Saturday, October 23, 2021

RoboUmp's Odd Strike Zone Gets AFL Game Called Early

Teams ran out of pitchers leading to a game getting called early as the 2021 Arizona Fall League's electronic umpire experiment proved problematic during Saturday's Solar Sox vs Rafters game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. RoboUmp's demi-sized strike zone helped produce 22 walks as Mesa and Salt River bled through 12 pitchers before the teams and umpires agreed to call off the game in the 8th inning with Salt River leading, 15-7. The Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS) is only in use for games played at Salt River Fields.

According to Keith Law at The Athletic, several rule changes were in use during the game, including a variable pitch clock, ban on shifts, and of course an automated strike zone that rendered HP Umpire Alex McKay little more than a computer mouthpiece. (If you're wondering what happens to the MiLB call-ups during the offseason, you can find some working the Arizona Fall League; McKay's crew included 1B Umpire Malachi Moore, 2B Umpire Ryan Wills, and 3B Umpire Kyle McCrady).

Returns from the game indicate an issue that has plagued electronic zones since their very inception: an unforgiving, and in this case small, strike zone that continues to fall short of the standard to which human umpires call balls and strikes. The Atlantic League version, for instance, occasionally fell prey to the opposite problem: strike zones that were too large.

For this reason, our postseason plate performance scores continue to be given in a three-metric format: UEFL f/x with a roughly one-inch margin of error nestled between the larger buffer of Zone Evaluation Equivalent and the zero-error model the viewing audience sees known as ML Public (although our version of ML Public features postgame processing data point correction whereas what fans see on TV is raw and uncorrected).

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Interference in Boston? Laz Diaz's Astros-Red Sox No-Call

After HP Umpire Laz Diaz called strike three on Astros pitcher Cristian Javier's 3-2 fastball to Red Sox batter JD Martinez while catcher Martin Maldonado nearly tried to throw stealing runner Alex Verdugo out at second base, interference questions began popping up, as did both managers with Houston's Dusty Baker campaigning for an interference call on Martinez and Boston's Alex Cora more upset about the strike three call on a pitch off the outside corner.

As we always do, we begin with the rulebook for this play from the bottom of the 3rd inning of Game 4 of the 2021 American League Championship Series. Although Official Baseball Rule 6.03(a)(3) [batter out for illegal action] calls for an out when the batter "interferes with the catcher’s fielding or throwing by stepping out of the batter’s box or making any other movement that hinders the catcher’s play at home base," the relevant rule here is actually OBR 6.01(a)(5) because the batter was out due to the strike three call: "Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner."

The high school equivalent is NFHS 7-3-5 ("interfere with the catcher's fielding or throwing by leaning over home plate, stepping out of the batter's box, or making any other movement...which hinders actions at home plate or the catcher's attempt to play on a runner") while college is NCAA 6-3-b (similar to OBR), the penalty for which states, "If the batter strikes out, the runner is also out."

While a throw to second is not required to call interference, it sure helps. The throw leaves no doubt as to the catcher's intention and quite clearly demonstrates a hindering act has occurred. By not throwing, Maldonado made Diaz's job more difficult. By not throwing, now the umpire must decide WHY the throw didn't happen. Was it because the catcher thought the pitch was ball four (the computer sure did)? Was it because the runner Verdugo would have slid in safely at second base? Or was it because retired batter Martinez interfered?

In only one of those scenarios would the proper call be interference. In the end, the judgment call rests with that question: what was Maldonado's intent here and why was no throw made? If the answer is because of retired batter Martinez's hindrance, the call is interference. If the answer is because of another reason other than Martinez's movement, the likely call is to make none at all.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Discussion of 2021 ALCS & NLCS

Join us for discussion of the 2021 American and National League Championship Series: As we have done in the past, we will post UEFL f/x plate scores for every home plate umpire this postseason.

Performance plate scores are listed following the completion of each contest according to UEFL f/x (StatCast data and application of UEFL Rules 6-2-b-a [horizontal bound, "Kulpa Rule"] and 6-2-b-b [vertical strike zone, "Miller Rule"]) for called strikes and balls. Foul balls, swinging strikes, balls put in play, automatic balls, pitchouts, and hit-by-pitches are excluded from the analysis. Click here to learn how UEFL f/x 3.0 plate scores work.

- 10/15 BOS@HOU Gm 1: David Rackley. 118/119 Balls + 45/52 Strikes = 163/171 = 95.3%. +2 HOU.

- 10/16 BOS@HOU Gm 2: Rob Drake. 128/129 Balls + 43/44 Strikes = 171/173 = 98.8%. +2 HOU.
- 10/16 LAD@ATL Gm 1: Tripp Gibson. 71/72 Balls + 37/37 Strikes = 108/109 = 99.1%. +1 LAD.

- 10/17 LAD@ATL Gm 2: Jordan Baker. 101/104 Balls + 32/36 Strikes = 133/140 = 95.0%. +5 LAD.

- 10/18 HOU@BOS Gm 3: Bill Miller. 102/102 Balls + 42/48 Strikes = 144/150 = 96.0%. +0 Neutral.

- 10/19 ATL@LAD Gm 3: Jerry Meals. 133/135 Balls + 57/62 Strikes = 190/197 = 96.4%. +5 LAD.
- 10/19 HOU@BOS Gm 4: Laz Diaz. 120/124 Balls + 33/46 Strikes = 153/170 = 90.0%. +1 HOU.

- 10/20 HOU@BOS Gm 5: Dan Iassogna. 102/104 Balls + 33/37 Strikes = 135/141 = 95.7%. +4 HOU.
- 10/20 ATL@LAD Gm 4: James Hoye. 91/92 Balls + 43/44 Strikes = 134/136 = 98.5%. +0 Neutral.

- 10/21 ATL@LAD Gm 5: Mark Carlson. 91/92 Balls + 51/54 Strikes = 142/146 = 97.3%. +0 Neutral.

- 10/22 BOS@HOU Gm 6: Jim Wolf. 84/86 Balls + 43/45 Strikes = 127/131 = 96.9%. +4 HOU.

- 10/23 LAD@ATL Gm 6: Lance Barksdale. 100/102 Balls + 46/48 Strikes = 146/150 = 97.3%. +2 LAD.

Note: The highest plate score during the 2020 ALCS/NLCS was John Tumpane's 99.3% (ALCS 2).
The highest overall plate score during the 2020 Postseason was Jordan Baker's 99.4% (ALWC 1).

Monday, October 18, 2021

Teachable - Baker's Barker on Braves' Safe Play at Home

In this postseason, teachable, Tmac spotlights the first part of Atlanta's NLCS Game 2 comeback win over Los Angeles as HP Umpire Jordan Baker rules Braves baserunner Eddie Rosario safe at home plate, having slid ahead of Dodgers catcher Will Smith's tag attempt, a called confirmed by Replay Review.

With one out and one on (R2) in the 8th inning, Braves batter Ozzie Albies hit a Julio Urias curveball on a line drive to right fielder Steven Souza, who fielded the batted ball on a bounce and threw home as runner R2 Rosario rounded third and charged toward the plate. 

We see HP Umpire Baker begin the play at the point of plate before moving toward his left for an intermediate starting position, and then finally sidestepping toward the first baseline in order to maintain the wedge or keyhole angle of daylight between the catcher and runner.

Video as follows: