1) in the bottom of the 2nd inning of Sunday's Dodgers-Braves game, Braves batter Sean Newcomb bunted a 1-0 fastball from Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling in the air near home plate, resulting in contact with catcher Yasmani Grandal, attempting to field the ball. HP Umpire Shane Livensparger called batter-runner Newcomb for interference, awarding Grandal the air out and returning baserunner R1 Ender Inciarte to first base.

Rule - Interference: "Any runner is out when—he fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball, provided that if two or more fielders attempt to field a batted ball, and the runner comes in contact with one or more of them, the umpire shall determine which fielder is entitled to the benefit of this rule, and shall not declare the runner out for coming in contact with a fielder other than the one the umpire determines to be entitled to field such a ball" (OBR 6.01(a)(10)).

Right-of-Way Protection: As 6.01(a)(10) specifies, only one fielder is entitled to the benefit or protection of the rule, known as right-of-way protection. Referring back to our right-of-way rules (batted ball = fielder; all else = runner), any fielder not given this protection may be said to not be in the "act of fielding a batted ball," insofar as the enforcement of 6.01(a)(10) is concerned.

Analysis, Obstruction (WAS-MIA): Earlier this year, we had an extremely similar play in Reagan High School's playoff game against Lake Travis when the plate umpire ruled that the catcher obstructed the runner when the two had contact up the first base line as the catcher pursued the batted ball (as did the pitcher) and the runner attempted to advance to first base.

It all goes back to this play from May.
The Reagan-Lake Travis play best represents what occurred with Timmons, who likely ruled the pitcher, and not the catcher, was entitled to right-of-way protection. As such, the unprotected catcher's collision with the runner constitutes obstrucion, for any unprotected player is said to not be in the "act of fielding," which means, pursuant to the aforementioned right-of-way rules, "the runner has the right to run."

Accordingly, Timmons' call is correct as long as the pitcher (not the catcher) is the protected fielder.

See the following related article concerning the Reagan-Lake Travis play for more information and analysis, as well as our Tangle/Untangle video that illustrates OBR 6.01(a) / NCAA 7-11f / NFHS 8-4-1.
Related PostProtection Question - HS Obstruction on Fielding Catcher (5/22/18).

Analysis, Interference (LAD-ATL): There exists a rather severe and inaccurate mythical belief that a batter-runner is protected from interference as long as the batter-runner remains in the batter's box. This is categorically false—the batter's box may shield the batter from interference insofar as running into a batted ball is concerned—but the box does not protect a batter-runner from his obligation to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, as in 6.01(a)(10)...if it did, then Rule 6.01(a)(10) would mention the batter's box. Obviously, it doesn't.

To reiterate, the batter's box is not a safe space. The batter-runner may still interfere with the catcher or any other fielder attempting to field a batted ball while standing within the batter's box, assuming the catcher (or other fielder) is the fielder entitled to right-of-way protection.

The only time the batter's box protects the batter against interference is when he fouls a pitch off of his body while still in a legal position within the box, or for consideration as to a catcher's attempted play or throw back to the pitcher (MLBUM interpretation of 6.03(a)(3)...see the following related post regarding HP Umpire Dale Scott's no-call on Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin's throw back to the pitcher during Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS vs Texas that hit batter Shin-Soo Choo's the box = live ball, out of the box = dead ball). That's it.
Related PostCarefree Throw, Extended Bat, and Blue Jays Protest (10/14/15).

Armbrister's tangle in the 1975 World Series.
Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment provides further clarity: "When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called." This comment is also known as an Ed Armbrister tangle/untangle, named for Armbrister's 1975 World Series entanglement with Carlton Fisk that produced a "that's nothing" ruling from HP Umpire Larry Barnett.

The Armbrister tangle/untangle only applies in the immediate vicinity of home plate, only when the catcher is the protected fielder, and only when the batter-runner is going to first base.

As we noted in our Reagan-Lake Travis analysis—citing a 2011 interference call involving batter Matt Kemp when HP Umpire Dan Iassogna called Kemp for interfering with Angels catcher Hank Conger on a ground ball in front of home plate—if the batter is not "going to first base," then 6.01(a)(10)'s comment does not apply and the runner is guilty of interference by failing to avoid a protected fielder attempting to field a batted ball.

In other words, if the batter—like Newcomb—stands in the box without making any effort to run or satisfy the "going to first base" criterion, then the play is not an Armbrister tangle, and the batter is liable for interference if he hinders the protected catcher.

That's precisely what happened here, and why HP Umpire Livensparger correctly ruled interference.

Conclusion: These are two very similar plays ruled in very opposite ways, but both rulings are proper given the differences in A) Which fielder is entitled to right-of-way protection/benefit, and B) Whether or not the batter-runner was actually running toward first base.

Video as follows:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Tmac's Teachable Moments - Slide Back into First Base

Let's take a look at some wonderful umpiring in this edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments.

1B Umpire Mike Muchlinski had a close play.
During Saturday's Nationals-Marlins game, with one out and a runner on first base, the batter prepared for a 3-2 pitch. As 1B Umpire Mike Muchlinski will demonstrate, knowing situations is a great way to become a better umpire. This count is a potential steal play at 2nd but one thing we usually are not expecting with a runner going is a whacker back into 1st. This is where the play is a picture perfect example of how being prepared leads to excellent umpiring.

I want you to watch this play in full speed...Looks out, doesn't he?

Now watch it in slow motion. 1B Umpire Muchlinski is waiting for the play, sees there's no tag, and verbalizes it. Despite a bit of resistance and a good sell by the first baseman, you can feel the confidence oozing from Muchlinski.

Let's analyze positioning. If the umpire moves just one step to his left, he's screened. If he's a step to the right, he may be able to see, but he'll be run into but the sliding baserunner. If he's two steps in either direction, he has literally no chance of seeing the play and will be guessing.

Muchlinski's positioning enables a closer look.
This is why we call it a keyhole: the window here is tiny. Muchlinski not only has the glove coming toward him (a goal to getting the play right), but a clear view of all the necessities (glove/base/ runners hand).

There is something else that makes the play more complicated.  When a glove hits the ground what happens? You get that arm break (not literally) that is a clue that fielder touched the runner. That's why the position is important: because sometimes the play is not what it seems. In a three-person umpiring position, the 1st base umpire would be in the same spot, but what about in a crew of two?

If you were watching this in two-person, we'd likely have an out. The glove is going away from us and we'd be observing the play from the middle of the diamond. Also, the runner looks out and the first baseman sells the play well. There's nothing wrong with missing this play in two-person.

Let's give credit where it's due. The umpiring this season in MLB has been outstanding the bar has been raised and continues to be thanks to great umpiring like we see here!  Happy Umpiring!!

Video as follows: