Saturday, November 17, 2018

2018 AFL Championship Umpires

The following four minor league umpires officiated Saturday's Arizona Fall League Championship Game at Scottsdale Stadium. The 2018 AFL staff featured 13 officials from Triple-A Baseball's International (IL) and Pacific Coast (PCL) Leagues (and two umpires from Nippon Professional Baseball).

Related Post2018 Arizona Fall League Umpire Roster
Related PostAFL Welcomes NPB (Japan) Umpires

2018 AFL Championship Game Umpires
HP: John Bacon, IL. 2017 Spring, 2018 MiLB Postseason.
1B: Dan Merzel, IL. 2017 Spring, 2018 MiLB Postseason.
2B: Jeremy Riggs, IL. 2018 MiLB Postseason.
3B: Bryan Fields, PCL. 2017 AFL, 2017 AFL Championship Game.

Friday, November 16, 2018

ABL - Korea Pulls Team off Field After Manager Ejection

During an Australian Baseball League game against the Sydney Blue Sox, Geelong-Korea Manager Dae-Sung Koo pulled his team off the field in protest of a first-inning ejection by Australian Baseball League HP Umpire Ben Nash related to a ball/strike call. After a five-minute delay, the Korean team returned to the field and the game resumed, with Sydney's squad going on to win in regulation.

Geelong-Korea plays in the Southwest Division of the ABL.

HP Umpire Ben Nash ejected Geelong-Korea Baseball Manager Dae-Sung Koo (ball calls; QOCU*) in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Korea-Blue Sox game. With one out and the bases loaded, Blue Sox batter Trent D'Antonio took four called balls from Korea pitcher Jae-Gon Lee, including a 3-2 pitch ruled inside for ball four, upon which, Dae-Sung Koo was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, pulling his team off the field in protest and causing a suspension of play. At the time of the ejection, the Blue Sox were leading, 1-0. The Blue Sox ultimately won the contest, 7-2.

Rules Discussion: As we discussed following the 18-inning Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, Official Baseball Rule 7.03(b) states that "a game shall be forfeited to the opposing team when a team is unable or refuses to place nine players on the field." OBR 7.03(a)(3) is also relevant ("Refuses to continue play during a game unless the game has been suspended or terminated by the umpire-in-chief").

The team should generally be afforded the opportunity to correct the error, or should otherwise be warned of the possibility of a forfeit before the game is terminated. The MLB Umpire Manual (not in Australia) states a public address announcement shall additionally be made to advise the possibility of a forfeit before one is declared.
Related PostWorld Series Forfeit? Unable to Field Nine Players (10/27/18).

Timetable: No time limit/timeline is set for a 7.03(a)(3) or 7.03(b) forfeit, though here is a quick table of forfeit time limits for other provisions of the rule:
7.03(a)(1) (Beginning of the game forfeits): Must be ready to play within five minutes of umpire's "Play" call.
7.03(a)(4) (After a suspension of play): Must resume play within one minute of umpire's "Play" call.
7.03(a)(6) (Refusing to leave after ejection): Must obey umpire's order "within a reasonable time."
7.03(a)(7) (Start of doubleheader Game 2): Must be ready within 20 minutes if straight DH.^

^Most often, the intermission between doubleheader games is extended by the umpires by more than 20 minutes, so 7.03(a)(7) rarely comes into play.
*QOC not available for ball/strike ejections where pitch-tracking technology is not in use.

Wrap: Geelong-Korea vs. Sydney Blue Sox (ABL), 11/16/18 | Video as follows:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

2018 UEFL Rules Summit Discussion

Following our Awards and Final Standings, the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League announces its 2018 UEFL Rules Summit, our annual forum for discussion of controversial issues which may have surfaced during the past season, setting forth a framework for rectifying these issues by amending the existing UEFL Rules Book ahead of the 2019 UEFL season.
Related Link: UEFL Rules Book (UEFL Portal).

This discussion thread is an open colloquium for proposal, discussion and debate of potential rules changes. This thread will remain open through Friday, November 16 and voting will begin Saturday, November 17—voting will not occur prior to that date. This will provide ample time for proposal and subsequent discussion of possible rules changes for next year's UEFL. If necessitated by certain below decisions, a Summit runoff ballot may be presented after the initial voting closes.

You may propose a rules change by replying in a comment to this post and the following list, accordingly, will be routinely updated to reflect such proposals. Nonmaterial proposed modifications and cascading editorial changes are underlined, deletions are printed in strikethrough and material additions are bold faced. Comments/rationale not part of the actual book are indicated by italics. Individual propositions are preceded by the ">>" bullet point symbol.

Rule 1 (Selection of Umpires).
>> 1-2. ...each member of the league shall select one two MLB crew chiefs to serve as UEFL crew chiefs.
Rationale: Adds a second crew chief to list of drafted umpires (+ 2 cc).
>> 1-6. Subsequent to the Secondary Draft, each league member shall select one umpire chosen only from the list of umpires classified as "AAA" or fill-in.
Rationale: Adds a call-up umpire to the list of drafted umpires (+ 1 AAA).

Rule 2 (The Season).

Rule 3 (Crew Division).
>> 3-3. Unless otherwise specified by Rule 4, each non-incorrect ejection committed effected by a UEFL crew chief's crew shall result in the addition of one (1) point, and each incorrect ejection shall result in the subtraction of one (-1) point, toward a UEFL member's overall score.
Rationale: Penalize crew chiefs whose crew's ejections are associated with QOCN.

Rule 4 (League Scoring).
>> 4-8. Ball/Strike Accuracy Reward. An umpire shall be awarded one bonus point for scoring a 98% or greater plate score on any given night.
Rationale: We already award points for replay reviews even if they don’t result in ejections so also have a reward for umpires who have a stellar plate job even if no ejections take place.
>> 4-9. Ejections shall be attributed or penalized with additional points subject to the reason for ejection (structure to be determined by run-off ballot).
Rationale: None given.

Rule 5 (Statistics).

Rule 6 (Challenges and Appeals).
>> 6-2-b-5. The Quality of Correctness for all ejections for reasons of Fighting, Throwing At, Unsportsmanlike Conduct-NEC or Excess Contact shall be adjudged as "Irrecusable" by default...Ejections for throwing equipment and Throwing At shall be judged individually with no such default status, and may receive a QOCY/QOCN determination.
Rationale: Apply QOC standard specifically for Throwing At ejections to determine whether the underlying call (Pitcher intentionally threw at batter) was correct or incorrect, as opposed to irrecusable. A vote in the affirmative will trigger a run-off ballot to determine how to adjudicate QOC (Original Ruling vs Appeals Board, etc.).

>> 6-2-b-5.
Rationale: Eliminates QOCU (Irrecusable) as an ejection quality position and requires all ejections be adjudged as CORRECT or INCORRECT.

>> 6-3. In the event that Statcast and/or Pitch f/x shows the location as both off the plate (px > |0.831|) AND above / below the strike zone (pz < sz_bottom - 0.245 or pz > sz_top + 0.245) than the correct call shall be BALL even if the pitch is within the Margin of Error for both section 1) and 2) above. This may be referred to as the Dale Scott rule.
Rationale: UEFL pitch calling works on the assumption that there is a one inch Margin or Error for Statcast / Pitch fx. When a pitch is recorded by this Statcast / Pitch fx as being within the margin of error it is treated as being in the BORDERLINE area and the call on the field is always deemed correct. This change proposes that a pitch that is in the BORDERLINE area but both off the plate and above / below the zone be ruled as a BALL for purposes of determining QOC.

From a statistical measurement point of view. There is less then a 50% chance that either measurement (px, pz) is actually within the zone, when combined it means that a pitch recorded in the area will actually have been a ball more then 75% of the time.

From a baseball perspective, as Dale Scott points out, "no one expects it to be called a strike."

>> 6-4-a-1. This board shall be comprised of two three UEFL Commissioners, one Charter Member, and five through seven five seven at-large members.
Rationale: The permanent members of the UEFL Appeals Board are: Gil (Commissioner), tmac (Commissioner), Jeremy (Commissioner), and RichMSN (Charter Member). Five at-large members are then selected for a total of nine Appeals Board members. This proposal would expand the Appeals Board to a body of eleven (adds two seats).

Rule 7 (Unresolved Classifications and References).

Rule 8 (Umpire Odds & Ends and Community Issues).
>> 8-1. Comments shall be restricted to members registered with the DISQUS commenting platform.
Rationale: Turns off guest comments in hopes of reducing spam, violative content, and/or trolling.

Rule 9 (Unaddressed and Authorized Provisions).

>> Shall all current (as of 2018) at-large members of the UEFL Appeals Board be granted permanent membership on the UEFL Appeals Board?
Rationale: To reduce turnover and garner greater consistency among the board's rulings.

The final portion of the Rules Summit ballot will feature 2017 UEFL Appeals Board members seeking re-election for 2018, as afforded by the process delineated by UEFL Rule 6-4-a-4. Click here to view the Board's 21 decisions in 2018.

Following the 2018 Rules Summit's discussion phase, voting will occur. No voting shall take place prior to 11/17, until the discussion phase has ended and all proposals become part of the finalized ballot.

Samurai Japan Wins on Key Obstruction No-Call

A critical obstruction no-call by 1B Umpire Jeff Kellogg capped Samurai Japan's 6-5 win over the MLB All-Stars in Game 5 of the international series as contact between first baseman Hotaka Yamakawa and batter-runner Mitch Haniger during an overthrow preceded Haniger's game-ending retirement at second base.

BR Haniger pushes F3 Yamakawa away.
The Play: With one out and one on (R1), Haniger hit a ground ball to Samurai Japan shortstop Sosuke Genda, who threw to second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, forcing out baserunner R1 Kevin Pillar, whose throw to first base was wide. As first baseman Yamakawa attempted to pursue the thrown ball, he and batter-runner Haniger made contact as Haniger attempted to advance to second base on the overthrow. Shortly thereafter, catcher Takuya Kai retrieved the loose ball and threw to second baseman Yamada, who tagged Haniger as he slid into second base for the game's final out, courtesy of 2B Umpire Hideto Fuke's call.

The Call: 1B Umpire Kellogg indicated that no obstruction or other illegal act had occurred by displaying a "safe" mechanic, explaining to MLB All-Stars Manager Don Mattingly that no rules infraction occurred up the right field line.

Kellogg explains his ruling to Don Mattingly.
Rule & Analysis: Obstruction is a rather straightforward concept ("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"), but it can get complicated during translation from the rulebook to application on the playing field. By now, we know that contact is not a requirement for obstruction, and that, under the auspices of Type 2/B obstruction (no play actively being made on an obstructed runner [BR had passed first base]), a fielder who has "made an attempt to field a ball and missed...can no longer be in the 'act of fielding' the ball" (Rule 6.01(h) Comment).

Thus the only consideration is whether the first baseman's actions—beginning the instant that he "missed" his attempt to field the ball—impeded the progress of the runner. There is no such incidental "Ambrister tangle/untangle" exception for a first baseman...once he has missed the ball, any hindrance is illegal. And, because it must be said, the batter-runner is perfectly legal running where he is (no tag attempt = no out of base path consideration, but even so, the batter-runner may run through first base and decide to try for second at any point up the right field line...obviously, this would put him at liability of being tagged out and void the overrun protection, but as far as his position is concerned, he's 100% legal).
Related PostINT or OBS - Hammering the Catcher Contact Home (8/6/18).

I believe this is an instance of obstruction.
Gil's Call: In my estimation, the fielder impeded the batter-runner's progress and, accordingly, I have obstruction (type 2/B). On the accompanying video at the end of this article, watch the broadcast angle from the press box camera. At about the six-second mark, Haniger runs into the back of Yamakawa, after the overthrown ball has already exited the frame. As the piggybacking continues up the line, Haniger trips over Yamakawa's legs and stumbles as he attempts to advance toward second base. From the left-center field camera angle, it even appears Haniger briefly slows up as he braces for impact with Yamakawa. It is my opinion that this slow & stumble hindered the runner enough to cause him to be put out at second; had the impeding act not occurred, I believe the runner would have achieved second base safely and, for that reason, my award would have been to place Haniger at second base so as to nullify the act of obstruction (type 2/B).
Bonus: Add a nickel to the "broadcaster confused obstruction and interference" jar.

Jim Joyce's call is the gold standard for OBS.
Precedent: During the 2013 World Series, 3B Umpire Jim Joyce and HP Umpire Dana DeMuth combined for a properly officiated game-ending obstruction call after Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks accidentally tripped up (e.g., "impeded") Cardinals baserunner Allen Craig, who in turn was thrown out at home plate, until the umpires imposed the obstruction type B penalty to "nullify the act" and award Craig home plate for the game-winning run.

Middlebrooks at the time stated his dissatisfaction with the call, explaining he had nowhere to go after diving to field the poor throw (e.g., after having "made an attempt to field a ball and missed"). By rule, no matter what Middlebrooks did at that point, if he impeded the runner's progress, he was guilty of obstruction. For better or worse, the rulebook expects the fielder disappear after he has failed in his attempt to field the ball; the defense is not to be rewarded for a miscue. There is zero leeway given to the fielder in this "made an attempt to field a ball and missed" situation (other than, obviously, not rewarding a runner who goes out of his way to manufacture an obstruction call).
Related PostReviewing Jim Joyce's Game-Ending Obstruction Call (10/26/13).

Tying it Together: Like Middlebrooks, Yamakawa did not vacate the runner's path quickly enough after failing to field the ball, and, as a result, he inadvertently impeded the progress of the runner. Even though the impedance was inadvertent and accidental, it was not incidental, which means that, pursuant to OBR 6.01(h)(2), it was an illegal act.

This play was no-called during the 2017 WBC.
Related Play and Teachable Moment: We saw a similar—yet much more blatant—play during the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Gocheok Sky Dome when Team Netherlands first baseman Yurdell Decaster similarly failed to field an overthrown ball from second base. After the ball got by Decaster, Team Israel batter-runner Scott Burcham attempted to advance to second base and, according to replays, was physically wrapped up and momentarily restrained from advancing. 1B Umpire Chikara Tsugawa (who is presently in the States for the Arizona Fall League as part of an apparent MLB-NPB exchange program) no-called the Decaster-Burcham interaction, and Burcham was thrown out at second base on a close play.

1B Umpire did not see the obstruction play.
In his Teachable, tmac quickly explained that 1B Umpire Tsugawa simply did not see the play because he was following the ball toward the wall along the first base dugout. Tmac also explained that in this situation, with only one runner to worry about (the batter-runner), the HP Umpire has the responsibility for adjudicating boundary issues involving the overthrown ball; the first base umpire's focus should be on the potential obstruction/interference/nothing issue between the batter-runner and the first baseman.

Back to Tokyo Dome: Unlike the 2017 WBC play, where our umpire made no signal, making it clear that the umpire did not see the play, on Wednesday in Tokyo, 1B Umpire Kellogg demonstrated the safe mechanic, which is the universal "that's nothing" sign.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jim McKean Inducted into FSL Hall of Fame

The Florida State League inducted alumnus and 28-year AL and MLB umpire Jim McKean into its Hall of Fame. McKean umpired in the FSL from 1970 to 1971 and eventually joined the American League staff in 1973.

A member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the Quebec native also worked as a junior hockey referee and played in the Canadian Football League as a quarterback and punter (Montreal Alouettes, 1965-65; Saskatchewan Roughriders, 1966 [won the CFL's Grey Cup {championship}]) before his MiLB career, and joined the MLB league office in 2002 as an umpire supervisor. After leaving that post, McKean took a job with ESPN as an umpire consultant.

Jim McKean adds FSL to his awards repertoire.
As a Major Leaguer, McKean officiated three American League Division Series (1981, 95, 99), five American League Championship Series (1977, 83, 87, 91, 98), and three World Series (1979, 85, 95), in addition to three All-Star Games (1980, 82, 93).

NDG Baseball (Little League affiliate in Montreal) previously honoured McKean with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

McKean was the last full-time umpire from Canada until Stu Scheurwater (Saskatchewan) joined the staff prior to the 2018 season.

McKean joins fellow FSL Hall of Famer umpires Phil Cuzzi (inducted 2009), Harry Wendelstedt (2009), Ed Hickox (2010), Jeff Nelson (2011), Brian Gorman (2012), Jerry Layne (2013), Randy Marsh (2014), Richie Garcia (2015), John Hirschbeck (2016), and Jerry Crawford (2017); FSL has selected an umpire every year since the Hall of Fame was founded in 2009.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Soto's Ground Rule Out as Fly Ball Hits Tokyo Dome Roof

MLB All-Star Juan Soto lost a potential three run home run when his fly hit the Tokyo Dome roof, turning into a routine "ground rule out" when Samurai Japan caught the ball, cuing Don Mattingly and 1B Umpire Eric Cooper to have a brief conversation about the perils of playing in a domed stadium. Spoiler: Coop & Crew got the call right.

Kobayashi explains the catch call to Don.
The Play: With one out and two on (R1, R2), in the top of the 4th inning of Game 3 of the best-of-five MLB-Japan All-Star Series, Soto hit a fly ball into deep right field that caromed off one of the white panels that comprise the stadium's high ceiling and into RF Shogo Akiyama's waiting glove, on the warning track just shy of the wall.

The Call: Cooper ruled Soto out, the second out of the inning as opposed to a three-run home run. After convening HP Umpire Kyohei Makita, 2B Umpire Kazuhiro Kobayashi, and 3B Umpire Quinn Wolcott, Cooper affirmed his original ruling and maintained the out call.

For an illustration of the Tokyo Dome ground rules, we visit the former Major League stadium in Minnesota, the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome (the Met and Tokyo Dome share iconic design elements, including the iconic paneled dome cover). Let's just say the rules are a lot easier to comprehend in these domes than Tropicana Field's catwalk system in Tampa Bay.

Ball Strikes Metro/Tokyo Dome in Flight and Falls Back into Play: Live Ball.
Eddie Guardado catches a deflected fly ball.
When Minnesota's Randy Bush hit a fly ball off one such panel at the Metrodome in 1983, Toronto's Buck Martinez was able to adjust and catch the batted ball in foul territory for an out. The same thing happened to Detroit's Rob Deer in 1992—twice!—with Minnesota shortstop Greg Gagne catching both for outs. And then there's the infamous Chili Davis fly ball that hit a hanging speaker and was caught by Baltimore's Mark McLemore, or Eddie Guardado's even more notable diving catch on a fly ball that deflected off another such speaker.
Related Video: Pitcher Guardado races off mound and dives to make the catch in foul territory.
Related Video: Greg Gagne hits two inside-the-park home runs thanks to the Metrodome roof.

Ball Strikes, and Remains, in the Space Between Two Panels: Double (if Fair), Foul (if Foul).
Shohei Ohtani's perfect hit turned into two.
This scenario doesn't happen all that often, but because of the unique system of panels that comprise the pressurized domed roof, a baseball can get lost between the tiles and come to rest in the roof itself. If this happens, as it did to Shohei Ohtani playing for Team Japan against Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Softball Confederation's Global Series 2016, the official ruling is a ground rule double for the batter. Oakland's Dave Kingman did the same thing at the Metrodome on May 4, 1984, and was similarly awarded two bases.
Related Video: Shohei Ohtani hits ball through the roof at Tokyo Dome!!

SIDEBAR: These are real "ground rule doubles," opposed to those commonplace batted balls that land on the field before bouncing over the wall and into the stands that lay-folk like to call "ground rule doubles" (they're "rulebook doubles" or "two-base awards").

In conclusion, no, there is no Replay Review in the MLB-Japan All-Star Series, but even if there was, Cooper's call would have been confirmed: that's a live ball and a catch—a ground rule out if there ever was one.

Video as follows:

2018 UEFL Final Standings and the Perfect Crew

With the championship and UEFL awards season now complete, we can now reveal the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's final standings for 2018 as well as this year's Perfect Crew. The Perfect Score this season was 117 while the lowest possible score was -39, a spread of 156 points. (compare to 2017's Perfect Score of 112 and lowest score of -39).
Related Post2017 UEFL Final Standings and the Perfect Crew (11/10/17).

2018 UEFL Perfect Crew (Highest Score): 117 points.
Crew Chief: Bill Welke (19 pts).
Primary Umpires: Joe West (31 pts) & Brian Gorman (25 pts).
Secondary Umpires: John Tumpane (21 pts) & Ted Barrett (21 pts).

2018 UEFL Imperfect Crew (Lowest Possible Score): -39 points.
Crew Chief: Tom Hallion (-6 pts).
Primary Umpires: Brian O'Nora (-8 pts) & CB Bucknor (-6 pts).
Secondary Umpires: Phil Cuzzi (-10 pts) & Sam Holbrook (-9 pts).

Final Standings for the 2018 UEFL Season.
2018 Replay Review Ranking by Umpire (RAP)
1) Chad Fairchild (.722, 13-for-18).
2) Fieldin Culbreth (.714, 15-for-21).
3) Tim Timmons (.714, 10-for-14).
4) John Tumpane (.684, 13-for-19).
5) Brian Gorman (.667, 16-for-24).
6-T) Mike Estabrook (.667, 8-for-12).
6-T) Brian Knight (.667, 8-for-12).
8-T) Lance Barrett (.647, 11-for-17).
8-T) Ed Hickox (.647, 11-for-17).
8-T) Jeff Nelson (.647, 11-for-17).
12) Pat Hoberg (.643, 9-for-14).
13-T) Mike Muchlinski (.636, 7-for-11).
13-T) Stu Scheurwater (.636, 7-for-11).
15) Jim Wolf (.625, 5-for-8).
16-T) Ted Barrett (.619, 13-for-21).
16-T) Ryan Blakney (.619, 13-for-21).
18-T) Tripp Gibson (.611, 11-for-18).
18-T) DJ Reyburn (11-for-18).
20) Joe West (.600, 12-for-20).
Full Results: UEFL's MLB Umpire Replay Review Statistics and Sabermetrics.

2018 Ejection Leaders
1) Will Little (9).
2-T) Andy Fletcher, Tripp Gibson, Brian Gorman, Adam Hamari, Hunter Wendelstedt (6).
7-T) Eric Cooper, Joe West (5).
9-T) L Barrett, Blaser, Eddings, Foster, G Gibson, Porter, Rehak, Ripperger, Tumpane (4).

2018 UEFL Final Standings (Ties resolved per Rule 5-3)
1) UEFLwatcher (79 pts).
2) GDK Team Blue (78 pts).
3) toss 'em (72 pts).
4) LaRikardo (71 pts).
5) Bjweig01 (70 pts).
6) ADUB (68 pts).
7) jbenedek (65 pts, 21 PRM-A [T Barrett]).
8) DNS67665 (65 pts, 16 PRM-A [Wendelstedt]).
9) Yuri.macchiavelli (65 pts, 15 PRM-A [Carapazza]).
10) stk004 (64 pts).
11) oki96 (63 pts, 31 PRM-A [West]).
12) southsidehitman (63 pts, 25 PRM-A [Tumpane]).
13) Michael (63 pts, 15 PRM-A [Carapazza]).
14) RadioPearl (63 pts, 0 PRM-A [Bellino]).
15) kruss8888 (61 pts).
Complete Final Standings, points, and results available via the UEFL Portal's 2018 Standings page.
Umpire Leaders available at UEFL's MLB Umpire Replay Review Statistics and Sabermetrics page.

The Rules Summit will begin tomorrow.