Saturday, June 8, 2019

MLB Ejection 076 - Mike Winters (1; Mickey Callaway)

HP Umpire Mike Winters ejected Mets Manager Mickey Callaway (strike two call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 5th inning of the Rockies-Mets game. With one out and none on, Mets batter Dominic Smith took a 0-1 fastball from Rockies pitcher Jon Gray for a called second strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner edge of home plate and knee-high (px 0.67, pz 1.60 [sz_bot 1.58]) and that all other pitches during the inning were properly officiated, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 3-3. The Mets ultimately won the contest, 5-3.

This is Mike Winters (33)'s first ejection of 2019.
Mike Winters now has 2 points in the UEFL Standings (-2 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 2).
Crew Chief Mike Winters now has 6 points in Crew Division (5 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 6).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
*This pitch was located 2.93 horizontal and 2.71 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 76th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 39th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is New York's 3rd ejection of 2019, T-2nd in the NL East (WAS 4; ATL, NYM 3; MIA, PHI 1).
This is Mickey Callaway's 3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since April 21 (Paul Emmel; QOC = N [Check Swing]).
This is Mike Winters' first ejection since April 26, 2018 (Clint Hurdle; QOC = Y [Out of Base Path]).

Wrap: Colorado Rockies vs. New York Mets, 6/8/19 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 075 - Bruce Dreckman (3; Ned Yost)

HP Umpire Bruce Dreckman ejected Royals Manager Ned Yost (strike one call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 6th inning of the White Sox-Royals game. With none out and one on (R1), Royals batter Alex Gordon took a first-pitch fastball from White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito for a called first strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px 0.26, pz 1.55 [sz_bot 1.62 / RAD 1.497]), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the White Sox were leading, 2-0. The White Sox ultimately won the contest, 2-0.

This is Bruce Dreckman (1)'s third ejection of 2019.
Bruce Dreckman now has 13 points in the UEFL Standings (9 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 13).
Crew Chief Paul Emmel now has 9 points in Crew Division (8 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 9).
*This pitch was located 1.632 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 75th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 38th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Kansas City's 5th ejection of 2019, T-1st in the AL Central (DET, KC 5; CWS 4; CLE, MIN 1).
This is Ned Yost's 2nd ejection of 2019, 1st since May 8 (Brian Knight; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Bruce Dreckman's 3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since May 23 (Dave Martinez; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).

Wrap: Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals, 6/8/19 | Video as follows:

M's Catch Both Foul Ball and Fan's Glove

As if to drive the fan interference point home, Friday's Mariners-Angels game featured a play when Seattle's Domingo Santana attempted to catch a foul fly ball near the right field wall just as a fan in the stands tried to do the same. Santana emerged from this entanglement with one baseball and two gloves—his and the flummoxed fan's—as 1B Umpire Ron Kulpa signaled an air out.

Santana catches more than he bargained for.
Was this the correct call or did fan interference play a part?

The Play: With none out and none on in the bottom of the 5th inning, Angels batter Jonathan Lucroy hit a 2-2 sinker from Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales in the air to right field, with right fielder Santana pursuing the ball into foul territory and toward the wall separating the playing field from the spectator area. As Lucroy's batted fly ball descended near the boundary, both Santana and several fans reached for the ball, with Santana ultimately coming up with both the baseball and a fan's glove, ruled an out by 1B Umpire Kulpa.

The Rule: By now, we are well versed in Official Baseball Rule 6.01(e)'s penalty for fan interference ("the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference"), just as we are familiar with the definition of spectator interference ("occurs when a spectator (or an object thrown by the spectator) hinders a player’s attempt to make a play on a live ball, by going onto the playing field, or reaching out of the stands and over the playing field").

The playing field is the fielder's domain.
Analysis: So what happened Friday in Anaheim? When Santana reached for the ball against the wall, he ran up against the boundary line separating the playing field from spectator area, from live ball territory and dead ball territory. By rule, we know that anything on the playing field side of the base of the wall is in play and the fielder has right-of-way while anything on the grandstand side of this plane is a free-for-all.

We also know that as soon as a fan makes contact with a live ball—regardless of which side of the boundary the ball is on—the ball becomes dead.

When a fan makes contact with a fielder, but not with the ball, the play remains alive unless the umpire deems that spectator interference has occurred, in which case the ball becomes dead and the nullification penalties are imposed.

A diagram of spectator interference.
In the case of Santana, replays indicate the ball first made contact with the fan's glove, before dropping, due to momentum, into Santana's glove, giving the appearance that Santana had caught the ball cleanly.

By rule, the ball is dead at the moment of contact with the fan's glove. Angels Manager Brad Ausmus failed to challenge this boundary call; had this play been adjudicated by Replay Review, it would have thus been overturned. But overturned to what?

The two options here are 1) fan interference, or 2) foul ball.

1) Fan interference is the proper call if the spectator's glove first made contact with the baseball as it was over the playing field. This would mean the spectator broke through the boundary plane (see above diagram) and touched the batted ball. In order to nullify the act, I surmise Replay Review would have declared the batter out, essentially ending up with the same result as what was called on the field (batter out).
Related PostFact Check - Bregman's Fan Interference Out (7/26/18).

2) Foul ball is the proper call if the spectator's glove first made contact with the baseball when the ball was not over the playing field (neutral zone or spectator area). In this case, the fan touching the ball not only made it become dead, but also made it a foul ball. The fan has the right of way in the stands and this is where home-field-advantage for spectators comes into play.
Related PostFan Inter-Beer-ence - Baseball's Neutral Zone (8/18/18).

Even a slight graze constitutes interference.
Due to the various camera angles used for replays—none of which were positioned on the wall itself—it is ultimately inconclusive as to whether the fan reached out of the stands to interfere or whether the fan legally contacted the ball in the "fan has the right of way" area.

Gil's Replay Review Decision: As a result of this clear and convincing evidence that the fan touched the ball, but a lack of ample evidence to indicate where the ball was in relation to the boundary plane when the fan touched it, I would overturn this call to a foul ball. This is because I have evidence to indicate the ball became dead before Santana caught it, yet I don't have evidence to contradict the on-field ruling that fan interference did not occur. Thus, with evidence that the ball-was-alive-when-it-entered-Santana's-glove call was incorrect but no information regarding the boundary issue, I overturn the catch element while upholding the on-field ruling that there was no fan interference. Hence, a foul ball. Had Kulpa ruled that fan interference occurred, that decision would have stood.

Spectator interference can result in a HR.
Postlude: This is why it's important in a league with Replay Review to call fan interference any and every time it occurs, even if the fielder ultimately catches the ball, or even if the batted ball ultimately ends up being a home run.

For instance, the accompanying image indicates an instance of spectator interference that results in a home run. If the on-field umpire rules this play a home run, but not interference, and Replay Review determines that the ball struck the yellow line before bouncing back onto the field, thus failing to leave the playing field, and is inconclusive as to whether the fan touched the ball, the Replay Official's only recourse is to rule the ball in play and go with whatever the on-field umpire's ruling was in regard to the fan interference issue. If the umpire called the play a home run from the get-go, Replay would overturn it to a double (or triple, as the case may be)...but if the umpire called the play a home run due to fan interference from the get-go, Replay would uphold the HR call.

We've previously discussed the importance of the call on the field, and this—an inconclusive replay for one element of a play, while video is clear for another aspect—is yet another example of why the initial on-field ruling is so vital. If an umpire observes interference that nonetheless results in an out, the interference shouldn't be ignored. Even in non-replay leagues, recall that interference causes the ball to become dead: it's important umpires kill the play when prescribed by rule so unintended consequences don't occur and lead to rules-related controversy, whether or not the interference appeared to have an effect on the play: by rule, the mere fact that a fan has touched a live ball must be addressed.
Related PostCrew Consultation - Importance of the Call on the Field (7/22/17).

Video as follows:

Friday, June 7, 2019

MLB Ejection 074 - James Hoye (2; Ron Gardenhire)

HP Umpire James Hoye ejected Tigers Manager Ron Gardenhire (balk call; QOCY) in the top of the 3rd inning of the Twins-Tigers game. With one out and one on (R1), Tigers pitcher Matt Boyd was called for a balk during an attempted pickoff of Twins baserunner R1 Byron Buxton, awarding Buxton second base. Replays indicate Boyd failed to step directly toward first base in throwing to that base in contravention of Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(3), which states, "If there is a runner, or runners, it is a balk when—The pitcher, while touching his plate, fails to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base," the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Tigers were leading, 1-0. The Twins ultimately won the contest, 6-3.

This is James Hoye (92)'s second ejection of 2019.
James Hoye now has 8 points in the UEFL Standings (4 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 8).
Crew Chief Jeff Kellogg now has 7 points in Crew Division (6 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 7).
*It is also a balk, pursuant to OBR 6.02(a)(1), when, "The pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery."
*OBR 6.02(a) Comment states: "Umpires should bear in mind that the purpose of the balk rule is to prevent the pitcher from deliberately deceiving the base runner. If there is doubt in the umpire’s mind, the “intent” of the pitcher should govern."
*As there was no ejection on the part of Minnesota, we are not concerned with adjudicating QOC for any of the balk no-calls.

This is the 74th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 37th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Detroit's 5th ejection of 2019, 1st in the AL Central (DET 5; CWS, KC 4; CLE, MIN 1).
This is Ron Gardenhire's 4th ejection of 2019, 1st since May 21 (Fieldin Culbreth; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).
This is James Hoye's 2nd ejection of 2019, 1st since May 28 (Joakim Soria; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers, 6/7/19 | Video as follows:

Read the Rule, Rizzo - Ball Boy Non-Interference

Chicago's Anthony Rizzo ran into an out due to a lack of rules knowledge concerning a Wrigley Field security guard's unintentional interference during a batted ball. Cubs batter Kris Bryant's double down the left field line led to a Cardinals' inning-ending out as Marcell Ozuna stayed with the play to throw the confused Rizzo out at home to end Chicago's 5th inning threat.

Types of Interference in the Outfield (or Infield)
Fan Interference: Perhaps it is apropos that we just wrote about fan interference, and reviewed Official Baseball Rule 6.01(e), which states that the penalty for spectator interference is: "the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference."
Related PostReplay Rewind - Fan INT & Com Clarity (6/7/19).

Intentional interference on-field in Texas.
Unintentional Interference: Unlike the aforementioned fan interference that causes a dead ball immediately upon its occurrence, so-called unintentional interference can only occur as a result of a ball coming into contact with a person authorized to be on the playing field who are not uniformed personnel nor umpires—namely ball boys and bat girls, security guards, and police officers.

The rule reference is OBR 6.01(d), which states: "In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the team at bat who are participating in the game, or a base coach, any of whom interfere with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball; or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference."

The following articles illustrate additional considerations for officiating this brand of interference.
Related PostWhen Unintentional Interference Turns Intentional (9/2/18).
Related PostBall Boy Interference: Judging Intent of Non-Team Persons (4/12/13).

Culbreth ejects Collins over a similar play.
Prior Play: In 2017, Fieldin Culbreth ejected Terry Collins for arguing an unintentional interference foul ball call by HP Umpire Roberto Ortiz when a Mets batboy attempting to avoid a foul ball unintentionally collided with Mets fielder Wilmer Flores.

Because the batboy did not intentionally initiate contact with Flores (nor with the ball), the proper call was made: unintentional interference. To be clear, unintentional interference can occur when a batboy-type person makes contact with a batted or thrown ball, or with a player.
Related PostMLB Ejection 057 - Fieldin Culbreth (1; Terry Collins) (6/1/17).

We diagrammed this play in 2018.
Analysis: So there you have it. When Cubs batter Bryant hit a double down the left field line, the bounding ball bounced into the Cubs' left field warning track security officer, who himself was attempting to avoid the ball (perhaps due to his proximity to the ball girl, he jumped back and to his left instead of forward and to his right).

By giving up on Friday's play in Chicago, Rizzo demonstrated his rules ignorance—as did the Cardinals' Paul DeJong—while Ozuna, who did raise his arm, nonetheless kept running after the ball and threw home in baseball's version of playing to the whistle as Rizzo jogged into an out at the plate, a simple call for HP Umpire Mark Carlson.

Maddon speaks to U3 Gorman.
Mechanics: The one thing we didn't see that we could have is 3B Umpire Brian Gorman giving a "safe"-type mechanic to communicate his ruling that the interference by an authorized on-field person was unintentional. In general, "safe" tells players and teams that play is alive and no infraction of the rules has occurred. Other than "safe," the only other mechanic, if one were to be given, here would be a signal declaring the ball dead (due to intentional interference, which this was not). Thus, "safe" and no mechanic at all signify the exact same thing: the ball remains live and in play.

SIDEBAR: Unlike fan interference, unintentional interference is not reviewable. Despite Joe Maddon putting his hands up to hold the umpires, this play could not be referred to video.

Compare to Intentional Interference by On-Field Persons:
This is intentional interference.
By rule, plays like Friday's sequence in Chicago are deemed "unintentional interference," which results in the ball being kept alive and in play. It is important from a rules standpoint to understand that "unintentional interference" doesn't refer directly to whether the non-team authorized person actually intended to interfere with a live ball, but to the result of this person's action.

In other words, this rule uses a different definition of "intentional" than, say, the rule about a pitcher intentionally throwing at a batter.

For instance, a ball attendant sitting on a stool who fields a ground ball, believing that the ball was foul despite the umpire's ruling that the ball was fair, has not intended to interfere per se—but, by virtue of this person's intentional act in fielding the ball, this person has indeed committed intentional interference.

As OBR 6.01(d) states, if the interference by such an authorized non-uniform person (which, again, includes a non-roster ball attendant in uniform) is an intentional act—as in this person intentionally seeks to touch the ball—then the penalty is similar as to that for fan interference: dead ball and nullify the act.

Until then, read the rules and don't stop playing before the ball is declared dead.

Video as follows:

Replay Rewind - Fan INT & Com Clarity

Baseball's gameday communication problem exists largely because MLB umpires don't verbally communicate with fans or media during the game, the same way NFL and NHL referees have microphones to announce penalties or the way NBA officials walk over to the scorer's and media tables to explain calls.

All we have in baseball is a public address announcer's statement based on the official word accompanied by a visual mechanic—out, safe, no violation (one-hand washout/safe), score the run, waive the run, home run, base award, fair, foul ball, foul tip, hit batsman, strike, ball, obstruction, offensive interference, catcher's interference, fan interference...

...And it's such a fan interference call that brings about this edition of Replay Rewind.

Remember in 2017 when the Associated Press hinted that microphones may soon arrive for MLB umpires? That didn't happen, and instead, we got a leaked Tom Hallion "ass in the jackpot" video that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred tried to scrub from the internet, and which a related communication with the Umpires' Union recently became the subject of an MLB inquiry related to the Angel Hernandez lawsuit.
Related PostUmpire Microphones May Arrive in MLB This Year (4/18/17).
Related PostRevisiting the Situation - Tom Hallion & Terry Collins (6/13/18).
Related PostRob Manfred is in the Jackpot - CBA Cut Hallion-Collins (6/15/18).
Related PostMLB Fight with Hernandez Evokes 20-Year-Old Feud (5/24/19).

MLB tried to hide Hallion/Collins audio.
Anywho, a UEFL fan watching Wednesday's Twins-Indians game sent me a note regarding a play in the bottom of the 5th inning after Indians batter Francisco Lindor was safe at first base due to an overthrown ball.

The Play: With none out and none on, Lindor hit a ground ball to Twins third baseman Miguel Sano, whose throw to first base sailed wide and toward the wall beyond first base, in foul territory. The ball caromed off the bottom of the wall and popped into the air, above the warning track, whereupon a fan appeared to reach over the wall—through the boundary plane separating the field of play from the spectator area—and touched the live ball.

The Call, Replay, and Confirmation: After consultation, Chief Jeff Nelson's crew awarded Lindor second base, prompting a challenge by Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli. Replay Review returned in agreement, confirming HP Umpire Laz Diaz's ruling of fan interference and second-base award for batter-runner Lindor.

Nelly's crew gets together after the play.
The Rule: This was obviously spectator interference, as the fan clearly reached over to touch the live ball, but the question is rather what happens to the runner(s)? Pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.01(e), "When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference."

Analysis: Under this "nullify the act" principle (which also shows up in Obstruction Type 2/B situations, e.g.) the umpires must determine what would have happened had the violative act—in this case, fan interference—not occurred. Both the on-field umpires and the Replay Official determined that, had interference not occurred, Lindor would have advanced to second base, and that's why he was awarded said base.

Proper Mechanics: From an umpiring standpoint, everything was handled properly. Diaz, off-camera, declared the ball out of play in real-time, the crew convened after the play to determine that the penalty for fan interference, in order to nullify the act in this situation, would be to award the batter-runner second base, and, upon receipt of the Replay Official's verdict, Crew Chief Nelson visually indicated 1) fan interference, and 2) the batter-runner shall be placed on second base.

Not every Replay is as simple as safe or out.
Communication Problems: The problem, then, is for anyone who isn't familiar with Umpiring Sign Language (USL, ©CloseCallSports), it's not all that easy to figure out 1) what the original ruling was, 2) what exactly was replayed, and 3) what the final outcome was.

The stadium's public address announcer does announce 1) and 3)—the PA listens in for the official verbiage and then dictates this to the stadium—but this isn't too helpful for a television audience subject to broadcasters that aren't all that great with rules to begin with.

Of all replays shown of the play beyond first base, we only see one umpire—1B Umpire Roberto Ortiz—who doesn't make any call whatsoever as the ball leaves the playing field in the fan's hands.

Umpire Ortiz is the only official pictured.
To an umpire, the obvious answer is that we don't see the first base umpire make a call because that's not his call to make. In this situation, the plate umpire has boundary responsibilities, so HP Umpire Diaz, off-camera and in a much better position than any other umpire, is the one making the dead ball call. Because Diaz isn't shown on camera, it'd be very easy for the average fan to assume that the crew didn't make a call whatsoever when, in fact, Diaz did acknowledge that a live ball had died.

The broadcast acknowledged that the crew met to discuss the play, but never followed up with the umpire's ultimate pre-replay determination, all while the public address announced that the Twins were challenging the umpires' ruling that a fan had interfered with the ball.
Nelson signals review's interference finding.

After Replay Review confirmed the crew's ruling, the broadcast was confused whether the runner would be sent back to first or placed at second base, despite Nelson pointing the runner to second base.

Gil's Call: This confusion could be easy to clear up with a better communication system. As for the reluctancy to incorporate microphones, especially re: Hallion/Collins, there's a pretty significant difference between a hot mic during an ejection argument and a deliberately activated microphone during the public announcement of a ruling.

The microphones are already there.
MLB would be wise to shore up the communication issue by adopting the Nippon Professional Baseball approach to placing a microphone on field level for the umpires to use in communicating tricky rulings to the stadium—by not putting the PA microphone on the official like the NFL or NHL does, baseball would avoid a Hallion/Collins situation, while still allowing umpires to communicate with the fans. The Replay Review headsets already have microphones—just add the capability to flip a switch and broadcast to the stadium. Take Ed Hochuli or Wes McCauley out to the ballgame, and give us something like:
Minnesota has challenged the call that a spectator interfered with play and the decision to award the batter-runner second base...
And after the review:
After review, the ruling on the field has been confirmed [or, in McCauley fashion, "the ruling on the field has been...confirmed!]. The spectator reached through the plane separating the stands and playing field, and touched a live ball while it was over the playing field. This is fan interference, the penalty of which shall be to nullify the act. In other words, the penalty is to determine what would have happened had the fan not interfered and to place baserunners accordingly. In this situation, the crew deemed that had the fan not interfered, Lindor would have advanced to second base and awarded him second base in order to nullify the act. The Replay Official confirmed this ruling. Minnesota loses its challenge.
Field-adjacent microphones: a chance for umpires to regain some personality that was lost when MLB asphyxiated the American and National League offices for Y2K.

Video as follows:

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sabino Strike - MLB Umpire K3 Calls for 2019

UEFL'er Andrew Sabino updated his MLB umpire strike three mechanics video for 2019, complete with calls by batter handedness, and including new call-up umps.

The bow-and-arrow, chainsaw, punch-out jabs, and Tom Hallion Backbreaker™ are all back for 2019, as this year's Sabino Strike video compilation once again features all umpires on the MLB staff and all MiLB call-ups in numerical order, from sleeve #1 Bruce Dreckman (Chainsaw) to #98 Chris Conroy (Bow-and-Arrow).

New this year, batter handedness plays a role as the video includes umpire calls that are left- and right-handed specific, for those umpires who vary their strike three called mechanic based on which side of the plate the batter stands.
Related PostSabino Scout - MLB Umpire Strike 3 Mechanics Video (8/26/18).

Accompanying the following video is a table of called third strike mechanics, including batter-handedness specific information:

Strike 3 Call Type # of Umps Umpire Sleeve #s [Batter Handedness in Brackets, L/R]
Bow-and-Arrow (Straight-on-Chainsaw) 57.5 2, 4, 6 [L], 7, 8 [R], 9, 11, 13, 14 [R], 15, 16, 17, 18 [R], 28, 29, 30, 31, 33 [L], 34, 35 [R], 36 [R], 37, 38, 39, 40, 43, 45 [R], 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53 [R], 55, 57 [R], 58*, 59 [R], 62, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 71, 73, 75, 76, 77, 79, 80, 81 [R], 83, 84, 86, 89, 90, 91, 93, 94, 95*, 96 [R], 97, 98
Chainsaw (Sideways Bow & Arrow) 21.5 1, 3, 6 [R], 12, 14 [L], 18 [L], 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 33 [R], 35 [L], 36 [L], 41, 45 [L], 53 [L], 54, 57 [L], 59 [L], 60, 65, 81 [L], 87, 88, 92, 95*, 96 [L]
Punch Out or Punch Down 10 8 [L], 19, 25, 48, 56, 58*, Jim Joyce, 70, 72, 74, 78, 85
Disco (Raised or Vertical Arm) 2 5, 21
Hybrid Disco + Bow or Chain 3 10, 32, 44, Bob Davidson
Backbreaker™ 1 20

* (Asterisk) Indicates that two distinct types were observed with such frequency as to render the classification a 50-50 split (for 58 Dan Iassogna and 95 Tim Timmons); distributions other than 50-50 were classified as to the mechanic type most commonly observed. Includes new call-ups who debuted in 2019.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Podcast - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone

Why are umpires privately told they are 97%+ accurate behind home plate while, publicly, MLB exposes fans to data indicating significantly lower scores? This Plate Meeting Podcast discusses the mythical electronic strike zone-as-HP Umpire concept, its pitfalls, and why the technology isn't sufficient, and how umpires are subjected to unnecessary abuse because of a system that doesn't like to admit that—in MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's own words—"that technology has a larger margin of error than we see with human umpires."

We begin with an overview—with supporting video if you so choose to view our visual aid (it's helpful)—of the history of pitch analysis technology in professional baseball, a politicized MLB seeking to gain more power over its umpires at the expense of investing in an early ball/strike technological model, and how MLB's chosen system has developed through QuesTec to Pitch f/x to TrackMan and StatCast to this point.

Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 15 - The Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone" or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting. The Plate Meeting is also available on iTunes (Apple Podcasts), Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and several other podcast apps.

Alternate Link: Episode 15 - The Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone.

We discuss the benefits and common misconceptions and errors of Brooks Baseball, and why most people are using it incorrectly—how Brooks assumes every player of every height has the exact same strike zone, and how the plots assume each baseball is a singular coordinate (rather than a sphere with a nearly-three-inch diameter).

Batter height plays a key role in strike zones.
We interview Dylan Yep of Umpire Auditor, whose stated purpose for his flagship "Worst Call of the Day" is to provoke and bring about robot umpires, despite admitting that the technology is flawed and that Umpire Auditor itself from its birth until very recently, like Brooks, failed to account for the fact that a baseball is not just a singular point in his px, pz, sz_bot, and sz_top collection.

We interview Mark T. Williams of Boston University's Questrom School of Business, who applied his decades of analysis experience in Finance to run MLB's public-facing numbers to find out exactly how accurate the league tells the public its umpires are, pursuant to MLB-owned Baseball Savant's Gameday Zone variable.

We talk with Mark about the discrepancy between the league's private and public figures, and try and figure out how transparent (or not) baseball really is about this subject.

We conclude with an recap of a discussion that has shown how problematic data is for a system that, per the league's own admission, isn't as accurate as its umpires and try to reconcile this league-admitted problem with the fact that the public at large is using this flawed system to evaluate umpires...all while the umpires themselves are privy to private numbers that show how well they are performing at the their jobs...numbers that generally will never see the public light of day.

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:

The Plate Meeting is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship IParamount.

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Related Video: Video of our opening segment for this episode of The Plate Meeting.
Related LinkTwitter Account for Dylan Yep's Umpire Auditor.
Related Link: MLB Umpire Study by Boston University Master Lecturer Mark T. Williams.
Related LinkQuestrom School of Business/Finance Faculty Page for Mark T. Williams.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Injuries - Everitt, Hallion & Barry Hurt on Tuesday

It's said that bad things happen in threes and Tuesday, that rang true for umpires as three umpire injuries plagued MLB, with Mike Everitt (Washington, DC), Tom Hallion (New York), and Scott Barry (Milwaukee) leaving their games, all within the span of an hour after a pair of plate injuries and one in the field.

Pace of Play Trivia: Thanks to SNY, we can report that umpire delays are not deducted from game time the way rain delays are. If it takes 10 minutes for an umpire to be replaced, that's 10 minutes added to the calculated game time.

Everitt: In Washington, DC, in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the White Sox-Nationals game, White Sox pitcher Reynaldo Lopez's first pitch 92.2-mph fastball to Nationals batter Trea Turner missed everything—the batter swung and missed and the catcher fanned on the catch—striking Everitt directly in the left chest atop his heart, shattering the pen sitting in his pocket in front of the lineup cards. Everitt remained in the contest through the completion of the inning, upon which time 2B Umpire Lance Barrett took over behind home plate with 1B Umpire Bill Welke and 3B Umpire Chris Guccione remaining at the corner bases.

Relevant Injury History: Tangentially:
Injury Scout - Warmup Pitch to Groin Knocks Everitt (8/29/17).

Everitt: Last Game: June 4 | Return to Play: June 5 | Time Absent: Rest of Game

Hallion: In New York, in the bottom of the 4th inning of the Giants-Mets game, Hallion was struck by a 3-1 foul ball off the bat of Mets batter Todd Frazier from Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner's 92.7-mph fastball. Hallion remained in the game to complete the half-inning, upon which time 2B Umpire Vic Carapazza (in the box score as "Victor Carapazza"...we also have "Jeffrey Kellogg" and "Lazaro Diaz" working around the league today) took over behind home plate, with 1B Umpire Jordan Baker and 3B Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt manning the lines. Angel Hernandez replaced Hallion as acting crew chief for Wednesday's game.

Relevant Injury History: Significant, including:
Injury Scout - Hallion Out in Anaheim After Hit to Head (4/9/19).
Injury Scout - Tom Hallion Out on Extra Inning Foul to Jaw (7/24/18).
Injury Scout - Hallion Exits After Foul to Face Mask (8/19/17).
Tom Hallion Takes Direct Shot to Mask, Remains in Game (8/14/15).
Tom Hallion Squarely Struck by Foul, Leaves A's Game (7/1/15).

Hallion
: Last Game: June 4 | Return to Play: June 17 | Time Absent: 12 Days

Barry: In Milwaukee, prior to the top of the 2nd inning of the Marlins-Brewers game, 2B Umpire Scott Barry left the game with what appeared to be a lower body/leg injury, leaving 1B Umpire Tripp Gibson and 3B Umpire Mark Carlson in the field accompanied by crew chief Brian Gorman behind home plate. Chad Whitson replaced Barry for Wednesday's game.

Relevant Injury History: N/A.

Barry: Last Game: June 4 | Return to Play: TBD | Time Absent: TBD | Videos as follows:

NCAA Louisville Ejection - Lessons Learned

Every so often a college baseball ejection causes a national stir. Such was the case with Indiana and Louisville during Sunday's NCAA regional that ended with a bench-clearing event after HP Umpire Ken Langford ejected Cardinals pitcher Michael McAvene and IU batter Ryan Fineman. What can umpires learn from this sequence? Our ejection report is as follows.

Coach McDonnell questions the ejection.
HP Umpire Ken Langford ejected Louisville pitcher Michael McAvene (ball three call; QOCU) and Indiana catcher Ryan Fineman (strike three call; QOCU) in the top of the 9th inning of Sunday's Hoosiers-Cardinals game. With two out and one on, Fineman took a 2-2 pitch from McAvene for a called third ball, upon which McAvene was ejected for unsporting conduct in disputing the ball/strike call as Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell questioned the umpires.

After replacement pitcher Michael Kiaran entered the game and threw the carry-over 3-2 pitch for a called third strike for the third out of the ninth inning, Fineman was ejected in a post-participation capacity as he pursued Langford to argue the call after the game was over, as did Indiana base coach Casey Dykes. Shortly after IU's post-game argument began, a benches-clearing incident occurred as both teams entered the playing field, at which time the umpires left the field and both teams had to be separated by a cadre of police officers.

IU-LOU benches cleared after the final out.
At the time of McAvene's ejection, Louisville was leading 9-7. At the time of Fineman's post-participation ejection, Louisville had won the contest and eliminated Indiana, 9-7.

Here's our analysis of what transpired: First, pitcher McAvene's 2-2 pitch is caught by the Louisville catcher, who moves his mitt as if to frame or sell the pitch, which the umpire rules ball three. McAvene appears to disagree and turns to his left; his jaw appears to move, as if saying something; McAvene then turns to face home plate. Umpire Langford gestures to indicate the pitch was inside. We would thus surmise McAvene sought clarification for the pitch's location, which the umpire provided. McAvene, who after turning back toward the umpire and having appeared to observe Langford's indication that the pitch missed inside, responds, "that's horrible." Langford in turn moves to eject McAvene from the game.

McAvene then stands in disbelief before offering, "I didn't say anything to you." If nothing else, we can confidently declare that this statement is disputed by video evidence, which clearly indicates the pitcher verbally addressed the umpire prior to ejection. Two words too many?

One thing we do know: The pitcher did talk.
NCAA Rule 2-26-d states, "Whenever a pitcher is ejected for disputing an umpire's decision or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language directed at an opponent or umpire (including a post-participation ejection), the suspension will be for a total of four (4) games."

The first step is to recall this isn't professional baseball—scholastic ball treats unsporting conduct with greater stringency than does pro ball, and has a Code of Ethics for players and coaches that professional baseball generally does not. For instance, police rarely, if ever, will get involved in a Major League bench-clearing brawl.

When Langford ejected McAvene, he did not eject the pitcher strictly for arguing balls and strikes, though that is where the dispute originated.

Police broke up the post-game fracas.
He did have the option to warn the pitcher, but that is an option, not a requirement. The umpire does have the ability to eject without warning. This is a judgment call.

Recall that the umpire provided an explanation for the ball three call (the "it was inside" gesture). When the pitcher subsequently responded, "that's horrible," his response was no longer about the initial call itself, but additionally referred to the umpire's explanation for the call ("it was inside").

Thus, the pitcher not only disputed the umpire's decision, but additionally was adjudged to have employed an instance of unsportsmanlike conduct directed at the umpire in rejecting the umpire's explanation for his call; perhaps the umpire deemed this post-explanation conduct was too severe for a warning.

After the game, Louisville head coach McDonnell stated he didn't know whether the call was correct or not, nor did he really care all that much about the pitch call; instead, he lamented McAvene's ejection while admitting he didn't know what exactly transpired: "It's really hard. You've got to be really careful...it's hard to tell from our side. I don't know [what was said]. I would have liked a warning. I just think the magnitude of this time of year—you know, I got a warning. Which is fair. I ran out there, I stuck up for my guy, I got a warning. I toned it down after that...It's just disappointing that Michael didn't get a warning...So, disappointing, but it happened."

The feed returned just in time for trash-talk.
McDonnell's Hoosiers counterpart—Jeff Mercer—wasn't as diplomatic: "[Umpires] have a job to do; they get paid to do it. I get paid to do my job. And you have to be able to execute, and everyone is held to that same standard...I'll handle it. I'll talk to the tournament. I'll talk to the site directors. I'll talk to the umpires. It'll be handled in a professional way. Just like if I had something unprofessional or unbecoming, they have ways to hold me accountable."

Mercer concluded, "I'm a subued guy, pretty level headed. And both of our base coaches are very level-headed guys. I mean, the pitch just bounced. You can look at the video."

Umpires walking toward mounds look angry.
Actually...you can't. The ESPN feed lost its signal shortly before the 3-2 pitch in question, and the broadcast went back on the air shortly after the teams were separated from their benches-clearing incident.

Gil's Call: Was this penalty too harsh or just desserts for a violation of NCAA rules? One of the comments made by the broadcasters was that the umpire should have warned the pitcher by walking toward the mound to make it clear to the entire stadium that the pitcher has been warned.

Whether this should have been a warning or ejection is, again, a judgment call. If "that's horrible" is deemed ejection-worthy, then by all means eject the pitcher. If not, then keep him in the game for the 3-2, two-out pitch. Warn if necessary.

The problem, of course, is that the umpire comes off as the aggressor anytime such a showy warning takes place. It usually brings the catcher out to "restrain" or "intercept" the umpire, and often brings the manager out of the dugout as well. See Andy Fletcher/Jon Lester in 2015, or Eric Cooper/AJ Burnett in 2013.
Related PostReview of Bullet Down the Line, Fletcher Gets Upset (6/29/15).
Related PostFleeing the Coop: When an Umpire is Burned by AJ Pitcher (8/1/13).

Cuzzi admonishes Vogelsong to stop arguing.
Instead, consider Phil Cuzzi's reaction to Ryan Vogelsong in 2015 in removing his mask, and loudly declaring his warning toward the Giants pitcher with an accompanying "stop sign" hand gesture. An umpire who walks toward the mound nearly always looks overly aggressive, while an umpire who remains behind the plate and gives a "long distance" warning generally appears more in control.

Nonetheless, broadcaster Curt Schilling used the opportunity to bash Cuzzi for his "bad night." Schilling, who never appeared to be a person who sought to associate himself with facts, accused Cuzzi of suffering from a "bad night" during a game in which Cuzzi was 100% accurate in calling 43 balls for Giants pitchers (39/41 strikes = 97.6% overall accuracy for Giants pitching).
Related PostMLB Ejections 116-117: Phil Cuzzi (3-4; Vogelsong, Bochy) (7/5/15).

Optics: Ump ejects pitcher with back turned.
Back to our NCAA ejection, the accompanying still image shows an umpire walking toward the mound and ejecting a pitcher, whose back is turned.

Yes, sometimes, a player commits an egregious and ejectable offense and then turns to walk away such that the umpire's reaction—which will always necessarily be at least a fraction of a second following the unsporting act—will look over-the-top.

For optics' sake, how should an umpire respond to an offense deemed ejection-able that looks more authoritative and less authoritarian?

For one, in general, it shouldn't be incumbent upon an on-field official to consider the ramifications of an ejection. Superstar closer or freshman pinch runner, four-game suspension in the postseason or not, if a team member commits an act on the field that merits an ejection, such violative personnel should be ejected accordingly. For an umpire, it is, as is said, "above our pay grade" to consider suspensions and the like: that's a job for the governing body—in this case, the NCAA. Umpires govern what happens during their jurisdiction on the playing field—not afterward.

Does this mean the NCAA should consider modifying its rules, including the mandatory four-game suspension for such a pitcher ejection? Possibly, but that's not an umpire's call to make—that's NCAA leadership through its rules committee, which is comprised of administrators and coaches.

Video as follows:

Sunday, June 2, 2019

MLB Ejections 072-73 - Alan Porter (2-3; OAK)

HP Umpire Alan Porter ejected Athletics RF Stephen Piscotty and Manager Bob Melvin (strike three call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 10th inning of the Astros-A's game. With two out and one on (R1), A's batter Piscotty took a 3-2 cutter from Astros pitcher Roberto Osuna for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and knee-high (px -0.32, pz 1.74 [sz_bot 1.62]) and that all other pitches during the at-bat were properly officiated, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 4-4. The Astros ultimately won the contest, 6-4, in 12 innings.

These are Alan Porter (64)'s second and third ejections of 2019.
Alan Porter now has 13 points in the UEFL Standings (5 Prev + 2*[2 MLB + 2 Correct Call] = 13).
Crew Chief Jim Reynolds now has 4 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 2*[1 Correct Call] = 4).
*This pitch was located 3.912 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

These are the 72nd and 73rd ejection reports of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 32nd player ejection of 2019. Prior to ejection, Piscotty was 0-5 (3 SO) in the contest.
This is the 36th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Oakland's 4/5th ejection of 2019, 1st in the AL West (OAK 5; HOU, LAA 2; SEA 1; TEX 0).
This is Stephen Piscotty's first career MLB ejection.
This is Bob Melvin's 2nd ejection of 2019, 1st since May 13 (DJ Reyburn; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Alan Porter's 2/3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since June 1 (Marcus Semien; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).

Wrap: Houston Astros vs. Oakland Athletics, 6/2/19 | Video as follows:

Case Play 2019-2 - Fly Ball off Player & Wall [Solved]

In the midst of Boston's Memorial Day win over Cleveland, Red Sox batter JD Martinez's fly ball to deep right field wound up in the fair territory bullpen beyond the outfield wall, ruled a home run by 1B Umpire Gabe Morales. With replays indicating the ball caromed off the wall, then deflecting off Indians right fielder Oscar Mercado's glove, and finally landing out of play, was HR the correct call?

Was this a home run or a different base award?
The Play: With two out and none on in the bottom of the 6th inning of Monday's Indians-Red Sox game, batter Martinez hit a fly ball to deep right field that struck the top of the outfield wall, bouncing back toward Indians outfielder Mercado. As Mercado approached the wall, the ball then deflected off the outfielder's glove and fell out of play, into the bullpen beyond fair territory.

Case Play Question: Was the crew's ruling of home run the proper call, given that the batted ball in flight first struck the top of the outfield wall before appearing to bounce over the warning track where it made contact with the fielder on the playing field, finally falling out of play beyond the fence?
Related PostReplay Review, Ground Rules, and Levi's Landing (9/1/17).
Related Post2B Bounding Ball Over Ground Rules-Less Kauffman (7/22/15).

Case Play Answer: By rule, a fair ball passing over a fence at a distance of 250 feet or more is a home run, but a bounding fly ball entitles the batter and runners to two bases. The MLB Umpire Manual further clarifies that a fair fly ball that strikes the top of the wall and bounces over the wall shall be ruled a home run, while a fair fly ball that strikes the top of the wall and bounds back into play shall be live and treated the same as a fly ball that hits off the wall and rebounds back onto the playing field.

Jose Canseco's HR assist is a different play.
Thus, the fly ball is treated as rebounding back onto the playing field, whereupon it is deflected by a fielder and then goes out of play. The resulting award shall be two bases. Had this play gone to Replay Review, the proper decision would be to overturn the on-field ruling and apply the two-base award from the time of the pitch, for the ball was not in flight when it was deflected by the fielder out of play.

Had the fly ball first hit the player, then deflected over the wall, in flight, it would have been a home run. The determining factor is what the ball first struck and, secondarily, what happened to the ball after it hit the outfield wall (e.g., bounded back into play vs. bounced over the wall and out of play).

Official Baseball Rules Library
OBR 5.05(a)(5): "The batter becomes a runner when—A fair ball passes over a fence or into the stands at a distance from home base of 250 feet or more. Such hit entitles the batter to a home run when he shall have touched all bases legally."
OBR 5.05(a)(8): "The batter becomes a runner when—Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases."
OBR 5.05(a)(9): "The batter becomes a runner when—Any fair fly ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run."
OBR 5.06(4)(A): "Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel."
MLBUM 9: "Unless provided otherwise by local ground rule, a fair fly ball striking the top of the outfield wall and bounding back onto the playing field shall be treated the same as a fair fly ball that strikes the outfield wall and rebounds back onto the playing field."
MLBUM 9: "Unless provided otherwise by local ground rule, a fair fly ball striking the top of the outfield wall and bounding over the wall shall be ruled a home run."
MLBUM 20: "If a fair fly ball is deflected in flight by a fielder and then goes out of the playing field in flight over fair territory, it is a home run."
MLBUM 20: "If a fair ball not in flight is deflected by a fielder and then goes out of play, the award is two bases from the time of the pitch."
Fenway Park Ground Rule: "Batted ball in flight striking left of line in right center field and bounding into bullpen: Home Run."

Video as follows: