Friday, March 15, 2019

MLB Ejection S-1 - Angel Hernandez (1; AJ Hinch)

HP Umpire Angel Hernandez ejected Astros Manager AJ Hinch (strike one call; QOCU) in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Cardinals-Astros game. With none out and none on, Astros lead-off batter George Springer took a first-pitch fastball from Cardinals pitcher Daniel Ponce de Leon for a called first strike. Replays are unavailable for this game, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Astros ultimately won the contest, 5-0.

This is Angel Hernandez (5)'s first ejection of Spring Training 2019.

This is the first ejection of the 2019 preseason.
This is the first Manager ejection of the 2019 preseason.
This is Houston's 1st ejection of 2019 Spring, 1st in the Grapefruit League (HOU 1; All Others 0).
This is AJ Hinch's first ejection since August 31, 2018 (Eric Cooper; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Angel Hernandez's first ejection since June 29, 2018 (Andy Green; QOC = Y [Balk]).

Wrap: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros (Spring Training), 3/15/19 | Video as follows:

Stroman's Timing Experiment and the Illegal Pitch

Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman has experimented with delivery timing in an effort to keep batters and umpires on their toes, and this Spring Training proved no exception as Stroman began his delivery, broke his hands by taking his throwing hand out of his glove without the ball, only to reach back into his glove, grip the baseball, and resume his pitch to the batter.

Marcus Stroman separates his hands early.
With a runner or runners on base, this would clearly result in a balk, as Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(10) states that it is a balk when, "The pitcher, after coming to a legal pitching position, removes one hand from the ball other than in an actual pitch, or in throwing to a base."

But what is the call when there are no runners on base, as was the case this week when Stroman tried the wipe-throwing-hand-on-pants delivery?

And how about if I told you that Stroman has done something very similar before, during the regular season, that nearly caused Paul Nauert to eject him after Nauert pointed out the rules infraction?

The Rules Book: When the Playing Rules Committee restructured the rulebook during a recodification meeting in San Diego on December 10, 2014, the Committee's goal was to better organize the rules of baseball into a more logical or chronological format. Whereas the old system had different rules for The Batter (old Rule 6.00), The Runner (old Rule 7.00), and The Pitcher (old 8.00), the Committee felt this approach problematic because there would be plays that involved both the batter and the pitcher, or other permutation, such that the necessity of jumping around from rule to rule might prove too confusing or convoluted. The Committee wanted to make the code simpler.

2015 diagram of hybrid legality across codes.
The New Analysis: In a way, this approach works, since "standard" baseball plays—how to pitch, how to bat, making an out, scoring a run, etc.—all exist within Playing the Game (Rule 5.00), while infractions exist within Improper Play, Illegal Action, and Misconduct (Rule 6.00).

The wrinkle now is that whereas pitching deliveries in the past would exist entirely within The Pitcher (old OBR 8.00), we now have to reference both the "standard" rule on Pitching (new OBR 5.07) and the modern codification for illegal pitching (new OBR 6.02).

Rule for Pitching Deliveries: New OBR 5.07 references legal pitching deliveries—Windup and Set Positions. It doesn't particularly matter how convoluted Stroman's wacky windup is, or whether he wants to claim set position—hybrid be damned—because both rules contain the same language as to deliveries: "Any natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration."

What's the penalty for failing to complete this action? Either start over, or if it's a habitual problem, go with don't do that. (In other words, OBR does not prescribe a precise penalty.)

Sidebar: OBR's Windup vs Set "hybrid" rule, 5.07(a)(2)—wherein a pitcher with pivot foot parallel to the rubber must declare his intent to pitch from Windup lest he be presumed to be in Set Position—only applies when there are runners on base.
Related PostBalk - Pitcher Blown Off Mound, OBR Adopts Hybrid Rule (5/7/17).

Paul Nauert previously called Stroman's bluff.
That said, Rule 5.07(a)(2) Comment states: "If, however, in the umpire’s judgment, a pitcher delivers the ball in a deliberate effort to catch the batter off guard, this delivery shall be deemed a quick pitch, for which the penalty is a ball. See Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment."

But Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment states: "A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted."

Analysis: So there you have it. 5.07(a)(2) wants this outlawed if the pitcher delivers the ball in a deliberate effort to catch the batter off guard, BUT 6.02(a)(5) doesn't want this called a quick pitch unless it's delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter's box.

U1 Nelson ejects a pitcher over "don't do that."
So...was the batter reasonably set? Let's assume that the batter sees Stroman violate the tenet of 5.07 in removing his hand without throwing a pitch, and, in turn, steps out of the batter's box.

Would the batter be deemed reasonably set in this case? Is this an illegal pitch/automatic ball, a "Time" call (similar in theory to "the batter cannot cause a balk/starting from scratch"), or otherwise? What if the batter stepped out of the box, thinking that Stroman had simply stopped his expected delivery?

As we learned from Jeff Nelson in July 2018, pitchers don't always take too kindly to a "don't do that" instruction. 1B Umpire Nelson ejected Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson for arguing a 5.07(a) "do not do that" command. Again, the rule doesn't exactly carry a definitive one-size-fits-all penalty for violating the code, but Hudson's maneuver still violated a rule.
Related PostMLB Ejection 087 - Jeff Nelson (2; Daniel Hudson) (7/4/18).

Nauert granted McCann's request for "Time."
Precedent: In July 2017, HP Umpire Paul Nauert called "Time" at the behest of Astros batter Brian McCann when McCann, alert to the fact that Stroman had violated 5.07(a) regarding the requirement that a pitcher pitch without interruption or alteration, requested "Time" when Stroman completed a fake leg pump and paused without delivering the ball, leading to protestation from Stroman, angry that Nauert granted "Time" to a batter thrown off by Stroman's attempt to circumvent the rule.

No ejections resulted, but just like Nelson and Hudson, Nauert-Stroman goes to show that there can be game management ramifications for a rulebook that allows pitchers to routinely circumvent the delivery regulations with little-to-no penalty for deviation.
Related PostDead Ball - Stroman's Start-Stop and Contested Time Call (7/8/17).

What happens when both players break a rule?
OBR 5.04(b)(2) states that, "Umpires will not call 'Time' at the request of the batter or any member of his team once the pitcher has started his windup or has come to a set position," but Rule 5.07(a) also states that a pitcher is obligated to pitch "without interruption or alteration" once he has started his natural movement associated with delivery.

What's the penalty when both the pitcher and batter have violated?

OBR 5.04(b)(2) Comment goes on to say, "If after the pitcher starts his windup or comes to a 'set position' with a runner on, he does not go through with his pitch because the batter has inadvertently caused the pitcher to interrupt his delivery, it shall not be called a balk. Both the pitcher and batter have violated a rule and the umpire shall call time and both the batter and pitcher start over from 'scratch.'"
Related PostStarting From Scratch - Batter Disrupts Pitcher's Delivery (6/29/17).

Video as follows:

Thursday, March 14, 2019

MLB Rule Changes Announced for 2019, 2020

MLB and the Players Association announced rule changes for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, including a mound visit limit reduction, new All-Star Game and trade deadline procedures, expansion of the active roster, and a minimum number of batters for pitchers.

Commissioner Rob Manfred brought change.
The full list of changes for the 2019 season is as follows:
> Inning breaks are reduced to 2-minutes flat in length.
> Mound visits are limited to five (down from six).
> Trade waivers eliminated; only one deadline: July 31.
> All-Star Game voting changes are TBD.
> > ASG will use the runner-on-2B extra inning tiebreaker.
> Home Run Derby winner will receive $1 million.

The full list of changes for the 2020 season is as follows:
> Active rosters increased from 25 to 26 players.
> 40-man active roster limit in September is eliminated.
>> 28 players shall be carried on the Sept active roster.
> An MLB-MLBPA joint committee will determine the maximum number of pitchers that may appear on an active roster. Only these players will be eligible to pitch unless the game goes into extra innings and/or the score differential is six runs or more.
> A pitcher's minimum time on the injured list shall increase from 10 to 15 days.
> MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's Office will change OBR 5.10(g) to require that all pitchers must pitch to a minimum of three batters or until the end of a half-inning, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Vigilant Kellogg Eyes a Spring Hidden Ball Trick

Official Baseball Rule 8.00 concludes with General Instructions to Umpires, including guidelines for where an umpire should and should not go, what an umpire should and shouldn't do, and a review of the umpire's primary responsibility: to be in position to see every play.

A hidden ball trick in the Spring.
Sure, a byproduct of following umpiring's #1 golden rule is to get the call right, but even the rulebook itself acknowledges that baseball is a game officiated by humans: "Most important rule for umpires is always 'BE IN POSITION TO SEE EVERY PLAY'" - in all-caps, just like that. Again, the most important rule is not to get the call right, but to be in position to officiate.

The General Instructions also bring us to a Spring Training hidden ball trick, where 1B Umpire Jeff Kellogg teaches us that it's never too early to see something unusual. The hidden ball trick is, well, not exactly a trick, but a hope that the offensive team loses track of where the ball is, all while the ball remains alive and in play.

We've discussed restrictions about the hidden ball trick before (namely Rule 6.02(a)(9)'s prohibition that the pitcher cannot "stand on or astride the pitcher's plate" without the ball - in 2017, MiLB Umpire Ryan Wilhelms ejected Buies Creek Manager Omar Lopez over such an "on or astride" debate), but Kellogg's is rather simple, and touches on another key aspect of the General Instructions: "Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play."
Related PostMiLB - Wilhelms Ejects Lopez on Hidden Ball Trick Play (5/4/17).

Angel Hernandez calls Juan Uribe out.
SIDEBAR: This play is similar to the August 10, 2013 play wherein Rays infielder Evan Longoria took custody of a baseball after a sacrifice fly and, while the ball remained live, walked behind third base where Dodgers runner Juan Uribe casually chatted with 3B Coach Tim Wallach. As soon as Uribe took his foot off the base, Longoria tagged him with the ball and 3B Umpire Angel Hernandez, having kept his eye everlastingly on the ball, called Uribe out. The play even fooled the FOX Sports broadcaster Eric Karros, who initially posited the crew had made a "bad call" on a leaving-early appeal, before returning from commercial break and complimenting Hernandez for his "great job" in calling Uribe out.
Related Video: Juan Uribe falls victim to trick as 3B Umpire Angel Hernandez stays alert (8/10/13).

Kellogg's Spring Play: After receiving a pickoff throw, first baseman Miguel Cabrera fakes a throw back to the pitcher while baserunner R1 Ehire Adrianza rises to dust himself off, having slid safely back into first base on the initial throw. As soon as Adrianza steps off the base, Cabrera applies the tag, Kellogg - who has been watching the entire time, as he should - calls the runner out, and the hidden ball illusion is complete.

Video as follows:

Monday, March 11, 2019

Top 15 MLB Hothead Managers by Ejection Frequency

We've published the Top 10 MLB Hothead Players by Ejection Frequency, so now it's time to list the Top 15 Hothead Managers in Major League Baseball. Once again, the umpire sabermetric value Games Per Ejection (GPE) will be used to determine the most frequently ejected skippers in the game.

As we used David Ortiz's 175 GPE for the players' benchmark, we will use all-time managerial ejections leader Bobby Cox's mark of 161 ejections over 4,501 regular season + 136 postseason games, or 29 GPE as our basis for illustration.

Perhaps, however, the more apropos comparison for Cox's notably incessant managerial GPE of 29 is Milton Bradley's GPE of one ejection for every 55 games played.
Related PostDetermining The League's Biggest Hothead (It's Big Papi) (6/11/15).

Rick Renteria is the most-frequent skip ejectee.
Here are the results for the ten most-frequently ejected active managers (minimum 300 games managed). Because managing a team is very different from playing on one, we'll only include data from a person's time as a bona fide manager of a major league ball club. You can also click each skipper's name that appears in the accompanying table for that individual's UEFL ejection report history.

Note that the language used—Hothead Manager—is meant as a consistent title in concert with our Hothead Players feature. Many times, however, a manager—such as Cox—would be ejected not because of a "hothead" reason, but in order to protect a player, who might instead be the true "hothead."

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 Managers with Highest Ejection Frequency
#Player NameGames Per Ejection
Ejections Per Season
(EPS [E/GP*162])
1Rick Renteria276.05
2Ron Gardenhire295.53
3Joe Maddon404.05
4Brad Ausmus404.02
5Clint Hurdle413.96
6Don Mattingly453.63
7Brian Snitker503.25
8Craig Counsell523.18
9Bruce Bochy523.10
10Andy Green543.00
11Ned Yost552.92
12Bob Melvin562.89
13AJ Hinch572.83
14Bud Black582.79
15Terry Francona692.35
15Scott Servais692.33

To summarize:
> Alex Cora (81 GPE and 1.00 EPS), Aaron Boone (54 GPE and 1.50 EPS), and Mike Shildt (35 GPE and 4.70 EPS) didn't make the table because they had too few games of managerial experience.
> Joe Torre (65 GPE and 2.49 EPS), Joe Girardi (48 GPE and 3.37 EPS), and John Gibbons (30 GPE and 5.32 EPS) didn't make the table because they are no longer active managers.