Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Discussion of 2019 NL and AL Wild Card Games

Join Close Call Spots for a live blog and discussion of the 2019 American and National League Wild Card Games.

Mike Everitt (NL) and Chad Fairchild (AL) are plate umpires for the two Wild Card games, with Jeff Nelson serving as Crew Chief for the NL's Brewers @ Nationals game and Bill Miller the Crew Chief for AL Rays @ Athletics. See the entire crew via the following link.
Related2019 Wild Card & Division Series Umpires (9/30/19).

Home plate umpire performance is listed following the completion of each contest according to UEFL f/x (Statcast pitch data and application of UEFL Rules 6-2-b-a [horizontal bound, "Kulpa Rule"] and 6-2-b-b [vertical strike zone, "Miller Rule"]). Fouls, swinging strikes, balls batted into play, and hit-by-pitches are excluded from the analysis.

- 10/1 MIL@WAS Gm 1: Mike Everitt: pfx. 100/102 Balls + 37/40 Strikes = 137/142 = 96.5%. +1 MIL.
- 10/2 TB@OAK Gm 1: Chad Fairchild. 105/109 Balls + 52/56 Strikes = 157/165 = 95.2%. +2 OAK.

Note: The highest plate score during the 2018 Wild Card Games was Jim Wolf's 98.8% (AL WC).
The highest overall plate score during the 2018 Postseason was Joe West's 99.4% (ALCS Gm 3).

Live Blog: Join the CCS Crew LIVE for postseason discussion and analysis (requires Java):

Replay Rewind - NL Wild Card HBP in Washington

Before Nationals batter Juan Soto's bases-clearing RBI single/error gave Washington the lead over Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card Game, a Replay Review decision upheld HP Umpire Mike Everitt's HBP call on Michael Taylor, who would become one of the baserunners that put the Nats ahead for good.

First Things First: 1B Umpire Kerwin Danley had a pulled foot (safe) call challenged by Milwaukee early. I too had a pulled foot by the Brewers first baseman in real time and on replay, I couldn't quite confirm it. That's good enough for a call stands i my opinion. Because the end result (safe) jived with my initial thought (safe), I didn't spend too much time here.

Crew consultation is key here.
The Main HBP Event: As for the 8th inning HBP that set Washington's rally into motion, I had a hit-by-pitch in real time, but on replay at first glance, I had a foul ball. Slowing it down even further, I couldn't be quite certain that Josh Hader's pitch hit Taylor's bat first, though I still believe it did.

In other words, if we were solely using video to make a call on this play, I'd have a foul ball, but because the Replay Review standard requires clear and convincing evidence in order to confirm or overturn an on-field ruling, I must stick with call stands because the replay isn't entirely clear and convincing - or rather, it's convincing, yet unclear.

Mark it down as Craig Counsell going 0-for-2 on the night in replay (teams get two Manager's Challenges to use during the postseason), though both plays were fairly close—the second of which was the definition of a 50-50 call.

It would have been great to have at least one more frame with which to slow the tape and a useful camera angle not obstructed by the bat itself (nor by the player), because from this angle, I can't tell if the ball glanced off the wrist before hitting the bat. An aerial view, like the top-down in Tampa Bay, would have been key.

This is why the initial call on the field is so important and why a crew consultation is absolutely vital: when "call stands" is the outcome because of inconclusive or unclear video, the original on-field ruling is what will prevail.
Related PostCrew Consultation - Importance of the Call on the Field (10/2/19).

Video as follows:

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Postseason Operations Update

With the 2019 MLB postseason upon us, here is a brief operations update for with new umpire crew lineup card and plate score reporting graphics that go into effect today.

We've added crew lineup graphics for each round of the playoffs, so it is easier to see and share what umpires are on which games. Plate score reporting has evolved as well, with UEFL f/x joined by two additional scores for the sake of transparency and fairness. Here's how to read the new postgame plate accuracy reports:

Top Value: ML Private. Also called the Zone Evaluation Equivalent Estimate, his figure attempts to portray what the league's Umpiring Department uses internally in its evaluation of umpires. Because ZE remains a private enterprise, ML Private is solely an approximation of what such a score may look like. Margin of error is two inches.

Middle Value: UEFL f/x. Our standard plate eval methodology returns pursuant to the manufacturer-specified one-inch margin of error value. Extensive documentation on UEFL f/x is available on this website, and we'd direct you to last postseason's UEFL f/x primer for more information.
Related PostUEFL f/x vs K-Zone and the Player-Umpire Disconnect (10/4/18).
Related PostAsk UEFL - About Close Call Sports' Strike Zone QOC (8/1/18).

Bottom Value: ML Public. This is the PitchCast/StatCast visual representation one might see on ESPN K-Zone or FoxTrax graphics, also indicated on MLB GameDay and Baseball Savant. This figure, which incorporates a zero-inch margin of error, is what the public sees and is bound by the list of errors previously discussed on Close Call Sports, such as the following article.
Related PostDude, What Happened Last Night? About Pitch f/x Error (8/30/16).

Video as follows:

ABS Playoff Highlights - Delayed Calls & System Errors

The Atlantic League, ahead of MLB's postseason, carried its TrackMan Automated Ball/Strike System (ABS) into the playoffs in York, with the Revs broadcasters and players appearing to grow frustrated with the computer zone now that the games actually matter...a sign of things to come?

The Freedom Division Championship Series between Sugar Land and York, won by the Sugar Land Skeeters, featured quite a few interesting rulings from ABS, with broadcasters at one point turning an adjective sometimes used (by Hawk Harrelson) to describe umpires into an insult intended for the electronic strike zone: "Man, that was brutal...that one was just plain bad."

Has the ALPB ABS honeymoon officially ended now that the postseason has arrived?

The other main highlight of ABS in York pertained to time spent waiting for ABS to make a call, including some calls resulting in a three-plus second delay such that the pitcher had already received a throw back from his catcher before the home plate umpire made a call, adding to the visible confusion.

Now playing on ABS: Delayed strike calls.
Imagine a one-out, two on (R1, R3) situation with a 3-1 count and the runner from first base taking off for second. The catcher doesn't have the luxury of waiting three seconds to find out if ABS tracked the pitch as a ball or a strike, so his throw down to second base gets away and into center field, enabling the runner from third to score and the runner from first base to advance to third. And after all of that mess, ABS rules the pitch ball four anyhow, rendering the throw to second entirely unnecessary.

Video as follows:

Monday, September 30, 2019

2019 Wild Card, Division Series Umpires Roster

MLB's umpire roster for the 2019 American and National League (AL/NL) Wild Card Game and Division Series (ALDS/NLDS) features crews of six umpires for these postseason rounds, supported by Replay Officials who do not join the on-field umpires or otherwise rotate out of New York.

UEFL Replay Review Ranking (Review Affirmation Percentage [RAP]) is indicated by the number in parentheses, while additional information is indicated for postseason crew chiefs (-cc), regular season crew chiefs (*), first postseason assignments (^1st^) and first Division Series asssignments ({1st DS}).

NL Wild Card (Milwaukee Brewers @ Washington Nationals) Umpires:
HP: Mike Everitt* (55)
1B: Kerwin Danley (7)
2B: Jeff Nelson* -cc (12)
3B: Cory Blaser (41)
LF: David Rackley (23)
RF: Carlos Torres ^1st^ (48)

AL Wild Card (Tampa Bay Rays @ Oakland Athletics) Umpires:
HP: Chad Fairchild (19)
1B: Fieldin Culbreth* (28)
2B: Bill Miller* -cc (4)
3B: Chris Guccione (82)
LF: Lance Barrett ^1st^ (45)
RF: Adam Hamari ^1st^ (16)

NL and AL Wild Card Game Replay Officials: Laz Diaz & Dan Iassogna.

NL Division Series A (St. Louis Cardinals @ Atlanta Braves) Umpires:
HP: Pat Hoberg {1st DS} (68)
1B: Alan Porter [Game 2 Plate] (28)
2B: Sam Holbrook* [Game 3 Plate] -cc (15)
3B: Jim Wolf [Game 4 Plate] (48)
LF: Tom Hallion* [Game 5 Plate] (24)
RF: Ed Hickox (55)

NL Division Series B (Wild Card [MIL/WAS] @ Los Angeles Dodgers) Umpires:
HP: Will Little (76)
1B: Jordan Baker [Game 2 Plate] {1st DS} (87)
2B: Ted Barrett* [Game 3 Plate] -cc (17)
3B: Doug Eddings [Game 4 Plate] (28)
LF: Alfonso Marquez [Game 5 Plate] (88)
RF: Tripp Gibson {1st DS} (28)

AL Division Series A (Minnesota Twins @ New York Yankees) Umpires:
HP: Manny Gonzalez (9)
1B: Todd Tichenor [Game 2 Plate] (24)
2B: Gary Cederstrom* [Game 3 Plate] -cc (14)
3B: Lance Barksdale [Game 4 Plate] (28)
LF: Eric Cooper [Game 5 Plate] (39)
RF: Adrian Johnson (37)

AL Division Series B (Wild Card [TB/OAK] @ Houston Astros) Umpires:
HP: John Tumpane (28)
1B: Bruce Dreckman [Game 2 Plate] (68)
2B: Mark Wegner* [Game 3 Plate] -cc (62)
3B: James Hoye [Game 4 Plate] (48)
LF: Jerry Meals* [Game 5 Plate] (65)
RF: DJ Reyburn (12)

NL and AL Division Series Replay Officials: Ron Kulpa, Gabe Morales, Paul Nauert & Brian O'Nora.

-cc denotes Game/Series Crew Chief, * denotes regular season crew chief, ^1st^ denotes first postseason assignment, {1st DS} denotes first Division Series assignment. Pursuant to UEFL Rule 4-3-c, umpires selected to appear in the Wild Card games receive one bonus point for this appearance, while umpires assigned to the Division Series receive two points for an on-field appearance. Postseason crew chiefs receive an additional bonus point, but replay officials who do not appear on the field (e.g., Wild Card & Division Series replay personnel) do not receive points for this role.

Video as follows:

2019 Stats - Ejections Spike, But So Do Correct Calls

Ejections spiked drastically in 2019 as umpires concluded the regular season with the most heave-ho's since 2006, but not for a lack of umpire accuracy. Plate scores actually improved and Replay Reviews were down—and so were overturned calls. Read on for a glimpse into the MLB umpire stats for 2019.

Ejection Events, Especially for Balls/Strikes, Soared to Highest Level in 13 Years
Umpires ejected more players, coaches, and managers in 2019 than at any other time during the video instant replay era—and that includes both limited home run reviews (2008-2013) and expanded Replay Review (2014-present).

The 217 ejections during the 2019 regular season easily eclipsed the 2018 regular season's total of 179 ejections, and comprised the most disciplinary dismissals since the 2006 season's 218 ejections. 2019 now ranks seventh-highest since the leagues merged in 2000, trailing just 2000-01 and 2003-06.

Reason for Ejection (Balls/Strikes Soars): After 2014's institution of expanded replay, ball/strike ejections have increased or remained at comparable levels year-to-year that at all rates outpaced ball/strike ejections experienced during pre-2014 seasons.

In 2019, the climb continued with a whopping 133 ejections for arguing a ball or strike call, a 40% increase over 2018. Of these 133 ejections, the umpire's call was correct 96 times, incorrect 33 times, and could not be conclusively categorized as correct or incorrect on four occasions (i.e., the computer malfunctioned, generally failing to track the pitch entirely), corresponding to a Quality of Correctness—Correct percentage of 74%.

In 2018, umpires were 65% accurate on the 95 ball/strike calls that led to ejection, while in 2017, that figure was just 54% over 101 calls.

The method of ball/strike QOC evaluation remained constant in all three years, which means that 2019's dramatic ejections increase was associated with a greater frequency of correct calls that precipitated the ejection events.