Thursday, October 15, 2020

Discussion of 2020 AL and NL Championship Series
 will once again report umpire plate scores (both preliminary and final numbers) for the American and National League Championship Series. Listed below are the 2020 ALCS and NLCS home plate assignments for the Astros-Rays and Braves-Dodgers matchups, beginning with Manny Gonzalez (Houston vs Tampa Bay) and Pat Hoberg (Atlanta vs Los Angeles).

As is tradition, plate umpire lineups are listed for all necessary games of the series and plate scores/skews are generated following completion of each game pursuant to UEFL f/x and UEFL Rules 6-2-b-a (Kulpa Rule) and 6-2-b-b (Miller Rule). The first line for each umpire is that ump's Preliminary score calculated in real-time while the second line is the ump's Final score, calculated upon post-game processing (data correction by the league).

- 10/11 HOU@TB Gm 1: Manny Gonzalez. 120/125 Balls + 47/51 Strikes = 167/176 = 94.9%. +3 TB.
Final for Gonzalez: 117/125 + 49/51 = 166/176 = 94.3%. Effect: -1 / -0.6% / +1 Skew. +4 TB.

- 10/12 HOU@TB Gm 2: John Tumpane. 90/90 Balls + 45/45 Strikes = 135/135 = 100.0%. +0 Neutral.
Final for Tumpane: 90/90 + 44/45 = 134/135 = 99.3%. Effect: -1 / -0.7% / +1 Skew. +1 HOU.
- 10/12 ATL@LAD Gm 1: Pat Hoberg. 91/91 Balls + 48/50 Strikes = 139/141 = 98.6%. +0 Neutral.
Final for Hoberg: 91/91 + 49/50 = 140/141 = 99.3%. Effect: +1 / +0.7% / +1 Skew. +1 ATL.

- 10/13 ATL@LAD Gm 2: Will Little. 146/150 Balls + 62/63 Strikes = 208/213 = 97.7%. +1 ATL.
Final for Little: 148/150 + 62/63 = 210/213 = 98.6%. Effect: +2 / +0.9% / +0 Skew. +1 ATL.
- 10/13 TB@HOU Gm 3: Jeff Nelson. 103/104 Balls + 49/54 Strikes = 152/158 = 96.2%. +6 HOU.
Final for Nelson: 102/104 + 50/54 = 152/158 = 96.2%. Effect: +0 / +0% / -2 Skew. +4 HOU.

- 10/14 LAD@ATL Gm 3: Jim Reynolds. 150/153 Balls + 58/61 Strikes = 208/214 = 97.2%. +2 LAD.
Final for Reynolds: 150/153 + 58/61 = 208/214 = 97.2%. Effect: +0 / +0% / +0 Skew. +2 LAD.
- 10/14 TB@HOU Gm 4: Chris Conroy. 104/105 Balls + 42/43 Strikes = 146/148 = 98.6%. +2 HOU.
Final for Conroy: 104/105 + 42/43 = 146/148 = 98.6%Effect: +0 / +0% / +0 Skew+2 HOU.

- 10/15 TB@HOU Gm 5: Ted Barrett. 94/97 Balls + 50/57 Strikes = 144/154 = 93.5%. +0 Neutral.
Final for T Barrett: 94/97 + 51/57 = 145/154 = 94.2%. Effect: +1 / +0.7% / +1 Skew. +1 HOU.
- 10/15 LAD@ATL Gm 4: Cory Blaser. 119/124 Balls + 38/43 Strikes = 157/167 = 94.0%. +0 Neutral.
Final for Blaser: 120/124 + 37/43 = 157/167 = 94.0%. Effect: +0 / +0% / +2 Skew. +2 ATL.

- 10/16 HOU@TB Gm 6: Tim Timmons. 147/150 Balls + 56/61 Strikes = 203/211 = 96.2%. +2 TB.
Final for Timmons: 147/150 + 57/61 = 204/211 = 96.7%. Effect: +1 / + 0.5% / -1 Skew. +1 TB.
- 10/16 LAD@ATL Gm 5: Dan Iassogna. 105/107 Balls + 50/51 Strikes = 155/158 = 98.1%. +1 ATL.
Final for Iassogna: 105/107 + 49/51 = 154/158 = 97.5%. Effect: -1 / -0.6% / -1 Skew. +0 Neutral.

- 10/17 ATL@LAD Gm 6: Alan Porter. 84/86 Balls + 41/42 Strikes = 125/128 = 97.7%. +1 ATL.
Final for Porter: 84/86 + 41/42 = 125/128 = 97.7%. Effect: +0 / +0% / +0 Skew. +1 ATL.
- 10/17 HOU@TB Gm 7: Lance Barksdale. 93/94 Balls + 46/48 Strikes = 139/142 = 97.9%. +1 HOU.
Final for Barksdale: 93/94 + 46/48 = 139/142 = 97.9%Effect: +0 / +0% / +0 Skew+1 HOU.

- 10/18 ATL@LAD Gm 7: James Hoye. 123/125 Balls + 37/39 Strikes = 160/164 = 97.6%. +2 ATL.
Final for Hoye: 124/125 + 36/39 = 160/164 = 97.6%Effect: +0 / +0% / +0 Skew+2 ATL.

Note: The highest plate score during the 2019 LCS was Cory Blaser's 98.9% (ALCS Gm 2).
The highest overall plate score during the 2019 postseason was James Hoye's 99.3% (NLDS Gm 4).
The highest plate score so far during the 2020 postseason is Jordan Baker's 99.4% (ALWC Gm 1).

Tmac - Justin Turner's Kick By Pitch - Kicking Motion

During Los Angeles' NLCS Game 3 blowout of Atlanta, Dodgers batter Justin Turner was awarded first base after sticking his foot into a first-inning pitch. This uncalled distinct kicking motion exposed a problem with Replay Review and pointed out a plate umpire's vulnerability to catcher positioning on balls in the dirt.

With two out and two on (R1, R3) in the top of the 1st inning of a 7-0 game, Turner faced a pitch in the dirt from Braves starter Grant Dayton (now with a 36.00 ERA this postseason series), appearing to kick at the pitch and, in doing so, cause the ball to carom off his right foot and to the backstop.

This play is similar to an elbow lean.
Initially no-called by HP Umpire Jim Reynolds, the Braves challenged that the ball had touched Turner, and Replay Review agreed, ruling the play a hit-by-pitch and awarding Turner first base—despite Turner appearing to intentionally kick at aka lean into the pitch.

The Replay problem here is quite simple: Replay Review is designed only to determine whether or not a pitch made contact with a batter, and Replay Official Mike Muchlinski quickly determined that Turner did come into contact with the baseball.

The plate ump is blocked out.
Unfortunately, Replay Review Regulations prohibit video from determining whether the batter made no attempt to get out of the way of a pitch (much less intentionally leaned into it), as in Official Baseball Rule 5.05(b)(2), which states, "The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when—He is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter [outcome: dead ball strike], or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball [outcome: dead ball, ball]."

Replay can determine IF a batter was touched by a pitched ball, but not HOW it happened.

In 2017, we wrote about the problem with not enough plays being reviewable and this is one of them. Through steadfast dedication to being technically correct (the best kind of correct), baseball again misses out on actually officiating this play correctly.

Fix replay, close the loophole.
Lastly, Reynolds is blocked out by the catcher due to the ball in the dirt, the catcher lunging to block it, and Turner moving his back foot deep in the box (as opposed to front foot) into the ball's trajectory. The third base umpire is likely blocked by Turner's body, 1B Umpire Dan Iassogna is looking upward for check swing potential, the second base umpire is on the rim of the outfield grass, and the two line umpires are far removed.

This play is the perfect storm and impetus to, once again, fix Replay Review, and if only the Braves had woken up to play a baseball game on Wednesday, this wrap-up might be a bigger story. Baseball should write LA a thank you card for a history-making scoreboard run-up because the league office got lucky. | Video as follows:

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Margot-Maldonado's ALCS Tangle Recalls Fisk-Armbrister

When Rays batter-runner Manuel Margot became entangled with Astros catcher Martin Maldonado after bunting during Game 3 of the 2020 ALCS, HP Umpire Jeff Nelson signaled "safe" in lieu of interference. Was this call correct and what do Carlton Fisk and Ed Armbrister in the 1975 World Series have to do with it?

When Tampa Bay put two runners on base with none out in the top of the 6th inning of Game 3, Margot stepped to the plate and attempted a sacrifice bunt on the first pitch he saw from Enoli Paredes, batting the ball into the air front of home plate.

As Maldonado broke from behind the plate in an attempt to catch the bunt pop-up, the right-hand hitting Margot ran toward first base, both players crossing in front of home plate and briefly colliding with each-other, causing Maldonado to trip and fall (and, in doing so, not catch the batted ball in flight).

HP Umpire Nelson saw the play develop and then displayed a "safe" mechanic, to signal his ruling that nothing illegal had occurred: no interference by the offense, no obstruction by the defense.

Despite the general baseball axiom that the fielder has the right of way on all batted balls (while the runner has the right of way at any other time), Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment specifies how this precise play—inadvertent tangle-untangle between catcher and batter-runner—should be officiated.

Specifically, OBR 6.01(a)(10) Comment states, in part, "When a catcher and batter-runner going to first base have contact when the catcher is fielding the ball, there is generally no violation and nothing should be called."

This ruling dates back to the 1975 Fall Classic, when Fisk and Armbrister tangled during Armbrister's own bunt attempt in front of the plate, when HP Umpire Larry Barnett no-called the collision because both players were actively pursuing their respective goals, creating an incidence of incidental contact. The call would have been different had, for instance, Margot not attempted to run to first base. Had this occurred, such mindless lingering would have likely resulted in a call of interference.
Video as follows:

Postgame Computer Balances Tumpane, Hoberg Scores

Between umpires John Tumpane and Pat Hoberg, only two out of 276 callable pitches seen Monday were improperly officiated. When we introduced UEFL f/x 3.0's multi-stage plate score format for the 2020 MLB postseason, we explained that baseball's strike zone computer runs in phases, returning multiple scores because the technology is unable to reliably assess batter height during real-time gameplay.

For instance, during one such postseason game, the computer changed batter strike zone height values in 53% of the pitches it tracked during post-game processing.

Alternately, one could say the computer changed its original answer over half the time.

Put differently, for over half of the pitches thrown, a trigger activated during post-game analysis that compelled an adjustment to the batter strike zone height, such as a close pitch near the edge of the zone/boundary. 53% of all pitches were adjusted, and the 47% of the pitches not adjusted...may well have been adjusted had the post-game analysis stayed true to the process of adjustment (as it is, possibly to save computing power or other labor, the computer only adjusts certain pitches).

Sometimes these adjustments change umpire QOCs and sometimes they don't.

Preliminary: During each game, StatCast uses placeholder values for batter bottom/top strike zone boundaries known as sz_bot and sz_top, respectively, regardless of the batter's actual stance during the pitch subject to evaluation. Thus, the score returned after each game known as the Preliminary score is based on placeholder height values and is a best-guess expectation of what the batter zone heights should be.

Final: After each game, the computer gets to work replacing many of these placeholder sz_bot and sz_top values with actual/observed figures. Sometimes they might match the placeholders and sometimes they don't. In the end, a new plate score is generated known as the Final score, generally scraped the morning after the game but occasionally later on game-day.

Tumpane's Prelim score was perfect.
Oftentimes, an umpire's Preliminary score will improve in the Final calculation, while, other times, it will decrease, as the computer calculates whether a zone height adjustment affected Quality of Correctness for a given edge pitch call.

Monday's LCS Umpires: Between Tumpane and Hoberg, the umpires saw 276 pitches and officiated 274 properly during Monday's League Championship Series action for a combined UEFL f/x score of 99.3%. Both figures (274/276 and 99.3%) are true for Preliminary and for Final numbers.

But between Preliminary and Final, both individual umpires saw adjustments.

Tumpane: Tumpane famously earned the first perfect preliminary plate score in UEFL f/x postseason history Monday afternoon in San Diego, scoring 90/90 Balls + 45/45 Strikes = 135/135 = 100%.

Hoberg's final score increased by 1.
Which meant the only place for baseball's computer to adjust Tumpane would be downward, and the computer didn't fail to disappoint, dropping one of Tumpane's called strikes to the incorrect category based on actual vs placeholder (or expected) batter height, and changing his 135/135 to 134/135, or 99.3%.

Hoberg: On the other side of balance sheet, Hoberg originally scored 91/91 Balls + 48/50 Strikes = 139/141 = 98.6%, and his post-game processing adjustment changed an incorrect strike call to a correct strike call, bumping his score to 140/141 = 99.3%.

Combined: In the end, baseball maintained pitch calling equilibrium as the Preliminary full-day score for Tumpane + Hoberg of 181/181 Balls + 93/95 Strikes = 274/276 = 99.3% remained the same overnight, which is an effect that happens quite often with computer processing: over the whole, the adjustments tend to largely balance out, though during individual games, they might increase or decrease a specific umpire's score.

Conclusion: Unfortunately for the robot umpire concept, the macro view of averages isn't quite good enough: the technology must be perfected to call pitches to accurate, adjusted batter height in real-time, specific to the game in which the pitch occurs and, as the Tumpane/Hoberg flip-flop demonstrates, the computer has not yet proven itself consistently and accurately capable of this: not while a majority of pitches are routinely changed during post-game processing. As such, the computer's adjustment to reflect overall umpire accuracy while nonetheless altering individual scores suggests a proof of technology's shortcomings.

PS: What was the pitch that took Tumpane's UEFL f/x perfect game away (he's still perfect on ML Private)? A strike one call to Austin Meadows in the bottom of the 2nd inning with pz 3.63 / RAD 3.51 / MOE 3.42 and sz_top 3.41.

That's right, Tumpane missed out on a post-game processed perfecto by 0.1 inches.

Video as follows:

Monday, October 12, 2020

Perfect Game for John Tumpane is First in UEFL History

When home plate umpire John Tumpane stepped off the field following Game 2 of the 2020 American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays, he accomplished a UEFL first: Tumpane called a perfect game with 135 correct calls over 135 callable pitches thrown for a Preliminary UEFL f/x score of 100%.*

In all, the baseball world has seen some eagle-eyed umpiring over the past few postseasons, beginning with Joe West's 99.4% mark in a near-perfect Game 3 of the 2018 Red Sox-Astros ALCS, 99.3% score by James Hoye during Game 4 of the 2019 Houston-Tampa Bay ALDS, and, earlier in the 2020 postseason, Jordan Baker's 99.4% finalized score in Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.

However, Tumpane's perfect game is a UEFL first. According to an article from The Ringer, no umpire has ever called a perfect game for both teams, though 25 umpires have called a perfect game for one team or the other.
As far as the ML Public score is concerned, Tumpane's preliminary number was 96.3% (130/135) with a matching 100% rating for ML Private, meaning that while the ML Public perfection problem persists, Tumpane not only beat the computer using the ZE estimate, but also, for the first time, put up a flawless performance using UEFL f/x criteria for day-of plate scores.

And just to prove that perfection isn't good enough for some people, career ejectee Josh Donaldson took to twitter to complain about Tumpane, tweeting, "Top 3 worst ump in the game" and "Trust me this guy has no idea what the zone is in the rule book. He's never wrong in his words."

So there you have it: the umpire who "has no idea what the zone is" just called a perfect game, preliminarily.

*Update: The post-game processed Final numbers brought Tumpane's plate score down from 135/135 to 134/135 = 99.3% (Skew: +1 HOU). For more information on UEFL f/x 3.0 and how Preliminary (same day) vs Final (overnight or postgame processing) numbers work, visit our introductory article:

PS: What was the pitch that took Tumpane's UEFL f/x perfect game away from Preliminary to Final (he's still perfect on ML Private)? A strike one call to Austin Meadows in the bottom of the 2nd inning with pz 3.63 / RAD 3.51 / MOE 3.42 and sz_top 3.41. That's right, Tumpane missed out on a post-game processed perfecto by 0.1 inches.

Video as follows:

Sunday, October 11, 2020

2020 AL & NL League Championship Series Umpire Roster

MLB announced umpire assignments for 2020's American and National League Championship Series. The roster features umpires in seven-person crews led by chiefs Jeff Nelson (ALCS) and Jim Reynolds (NLCS).

Crew Chiefs are indicated in bold text and by the -cc suffix, regular season crew chiefs with an asterisk (*), interim crew chiefs with a degree (°), and first League Championship Series assignments by the tag (^1st LCS^). The following crews are presented in their Game 1 rotation.

Unique to 2020, umpires for the LCS and World Series will not rotate through New York for Replay Review duty. Instead, the seven-person crew will remain in the postseason bubble with each umpire slated to be off the field during the game prior to that umpire's scheduled plate game. Thus, if an umpire officiates Game 1 at second base and Game 2 at first base, that umpire will be off for Game 3 and serve as home plate umpire for Game 4.

Umpires assigned to HP, 7th, 1B, and 2B, thus, are guaranteed to work home plate during the series, with umpires starting at 3B, LF, and RF scheduled for decisive Games 5, 6, and 7, respectively, and if necessary. Due to baseball's unique 2020 postseason format, MLB has assigned an unprecedented number of umpires to the postseason. The League Championship Series is the third round of four.

AL League Championship Series (Houston Astros vs Tampa Bay Rays) Umpires:
HP: Manny Gonzalez ^1st LCS^
1B: Jeff Nelson* -cc [Game 3 Plate]
2B: Chris Conroy [Game 4 Plate]
3B: Ted Barrett* [Game 5 Plate]
LF: Tim Timmons [Game 6 Plate]
RF: Lance Barksdale [Game 7 Plate]
7th: John Tumpane ^1st LCS^ [Game 2 Plate]

NL League Championship Series (Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers) Umpires:
HP: Pat Hoberg ^1st LCS^
1B: Jim Reynolds* -cc [Game 3 Plate]
2B: Cory Blaser [Game 4 Plate]
3B: Dan Iassogna* [Game 5 Plate]
LF: Alan Porter [Game 6 Plate]
RF: James Hoye [Game 7 Plate]
7th: Will Little ^1st LCS^ [Game 2 Plate]

Replay Officials: Marty Foster (ALCS) and Mike Muchlinski (NLCS), Jordan Baker (Assistant)

Pursuant to UEFL Rule 4-3-c, umpires selected to appear in the League Championship Series receive three bonus point for this appearance, while postseason crew chiefs receive an additional bonus point.