Thursday, February 28, 2019

Top 10 MLB Hothead Players by Ejection Frequency

On the occasion of Bryce Harper's Phillies contract, we revisit the subject of baseball's biggest hothead player, as measured by the umpire ejection sabermetric value, Games Per Ejection (GPE). Using our historic benchmark of David Ortiz's 175 GPE (aka "the Papi line"), we crown MLB's leading active hothead position player.

History: We first tracked hothead statistics in 2015, finding that dugout phone-smashing David Ortiz held the league lead amongst active players for ejection frequency.

At the time of our June 2015 study, Big Papi's one ejection per 197 games played led all players with at least 2,000 games played, a number of minimum games that limited our study's scope to veteran ballplayers.
Related PostDetermining The League's Biggest Hothead (It's Big Papi) (6/11/15).

In 2016, we repeated the study on the occasion of Ortiz's impending retirement from the game, but dropped our minimum games played barrier from 2,000 to just 500. Accordingly, we found that youngster Bryce Harper had taken over the top spot, by a significant margin, followed by Matt Kemp, Yunel Escobar, BJ / Melvin / Back to BJ Upton, Manny Machado, and Joey Votto had all eclipsed the Ortiz benchmark, which had increased in frequency to 175 GPE, thanks to additional ejection activity after the 2015 study (also see the related post for a note as to why we don't include pitchers).
Related PostPassing the Torch - Papi Out, Harper In as Biggest Hothead (5/13/16).

Harper keeps his crown as MLB's #1 Hothead.
After taking the past few seasons off, we revisit the hothead discussion for active position players. Here are the results (minimum 500 games played). You can also click each player's name that appears in the accompanying table for their UEFL ejection report history.

Legend and Definitions
Ejection Rate: Measured in Games-Per-Ejection (GPE).
GPE: Games played divided by their ejections.
EPS: Ejections per Season, based on 162 GP.

Active MLB Position Players with Highest Ejection Frequency
#Player NameGames Per Ejection
Ejections Per Season
(EPS [E/GP*162])
1Bryce Harper841.92
2Matt Kemp991.63
3Yunel Escobar1101.47
4Marwin Gonzalez1331.22
5BJ / Melvin Upton1471.10
6Ian Kinsler1640.99
7Josh Donaldson1770.92
8Yasiel Puig1780.91
9Joey Votto1970.82
10Russell Martin2010.80

To summarize:
> Bryce Harper remains the league's biggest hothead player, from 77 GPE in 2016 to 84 GPE in 2018. This is significant, because Gary Sheffield now reclaims the #2 all-time hothead mark, minimum 500 games played, with 78 GPE. For those wondering, #1 belongs to Milton Bradley (55 GPE).
> Matt Kemp and Yunel Escobar have increased their ejection frequency (EPS) since 2016.
> Marwin Gonzalez, Josh Donaldson, and Yasiel Puig had too few games played to be included on the 2016 hothead list. Because these three players kept their ejection frequency up, they are featured in the 2019 list's Top 10 MLB Hothead Players.
> Slots #6 Kinsler and above have been ejected more frequently than David Ortiz. #7 Donaldson and below fall on the less-frequent side of the Papi Line of 175 GPE.
> Here are the 2019 rankings for others who appeared on the 2016 list, but have since fallen out of the Top 10: 5 Manny Machado: #14 (232 GPE), 7 Troy Tulowitzky: #11 (214 GPE), 8 AJ Pierzynski: Retired (187 GPE), 9 Justin Upton: #19 (243 GPE), 10 Carlos Gomez: #17 (238 GPE).
> Mike Trout retains his crown as Cool & Collected. Trout and many other MLB'ers have never been ejected in their playing careers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

MLB Taps Atlantic League for Reported Robot Ump Test

MLB is reportedly one step closer to robot umpires, signing an agreement with the independent Atlantic League to test rule changes, including robo-umps to call balls and strikes. Trackman radar devices will be installed at all eight stadiums of the independent Atlantic League in anticipation of the techno-umpire experiment, which is just one expected element of the Trackman incorporation.

Although Baseball America's report sounds quite progressive—as Atlantic League of Professional Baseball President Rick White said, "We kind of had this happy intersection of our intentions and [MLB's] initiatives where it is now formalized"—it's far from a finished product and does more for White's league than simply calling balls and strikes as the ALPB makes a deal with MLB it can hardly refuse.

Prepare for an increase in edge strike calls.
Trackman is the name of MLBAM Statcast's field-tracking component, of which PitchCast is the ball/strike module, and is the successor to SportVision's pitch f/x technology.

As such, Trackman itself helps White in his goal of getting his players seen by big league teams. Because Trackman keeps tabs on athletes, mainly in the pitching and hitting department, such as measuring spin rate or other pitch/hit metrics, it should give scouts a better chance at analyzing players as they already do with those in affiliated ball, who play at minor league stadiums with Trackman installed.

MLBAM is also set to take over the electronic scorekeeping function of the Atlantic League, meaning that all league stats will be transmitted to all 30 MLB teams, another boost for scouting athletes who play in the independent league. That alone should be good for business, another draw for athletes hoping to crack the MiLB barrier.

Most relevant, however, is the concept of impending MLB and MiLB expansion, which MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred discussed in 2016, before more recently revisiting the issue in 2018, anticipating an expansion and naming several potential cities, including Portland (Oregon), Las Vegas, Charlotte (North Carolina), Nashville, Montreal, Vancouver, and even the country of Mexico.

PCL's Aviators (formerly 51s) plays in Vegas.
If baseball expands from 30 to 32 teams, its minor league feeder system will grow as well, leading to a cascading expansion draft that will turn to the independent leagues, as expansion outpaces scholastic-based matriculation (by comparison, the NFL has 32 teams, NHL has 31 [will be 32 in 2021], NBA has 30, and MLS has 24).

Accordingly, this could be ALPB's chance to set itself apart from the independent American Association, CanAm, and Pecos Leagues by cozying up to affiliated ball, further drawing in expansion-minded scouts.

Link: Introduction to UEFL f/x.
But for every give, there's also a take, and for Rob Manfred's MLB, that take is rules experimentation, including the expected regular use of Trackman's PitchCast module to call balls and strikes during live gameplay for the first time in professional baseball history.

As we've mentioned several times, problems arise when raw data from PitchCast, or Pitch f/x before it, are taken at face value. Simply put, there are too many variables prone to error—px, pz, sz_bot, sz_top—to, at this time, render a consistently accurate output.

In 2018, we rolled out UEFL f/x to address the shortcomings of the PitchCast technology when it comes to evaluating whether an umpire has properly officiated a ball or strike call based on the premise that an umpire cannot be deemed to have missed a call that evidence cannot conclusively prove was incorrect.
Related PostAsk UEFL - About Close Call Sports' Strike Zone QOC (8/1/18).

UEFL f/x incorporates our long-standing Kulpa and Miller Rules (UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 and -2), which acknowledge the margin-of-error SportVision admitted was prevalent in its Pitch f/x product. MLBAM, on the other hand, has kept PitchCast's errors largely under wraps.
Related PostUEFL f/x vs K-Zone and the Player-Umpire Disconnect (10/4/18).

SMT SportVision sued Major League Baseball Advanced Media in May 2018, claiming that MLBAM stole its proprietary and patented PFX technology and incorporated the infringing information into Trackman's PitchCast, which powers BAM's Gameday data. Accordingly, we would understand the motivation to play PitchCast's inner-workings rather close to the vest.
Related PostPitch f/x SMT Sportvision Sues MLBAM for StatCast 'Theft' (5/21/18).

An exaggerated illustration of sz_bot/top error.
We have also detailed—several times over—baseball's habitual problem when it comes to calculating a batter's vertical strike zone (the sz_bot and sz_top values). Despite Commissioner Manfred's May 2018 comments regarding robot umpires, and his claim that PitchCast's accuracy is "way up—way better than what it was a year ago," the fundamental problem remains: Manfred refers to a pitch calling accuracy that, by its very definition, assumes that sz_bot and sz_top are accurate to begin with (when they most assuredly are not).

In other words, Manfred, when talking about accuracy, is referring to PitchCast variables such as px (horizontal pitch location) and pz (vertical location), and not sz_bot/sz_top, which we know are problematic.
Related PostManfred Talks Robot Umps - Tech is "Way Up" (5/30/18).

The two leagues will now have to work out a complex set of procedures and parameters for implementing Trackman PitchCast into live gameplay. For instance, what happens when the computer misses a pitch in the first inning and is then rendered useless for the remainder of the game? When will an umpire be authorized to overrule the technology?

In 2016, for instance, Pitch f/x malfunctioned ahead of an ejection, and the mistake wasn't corrected until well after the game's conclusion. If PitchCast is to call balls and strikes in real-time, these sorts of mistakes would prove catastrophic, and worse, undetectably so, if the pitcher were repeatedly peppering the same part of the zone.
Related PostDude, What Happened Last Night? About Pitch f/x Error (8/30/16).

MLB's agreement with the Atlantic League does not specify a timeframe as to the incorporation of the expected Trackman experiment, although the ALPB will begin introducing some of these changes at MLB's direction ahead of the 2019 season. The MLB-ALPB joint press release referred to the Arizona Fall League as an example of the type of experimental rule implementation methodology MLB plans to institute.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

2019 UEFL Draft Prospectus - Umpire Stats Recap

As the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League Draft kicks into gear, we present the annual UEFL Draft Prospectus, including statistics and sabermetrics for ejections and Replay Review outcomes for MLB and MiLB call-up umpires eligible for the 2019 season.

Remember, the final day to register for the 2019 UEFL season is March 27, 2019, though the final day to submit unrestricted umpire selections in all classifications (one Crew Chief, two Primary Umpires, and two Secondary Umpires) is March 19. For more information as to UEFL Draft procedures and to register your umpire crew, visit the accompanying link.
Related Post2019 UEFL Draft and Registration Now Open (2/20/19).

Additional related links include the 2019 MLB Umpire Crew List and the UEFL Umpire Roster & Profiles page, which also includes game assignment history for the MiLB call-up umpires.

Historical Information and Draft Prospectus - 2019 UEFL Season
The following section provides statistics regarding top points-getter umpires and other leaders during past UEFL seasons. This information may also be found via the UEFL Portal's Historical Data page, which has been updated through the 2018 season. Umpires with names in strikeout are retired or otherwise ineligible for selection in the UEFL Draft.

General Information
Most Ejections Since 2005: 74 (Joe West), 67 (Marty Foster), 60 (Sam Holbrook).
Most Ejections Since 2014: 26 (Will Little), 24 (West), 23 (Vic Carapazza), 19 (Foster, Holbrook, Bill Welke, John Tumpane), 18 (Dan Bellino, Greg Gibson, Mark Ripperger).

2018 Umpire Leaderboard
"Perfect Crew" (Most Points): -cc Welke (19 pts), P1/2 West (31 pts) & Brian Gorman (25 pts), S1/2 Tumpane (21 pts) & Ted Barrett (21 pts).
Ejections: Little (9); Fletcher, G Gibson, Gorman, Hamari, Wendelstedt (6); Cooper, West (5).
Replay Points: Fieldin Culbreth (9); Chad Fairchild, Gorman (8); Tumpane (7).
[Most Replays Experienced]: Gorman, Carapazza, Carlos Torres, Chris Guccione (24).
Review Accuracy-RAP: Fairchild (.722); Culbreth, Tim Timmons (.714); Tumpane (.684).
Total Points: West (31); Gorman, Tumpane (25), Tripp Gibson (23), T Barrett (21).
Crew Chief Points: Welke (19); Gorman (14); Jerry Meals (13).
UEFL Awards: Best-T Barrett, Promising-Hamari & Blaser, Honorable-T Barrett & Cuzzi.

2017 Umpire Leaderboard
"Perfect Crew" (Most Points): -cc West (23 pts), P1/2 Little (26 pts) & Carapazza (22 pts), S1/2 Mark Wegner (23 pts) & Fairchild (18 pts).
Ejections: 10 (Torres), 7 (HolbrookWelke).
Replay Points: 9 (Fairchild, Wegner, West), 8 (Carapazza).
[Most replays Experienced]: 29 (G Gibson), 26 (Larry Vanover), 25 (Jim Reynolds).
Review Accuracy-RAP: 100.0% (Dale Scott), 87.5% (Pat Hoberg & Ryan Blakney), 81.8% (Fairchild).
Total Pts: 26 (Little), 24 (Wegner), 22 (Carapazza), 21 (Fairchild), 20 (Chris Segal).
Crew Chief Pts: 23 (West), 18 (T Barrett & Tom Hallion), 16 (Reynolds), 13 (Paul Emmel).
UEFL AwardsBest-WegnerPromising-Blaser/FairchildHonorable-Tumpane.

2016 Umpire Leaderboard
"Perfect Crew": -cc Mike Everitt (15), P1/2 Hoberg (29) & Little (24), S 1/2 Alan Porter (19) & Holbrook (19).
Ejections: 8 (Scott & Todd Tichenor), 7 (Hoberg), 6 (Everitt & West).
Replay Points: 9 (T Barrett & Quinn Wolcott), 8 (Hallion & Porter), 7 (DJ Reyburn).
[Most Replays Experienced]: 31 (Dan Iassogna), 30 (Timmons), 27 (Mark Carlson).
Review Accuracy-RAP: .800 (Wolcott), .750 (David Rackley), .722 (Hallion), .714 (T Barrett).
Total Pts: 29 (Hoberg), 24 (Little), 23 (Porter & West), 21 (Holbrook & Hamari).
Crew Chief Pts: 15 (Everitt), 14 (Kellogg & Winters), 13 (Gorman, Vanover & West).
UEFL Awards: Best-GuccionePromising-Holbrook/PorterHonorable-Rob Drake/John Hirschbeck.

The prospectus continues after the page break for years 2010-2015.

Monday, February 25, 2019

NCAA New Rule - Batter K'd for Intent-to-Draw HBP

The NCAA Baseball Rules Committee adopted a new rule for 2019, opting to penalize a batter who leans in to try and draw a HBP by having the umpire call a strike. One week into the season and it just happened, with an ejection for arguing it to boot, issued mere seconds after the head coach strolled out to question the umpire's decision.

Umpire prepares to eject a K-arguing coach.
The Play: It all happened during Army's second game of the young college baseball season against LSU when West Point batter Drake Titus fell behind in the count to LSU pitcher Chase Costello in the top of the 7th inning with one out and two on (R1, R3). With a 2-2 count, Drake's body made contact with Costello's pitch, HP Umpire Eddie Newsom ruling Drake out for, essentially, leaning into the pitch to bail himself out of a two-strike count. Army Head Coach Jim Foster found himself ejected from the game for arguing Newsom's decision.

The Rule (NCAA): NCAA changed Rule 8.2.d.1 after the 2018 season to penalize the batter with a strike and not awarding first base if, in the judgment of the umpire, the batter makes an intentional movement to be hit by a pitch, regardless of where the pitch is located. The guideline goes on to say that if a batter freezes in the box and is hit by the pitch, he shall be awarded first base (prior to 2019, the penalty would simply be a dead ball):
A batter may not make a movement to intentionally get hit by the pitch, regardless of the location of the pitch. He must also avoid being hit whenever possible, unless the pitch is within the batter's box occupied by the batter. If the batter's action is deemed intentional, then:
a) If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or if the batter moves to intentionally get hit or freezes to allow a pitch that is not within the batter's box to hit him, the ball is dead, it shall be called a strike and the batter is not awarded first base.
The Rule (OBR): It should be noted that professional baseball (OBR) has no such rule concerning an automatic intentional HBP strike, but does require a batter to make an "attempt to avoid being touched by the ball." If an OBR batter fails to avoid being touched, the penalty is simply a dead ball and the pitch is called a ball or strike depending on pitch location (Rule 5.05(b)(2)).

The Rule (NFHS): High school is similar to pro in that "if [the batter] permits the pitched ball to touch him...the hitting of the batter is disregarded except that the ball is dead. It is a strike or ball depending on location of the pitch." One related baseball rules difference with NFHS is that if a pitched ball touches a batter's loose garment "not worn properly," the batter is not entitled to first base (whereas, for instance, under OBR, it would be a base award).

Umpire-in-Chief rules a HBP strike.
Analysis: There's really not much to analyze from the accompanying in regard to the umpire's judgment—if he deems the batter moved intentionally into the pitch, then the proper call is a strike (strike three in this case). Though the play was reviewed, this is still a judgment call and as a matter of principle, we don't pick apart judgment. Perhaps we might say this is a more likely occurrence with a two-strike count than with a batter-ahead count, but that's neither here nor there. The only analysis here is rather mechanical.

First, our umpire properly rules the play dead by announcing "Time"—the pitched ball has contacted the batter and the ball is dead. Next, he points to the batter's infraction at home plate and indicates the penalty for the violation; in this case, strike three. Because the ball is dead on strike three, the batter is out and all runners hold their positions. The batter walks back to the dugout without argument while the head coach arrives at home plate.

Did the batter place his elbow into the ball?
We see our plate umpire display a "stop sign" mechanic—both because issues of balls/strikes cannot be argued by a coach who has exited the dugout and, likely, in response to something the coach has said. The coach in this case shall be permitted an explanation and clarification as to the new-for-2019 ruling and the rule itself, but shall be warned upon any attempt to argue the call.

Leaving one's position to argue balls and strikes—and the related calls of check swings, warnings, balks, and HBP-related decisions—violates one of baseball's Standards for Removal from the Game.
Related PostEjections - What and Wherefore? Standards for Removal (3/29/17).

Video as follows: