Friday, March 6, 2020

MLB Ejection S2 - Ryan Blakney (1; Joey Bart)

HP Umpire Ryan Blakney ejected Giants DH Joey Bart (strike three call) in the top of the 9th inning of the #Giants-#Brewers game. With two out and none on, Bart took 0-0, 0-1, and 2-2 pitches from Brewers pitcher Phil Bickford for called first, second, and third strikes.

QOC is unavailable for this Spring Training game, as electronic measurements were not used at American Family Fields of Phoenix. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 5-5. The contest ultimately ended in a tie, 5-5.

This is Ryan Blakney (36)'s 1st ejection of Spring 2020.
Ryan Blakney now has 0 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 0 Spring = 0).
Crew Chief Jeff Nelson now has 0 points in Crew Division (0 Prev + 0 Spring = 0).

This is the 2nd ejection report of Spring Training 2020, second of the preseason.
This is San Francisco's 1st ejection of 2020, 1st in the Cactus League (SF 1; All Others 0).
This is Joey Bart's first career MLB ejection.
This is Ryan Blakney's 1st ejection since August 27, 2019 (Amir Garrett; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).

Wrap: San Francisco Giants vs. Milwaukee Brewers (Spring), 3/6/20 | Video as follows:

What to Expect from MiLB's Robo-Ump Test

With Minor League Baseball's Florida State League (Class-A Advanced) set to debut the Automated Ball/Strike System (ABS), Baseball America posited that insertion of so-called robot umpires would collaterally atrophy the pitch-calling skills of FSL's human umpire staff, to which I say, "not so fast."

Today's Gil's Call speaks to the officially unacknowledged reality of baseball's ABS from its time in the Atlantic and Arizona Fall Leagues—namely that the technology is faulty and prone to catastrophic and multifaceted failure.

In other words, ABS—whether TrackMan's doppler radar in 2019 or HawkEye's optical system in 2020—has a nasty tendency to miss pitches entirely. In the words of MLB's senior-most umpire Joe West, "It missed 500 pitches in April and when I say it missed 500 pitches, that didn't mean they called them wrong. They didn't call them at all."
Related PostVideo - Truth About Baseball's Electronic Strike Zone (5/30/19).

Speaking with umpires who have encountered this technology during gameplay, one thing becomes readily apparent about this not-ready-for-primetime experiment: It perhaps is more stressful to work an ABS game than to call balls/strikes in the traditional manner because, with ABS, the plate umpire never quite knows when the computer will miss a pitch.

Delayed calls will complicate matters.
And when ABS misses a pitch—as it did 500 times in the period referred to by West—the human umpire must fall back onto tradition and call "ball" or "strike" just as one would do without the technology.

Yet due to the electronic system's habitual timing problems—ABS is notoriously delayed in a sport where such delays sometimes are unacceptable [e.g., a 3-2 delayed call with a runner trying to steal]...according to one account, ABS once announced "strike" in an umpire's earpiece mid-play, only after the batter's ground ball had been fielded by the shortstop—the plate umpire can never really be sure (at least not within a two- or three-second window) whether ABS has failed to capture a pitch or whether ABS is simply going to squeal "ball" or "strike" after a metaphorical eternity of processing time.

Not for nothing, MiLB is heading into this 2020 experiment blind—HawkEye hasn't been tested in live gameplay yet (recall that 2019's vendor was TrackMan)—so outcomes aren't entirely predictable.

FoxTrax's static strike zone limitation.
In conclusion, I would expect that FSL umpires, despite encountering ABS in a majority of their games, will not atrophy in their collective pitch-calling ability as suggested by Baseball America, simply because the technology's shortcomings and untested nature mean that human umpires must be more alert; however, by that same token, the umpires will encounter more stress, which in the workplace can lead to a higher human failure rate or potential burnout.

In other words, see what expanded Replay Review has done to MLB umpires on the bases and you might have a clue on what to expect from ABS in the minors...that is, once professional baseball can prove that the technology actually works.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

UEFL Profile of MLB Umpire Chad Whitson

Presenting the UEFL Profile of MLB Umpire Chad Whitson.
Name: Chad Robert Whitson
Pronunciation Guide: CHAD WITT-sun
Date of Birth: December 8, 1981
Place of Birth: Dublin, Ohio

MiLB Leagues Worked: Appalachian, South Atlantic, California, Arizona Instructional, Eastern, International.
MLB Debut: May 15, 2014 (MLB)
Level: MLB
Umpire Uniform Number: 62
Crew Chief: No

2019 Ejections: 1.
Ejection 053 (DET DH Miguel Cabrera; QOC = Y).

2018 Ejections: 1.
Ejection 134 (WAS C Matt Wieters; QOC = Y).

2017 Ejections: 1.
Ejection 123 (WAS C Matt Wieters; QOC = Y). *First Career MLB Ejection*

2016 Ejections: None.
2015 Ejections: None.
2014 Ejections: None.

Ejection History: 0 (2014), 0 (2015), 0 (2016), 1 (2017), 1 (2018), 1 (2019).

UEFL History: Chad Whitson

Postseason and Special Events History
World Baseball Classic: -
All-Star Game: -
Wild Card Game: -
Division Series: -
Championship Series: -
World Series: -

Notes: Hired midseason in July 2019 to replace retiring umpire Mike DiMuro.
» Called Jake Arrieta's August 30, 2015 no-hitter, as a Minor League call-up umpire.
» Graduated from the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School in 2005.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Case Play 2020-1 Answer - Standoff is Out of Line

After a college stalemate between catcher & runner led to a benches-clearing brawl, we made a Case Play of it. After consulting the relevant rules, it is apparent that the umpire could have declared the leading runner out earlier for running more than three feet away from his base path to avoid a tag.

Recap: Attempting to score on a hit to the outfield, a runner evades a catcher's tag near home plate, incidentally failing to touch the plate in the process. As the runner prepares to correct his base touching error, he sees the catcher ready to apply the tag and waits somewhere well behind the batter's box until the catcher acts.

The catcher, who in turn starts to chase the runner, quickly retreats to cover home plate, wary of the trailing runner who might attempt to score. A stalemate ensues, and finally ends with the preceding runner diving into an out with the catcher quickly tagging the trailing runner as well for a double play.
Related PostCase Play 2020-1 - Home Plate Standoff & Brawl (3/2/20).

The two primarily related rules here are those of the appeal play and those of the out-of-base-path. Let's tackle each possibility.

The catcher begins to chase the runner.
Appeal Play: NCAA rule 8-6-a-4 states that a runner is out on appeal when "the runner does not touch home plate and does not make an attempt to touch it. The fielder may touch either the runner or home plate." Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(12) is the related professional rule and states, "[Runner is out when] in running or sliding for home base, he fails to touch home base and appeals to the umpire for the decision." And, for good measure, NFHS (high school) rule 8-2-6b affords a live ball appeal for a runner missing a base, with 8-2-5 declaring, "If a runner who misses any base (including home plate) or leaves a base to early, desires to return to touch the base, he must do so immediately."

In this situation, because the initial "you missed the base" interaction between catcher and runner occurs off camera and we cannot conclusively determine what any potential catcher-umpire interaction was, it is difficult to determine whether the catcher actually appealed the runner's legality. For this reason, we err on the side of the call on the field, but nonetheless, the rule is designed such that the catcher is not required to physically chase a runner who makes no attempt to score or correct his no-touch error.

Runner clearly deviates by more than 3 feet.
Out of Base Path: NCAA rule 8-5-a states that a runner is out when, "In running to any base, while trying to avoid being tagged out, the runner runs more than three feet left or right from a direct line between the base and the runner’s location at the time a play is being made." The pro rule is OBR 5.09(b)(1) ("more than three feet away from his base path to avoid being tagged...established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base") and high school is NFHS 8-4-2a ("runs more than three feet away from a direct line between bases to avoid being tagged...he establishes his baseline as directly between his position and the base toward which he is moving"). Remember, the MLB Umpire Manual states, "Base path rules still apply to the runner" in situations when the runner misses home plate.

Sidebar: NFHS uses the term "baseline" while OBR is "base path".

Ichiro Suzuki safely slides into home.
This is the rule the runner violated; he clearly runs more than three feet away from the direct line between his position at the time of the play or attempted tag (when he's off-camera behind the left-handed batter's box) and home plate. This is evident when he winds up well beyond the right-handed batter's box and more than three feet away from home plate. We contrast this in a video with Ichiro Suzuki successfully avoiding this call during a game in Baltimore.

Other Potential Outs:
Teammate Interference: OBR 6.01(a)(4) would declare the runner out for interference and cause the ball to become dead when "any member or members of the offensive team stand or gather around any base to which a runner is advancing, to confuse, hinder or add to the difficulty of the fielders." Naturally, it would appear the runner's own act of running well outside of his base path caused the on-deck batter to become more involved in the play than he would otherwise have been, in which case the on-deck batter's presence would become somewhat of a red herring (also: did he actually confuse/hinder or attempt to confuse/hinder his opponent?).

Video as follows:

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

MiLB Umpires Promoted to Triple-A for 2020

Hoping to become MLB's first-ever umpire from Japan, Takahito Matsuda is one of 10 Minor League umpires promoted from Double-A to Triple-A ahead of baseball's 2020 season.

Promotion to Triple-A's Pacific Coast and International Leagues is a required step on the road to the show and provides umpires with the opportunity to earn career-enhancing assignments such as the Arizona Fall League and MLB Spring Training, with an eventual goal of joining the major league regular season call-up/fill-in roster.

As reported this month by our friends at, the following 2019 Double-A umpires were promoted to Triple-A for the 2020 season. This roster update accounts for the vacancies created by MLB promotions and possible resignations or releases at the Triple-A level, which will have a cascading effect on all levels of Minor League Baseball.

2020 Triple-A Rookie Umpire List (2019 league in parentheses):
>> Matt Bates (Southern League)
>> Cody Clark (Southern League) [UEFL History]
>> Chris Marco (Eastern League)
>> Takahito 'Taka' Matsuda (Eastern League) [UEFL History]
>> Jacob Metz (Eastern League)
>> Tyler Olsen (Texas League)
>> Justin Robinson (Justin Robinson)
>> Ben Sonntag (Southern League)
>> Derek Thomas (Eastern League)
>> Brian Walsh (Texas League)

Monday, March 2, 2020

Case Play 2020-1 - Home Plate Standoff & Brawl

A runner attempting to score fails to touch home plate as the catcher misses his tag; it's happened before, but in this Toledo-Alabama State game, it will spark a fight and ejections.

The umpire initially withholds the call—signaling neither safe nor out—and waits for a tag or touch. Yet it soon becomes apparent that neither player is budging: a stalemate and standoff ensues with the catcher not wanting to cede his position, wary of trailing runners attempting to advance, while the runner who passed home plate without touching it doesn't want to run into an out.

Eagle eye sidebar: Notice the on-deck batter's location relative to the leading runner after he passes home plate, but before he is declared safe or out.

What's the Call? Is this an appeal play? In this situation, both the preceding and trailing runners are ultimately declared out via tag when both runner slide toward home plate (the fielder then unnecessarily tags the first runner for a second time, which incites a benches-clearing brawl), but should the preceding runner have been declared out prior to the odd sequence at home plate?
Remember, while this is a college play subject to the NCAA rulebook, we are looking for a response that falls under the professional level's Official Baseball Rules code, as well as the college ruling. This video comes to us from @FoulPoleSports.

Rules Library
OBR 5.09(b)(1): "Any runner is out when—He runs more than three feet away from his base path to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s base path is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely."
OBR 5.09(b)(12): "In running or sliding for home base, he fails to touch home base and makes no attempt to return to the base, when a fielder holds the ball in his hand, while touching home base, and appeals to the umpire for the decision."
OBR 5.09(b)(12) Comment: "This rule applies only where runner is on his way to the bench and the catcher would be required to chase him. It does not apply to the ordinary play where the runner misses the plate and then immediately makes an effort to touch the plate before being tagged. In that case, runner must be tagged."
MLB Umpire Manual Interpretation [Runner Misses Home Plate]: "In such cases, base path rules still apply to the runner."
NCAA 8-6-4: "A runner shall be called out on specific appeals that occur as a result of a base runner error when—The runner does not touch home plate and does not make an attempt to touch it. The fielder may touch either the runner or home plate."

Video as follows: