Saturday, September 28, 2019

MLB Ejection 217 - Mark Carlson (4; Craig Counsell)

HP Umpire Mark Carlson ejected Brewers Manager Craig Counsell (Replay Review decision that upheld Carlson's out/home-plate collision no-call; QOCY) in the top of the 9th inning of the #Brewers-#Rockies game. With two out and one on (R1), Brewers batter Ben Gamel hit a 1-1 pitch from Rockies pitcher DJ Johnson on a fly ball to center field, fielded by outfielder Yonathan Daza and thrown to catcher Tony Wolters as Brewers baserunner R1 Lorenzo Cain attempted to score, ruled out on the tag. Upon Replay Review as the result of a Manager's Challenge by Counsell, Carlson's ruling (no violation of the collision rule) was confirmed. Replays indicate catcher Wolters fielded the ball prior to Cain's arrival, and in doing so, legally blocked Cain's path to home plate in accordance with Official Baseball Rule 6.01(i)(2), which states, in part, "it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 6.01(i)(2) if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in a legitimate attempt to field the throw" and "A catcher shall not be deemed to have hindered or impeded the progress of the runner if, in the judgment of the umpire, the runner would have been called out notwithstanding the catcher having blocked the plate."* At the time of the ejection, the Brewers were leading, 2-1. The Rockies ultimately won the contest, 3-2, in 10 innings.

This is Mark Carlson (6)'s fourth ejection of 2019.
Mark Carlson now has 11 points in the UEFL Standings (7 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 11).
Crew Chief Brian Gorman now has 12 points in Crew Division (11 Previous + 1 QOCY = 12).
*MLB modified its interpretation of Rule 6.01(i)(2) shortly after its introduction in 2014 to clarify that a catcher shall not be called for a plate blocking violation if the runner had not yet arrived at the point of blockage at the time the catcher fielded the throw and prepared to tag the runner. In this situation, F2 Wolters caught the ball and readied his tag for the sliding R1 Cain before Cain arrived to Wolters' position.

This is the 217th ejection report of 2019.
This is the 98th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Milwaukee's 9th ejection of 2019, T-3rd in the NL Central (CIN 23; PIT 12; CHC, MIL 9; STL 3).
This is Craig Counsell's 3rd ejection of 2019, 1st since May 25 (Mike Estabrook; QOC = N [Ball/Strikes]).
This is Mark Carlson's 4th ejection of 2019, 1st since Sept 2 (Rick Renteria; QOC = Y [Foul/K]).

Wrap: Milwaukee Brewers vs. Colorado Rockies, 9/28/19 | Video as follows:

Atlantic League ABS Robo-Ump Ejection Encore

With the Atlantic League playoffs underway, we decided to check in on the Automated Ball/Strike System and...HP Umpire Derek Moccia just doled out the first ABS ejection in ALPB postseason history after a computer's strike three call to High Point Rockers batter Michael Russell on Long Island didn't sit well with the visiting squad, as the Ducks completed the series sweep over High Point to advance to the Atlantic League Championship Series.

The ejection report is as follows: HP Umpire Derek Moccia ejected Rockers Pitching Coach Frank Viola for arguing the Automated Ball/Strike System's strike calls in the top of the 2nd inning of the Rockers-Ducks Liberty Division Championship Series, Game 3. With one out and one on (R1), Rockers batter Michael Russell took four pitches from Ducks pitcher Seth Simmons—one called a ball and three called strikes. At the time of the ejection, the Ducks were leading, 2-0. The Ducks ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

Although Frank Viola hasn't been the ALPB's only balls/strikes ejection in the electronic ABS era, Viola has been the league's most outspoken critic following his ejection on the very first regular season day of ABS in July. He now adds "first-ever postseason ABS ejection" to his ALPB résumé.
Related PostHistory - Baseball's First Ejection Due to TrackMan (7/12/19).
Related PostFrank Viola Not a Fan of ALPB Rules Changes (8/3/19).

Video as follows:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Arizona Fall Testing Automated Ball/Strike System

For the first time in history, affiliated baseball is using a computer to call balls and strikes in the Arizona Fall League, appearing to delight players by continuing its Atlantic League tradition of calling unexpected strikes. MiLB umpires using ABS hear "ball" or "strike" prompts via earpiece and relay that information through their calls, sometimes after a notable delay.

One notable exchange early on in the AFL's 2019 schedule featured Salt River Rafters batter Geraldo Perdomo attempting to argue a strike three call with HP Umpire Eric Bacchus, who simply pointed to the electronic device in his ear, leaving Perdomo to turn away and yell at no one in particular.

ABS continues to befriend batters.
Perdomo's at-bat featured three called strikes, all of which according to MLB's Gameday graphic were marginally close to home plate, with the strike two pitch well above the GD-drawn upper boundary.

Nonetheless, ABS—which MLB has now notably divorced from the "TrackMan" name, even though the TrackMan hardware still exists in ballparks—had them all as strikes and Perdomo returned to the Rafters dugout having struck out looking.

So much for eliminating pitchers' ability to paint the corner.

In addition to the robot umpire concept, the AFL's other notable umpiring-related experiment pertains to the accessibility of helmets for home plate umpires, which may be worn underneath a traditional-style facemask.

In the majors, only a few umpires—most notably Mike Estabrook—consistently wore the umpire's helmet throughout the season. John Tumpane, for instance, actually took a foul ball to the head while wearing the helmet in April, which coincidentally shares the robo-ump's ABS name with its thermoplastic polymer, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.
Related PostTumpane, Hudson Weather Easter Eggs to Head (4/21/19).

Video as follows:

Call for ? - Upcoming Drew Coble Podcast

Our next Plate Meeting Podcast guest is former American League umpire Drew Coble, whose 2,303-game career spanned 18 years from 1982 to 1999. Coble's résumé includes two AL Division Series, three League Championship Series, the 1991 World Series and two All-Star Games.

Coble holds the distinction of being one of only two Major League umpires inducted into the Elon College (now Elon University) Hall of Fame. The other is Joe West.

Coble ejected 71 players, coaches, and managers over his career, beginning with his first ejection of Sparky Anderson in 1982 and ranging from Yogi Berra and Bill Buckner to Lou Piniella and Joe Torre.

The Plate Meeting, a Left Field Umpire Podcast is the official audio program of Close Call Sports, where we talk umpiring with umpires, including analysis or other conversation pertaining to plays, ejections, rules, and more.

To subscribe to The Plate Meeting, visit the show's page, which offers external links to popular podcast providers, such as Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, Radio Public, and Google Podcasts.

Follow us on Twitter 🐦 (@UmpireEjections) and like on Facebook 👍 (/UmpireEjections).

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Video - Looking Beyond an Online Umpiring Complaint

Everyone knows an umpire scapegoater. This video follows a fan's impassioned umpiring complaint after a pitch passed through the strike zone and was ruled a ball. We walk this upset chap through the boo MLB ump blame game, outline the umpire school and minor league development process, and investigate what exactly motivates umpires to take up the thankless chore of officiating in the first place.

In June, we evaluated the electronic strike zone concept in professional baseball and discovered the primary difference between MLB's private/internal/secretive claim that umpires are at least 97% accurate on ball/strike calls and MLB's public statistics used by fans to suggest that umpires are about 91% accurate on these same pitch calls.
Related PostPodcast - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone (6/5/19).

And this discrepancy due to different methods of accounting for error makes it that much easier for frustrated fans like that featured in our video to bash umpires.
Related PostGil's Call: The Blame Game (Umpire Scapegoating) (8/8/14).

We acknowledge that sometimes, things go wrong and umpires err—but fans shouldn't lose sight of the big picture: Umpires strive for impartiality and getting the call right, putting up with all the yelling, rules-illiterate players, fans, and coaches, unfriendly travel schedules, and gourmet fast food because at the end of the day, their love of baseball outweighs the negatives constantly thrown their way.

Oh, and Kershaw's pitch to Pillar bounced in front of home plate.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

MLB Ejection 216 - Sam Holbrook (2; Scott Servais)

HP Umpire Sam Holbrook ejected Mariners Manager Scott Servais (strike one call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 7th inning of the #Astros-#Mariners game. With one out and none on, Mariners batter JP Crawford took a 0-0 fastball from Astros pitcher Zack Greinke for a called first strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer half of home plate and knee-high (px -0.40, pz 1.50 [sz_bot 1.57 / RAD 1.45]) and that all other pitches during the half-inning were properly officiated, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Astros were leading 2-0 with a no-hitter intact. The Astros ultimately won the contest, without a no-hitter, 3-0.

This is Sam Holbrook (34)'s second ejection of 2019.
Sam Holbrook now has 6 points in the UEFL Standings (2 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 6).
Crew Chief Sam Holbrook now has 16 points in Crew Division (15 Previous + 1 QOCY = 16).
*This pitch was located 1.60 vertical inches from being deemed an incorrect call.

This is the 216th ejection report of 2019.
This is the 97th Manager ejection of 2019.
This is Seattle's 7th ejection of 2019, 1st in the AL West (SEA 7; OAK 6; HOU, TEX 5; LAA 4).
This is Scott Servais' 4th ejection of 2019, 1st since Sept 11 (John Libka; QOC = N [Interference]).
This is Sam Holbrook's 2nd ejection of 2019, 1st since July 19 (Ketel Marte; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners, 9/25/19 | Video as follows:

Dropped Third Strike Interference Clearly Hinders F2

Much has been made of an uncaught third strike that bounces off the batter and away from the catcher—is this interference? This Ask the UEFL article reviews Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(1) and answers that question with a play from Milwaukee in which umpires ultimately ruled interference.

Play: With less than two out and a runner on third, Brewers batter Trent Grisham swung and missed at a 1-2 breaking ball from Padres pitcher Trey Wingenter. The ball bounced off the dirt and off of catcher Francisco Mejia, back toward Grisham as he took off for first base. Replays indicate that as Grisham ran toward first, he accidentally (unintentionally) kicked the loose ball with his left foot, causing the ball to bound away from Mejia, who after scrambling to retrieve the ball, threw poorly to first base, allowing a runner to score from third base.

The crew convenes to discuss the INT call.
Call/Rule: Originally no-called by HP Umpire Tom Woodring, Crew Chief Jerry Meals convened his crew and Woodring ultimately ruled Grisham out for interference pursuant to OBR Rule 6.01(a)(1), which states, "After a third strike that is not caught by the catcher, the batter-runner clearly hinders the catcher in his attempt to field the ball. Such batter-runner is out, the ball is dead, and all other runners return to the bases they occupied at the time of the pitch."

Analysis: This is the correct call, for the interference standard here is whether the batter-runner "clearly hinders" the catcher. In this case, the hindrance is fairly obvious, as the batter inadvertently kicked the ball significantly away from the catcher such that he was "clearly" hindered. This also is a great use of crew consultation to get the call right.

Note that 6.01(a)(1) Comment supports this position: "If the pitched ball deflects off the catcher or umpire and subsequently touches the batter-runner, it is not considered interference unless, in the judgment of the umpire, the batter-runner clearly hinders the catcher in his attempt to field the ball."

INT creates a dead ball situation.
Because the catcher was hindered, and interference pursuant to OBR 6.01(a)(1) results in a dead ball, Grisham was properly ruled out on the play. The dead ball at the moment of interference kills the play at that time, which is another way to say that the subsequent action of the catcher throwing wildly to first base never officially happened (since the ball was already dead prior to his throw).

Gil's Call: This play was the intent of MLB's rules change several years ago for 6.01(a)(1): It is interference because the batter—albeit accidentally—kicked the ball away from the catcher after having struck out and become a runner. In my opinion, this is "clearly" hindrance.

Video as follows:

Cubs Coach Loretta Suspended for Talking to NY Replay

MLB suspended Chicago Cubs Bench Coach Mark Loretta one game for using the umpires' Replay Review headset to speak with the Replay Official in New York in an attempt to get an explanation for an outcome that didn't go his team's way.

On Saturday, September 21, Replay confirmed 3B Umpire and Crew Chief Mike Everitt's third inning ruling that Cubs runner Kyle Schwarber was out during a stolen base attempt when Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter appeared to tag Schwarber with the heel of his glove.

Following the confirmed ruling, Loretta purportedly intercepted the on-field Replay Review technician and spoke via headset to the Replay Operations Center, earning Loretta a one-game suspension for unauthorized use of equipment ("inappropriate conduct"), which he served Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

MLB Ejection 215 - Alan Porter (4; Brad Miller)

HP Umpire Alan Porter ejected Phillies LF Brad Miller (strike three call; QOCY) in the top of the 6th inning of the #Phillies-#Nationals game. With none out and none on, Miller took a 3-2 slider from Nationals pitcher Tanner Rainey for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner edge of home plate and waist-high (px 0.76, pz 2.61) 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, 1-1. The Nationals ultimately won the contest, 4-1.

This is Alan Porter (64)'s fourth ejection of 2019.
Alan Porter now has 16 points in the UEFL Standings (12 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 16).
Crew Chief Mark Wegner now has 2 points in Crew Division (1 Previous + 1 Correct Call = 2).

This is the 215th ejection report of 2019.
This is the 104th player ejection of 2019. Prior to ejection, Miller was 1-3 (SO) in the contest.
This is Philadelphia's 10th ejection of 2019, T-1st in the NL East (PHI, WAS 10; ATL 8; MIA, NYM 5).
This is Brad Miller's 1st ejection since July 12, 2014 (Bob Davidson; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Alan Porter's 4th ejection of 2019, 1st since June 2 (Bob Melvin; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals, 9/24/19 | Video as follows:

2019 Arizona Fall League Umpire Roster

As top prospects further their development through competition in the Arizona Fall League, so do promising umpires. Chosen from Minor League Baseball's highest ranks, these following Triple-A umpires were named to the 2019 AFL roster. Information concerning their regular season leagues—IL for International and PCL for Pacific Coast League—is also listed, as well as previous AFL experience and MLB call-up status, if applicable.

2019 Arizona Fall League Umpire Roster:
> Eric Bacchus. IL. 2019 Triple-A Postseason.
> John Bacon. IL. 2017 MLB Spring2019 MLB Spring2018 AFL. MLB Fill-In.
> Adam Beck. IL. 2018 AFL2019 Triple-A Postseason.
> Paul Clemons. PCL. 2018 AAA Postseason2019 Triple-A Postseason.
> Nic Lentz. IL. 2017 MLB Spring Training2018 MLB Spring. 2019 MLB SpringMLB Fill-In.
> Brennan Miller. IL. 2018 AFL. 2019 MLB SpringMLB Fill-In.
> Malachi Moore. PCL.
> Edwin Moscoso. PCL.
> Jose Navas. PCL.
> Jeremy Riggs. IL. 2018 AFL2019 MLB Spring.
> Junior Valentine. PCL. 2017 MLB Spring2018 AFL.
> Ryan Wills. IL. 2019 Triple-A Postseason.

Teachable Angles - Laz and Manny's Adjustments

This edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments highlights two umpires working to attain the optimal angle: Laz Diaz puts his head right on the foul line to officiate a fair ball in St. Louis while Manny Gonzalez circles around to call an out/safe play at second base in Houston.

An Unusual Single: During a Giants-Cardinals game in St. Louis, Cardinals batter Paul DeJong hit an unusual infield single as his batted ball into foul territory along the line rolled back into fair territory as a bewildered Giants pitcher Dereck Rodriguez, likely convinced the ball would stay foul, barely left the mound to react.

HP Umpire Laz Diaz runs out to make a call and most likely trips over Giants catcher Stephen Vogt's foot, falling next onto home plate and rising up while keeping his head above the foul line to make a potential fair/foul decision...which goes to show you, even when falling down, work to get that perfect angle.

Quick Return to Second: In Houston, 2B Umpire Manny Gonzalez had to quickly maneuver to officiate Texas' attempt to retire Astros baserunner George Springer at second base. Notice how Gonzalez positions himself directly in the daylight between fielder Rougned Odor's glove and a sliding Springer, allowing him to see this bang-bang play through this useful keyhole angle.

Not to be lost in the shuffle is 3B Umpire Jim Wolf, who calmly signals to his plate umpire not to rotate—that he will be remaining within the infield due to the quick field-and-throw from the outfield.

This edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments is brought to you by Umpire Placement Course.

Video as follows:

Monday, September 23, 2019

MLB Ejections in 2019 Climb to Highest Mark in 12 Years

MLB umpires' ejections of players and managers in 2019 continues to climb and has now reached levels not seen since the mid-2000s. Ejection #214 (Umpire Rehak, and 213, Joe West) over the weekend brought the 2019 regular season to an ejections plateau dormant for 12 years.

In 2007—when umpires ejected 215 players, managers, and coaches—ejections were on the decline, down from 218 in 2006, 227 in 2005, 236 in 2004, and 289 in 2003 (QuesTec's first season). In 2008, disciplinary dismissals dropped to 207, and bottomed out at 165 in 2009.

And up until Spring Training 2019, ejections were again trending downward—what with 2015's peak of 212 heave-ho's decrease to 190 in 2016, 184 in 2017, and 179 in 2018.

As we discussed in a previous article, something changed in 2019—more than the simple spike in ejections we've come to when MLB and the umpires' union MLBUA (or WUA previously) enter a contentious period of contract negotiations. This led us to project an ejections increase in 2019 to 215 total ejections at season's end.
Related PostUmps Surpass 2018 Ejections Total in August 2019 (9/1/19).

In 2014, ejections spiked from 180 to 199 (+19) in a contract year that nearly ended in a lockout, according to sources at the time. Are talks stalled in 2019 as they were in 2014 (214 ejections [and counting] represents +35 ejections year-over-year compared to 2018's 179 tosses), or is there something else at work? Was 2014's adoption of expanded Replay Review to blame for such a rally?
Related PostMLB-WUA Contract Talks Stall, Lockout Possible (Source) (12/9/14).

Pitch calling tensions have led to ejections.
More than any other time in MLB history, umpires are under the balls/strikes microscope—and MLB has helped funnel this electronic rebellion into the pitch calling realm largely because of Replay Review's 2014 expansion.

Yet by that same token, fans and teams alike may have been sold a bag of false goods with a PitchCast system that doesn't seem to work as well as advertised—flames fanned by observers, some oblivious and others unethical, with a variety of motivations—and a top-secret umpire plate score evaluation system that is largely rejected by the few media darlings who have been granted the slightest momentary glimpse behind the curtain due to its significant lack of public transparency.
Related PostPodcast - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone (6/5/19).

We at Close Call Sports have devised a proposal to ease the disconnect while meeting both sides—the fans/teams and the umpires—and plan to present this responsible proposal in a follow-up article in the near future.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

2019 Triple-A Postseason Rosters - PCL & IL

Minor League Baseball selected the following umpires to the Triple-A Postseason Roster for the Pacific Coast and International League Semifinals, Championship, and the National Championship Game. MLB Umpire Observer has been keeping an eye on MiLB assignments throughout the season.

To reiterate Brian Hertzog's description of the assigning process from his Plate Meeting podcast interview, MiLB umpires on the call-up list may not receive Triple-A playoff assignments so that they are free to fill in at the MLB level during September.

Triple-A National Championship Game
Dan Merzel (cc) (2018 AAA Postseason & All-Star, 2018 AFL2017 IL Postseason; MLB Spring).
Javerro "JJ" January (2018 AAA Postseason, 2017 AFL; MLB Spring)
Chris Graham (2018 AAA Postseason)
Sean Ryan

International League Championship Series (Durham vs Columbus)
Erich Bacchus (cc)
Adam Beck (2018 AFL).
Dan Merzel (2018 AAA Postseason & All-Star2017 IL PostseasonMLB Spring).
Chris Graham (2018 AAA Postseason)

Pacific Coast League Championship Series (Round Rock vs Sacramento)
Bryan Fields (cc) (2018 All-Star2018 AFL, 2017 AFL)
Sean Ryan
Paul Clemons
Javerro January (2018 AAA Postseason2017 AFLMLB Spring)

International League First Round A (Durham vs Scranton-Wilkes Barre)
Dan Merzel (cc) (2018 AAA Postseason & All-Star2017 IL PostseasonMLB Spring).
Ryan Wills
Brian Peterson (2018 AFL)
Erich Bacchus

International League First Round B (Columbus vs Gwinnett)
Adam Beck(cc) (2018 AFL
Charlie Ramos
Mike Wiseman
Chris Graham (2018 AAA Postseason)

Pacific Coast League First Round A (Iowa vs Round Rock)
Javerro January (cc) (2018 AAA Postseason2017 AFLMLB Spring)
Alex Ziegler
Nestor Ceja (2018 AFL)
Paul Clemons (2018 AAA Postseason)

Pacific Coast League First Round B (Las Vegas vs Sacramento)
Bryan Fields (cc) (2018 All-Star2018 AFL2017 AFL)
Derek Eaton
Lee Meyers
Sean Ryan