Saturday, July 13, 2019

MLB Ejection 116 - James Hoye (3; Joey Votto)

HP Umpire James Hoye ejected Reds 1B Joey Votto (strike three call; QOCN) in the top of the 9th inning of the Reds-Rockies game. With none out and none on, Votto took a 2-2 cutter from Rockies pitcher Bryan Shaw for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located off the outer edge of home plate and thigh-high (px -1.04, pz 2.14), the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Reds were leading, 15-9. The Reds ultimately won the contest, 17-9.


This is James Hoye (92)'s third ejection of 2019.
James Hoye now has 6 points in the UEFL Standings (8 Prev + 2 MLB - 4 Incorrect Call = 6).
Crew Chief Eric Cooper now has 1 point in Crew Division (1 Previous + 0 Incorrect Call = 1).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
*This pitch was located 1.512 horizontal inches from being deemed a correct call.

This is the 116th ejection report of the 2019 MLB regular season.
This is the 48th player ejection of 2019. Prior to ejection, Votto was 2-6 (SO) in the contest.
This is Cincinnati's 13th ejection of 2019, 1st in the NL Central (CIN 13; MIL, PIT 5; CHC 4; STL 3).
This is Joey Votto's first ejection since June 27, 2018 (Carlos Torres; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is James Hoye's 3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since June 7 (Ron Gardenhire; QOC = Y [Balk]).

Wrap: Cincinnati Reds vs. Colorado Rockies, 7/13/19 | Video as follows:

Chavez Taunts Ump Drake with Glasses Gesture

Make no mistake about it, when Rangers pitcher Jesse Chavez took his glasses off after the final out of the 2nd inning and motioned toward HP Umpire Rob Drake—and then confirmed his intention via postgame comments—he joined a long list of players who have disrespected officials during and after gameplay out of frustration with a close call that didn't go their way.

Said Chavez of his no-look glasses offering, "I thought he needed them. I don't think it was his prescription, though. He needed to be a little better." According to various media at the game, Drake and Rangers personnel, including Manager Chris Woodward, exchanged words, but no ejections occurred.

Gil's Call: It's an age-old tradition of playing the blame game via projection, which is a Level 2 (immature) defense mechanism, and a little displacement, a Level 3 (neurotic) one. Is it ejectable? Yes. Is it personal? Yes and no - it's a personal insult through an unsportsmanlike gesture intended to ridicule, which is grounds for dismissal, but like most players who whine, I doubt Chavez knows anything about who Rob Drake is.
Related PostGil's Call: The Blame Game (Umpire Scapegoating) (8/8/14).
Related PostTop 10 MLB Hothead Players by Ejection Frequency (2/28/19).

Summation: The player isn't happy with himself and is taking it out on the umpire. For the sake of context, after walking Alvarez, Chavez surrendered a two-run home run to Yuli Gurriel, which at the time gave Houston a 2-1 lead, as opposed to a Rangers 1-0 lead.

This entire situation in Chavez walking off the mound nonchalantly flashing his glasses behind him while looking straight toward his dugout could have been much ado about nothing, but instead, Chavez decided to double down on his earlier act, transforming what could have been a passive aggressive footnote into a full-blown blame-the-umpire critique.

Is Chavez's action and post-game double-down an appropriate response to an umpire's purported mistake (that the statistics don't conclusively indicate was a mistake to begin with)?

Trout calmly talked it out with umpire Rehak.
For the sake of perspective, here's Mike Trout striking out care of three strike calls (two borderline and one conclusively off the plate) by HP Umpire Jeremie Rehak in June this season. While Manager Brad Ausmus was ejected arguing Rehak's calls well after the fact, Trout handled his looking strikeout—not one, two, but all three called strikes, including one conclusively incorrect call (the strike three call)—by speaking briefly with Rehak before returning to the dugout and moving on with his game.

Although Trout's body language indicated disagreement during the at-bat, there was no shouting, gesturing, or offering eyeglasses to an umpire; after striking out, Trout didn't show anyone up and instead talked it over with the umpire and walked away without much fanfare (until Ausmus' ejection an inning later).
Related PostMLB Ejection 077 - Jeremie Rehak (4; Brad Ausmus) (6/9/19).

Projection is a common defense mechanism.
While some players face adversity with understanding and sublimation (the Level 4 "mature" mechanisms; here's where the aforementioned Trout story comes in), others take to tearing others down to detract from one's own unacceptable thoughts (the Level 2 "immature" mechanisms; here's where we use Bryce Harper and the MLB list of Hotheads as an example).

Back in 2014, I wrote the following about this time-honored blaming-the-umpire tradition, which applies to Chavez's postgame comments as well:
When the subject says, “I don’t trust umpires' judgment,” the subject really means, “I don’t trust my own judgment.” Accordingly, "I don't trust [class of people]" becomes "I don't trust myself." We mask with projection because of a conditioned response to preserve our sense of self and internalized paradigm, even when our paradigm is inherently inaccurate, outdated or harmful.
For what it's worth, Drake's UEFL-f/x plate score Friday night was 97.6% (163-of-167), with a skew of +0 (neutral). Chavez finished with 5.1 innings pitched, allowing seven runs and three HR. Who statistically had the better/worse game?

TrackMan has disagreed with ball graphics.
As for Chavez's specific frustration in walking Yordan Alvarez, replays indicate Drake called two pitches in the borderline range during the at-bat; that's not the umpire's doing—borderline pitches happen regardless of who's behind the plate. With a zero-margin of error, the computer would have balled one (0-0) and struck the other (2-2), but that, again, assumes a zero margin of error, which MLB behind closed doors has all but refused to submit to.

And which we know by now is especially unrealistic. Maybe Chavez would prefer the TrackMan automated system, which has been notoriously pitcher-unfriendly in its short life.
Related PostHistory - Baseball's First Ejection Due to TrackMan (7/13/19).
Related Label/TopicComputer Strike Zone.

Chavez wrapped up his comments with, "I hope I get to take out the lineup card [Saturday]."

Unfortunately for Chavez, Drake flew to San Diego after Friday's game in order to fill in for the ailing Dana DeMuth, who took a foul ball off the arm Friday night.
Related PostInjury Scout - DeMuth Out Early After Foul to Arm (7/12/19).

Video Link: Chavez nonchalantly offers glasses to Drake (TEX)

Injury Scout - DeMuth Out Early After Foul to Arm

HP Umpire Dana DeMuth left Friday's Braves-Padres game in San Diego after a first-inning foul ball struck his arm.

With one out and one on in the top of the 1st inning, Braves batter Freddie Freeman fouled a 1-0 96.2-mph fastball from Padres pitcher Dinelson Lamet into DeMuth's left forearm, prompting a visit from the trainer and the decision for DeMuth to leave the game.

1B Umpire Angel Hernandez served as acting Crew Chief and HP Umpire for the remainder of the game with 2B Umpire Chris Segal sliding over to first base. 3B Umpire Carlos Torres remained at the hot corner.

Relevant Injury History: There is no relevant injury history pertaining to DeMuth's arm.
> On May 7, 2016, DeMuth left a game in St. Louis following a first-inning foul ball head injury.
Related Post: Injury - Dana DeMuth Leaves Cards Game on Foul Ball (5/7/16).

Last Game: July 12 | Return to Play: TBD | Time Absent: TBD | Video as follows:

Friday, July 12, 2019

2019 No-Hitter 2, Paul Nauert (1; LAA [Tyler Skaggs x2])

HP Umpire Paul Nauert called Angels pitcher Taylor Cole and Félix Peña's combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners, the only no-no in MLB history completed by teammates wearing identical #45 jerseys in honor of teammate Tyler Skaggs, who passed away while on a recent road trip; Friday's game was the first game at Angel Stadium since Skaggs' death, and the Angels dedicated the evening to his memory with all players and coaches wearing Tyler Skaggs #45 jerseys.

Nauert, was joined for Friday's game at the Big A in Anaheim by 1B Umpire CB Bucknor, 2B Umpire Ramon De Jesus, and 3B Umpire DJ Reyburn.

This is Nauert's first career no-hitter and the second of the 2019 season.
Related Post2019 No-Hitter 1, Mark Ripperger (1; Mike Fiers) (5/7/19).

Nauert received 53 callable pitches from Cole & Peña, 38 balls and 15 called strikes. The look:

Balls: 38 called balls outside of strike zone / 0 called balls within strike zone = 38/38 = 100.0% Accuracy.
Strikes: 14 called strikes inside strike zone / 1 called strikes outside strike zone = 14/15 = 96.2% Accuracy.
Total Raw Accuracy Score for Cole/Peña = 52/53 = 98.1% Accuracy (+1 LAA).
Overall Game Score: 119/120 Balls + 42/45 Strikes = 161/165 = 97.6%. +0 NU.

History - Baseball's First Ejection Due to TrackMan

The Atlantic League's first ejection due to TrackMan occurred on the Automated Ball/Strike System's first official day on the job as High Point Rockers pitching coach Frank Viola was ejected by HP Umpire Tim Detweiler in the 1st inning of the first regular season game with ABS in play after Viola yelled at Detweiler about a first-inning walk and demanded the plate umpire overrule TrackMan following several calls he disagreed with.

Ejection Report: With two out and two on (R2, R3) in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Rockers-Revolution game, Revolution batter Ryan Dent took four balls from Rockers starting pitcher Dominic DeMasi around one swinging strike, for a five-pitch walk. Following the at-bat, Viola was heard yelling at Detweiler to "do your f*ing job" as the High Point pitching coach demanded the plate umpire step in to overrule ABS, which had deemed DeMasi's recent offerings as balls (Detweiler did not overrule ABS to call any strikes during the Dent AB). Viola then charged out of the dugout and attempted to pursue Detweiler, where he was intercepted by 3B Umpire Bill Worthington and 1B Umpire Kyle Fecteau.

Viola disagreed with TrackMan's balling.
Computer graphics indicate three of the four pitches ruled "ball" in TrackMan's second official game in York were located partially within the strike zone, while the fourth ball was located above the zone.

Umpires are allowed to overrule ABS if the electronic system is clearly wrong, but determining when to overrule TrackMan on a borderline pitch that may or may not be properly officiated via the automated ball/strike system vs when to stay with the computer's judgment may be a sticking point that is bound to get both teams fired up ("Why did you overrule it?" or "Why didn't you overrule it?" as in Viola's argument). As always, arguing balls and strikes is discouraged and an overly passionate argument about such matters is an ejectable offense.
Related PostAtlantic League Debuts New Rules, E-Zone (7/10/19).

As we mentioned in our review of the Atlantic League's first official ABS game on Thursday (yesterday), the electronic balls/strikes system appeared to disagree with the public-facing computer graphics on 38 occasions (38 out of 101 = 37.6%), including several times with Dent at the plate.
Related PostReviewing Atlantic League's Automated Strike Zone (7/11/19).

A small step for man & an ejection for ABS.
It was apparently too much for Viola, a retired 15-year MLB veteran (Twins, Mets, Red Sox, Reds, Blue Jays), who was ejected just two outs into his team's first experience with the technological experiment, in apparent protest of a ball/strike robot that called a few too many balls. That'll mark a grand total of one game with TrackMan ABS for the High Point Rockers and one ejection for TrackMan's human messenger, the first-ever regular season professional baseball game using the present iteration of TrackMan ABS to call balls and strikes on TrackMan's first regular season day on the job.

Wrap: High Point Rockers vs. York Revolution, 7/12/19 | Video as follows:

Cleanup - Hernandez's Ohio Claims Dismissed

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed umpire Angel Hernandez's claims against MLB under the Ohio Civil Rights Act stemming from a 2018 jurisdiction change. Through a Choice of Law analysis dismissing part of AH's lawsuit (the OH laws), and although New York's civil laws are more employer-friendly than are Ohio's in regard to how damages are constructed, Hernandez's claims against MLB remain very much alive and pending. Hernandez initially filed his suit with a request for a jury trial, and the lawsuit remains active.

Judge J. Paul Oetken's (SDNY) ruling makes zero findings of fact one way or the other on the qualitative content—the meat & potatoes—of Hernandez's discrimination claims. Those charges have yet to be adjudicated.

The racially-motivated discrimination charges in Hernandez v The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball date back to the veteran umpire's initial July 2017 filing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which alleged the Commissioner's office failed to promote the Cuban-born Hernandez to Crew Chief and to assign him World Series games and that this failure was based on a race-based and illegally discriminatory method of assignment at the hands of employer MLB and Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre.

One of the first things the Park Avenue, New York-headquartered MLB sought to do in response to the suit was file a motion requesting a change of venue from Ohio to New York, which the Court eventually granted, transferring the case to New York Southern on October 3, 2018.

Hernandez's initial charges against the league alleging racially-motivated discrimination were based on the Ohio Civil Rights Act, since the case was filed in Ohio. As a result of the case's transferral to New York, Hernandez's team updated the charges, adding claims related to alleged violations of the New York State Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law to his amended complaint.
Related PostAngel Hernandez Sues MLB for Racial Discrimination (7/3/17).

US District Judge J. Paul Oetken in his decision to grant, in part, MLB's motion to dismiss, agreed with MLB's position that Hernandez's decision to claim violations of both Ohio and New York laws should be approached as a "choice of law" question.

Hernandez's June ejection provoked sports talk.
What that Means: Choice of Law is a legal principle through which one determines which set of laws should apply to a lawsuit, when two or more sets of laws, generally two states, conflict. For the Hernandez v MLB suit, the choice was Ohio vs New York. Because the case was transferred from Ohio to New York, the Court settled on New York, ruling that the NY claims should supersede and replace the Ohio ones.

As such, the Court in granting, in part, MLB's motion to dismiss, by removing the Ohio state charges is a logical move and housekeeping that must be done. For instance, the Court found that Hernandez's allegations do not allege that MLB's decisions to not select him for crew chief and to umpire the World Series were made in Ohio and that Hernandez has not alleged the locus of the challenged employment decisions.

Gil's Call: This is standard litigation forum shopping—a common legal tactic in civil cases employed by plaintiff counsel seeking more favorable outcomes, and defense counsel seeking to quash or limit such favorability. For instance, if an employee wants to file a lawsuit against an employer, and said employee is sent by said employer to multiple states to perform job duties, it would behoove the employee to file the case in whatever jurisdiction whose laws are most favorable, just as it would be wise for the defendant employer to try and steer the forum to their preferred jurisdiction.

In this case, Hernandez choose Ohio because Ohio laws were more friendly to him than New York—specifically as it relates to damage recovery—and MLB chose New York because the League determined New York would be most beneficial for their cause.

Give and Take, OH v NY: As collateral, Hernandez does lose a key avenue of recovery, while MLB loses a cap protection or limit as to amount of damages.
Sidebar: MLB doesn't have a salary cap anyway, so losing a cap shouldn't be a problem.

How the Laws Conflict & Why This Move Helps Both Parties:
> Helps MLB: Under the Ohio Civil Rights Act, plaintiffs may recover punitive damages in employment discrimination actions, whereas under New York law, punitive damages may not be recovered in these same civil actions. Punitive damages can be significantly greater than compensatory damages, so eliminating potential exposure to punitive damages is a win for the league.
> Helps Hernandez: Under Ohio's law, a plaintiff's punitive damages are capped at $250,000 or two times the amount of economic compensatory damages, which in turn shall not exceed $350,000. So while Hernandez cannot recover punitive damages under New York's law, his compensatory damages are not limited by statute.

The Court applied Choice of Law rules.
Gil's Call: First and foremost, any dismissal in tort law, granted in part or otherwise, helps a defendant in a civil lawsuit simply because it's one (or more) less thing for the person accused of wrongdoing to be found liable for. MLB doesn't want to litigate the discrimination issue based on too many different standards, and it certainly doesn't hurt that New York prohibits recovery for punitive damages.

All else equal, clear and convincing evidence (preponderance) usually is cheaper for defendants in states that prohibit plaintiff punitive damage recovery than in states that allow punitive damages, regardless of how the compensatory side plays out.

That could very well be why Hernandez first sought to file the suit in Ohio, and the lack of a damages cap in New York helps him out on the compensatory side of things, although he does lose the avenue of punitive damage recovery. Nonetheless, this trade-off probably helps MLB more than it does Hernandez.

Compensatory vs Punitive Damages: Compensatory damages are a monetary award that a defendant must pay the plaintiff as compensation for harm suffered as a result of the wrong alleged in a lawsuit. For example, if a jury sides with Hernandez, it could award him XYZ amount of dollars to compensate him for harm suffered (e.g., a jury could find that discrimination caused him to miss out on $$ that he would have received had he been promoted to crew chief and/or umpired the World Series, and award him the amount of money he missed out on).

Punitive damages are not a good company look.
Punitive damages go above and beyond compensatory damages by ordering a defendant to pay a penalty to the plaintiff whom they harmed. Punitive damages, unless otherwise stated by law, aren't tied to compensatory decision-making, and are also known as exemplary damages, as in a punishment meant to make an example out of a malfeasant, often to shame a misbehaving defendant, and potentially serve as a deterrent to that defendant and to others.

A large company such as MLB likely hates the concept of punitive damages, so eliminating the possibility of punitive damages is very much a big-PR and personal victory for the league.

For example, in Liebeck v. McDonald's, in which an elderly woman claimed that McDonald's negligently served excessively hot coffee that caused severe burns and related injuries, the jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages for pain, suffering, and medical costs (reduced to $160,000 pursuant to comparative negligence because the jury found her 20% responsible).

Punitive damages can be costly & expensive.
The jury then awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages (reduced by the trial judge to $480,000 and settled, in combination with the compensatory damages, for an amount less than $500,000).

Conclusion: So the win for MLB is that they won't be exposed to potential punitive damages, which can be exponentially more costly and headache-inducing than compensatory damages, and the league also gets the entire slate of Ohio charges wiped off the books. For Hernandez, he still gets to retain the New York rules regarding compensatory damages, which are more plaintiff-friendly simply because, unlike Ohio, they aren't capped or limited. That said, because plaintiffs cannot recover for punitive damages in New York, the only potential damages for Hernandez to recover would include the dollar amount(s) by which he would have been compensated had he been (1) promoted to crew chief and/or (2) assigned to work the World Series. The end result is a procedural victory for defendant Major League Baseball.

Video summary & analyzation as follows:

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Reviewing Atlantic League's Automated Strike Zone

The Atlantic League's official automated ball/strike system debut turned in a highlight reel performance when TrackMan's electronic umpire ruled a series of pitches depicted within the graphic K-zone as balls, despite the circular baseball graphics clearly appearing in the virtual box.

Officially a debut (though MLB/ALPB tested the electronic pitch tracker throughout the season's first half), Wednesday evening's Freedom-Liberty All-Star Game in York, PA made for a slightly different type of baseball game, with HP Umpire Brian deBrauwere's ball/strike calls a little more delayed than usual, generating some gems from the broadcast booth, such as, "First pitch to Ryan Dent is a little bit...not low."

Thompson didn't like ball two.
According to one account, pitcher Daryl Thompson—who walked opposing batter Will Kengor on seven pitches, only one of which was outside of the computer-generated strike zoneactually began yelling at deBrauwere before he was informed (or reminded) that the robot umpire was to blame (Thompson then gave up a home run to ensuing batter Mike Ohlman on a 2-0 count after "ball two" was called on a pitch that the graphics indicated had half of the plate).

That means TrackMan disagreed with the computer's visual zone on four pitches over the course of two batters during Thompson's second-inning appearance, or on 4-of-6 pitches [an error/discrepancy rate of 67%].

Stats/Error Rate: Over the course of the entire game, 38 out of 101 callable pitches—nearly all of which were called balls—conflicted with the graphic depiction (37.6% error/discrepancy rate). Every inning had at least two such discrepancies, and there were several at-bats in which every pitch called during the at-bat disagreed with the graphic (visit the ALPB scoreboard page here if you'd like to verify for yourself).

The ALPB All-Star Game implementation of the automated ball/strike system (ABS) thus pitted public-facing gameday-style graphics that portrayed a series of pitches within the confines of the virtual strike zone against a robotic voice in deBrauwere's ear that continually uttered, "ball."

Visual depiction of a ball call within K-zone.
In short, red circles indicate strikes, green circles are called balls, and blue circles are balls put into play (batted balls). On more than a handful of occasions Wednesday night, a called ball appeared within or touching the virtual strike zone (recall that a strike is to be called " if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone," such that a green circle that barely nicks the edge of the box is to be considered a strike).

This leads us to one of two possible conclusions: Either the graphics are incorrect or the computer has malfunctioned and failed to apply a proper algorithm or API.

HP umpire waiting to call as F2 throws to F1.
Gil's Call: My wager would be on the former: the graphics don't agree with the ABS observed values, which suggests the graphic itself is incorrect. At the ALPB level, I can't say I'm surprised. Whether it's a deficient stat stringer or some other human operator error, a computer glitch, bug, or otherwise, suffice it to say, this is not what MLB wants to see.

The league's goal is to have the computer always agree with the graphic representation given to the public, so I am somewhat surprised that of all that could go wrong, this is the problem that appeared most prominently on Wednesday in York.

Then again, as Cardiff University Professor Harry Collins stated, "technology shouldn’t be presented as showing reality, when really it’s creating reality." Collins used the tennis match replay product Hawk-Eye as an example, pointing out that Hawk-Eye simply simulates an event rather than demonstrating reality: "it’s important for the public to know the difference between what they see on their screens and what’s constructed."

The pic-error issue is fixable, but is it honest?
To fix the problem of visual discrepancy, MLBAM will have to tweak how the sport visually represents ABS; I have full confidence they can rectify the visual complication. My concern, however, is that in order to fix the graphics problem, the engineers in manipulating the graphics and/or data might get dangerously close to actually falsifying something (data, graphics, or both).

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has played both sides of the fence on the issue, admitting that, "that technology has a larger margin of error than we see with human umpires," while likewise acquiescing to a baseball audience hungry for a computerized strike zone: "We try to be responsive to those sorts of expressions of concern."
Related PostPodcast - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone (6/5/19).

Strike three call after ball returned to pitcher.
Manfred also discussed the technology's development, and in doing so, revealed professional baseball's motivation for pressing on and why, as we alluded to in our Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone podcast, MLB can't afford to admit the true faulty nature of electronic pitch tracking: "We have spent a lot of time and money on the technology."

On a related note, I also wouldn't expect many complaints about TrackMan ABS for a solid year or so: fans and some players have been so passionate about getting an electronic strike zone that much like MLB, they can ill afford to complain about the tech once it debuts lest it turn into a "boy who cried wolf" scenario, especially after investing so many resources into campaigning for and implementing the computerized umpire concept.

The following video is a compilation of close/controversial ball/strike calls from 7/10/19:

MLB Call-Up Umpire Hiring Outlook - 2019 Break

2019's MLB call-up list features 18 Triple-A umpires looking for a big league job. With several umpire vacancies expected across the full-time staff at year's end, MLB Umpire Observer's hiring outlook at the All-Star Break looks at the minor league officials most likely to be hired over the offseason based on earlier Major League appearances. Prior seasons' games worked and first half appearance stats, courtesy Russ, are included as well.

First, a word on hiring. The Major League Baseball Umpire staff is comprised of 76 individuals spread across 19 umpiring crews of four umpires each; the roster is fixed at 76.

The only way for a MiLB call-up/fill-in umpire to be hired to the MLBU staff is for one of those 76 slots to be vacated, which generally occurs as a result of retirement, but can also occur due to medical retirement/disability, termination due to a severe CBA infraction (e.g., drug violation), or similar separation.

Ryan Blakney ejects LA's Joc Pederson.
In 2019, there was zero turnover from the 2018 season, but with the umpires' union (MLBUA) negotiating an agreement with MLB to replace that which will expire on December 31, 2019, we would expect at least a few retirements, and thus staff vacancies, as in the past, MLB has enticed seniority turnover with favorable retirement packages. That said, here's who is most likely to be hired to the full-time MLBU staff from the MiLB call-up roster, with comments from MLB Umpire Observer (MLBUO). The list is sorted solely by total MLB games officiated.

Also included are tmac's review of each umpire's Replay Review overturns-per-games officiated (total number of overturned calls divided by MLB games officiated). The best ratios (higher per-game numbers) are highlighted in green, average is yellow, and worst (lowest per game #s) is red.

First Tier - Most Experienced Call-Up Umpires:
Chris Segal - 572 MLB games (513 games in 5 years + 59). 33 OTs, 1 overturn per 17.3 games.
MLBUO: He is not seeing the same amount of games as last season but he is still looking good for a full time slot.
Gil's Take: Segal has seen the fifth-most games in 2019, so while he's not MLB's top choice, he's still high on the list due to his history of experience, and his replay work is second-best in the call-up class...as long as the league doesn't Clint Fagan him and continually pass him over. The 2019-2020 offseason is make-or-break for Segal and I can't imagine a league without a Segal in it.

Ryan Blakney - 530 (475 games in 4 years + 55). 26, 1 per 20.4.
MLBUO: He is not on the same pace as he was last season but I still believe he will be full time next season.
Gil's Take: Blakney is right behind Segal in both total MLB experience and in games worked during the 2019 regular season. His replay overturn rate is the best amongst the entire call-up roster. He should be a solid choice for the hiring department, despite his recent reduction in big league games.

Sean Barber - 461 (393 games in 5 years + 68). 30, 1 per 15.4.
MLBUO: Continues to see a lot of work, if he keeps getting work look for him to maybe get a full time slot in the next few years.
Gil's Take: Barber should be encouraged by his 68 pre-break games worked in 2019, which is third-highest on the list. His replay work is in the top tier.

Nic Lentz - 441 (363 games in 3 years + 78 in 2019). 27, 1 per 16.3.
MLBUO: I expect him to be the next umpire hired, he is basically working a full time schedule without any time off.
Gil's Take: Lentz has officiated the most MLB games of anyone in 2019; MLB clearly wants to see more of him and he can make his case with a solid second-half showing; he did, after all, top all umpires with 149 MLB games worked in 2018.

Second Tier - Middle of the Pack:
Ben May - 419 (404 games in 5 years + 15). 43, 1 per 9.7.
MLBUO: Hasn’t gotten many MLB games this season. I think he is on the outside looking in right now and expect his games will probably continue to go down.
Gil's Take: 15 games in the first-half of 2019 is discouraging for a Call-Up Class of 2014 candidate, as are the 43 overturns, which is the most raw OTs on the call-up list.

Tom Woodring - 412 (380 games in 5 years + 32). 267, 1 per 15.3.
MLBUO: Very slow start to the season but once he starting working MLB games he hasn’t been back to Triple A. We will see how he is used the rest of this season before I decide we’re he is on the list but he will not be full time next season unless there is a mass exodus after this season.
Gil's Take: This is a bubble bet that may take two years to pan out one way or the other. It just depends how patient the league is and how many slots will open up.

Chad Whitson - 391 (332 games in 5 years + 59). 28, 1 per 14.0.
MLBUO: I believe he will be full time at some time. It will depend on how many openings there are to see when he gets one but right now he is in no danger of being released.
Gil's Take: Whitson's 59 games thus far in 2019 indicates MLB wants to see more of him, as evidenced by his 141 games in 2018 and 124 in 2017.

Ramon De Jesus - 315 (260 games in 3 years + 55). 23, 1 per 13.7.
MLBUO: Has seen a large workload this year which is promising for him after several years of being in the 80 game range for the year if he continues to increase the amount of games he will be full time sooner rather than later.
Gil's Take: Sleeper candidate for the upcoming hiring spree, but I would think it more responsible to wait until 2021. Either way, De Jesus should stick around.

Roberto Ortiz - 190 (142 games in 3 years + 48). 13, 1 per 14.6.
MLBUO: Will probably continue to see MLB games for the rest of this season after getting a slow start but being up regularly lately if he performs well he could work himself into a full time slot soon.
Gil's Take: He is slowly getting more and more games every year since his debut in 2016. He needs just 20 to match his 2018 total of 68, and I expect that to happen.

Jansen Visconti - 181 (108 games in 1 year + 73). 12, 1 per 15.1.
MLBUO: He has continued to work MLB games on a consistent basis. He is in no danger of being released and will continue to see MLB games on a consistent basis.
Gil's Take: Visconti is an outlier...a sophomore with a top-tier replay overturn rate and an impressive 100+ games officiated in his rookie season. He won't be hired this go-around, but is a real contender for 3+ years down the line. Mark T. Williams of Boston University rated Visconti second in the entire league for ball/strike calling, but that's with a sample size that's barely 10% of the full-timers.

Ryan Additon - 168 (129 games in 2 years + 39). 15, 1 per 11.2.
MLBUO: I think he is one that could go either way. He continues to get some MLB action but not a lot. The rest of this season will mean a lot for Ryan and seeing how the league plans to use him.
Gil's Take: Don Mattingly.

Jeremie Rehak - 167 (98 games in 1 year + 69). 14, 1 per 11.9.
MLBUO: Continues to be an MLB umpire in his situational handling. I think he has at least another 1 or 2 seasons as a call up before he gets a full time job.
Gil's Take: He nearly broke the 100-game threshold last year and he'll get close again this season. Rehak is the rare call-up umpire with four ejections by the All-Star Break, but he's handled each of those situation well. Rehak was named the third-best umpire in the league by Williams with a sample size smaller than Visconti's.

Nick Mahrley - 125 (108 games in 2 years + 17). 14, 1 per 8.9.
MLBUO: I had hope for him when he was made a rover before this season but his workload has not reflected that and he has spent the majority of the year in Triple A. Unfortunately I don’t think he is in the leagues plan long term.
Gil's Take: If this were a gambling parlor, we'd be hedging our bets. Mahrley won't be hired this offseason and the hope is that top-tier MiLB call-up slots will open up due to MLB promotion/hiring that Mahrley will be able to occupy.

John Libka - 120 (77 games in 2 years + 43). 14, 1 per 10.9.
MLBUO: He has started to work consistently since the end of May. He won’t be at the top of the list this offseason but if this trend continues through the end of this year and next year I could see him being near the top after next season.
Gil's Take: Mark T. Williams of Boston University loves Libka for his ability to call to the computer. He put Libka on his World Series crew based on ball/strike performance alone (Williams ranked him #1 in the league based on a sample size of less than 5% of the average full-timer's dataset). So we'll see Libka in the 2020 World Series...on MLB The Show. The real life Libka still has a few years before MLB considers hiring him.

Shane Livensparger - 86 (86 games in 2 years + 0). 12, 1 per 7.2.
MLBUO: I don’t expect him to receive many MLB games this year and would not be surprised if he is not back for next season based on the way MLB has used or I should say not used him.
Gil's Take: He hasn't had a single game in 2019 and his overturn ratio brings up the statistical rear of the call-up class. That's tough.

Brennan Miller - 14 games in 2019. 0, no replays overturns.
MLBUO: He has been the rookie that has been used the most. He won’t see a lot of games this year I think but the fact the league has let him work a couple of plates and he is seeing action is a positive sign.
Gil's Take: All rookies are just waiting to get more MLB experience.

Alex Tosi - 2 games in 2019. 1, 1 per 2.0 [sample size under 10].
MLBUO: We will see what he gets for the rest of the year expect some games late in the year and then a longer look next year.
Gil's Take: He's the only rook overturned via replay, which means...absolutely nothing.

John Bacon - 1 game in 2019. 0, no replay overturns.
MLBUO: We will see what he gets for the rest of the year expect some games late in the year and then a longer look next year.
Gil's Take: Someone has to have the fewest number of games and at the moment, it's Bacon.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Atlantic League Debuts New Rules, E-Zone

After a half-season's delay, the Atlantic League and MLB announced the debut of an automated ball-strike system (ABS) at Wednesday's All-Star Game in York. TrackMan powers the computer zone technology, as it does in Major League Baseball's pitch tracking efforts; umpires will hear ABS prompts after each pitch. ALPB also will institute a series of rule changes for the second half of its 2019 season.

New Rules, Atlantic League
Electronic Balls and Strikes: TrackMan will deem pitches "ball" or "strike" based on similar methodology to how the technology functions at the Major League level. A Human home plate umpire will wear a Bluetooth-connected AirPod earpiece paired with an iPhone, which is hooked up to a software program in the press box whose sole task is to call balls and strikes. The human umpire will still retain final clerical authority over pitch-calling if the system is clearly wrong (which we anticipate it will be at times).

SIDEBAR: As the ALPB-MLB joint statement clearly indicates that MLB's "for entertainment only" pitch tracking technology is to be used to actually call pitches during live gameplay, it logically is subject to the same criticism and commentary as the MLB version. Our series on baseball's electronic strike zone, its pitfalls, errors, and complications, can be found at the following links.
Related PostPodcast - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone (6/5/19).
Related PostVideo - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone (5/30/19).
Related PostMLB Fight with Hernandez Evokes 20-Year-Old Feud (5/24/19).
Related PostCall for Umpire Accountability & the 97% Plate Score (4/19/19).

As well as a handful of times that TrackMan actually failed in MLB such that post-game adjustment to the vertical strike zone changed an umpire's QOC from incorrect to correct. As previously written, the electronic system has a difficult time with real-time adjustments to individual strike zones (e.g., the computer doesn't know how to adjust during the game, so it must be adjusted afterward).
Related PostMLB Ejection 085 - Lance Barrett (1; Turner Ward) (6/12/19).
Related PostMLB Ejection 077 - Jeremie Rehak (4; Brad Ausmus) (6/9/19).
Related PostMLB Ejections 044-45 - Jeff Nelson (3-4; ATL-MIA) (5/3/19).
Related PostBad Computer Umpire - Faulty Pitch Data Defames Kulpa (4/6/19).

Pitchers may no longer pick off from plate.
Pitchers Required to Step Off Rubber to Attempt Pickoff: Simply put, pitchers will no longer be permitted to throw to a base from the pitcher's plate; a disengage will be required. Rules-wise, this means any errant pickoff throw that enters the stands will be from a pitcher treated as an infielder—a two-base award. The release did not specify whether the penalty for a pickoff play from the rubber would result in a balk or just a dead ball.

One Foul Bunt Permitted with Two Strikes: Batters will now have an extra chance to bunt, no longer subject to striking out with two strikes...to an extent. If a batter achieves a two-strike count, one foul bunt will be permitted and counted as a simple foul ball with no further penalty (the "he bunts foul on third strike" rule, 5.09(a)(4), will be suspended). Any subsequent bunt attempt after having foul bunted one two-strike pitch shall result in a strikeout, as in OBR 5.09(a)(4).

Batters can now steal on any dropped pitch.
Batters May Steal First Base: Any pitched ball not caught by the catcher shall be subject to the same baserunning rules for the batter as an uncaught third strike, with the exception of the first base occupied with less than two out exclusion. The batter's election to become a runner (or not) shall be optional, but if invoked by the batter on a wild pitch, passed ball, or other uncaught pitch, it places him (and any forced runners) in jeopardy of being retired: "The batter shall be deemed to have chosen to become a runner under this rule if (i) both of the batter’s feet leave the batter’s box, and (ii) the batter, in the umpire’s judgment, demonstrates or otherwise creates an impression of his intent to advance to first base. If first base is occupied when the batter chooses to become a runner this creates a force play."

ALPB wants umpires to observe batter wrists.
"Check Swings" More Batter-Friendly: Perhaps the most ambiguous rules change of all is the instruction to base umpires to give greater deference to the offense when ruling on half swing appeals. Here's ALPB's guidance: "In making his ruling, the base umpire should determine whether the batter’s wrists 'rolled over' during an attempt to strike at the ball and, if not, call the pitch a ball."

Gil's Call: Each of the four aforementioned rules changes appear designed to assist the offensive team and generate baserunners or keep batsmen at the plate for an extra pitch or two. This is baseball's "increase offense" initiative, which is an interesting pairing with several of the Atlantic League's pace-of-play rules changes already in existence.

The following Atlantic League first-half rules changes will remain in place:
> No mound visits permitted other than to change pitchers and attend to injuries;
> Non-injured pitchers must face 3+ batters or end an inning before being replaced;
> Bases are increased from 15-inches square to 18-inches square;
> Time between innings and pitching changes reduced from 2:05 to 1:45.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

2019 MLB All-Star Discussion & Replay Sabermetrics

As 2019 All-Star Game Umpires, including Crew Chief/HP Umpire Mark Wegner, Brian O'Nora (1B), Phil Cuzzi (2B), Tim Timmons (3B), DJ Reyburn (LF), and Jordan Baker (RF) take the field in Cleveland with Replay Official Fieldin Culbreth at MLBAM headquarters in New York, we open the floor for 2019 All-Star Game discussion and an open forum on baseball officiating. Also included here is an overview on our statistics and sabermetrics for the ceremonial first half of the 2019 season.
Related2019 MLB All-Star Game Umpires.

Notes include home plate umpire performance according to Statcast/pitch f/x and UEFL Rules 6-2-b-1 (horizontal bound, "Kulpa Rule") and 6-2-b-2 (vertical strike zone, "Miller Rule"). Plays include significant events, if such plays occur.

- 7/09/19, AL@NL: HP Umpire Mark Wegner: pfx. 94/96 Balls + 36/37 Strikes = 130/133 = 97.7%. +1 NL.

Close or Notable Plays (Green = QOC Correct / Red = QOC Incorrect / Yellow = QOC Irrecusable).
- 1B Umpire Brian O'Nora's out call (Force - 1st) is overturned in the 2nd inning.

Replay Review Records (2019 Season, Opening Day through All-Star Break) - RAP:
Mark Wegner: 63rd, .400 RAP (4/10).
Brian O'Nora: 42nd, .500 RAP (6/12).
Phil Cuzzi: 49th, .467 RAP (7/15).
Tim Timmons: 12th, .750 RAP (3/4).
DJ Reyburn: 12th, .750 RAP (3/4).
Jordan Baker: 85th, .167 RAP (1/6).
Fieldin Culbreth: 38th, .556 RAP (5/9).

League-Wide Replay Review Stats
Total Upheld Rate: .525 RAP (388/739).
Perfect Umps: Gonzalez (3/3), Gorman (2/2), Miller (1/1), Barry (1/1).
Most Raw Overturns: Kulpa (10, .375 RAP), B Welke (9, .357), [4 Tied] (8).
Call Most Likely to be Upheld: Appeal Play (Missed Base) (3/3 Upheld, 1.000 RAP).
Call Most Likely to be Overturned: Out/Safe (Force - 1st) (130/184 Overturned, .293 RAP).
Most Successful Team in Review: TEX (25/35, .714 TSP), KC (11/16, .688), CWS (12/18, .667).
Least Successful Team in Review: PIT (9/30, .300 TSP), SF (4/13, .308), SEA (8/25, .320).
Total Reviews: 739 Replay Reviews through 1344 MLB games (on pace for 1336 reviews).
Total Ejections: 114 Ejections through 1344 MLB games (on pace for 206 ejections).
Most Ejections: Mike Estabrook (8); Joe West (6); Jeff Kellogg, Jeff Nelson (5); Jeremie Rehak (4).
Most UEFL Points, Primary Umps: Estabrook (25), Nelson (16), Cuzzi (12).
Most UEFL Points, UEFL'ers: ref44 (40), JROD (36), tlh210 (35), Chewy6294 (33).

Full Ejections ListingCCS/Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's MLB Ejection List page.
Full Replay & UEFL StatsClose Call Sports & UEFL's Replay Review Statistics page.

Overall Team Success Percentage, Managers in the All-Star Game (TSP):
AL Manager Alex Cora (BOS): TSP = .552 (16 overturned / 29 total), 8th in MLB, 6th in AL.
NL Manager Dave Roberts (LAD): TSP = .591 (13 overturned / 22 total), 5th in MLB, 1st in NL.

Tripp, Mike & Quinn Host All-Star Charity Golf Tourney

The fifth annual @UmpsCare All-Star Break Golf Scramble kicks off at Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville, Washington. Hometown umpires Tripp Gibson, Mike Muchlinski (Snohomish) and Quinn Wolcott (Tacoma) host the tournament, which fundraises for UMPS CARE Charities' Build-A-Bear Workshop experiences at children's hospitals, big league experiences, and college scholarships for adopted youth.

Said Gibson of spending part of his All-Star break on the golf course for charity, "This is something important, and we’re so passionate about what Umps Care does that we wanted to continue that through the All-Star break."

This is the fifth year of the the All-Star Break Golf Scramble at Cedarcrest, which is a program Gibson began in 2015 in his first season as a member of the MLB umpire staff: "When I got to the majors, this was something I really wanted to be a part of. I guess for me, I’m very passionate about helping our youth, teaching our youth, helping them become good citizens. Giving back is something I learned from my parents, and it’s something I always wanted to do."
Related PostMLB Hires Tripp Gibson, Mark Ripperger, Will Little (1/11/15).

Muchlinski and Wolcott have been involved since 2017, helping to raise $25,000 for Umps Care in the event's first year open to the public. The Scramble raised $37,000 in 2018.

This year's Golf Scramble takes place the morning of MLB's All-Star Game, Tuesday, July 9.

Juiced - Verlander's Claim & Rule 3.01 - The Ball

Is Major League Baseball juicing its balls for more offense? Astros All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander thinks so and blamed MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, deeming the alleged offensive ploy "a f*ing joke." But what does the official rule say and what is an umpire's action for an accusation of "juicing"?

In summary, Verlander thinks MLB is doing something to juice the ball (quick definition of "juice": manipulating the ball's physical properties, such as reducing drag, in order to induce greater offensive output): "Yes. 100 percent. They've been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It's not coincidence. I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced."

Meanwhile, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged the balls have changed, and blamed decreased drag for any difference year-over-year: "They [Rawlings] haven't changed their process in any meaningful way. They haven’t changed their materials."

SIDEBAR: A lower drag coefficient is associated with greater offensive results such as lift, speed, and distance traveled. It's also amusing that Manfred would use the pronoun "They" to describe Rawlings, given that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings, having acquired the company in 2018.
Verlander has put Manfred in the jackpot.
Instead, Manfred described the problem as "man-made" (sound familiar?), positing a few potential causes for diminished drag: "It’s hand-stitched, where it’s stored after it’s made, where it’s stored at the ballpark, who puts the mud on the ball, how much mud they put on the ball. So it’s really difficult to isolate any single cause, but we do think it’s a drag issue."

Manfred hypothesized that scientists had gotten better at "centering of the pill," or making the ball more symmetrical and closer to a perfect sphere with equal weight distribution, thus reducing its wobble and drag.

Meanwhile Dr. Meredith Wills discovered a statistically significant increase on the order of 9% in lace thickness between pre-2015 baseballs and 2016-17 balls, correlating with an increase in league-wide home runs (as stated earlier, Manfred maintains that Rawlings hasn't changed its process "in any meaningful way").

Has average ball size or weight changed?
As far as the Official Baseball Rules are concerned, consider OBR 3.01, which defines the ball: "The ball shall be a sphere formed by yarn wound around a small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two strips of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together. It shall weigh not less than five nor more than 5¼ ounces avoirdupois and measure not less than nine nor more than 9¼ inches in circumference. No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substance."

The rulebook also lists a plethora of actions a pitcher cannot effect upon a baseball (defacing the ball in Rules 6.02(c)(2) through (6) range from filing the ball to applying a foreign substance) and the penalties for malfeasance: "The umpire shall demand the ball and remove the offender from the game. In addition, the offender shall be suspended automatically for 10 games" (Rule 3.01) and "If, after warning by the umpire, such delaying action is repeated, the pitcher shall be removed from the game" (Rule 6.02(c) Penalty).

Justin Verlander thinks MLB is juicing its balls.
Verlander doesn't buy Manfred's explanation and spoke to the press about increased offense in baseball ahead of Tuesday's All-Star Game: "Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the f*ing company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."

As a rookie Commissioner, Manfred notably said he desired increased offense in baseball: "We're really in the phase of trying to decide whether the decline in offense is a persistent problem or an aberration that will self-correct" (2/23/15). In recent years, several proposed rule changes have appeared to play to the goal of increasing offensive production.
Related Post2019 Rule Change Proposals - Pitch Clock & NL DH? (2/6/19).

Maddon thinks MLB's balls are too hard.
In accusing baseball of juicing baseballs, Verlander has suggested that MLB has taken correcting the "persistent problem" into its own hands, or balls.

There are several other ways to affect game ball characteristics, such as placing the baseballs in a humidor. In 2018, MLB mandated that all 30 teams store balls the same way, in an air conditioned and enclosed room at a temperature of 70 degrees and 50% humidity. Lack of moisture (low humidity) tends to produce batter-friendly restitution in baseballs.

In 2016, the Arizona Fall League experimented with mud-less baseballs, with less prominent seams. MLB claimed that the new balls' features would increase benefits for pitchers, while several UEFL'ers noted that lower seams tended to favor hitters, contrary to the League's claims.
Related Post: Arizona Fall League Experiments with Mud-less Baseball (11/13/16).

It's not just Justin. Other pitchers are taking umbrage with a harder ball (said Joe Maddon, "you could just have stamped Titleist on the sides of these things," referring to the golf ball brand), less prominent seams and purportedly less flexible leather.

Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman agrees with Verlander, but has a different outlook: "It's clear. I've just come to terms with it. It is what it is. You can't control it, so why even think about it?"

Monday, July 8, 2019

HP Collision Rule - Marisnick Illegally Hits Lucroy

Astros baserunner Jake Marisnick barreled into and injured Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy in a textbook example of an illegal slide in violation of Home Plate Collision Rule 6.01(i). HP Umpire Mike Estabrook called Marisnick out in a ruling upheld via Replay Review as the result of a Manager's Challenge by Houston Manager AJ Hinch, drawing a chorus of boos from the Minute Maid Park crowd, but as the following analysis will illustrate, the call was correct and should be used to train umpires as to what a 6.01(i)(1) violation looks like.

The Play: With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th inning and the score tied at 10, Astros batter George Springer hit a 2-2 fastball from Angels pitcher Hansel Robles in the air to right fielder Kole Calhoun, who caught the fly ball to retire Springer and threw to catcher Jonathan Lucroy as Astros baserunner R3 Jake Marisnick tagged up and attempted to score, resulting in a collision between Lucroy and Marisnick as the baseball bounced freely behind home plate.

HP Umpire Estabrook observes the play.
The Call: After the conclusion of play, HP Umpire Mike Estabrook, in consultation with 1B Umpire Crew Chief Bruce Dreckman and field umpires John Libka (2B), and Chad Fairchild (3B), ruled Marisnick out for violation of Official Baseball Rule 6.01(i)(1), otherwise known as the home plate collision rule, wiping out Houston's go-ahead sacrifice fly and awarding Los Angeles an inning-ending double play.

The Rule: OBR 6.01(i)(1) applies to the runner and states, "A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher, or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision. If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (regardless of whether the catcher maintains possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 6.01(i)."

SIDEBAR: It goes without saying that if this play occurred 10 years ago at the Major League level, it would have been legal and there would be nothing to discuss. Alas, we now have Rule 6.01(i) that is designed to eliminate collisions at home plate, including the Marisnick-Lucroy crash play.

Lucroy is legally positioned up the line.
Analysis: Although Lucroy did appear to move up the line to field the throw (recall that it is a legal play if "the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in a legitimate attempt to field the throw" [6.01(i)(2)]), and this complicated matters for baserunner Marisnick looking to score, replays indicate Lucroy's entire body was positioned in fair territory at the time of the collision. In other words, Lucroy provided a pathway to home plate for Marisnick.

Yet for the sake of argument and illustration, we shall disregard the issue of run-path and pay attention only to the quality of Marisnick's slide.

Rule 6.01(i)(1) Comment states, in part, "The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 6.01(i), or otherwise initiated a collision that could have been avoided."

Marisnick lowered his shoulder into Lucroy.
Replays indicate Marisnick's slide was illegal because he lowered his shoulder and barreled into Lucroy, and failed to make an effort to touch the plate (you'll notice on the replay that Marisnick pinballed off Lucroy, which is the only reason he bounced toward home plate; had he continued on his trajectory, he would have slid well to the right of home plate).

To that end, Marisnick's slide fails two of the test criteria specified in the rule's comment (lowered shoulder and no effort to touch home plate; you'll notice Marisnick must reach back to touch the plate after his post-collision roll), and for this reason, the slide is illegal.

How Marisnick Could Have Legally Scored: Rule 6.01(i)(1) Comment also instructs runners of their responsibilities to ensure their slides are legal: "In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher."

Replays clearly demonstrate that Marisnick's slide did not conform to this requirement.

Marisnick deviated from his path to home.
If Marisnick attempts to slide into home plate as opposed to away from the plate (in this case, into the catcher, whether intentionally or by accident...it doesn't especially matter which as intent isn't the only criterion for this rule), then his slide may be deemed legal if contact with the catcher occurs: "If a catcher blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall not find that the runner initiated an avoidable collision in violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(1)".

The accompanying diagram indicates runner Marisnick's starting point during his penultimate step before contact with catcher Lucroy (pink X), direct path to home plate (yellow line) and deviation from that path to initiate contact with Lucroy (blue line...again, "initiate contact" is somewhat of a misnomer as intent isn't part of the home plate collision rule). The green line represents the entirety of foul territory, which has been vacated by Lucroy. You'll notice that had Marisnick stayed true to his direct pathway to home plate from his foul territory origin (the yellow line), he likely would have avoided crashing into Lucroy.

Marisnick prepares to crash into Lucroy.
One other footnote or clue exists in the catcher's portion of the collision rule, 6.01(i)(2): "In addition, a catcher without possession of the ball shall not be adjudged to violate this Rule 6.01(i)(2) if the runner could have avoided the collision with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) by sliding."

Again, even if you're thinking Lucroy blocked the plate, Marisnick's "slide" was not legal, which thus absolves the catcher of his Rule 6.01(i)(2) restriction. With our catcher legal pursuant to 6.01(i)(2), attention turns toward the runner, whose actions in failing to make an effort to touch the plate while lowering his shoulder contribute to the determination that the runner has violated the rule.

Had Marisnick at least attempted to touch home plate by taking a path along the foul line or to the outside of it (e.g., in foul territory), contact with Lucroy would have been deemed incidental. Because Marisnick failed to do this and the other aforementioned acts in running toward the catcher in fair territory, his slide was a clear violation of the home plate collision rule, 6.01(i)(1). Intentionally or inadvertently, the result of the play is an out and dead ball. This was a fairly easy confirmed call for the Replay Official.

Brief Note on Baseball Rules Differences: In NCAA/college ball, the relevant rule is 8-7-7-b (Collision Rule), which states, "A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate), or otherwise initiate an avoidable collision." The NCAA rule for this play is nearly identical to the OBR version, with one additional wrinkle.

Greater penalties could apply at lower levels.
Depending on your interpretation, you could deem this a Flagrant Collision between baserunner and fielder in which "the runner maliciously attempts to dislodge the ball." If so, the runner would be ejected from the contest. Bear in mind, however, the catcher did not appear to have possession of the ball at the time of the collision.

Under NFHS/high school rules, the catchall malicious contact rule could be invoked ("initiate malicious contact on offense or defense" (3-3-1m)), the penalty for which is an immediate dead ball, out call, and ejection from the game of the offending player (cross-references NFHS 5-1-1m and 4-2-e ["runner is out when he: initiates malicious contact...Malicious contact always supersedes obstruction"]).

Video as follows: