Saturday, October 12, 2019

UMPS CARE Charities Golf Drive - CCS Donation on FB

It's donation drive time. Close Call Sports will once again donate a dollar to UMPS CARE Charities in support of the 100 hole golf marathon for every new like on the CCS/UEFL Facebook page for the rest of the postseason.

We spoke to UmpsCare Board Member and Ump-Attire Business Development Specialist Scott Kennedy about the charity's mission, the November golf fundraiser, and umpires' involvement in the community.

Like us at to kick-start the donations and watch part one of our three-part interview with Scott in the following video minisode of The Plate Meeting podcast:

Friday, October 11, 2019

2019 League Championship Series Umpires Roster

MLB assigned the following umpires to the 2019 American and National League Championship Series. The ALCS and NLCS crew roster is listed in Game 1 alignment with umpire plate assignments in parentheses. The postseason's third round (LCS) features crews of seven umpires, one of which serves as a Replay Official for Games 1 and 2 and another who serves as Replay Official for Games 3-7.

UEFL Replay Review Ranking (Review Affirmation Percentage [RAP]) is listed alongside the plate assignments, which additional flags exist for postseason crew chiefs (-cc), regular season crew chiefs (*), and first League Championship Series assignments ({1st LCS}). Umpires who officiated a 2019 Wild Card Game are indicated by -wc.

NL Championship Series (Washington Nationals @ St Louis Cardinals) Umpires:
HP: Mike Muchlinski (4) {1st LCS} [Replay Games 3-7]
1B: Chris Conroy (90) {1st LCS} [Game 2 Plate]
2B: Bill Miller* -cc (4) -wc [Game 3 Plate]
3B: Phil Cuzzi (64) [Game 4 Plate]
LF: Chad Fairchild (19) -wc [Game 5 Plate]
RF: Fieldin Culbreth* (28) -wc [Game 6 Plate]
Replay: Chris Guccione (82) -wc [On-Field Games 3-7] [Game 7 Plate]

AL Championship Series (New York Yankees @ Houston Astros) Umpires:
HP: Bill Welke (86) [Replay Games 3-7]
1B: Cory Blaser (41) {1st LCS} -wc [Game 2 Plate]
2B: Jeff Nelson* -cc (12) -wc [Game 3 Plate]
3B: Dan Bellino (42) {1st LCS} [Game 4 Plate]
LF: Kerwin Danley (7) -wc [Game 5 Plate]
RF: Mark Carlson (75) [Game 6 Plate]
Replay: Marvin Hudson (17) [On-Field Games 3-7] [Game 7 Plate]

Replay Assistant, American and National League Championship Series: David Rackley.

Pursuant to UEFL Rule 4-3-c, umpire selected to appear in the National or American League Championship Series, including the Replay Officials who rotate into an on-field role for Games 3-7 or 1-2, receive three bonus points for this appearance. The ALCS and NLCS crew chiefs receive an additional point for serving in this role.

Postseason Pitch Skew - Dodgers Catcher Change

After the Dodgers lost the 2019 NLDS to the Nationals, a few people noticed that Los Angeles benefited from 12 more incorrectly called pitches than Washington, a stat called pitch skew. Do umpires love LA or is there a more logical and impartial explanation for why the team whose last World Series win occurred in 1988 seems to consistently lose in the postseason enjoy positive pitch skew differential over opponents?

To answer this question, we traced LA's postseason history since 2013—which was the first year of UEFL pitch skew statistics, defined as the net number of incorrectly ruled pitches that favor a given team over its opponent [e.g., the pitcher throws a pitch outside the strike zone and the home plate umpire calls it a strike...this results in a skew of +1 for the defensive team; conversely, a pitcher who throws a pitch within the strike zone called a ball earns a skew of +1 for the offensive team. Add up all skews throughout the game and you get a game skew; add all games together and you have a series skew]—and noticed something very interesting.

In 2013, the Dodgers suffered a negative 20 (-20) pitch skew against St. Louis in the NLCS (conversely, you could say that St. Louis enjoyed a +20 skew over LAD), while in 2014, the Dodgers went minus-15 against St. Louis in the NLDS. Both times, St. Louis won the series.

Framing can buy—or cost—strike calls.
In 2015, pitch skews were not statistically significant, but in 2016, something remarkable happened. In quite the turnaround, Los Angeles experienced a +15 skew (beat Washington in the 2016 NLDS), followed by +15 skew in the 2017 NLCS (beat Chicago), +10 skew in the 2018 World Series (lost to Boston), and +12 skew in the 2019 NLDS (lost to Washington).

Answer: Catcher Framing. Meet AJ Ellis, one of the worst statistical pitch framing catchers in all of baseball who just happened to be on the Dodgers from 2008 until 2016. AJ played in all six games of the 2013 NLCS and all four games of the 2014 NLDS against St. Louis. His opposing backstop for both series was Yadier Molina, one of MLB's best pitch framers at the time.

In short, Yadi "stole strikes" with his framing ability while Ellis occasionally stole balls with his bottom-10 frame attribute.

Los Angeles turned its skew luck around in 2016.
2015-16: LA Meets Analytics. The Dodgers front office then got smart and acquired a series of catchers—such as Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal—whose framing abilities were elite, pursuant to a metric known as Strike Zone Runs Saved or Catcher Framing (depending on where you look).

For example, in 2019, Dodgers catcher Russell Martin ranked #1 in Catcher Framing on the MLB leaderboard amongst catchers whose clubs made the postseason. Barnes ranked two spots behind Martin and rookie catcher Will Smith was two spots behind Barnes (Atlanta's Tyler Flowers was #2 and Milwaukee's Yasmani Grandal—a former Dodgers property!—was #4).

Conclusion: In other words, the Dodgers used to be very bad at the skew game thanks to substandard pitch framing. After getting bounced by St. Louis in 2014 and beaten by double-digits by then-supreme skewer Yadier Molina, LA's baseball team turned to the statistics and transacted to acquire catchers with superior—near-elite—pitch frame ability, which in turn caused LA to experience a dramatic reversal in its pitch skew fortunes.

Video as follows:

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Discussion & Liveblog of 2019 AL and NL Division Series

Welcome to the 2019 American and National League Division Series discussion and live blog.

Umpires Pat Hoberg (NL STL@ATL), Will Little (NL WAS@LAD), John Tumpane (AL TB@HOU), and Manny Gonzalez (AL MIN@NYY) are your game one plate umpires.
Related2019 Wild Card & Division Series Umpires.

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

- 10/3 STL@ATL Gm 1: Pat Hoberg: 119/119 Balls + 45/48 Strikes = 164/167 = 98.2%. +1 STL.
- 10/3 WAS@LAD Gm 1: Will Little: 122/123 Balls + 52/60 Strikes = 174/183 = 95.1%. +1 LA.

- 10/4 TB@HOU Gm 1: John Tumpane: 95/99 Balls + 45/50 Strikes = 140/149 = 94.0%. +7 HOU.
- 10/4 STL@ATL Gm 2: Alan Porter: 77/80 Balls + 42/45 Strikes = 119/125 = 95.2%. +4 STL.
- 10/4 MIN@NYY Gm 1: Manny Gonzalez: 137/141 Balls + 50/51 Strikes = 187/192 = 97.4%. +1 MIN.
- 10/4 WAS@LAD Gm 2: Jordan Baker: 97/98 Balls + 40/43 Strikes = 137/141 = 97.2%. +0 NU.

- 10/5 MIN@NYY Gm 2: Todd Tichenor: 117/121 Balls + 45/46 Strikes = 162/167 = 97.0%. +5 NYY.
- 10/5 TB@HOU Gm 2: Bruce Dreckman: 85/86 Balls + 44/47 Strikes = 129/133 = 97.0%. +0 NU.

- 10/6 ATL@STL Gm 3: Sam Holbrook: 112/116 Balls + 43/47 Strikes = 155/163 = 95.1%. +2 ATL.
- 10/6 LAD@WAS Gm 3: Ted Barrett: 135/137 Balls + 48/53 Strikes = 183/190 = 96.3%. +3 LA.

- 10/7 HOU@TB Gm 3: Mark Wegner: 97/100 Balls + 52/54 Strikes = 149/154 = 96.8%. +3 TB.
- 10/7 ATL@STL Gm 4: Jim Wolf: 111/113 Balls + 44/47 Strikes = 155/160 = 96.9%. +3 ATL.
- 10/7 LAD@WAS Gm 4: Doug Eddings: 103/104 Balls + 37/44 Strikes = 140/148 = 94.6%. +6 LA.
- 10/7 NYY@MIN Gm 3: Gary Cederstrom: 108/112 Balls + 35/38 Strikes = 143/150 = 95.3%. +3 NYY.
Series Complete (NYY Def MIN 3-0): 492/509 = 96.7%. +7 NYY.

- 10/8 HOU@TB Gm 4: James Hoye: 96/97 Balls + 41/41 Strikes = 137/138 = 99.3%. +1 TB.
- 10/9 STL@ATL Gm 5: Tom Hallion: 107/111 Balls + 52/57 Strikes = 159/168 = 94.6%. +1 ATL.
Series Complete (STL Def ATL 3-2): 752/783 = 96.0%. +1 ATL.
- 10/9 WAS@LAD Gm 5: Alfonso Marquez: 105/111 Balls + 48/52 Strikes = 153/163 = 93.9%. +2 LA.
Series Complete (WAS Def LA 3-2): 787/825 = 95.4%. +12 LAD.

- 10/10 TB@HOU Gm 5: Jerry Meals: 71/73 Balls + 39/43 Strikes = 110/116 = 94.8%. +2 TB.
Series Complete (HOU Def TB 3-2): 665/690 = 96.4%. +1 TB.

The highest plate score during the 2018 Division Series was Ted Barrett's 98.6% (NLDS Gm 3).
The highest overall plate score during the 2018 Postseason was Joe West's 99.4% (ALCS Gm 3).

Live Blog: Join CCS and follow along with our postseason discussion and analysis:

Teachable - Clearing the Catcher on a Wild Pitch

This edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments pertains to an umpire's positioning responsibilities during a wild pitch with a potential play at the plate involving a runner from third base. Clearing the catcher, as Fieldin Culbreth demonstrates, is the first step in preparing for a play, but what happens next?

The first step for a home plate umpire on a wild pitch/passed ball play with a runner coming home from third is to spin off the catcher by reading where the catcher wants to go, and then getting out of this fielder's way. Taking the mask off will likely come after the catcher leaves the vicinity, since the most important thing is to minimize the potential for collision with the catcher.

Here, we follow Culbreth during a Red Sox-Rangers game as Shawn Kelley's pitch bounces to the backstop.

After clearing the catcher, an umpire should continue to read the fielders—the catcher's actions will communicate where the ball is, while it's a pretty solid bet that the pitcher will be running home to cover the plate.

Sometimes it isn't feasible to be 3BLE.
Accordingly, the umpire should ensure that the catcher has an unobstructed look at home plate from wherever the catcher is near the backstop—this is the most likely path the catcher will use to throw the ball to the pitcher and an umpire should stand nowhere near this path.

A plate umpire may continue to adjust position in response to the fielders' actions and then prepare to take this play just like any other tag play—with freedom to position adjust as needed to get a keyhole angle look at the action area, and with great regard for the fact that the throw is coming from behind the plate, not in front of it.

The pitcher would block the umpire at 3BLE.
It's not always practicable to start at point of plate or even third baseline extended because of the potential for getting in the way of the catcher's throw, so a plate umpire may alternately stand close to the first base foul line—it's all dependent on where the catcher goes and how the pitcher sets up for a tag. For instance, Rangers pitcher Kelley sets up in a way that would block the plate umpire from seeing the play from the third baseline extended position; in order to get the keyhole from the behind-the-plate angle, the umpire would likely have to move into the catcher's throw, which could complicate the play.

In this situation, Culbreth moves far away from a place where me may get in the way of a potential play—and if this is an umpire's route, that umpire should be prepared to adjust positioning based on the fielders' actions, which Culbreth does by continuing to circle around into fair territory. In this situation, the reverse angle is not possible due to the catcher throw and the direction of the runner's arrival.

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

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

James Hoye Calls Within a Pitch of Perfection in ALDS

MLB Umpire James Hoye recorded the second-highest plate score in UEFL f/x postseason history during Game 4 of the Astros-Rays Division Series, registering a 99.3% rating on 137-of-138 correct pitch calls, second only to Joe West's 99.4% mark set during the 2018 ALCS.

This is the second time UEFL f/x has tracked an umpire coming within just one pitch of a perfect game in the postseason, and marks an umpire falling just one pitch shy of perfection for the second-straight year, and first in the Division Series...did Hoye just get himself a World Series assignment (Hoye worked the 2018 ALCS with West)?

Speaking of which, and for reference, Hoye matched his 2018 ALCS crew chief's accuracy mark in raw number of pitches missed (just one) in Tampa Bay on Tuesady, but Joe saw more pitches during Game 3 of the 2018 Red Sox-Astros American League Championship Series: 160 total, to Hoye's 138 total pitches the rules of math, that makes West's percentage one tenth higher than Hoye's (99.4 vs 99.3).
Related PostJoe West Sets % Record in Near-Perfect Game in ALCS (10/16/18).

SIDEBAR: For more information about UEFL f/x and how we calculate plate scores, see:
Related PostUEFL f/x vs K-Zone and the Player-Umpire Disconnect (10/4/18).

Hoye missed just one pitch on Tuesday.
Hoye's sole miss came early, in the bottom of the second inning, when he called a ball on the first pitch pitch thrown by Houston's Justin Verlander to Rays batter Tommy Pham (px -0.22, pz 1.59 [sz_bot 1.59]). Replays indicate the pitch appeared to have been received rather poorly by Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos, which likely contributed to the ball call.

FoxTrax appeared broken at the Trop.
You may have also noticed that Fox Sports' FoxTrax graphic malfunctioned in the second inning of the game; the pitches were still being tracked by the system, but the application that converts the raw numbers to balls and strikes via user-friendly image output (PitchCast) either failed or otherwise was not "show ready."

A certain balancing act exists when it comes to PitchCast—whether deemed Fox Trax (by FOX), PitchTrax (by TBS), or K-Zone (by ESPN)—wherein television production personnel must decide at which point a clearly inaccurate graphic should be removed from the broadcast, which competes with media's strong desire to have the strike zone box overlay appear on the screen on a consistent basis (e.g., for every pitch). In order for this second goal to occur, there usually is a sacrifice of the accuracy element, which occurred when FoxTrax was restored for the third inning of play, as evidenced by the accompanying still.

Gil's Call: Games are much more enjoyable to watch without an overlayed strike zone box. It feels more relaxed, and fans as a whole aren't subliminally cued to be on edge, ready to pounce anytime the umpire's call may conflict with the electronic-yet-erroneous graphic with the implied message that a viewer is expected to compare (and contrast) every umpire pitch call to the graphic's output. One reason I prefer MLB Network's coverage of baseball games is precisely because MLBN tends not to use the real-time box overlay. In my experience, it's a much easier and less stressful way to watch a baseball game.

Video as follows:

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Atlantic League Championship Ejection - Fred DeJesus

Although a World Series ejection is rarer than a perfect game—there have been just 22 since 1907—Atlantic League umpire Fred DeJesus made up for lost time during the 2019 ALPB Championship Series, ejecting Sugar Land Skeeters Manager Pete Incaviglia after an out call at first base, sending the broadcasters into a tizzy of loaded commentary.

With none out and none on in the bottom of the 7th inning of a 2-2 ballgame between Long Island and Sugar Land, Skeeters batter Cody Stanley hit a ground ball to Ducks second baseman Steve Lombardozzi, who threw to first baseman David Washington as Stanley arrived at first base, ruled out by DeJesus. This brought Incaviglia out of the dugout in short order for a brief argument before the home skipper turned to walk toward the dugout, still upset about the call, as DeJesus let loose with a rare Championship Series ejection.

The optics of an umpire ejecting a manager whose back was turned during the ejection drew quite the animated ire of the Skeeters broadcasting crew, which ran through nearly every item in the exasperated announcer's checklist—"appalled," "absurd," "bush league," "pitiful," "remarkable"—before finally settling on the fabled "money's worth" commentary. The Ducks ultimately won the contest, 3-2, in 10 innings.
"We know who that umpire is, too. We know him. We're not going to grace his name. We know who this guy is, and that is pitiful."
Replay Review is not used for plays on the bases in the Atlantic League, though the league does use an Automated Ball/Strike System for pitch calls, thus eliminating balls/strikes ejections.
Related PostAtlantic League ABS Robo-Ump Ejection Encore (9/28/19).

Video as follows: