Saturday, October 15, 2022

France & Maldonado Tangle on Double Play in Seattle

Mariners first baseman Ty France turned a blazingly quick double play, catching Astros batter Jose Altuve's infield fly ball before quickly tagging baserunner Martin Maldonado in the 5th inning of Game 3 of the American League Division Series in Seattle. 1B Umpire Cory Blaser officiated the play several feet away while HP Umpire and Crew Chief Marvin Hudson explained the sequence to Houston manager Dusty Baker shortly thereafter.

The broadcasters mentioned that Baker may have sought to solicit an interference call, while also claiming that perhaps France had pushed Maldonado off the base ala the Kent Hrbek-Ron Gant force off play in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, but replays confirm that fielder France tagged Maldonado off the base, and that Maldonado never made it back to first base to tag up until after the tag was applied.

There is some confusion about the entanglement issue, so perhaps the Official Baseball Rules' definitions for interference and obstruction will help explain.
Interference is an act ordinarily committed by the offense against the defense. It is defined as an infraction by the team at bat which "interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders, or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." There is a special case for catcher's interference, which must be committed against a batter during a pitched ball (in NFHS/high school, this is ordinarily called catcher's obstruction).
Obstruction is an act ordinarily committed by the defense against the offense and is defined as, "the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."

However, replays clearly indicate fielder France was either in the act of fielding the ball (the fielder ordinarily has the right of way to field a batted ball) or in possession of the ball at all times during the fielder-runner interaction, so it can be said that no defensive infraction occurred during this fast double play sequence. If anything, one could argue that baserunner Maldonado interfered with France, had France dropped the ball as a result of Maldonado standing off the base and in the way of the catch of a batted ball.

Video as follows:

Teachable - A Boundary for Barrett - Catch Considerations

For this Teachable Moment, tmac highlights HP Umpire Ted Barrett officiating a catch play near the dugout boundary on a foul fly ball to Cleveland catcher Austin Hedges during a game vs Minnesota. There are a few considerations for a pop fly hit back to the screen, and tmac reviews them here.

Upon Twins batter Max Kepler making contact with the baseball, Barrett's first move is to watch catcher Hedges—Barrett needs to clear the catcher, or move out of the catcher's way as Hedges is glancing skyward for the ball; thus, Barrett keeps an eye on the catcher before looking for the ball since the catcher's eyes will communicate where the ball might be.

After clearing the catcher, Hedges runs toward the first-base dugout and Barrett pursues, ready to open the gate by matching Hedges' movements with corresponding position adjustments in order to attain a keyhole angle to see a potential catch or boundary issue. Speaking of this boundary issue, HP Umpire Barrett must find a position near the fence-line to rule on various aspects of this play such as: did the fielder catch the ball before or after stepping or falling into dead ball territory (also see Rule 5.06(b)(3)(C) for "Catch & Carry"), did the ball scrape the protective netting behind home plate, etc.

This play was reviewed and upheld as a legal catch | Video as follows:

Friday, October 14, 2022

A Foul Ball off the Protective Netting - Wall Physics

Atlanta had to wait just a bit longer for Bryce Harper to make the third and final out of NLDS Game 2 vs Philadelphia after HP Umpire Nic Lentz ruled an earlier foul fly ball by the Phillies batter dead and out of play, with the baseball contacting the protective netting behind home plate before Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud could catch it.

The primary clue of a ball having struck a wall or scraped a fence is whether the ball suddenly changes direction when coming back toward the playing surface. Physically speaking, as well, projectile dymanics as well as spin rate and wind speed + direction all play a role in officiating this play.

In this case, video doesn't appear to show where exactly the ball was relative to the boundary—Lentz's position along the fence-line is the optimal angle for officiating this play and better than any TV camera.

For that reason, Replay Review ultimately ruled "call stands" due to a lack of clear and convincing video evidence to prove either potentiality. A few pitches later, Kenley Jansen struck out batter Harper to end the game.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Josh Donaldson Thrown Out Assuming HR That Wasn't

You asked us to take a look at Yankees batter-runner Josh Donaldson getting thrown out at first base in Game 1 of the Cleveland-New York ALDS on a play in which Donaldson incorrectly thought he hit a home run that umpires instead ruled alive and in play due to the ball hitting the top of the outfield wall, so naturally we went overboard and pulled up prior instances of Josh Donaldson thinking he hit a home run to right field at Yankee Stadium that turned out to be in play.

As was the case Tuesday night in New York, Donaldson was thrown out in one of those other examples as well, this time by Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki when Donaldson was playing for the Oakland Athletics.

During the American League Division Series Game 1 play, Donaldson hit a fly ball to the right field corner that caromed off the top of the outfield wall and bounced back into play, ruled fair and in play by RF Mark Ripperger, who mechanized his "in play" ruling by using a safe signal to indicate the ball had not left the ballpark.

Donaldson, however, trotted past first base with his head down and may not have seen this signal, ultimately finding himself thrown out at first base on a live ball that he thought was dead by virtue of leaving the playing field, which it had not done, a call confirmed via Replay Review.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Eye of Iassogna - Keeping an Eye Everlasting on the Ball

Just minutes into Game 1 of the #Guardians-#Yankees American League Division Series in New York, ALDS Crew Chief and 2B Umpire Dan Iassogna called Cleveland baserunner Amed Rosario safe on an attempted steal of second base after Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson dropped the ball.

With a 1-2 pitch to batter Jose Ramirez, and the Yankees employing a shift with three infielders on the right side of second base—which will be illegal beginning in 2023—2B Umpire Iassogna prepared for a potential stolen base attempt. As Ramirez swung at and missed pitcher Gerrit Cole's 98-mph fastball, Rosario ran toward second base, sliding in as the shifted-over Donaldson ran by to stab at the ball and tag.

As the play developed and fielder Donaldson's momentum took him toward right field, U2 Iassogna stuck with the action area of the play, following the path of the baseball, which had come loose after Donaldson's glove made contact with Rosario's helmet.

After confirming the dropped ball, Iassogna nonchalantly signaled the runner safe. This might sound like a simple call—the ball is rolling on the infield dirt after all—but mechanically, it's easy to lose one's timing and officiate such a play too early by giving a premature out signal. Instead, Iassogna remained patient, and was thus able to practice baseball's General Instructions to Umpires (Official Baseball Rule 8.00):

"Keep your eye everlastingly on the ball while it is in play. It is more vital to know just where a fly ball fell, or a thrown ball finished up then whether or not a runner missed a base. Do not call the plays too quickly, or turn away too fast when a fielder is throwing to complete a double play. Watch out for dropped balls after you have called a player out."

Video as follows:

Sept/Oct Call of the Month - Will Little is Off Base

In our final Call of the Month for the 2022 regular season combining September through Game 162 in early October, 3B Umpire Will Little gets into the action during an Angels-A's game in Oakland to officiate a play in which Athletics runner Nick Allen came off the bag after initially sliding in safely, a call confirmed via Replay Review.

The A's attempt to sacrifice bunt R2 Allen to third base and reading that the play could be to third, Little moves closer to third base along the left field foul line. As Angels third baseman Luis Rengifo receives the throw at third and Allen approaches the base, Little is on top of the play, finding the keyhole angle necessary to see that, although Allen initially touched third base before the tag, the runner's foot nonetheless came off of the base, all while Rengifo held the tag. Observing this daylight between foot and base, Little properly signaled that the runner was out by virtue of an overslide while being tagged.

Video as follows:

Monday, October 10, 2022

Buck Showalter Requests Ear Inspection of Joe Musgrove

Several innings before San Diego won Game 3 of the NL Wild Card Series to eliminate New York from the 2022 postseason, Mets manager Buck Showalter requested umpires inspect Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove for illegal substances, a move we previously wrote comes with next-to-no downside for a requesting manager whose request proves unsuccessful.

During the 6th inning of a game in which San Diego led New York by a score of 4-0, Showalter approached 1B Umpire and Crew Chief Alfonso Marquez and requested the umpires check opposing pitcher Musgrove for foreign substances that may be in contravention of Official Baseball Rule 6.02(c)(7), the pitching prohibitions rule that states, "The pitcher shall not have on their person, or in their possession, any foreign substance."

As we wrote in September when Twins manager Rocco Baldelli requested Ted Barrett inspect Guardians pitcher James Karinchak, a search that proved most unfruitful, there is no deterrent to a manager requesting a frivolous inspection (unlike the NHL, which adopted a penalty for unsuccessful stick measurement requests after prior abuse of the rule).

Accordingly, 1B Umpire Marquez searched Musgrove for illegality—including behind the Padres pitcher's ears—and apparently found no illegal substances, for Musgrove remained in the game, pitching San Diego to a series-clinching 6-0 victory.

We also analyze 1B Umpire Marquez's mechanics in officiating a play at first base in which the batted ball hit the first base bag before bouncing high in the air to the first baseman. We follow Marquez's journey toward the keyhole angle as pitcher Musgrove runs to cover first base to retire the batter-runner.

Video as follows:

Rosters - 2022 AL and NL Division Series Umpires

Major League Baseball assigned 24 umpires to the 2022 American and National League Division Series round of the MLB postseason featuring Mariners-Astros (AL) and Guardians-Yankees & Phillies-Braves and Padres-Dodgers (NL) matchups. Crew Chiefs for this round of the postseason include Marvin Hudson, Dan Iassogna, Mark Carlson, and Bill Miller.

Crew Chiefs are indicated in bold text and by the -cc suffix with regular season crew chiefs denoted by an asterisk (*) while those working their first Division Series will be noted with a ^1st^ mark. Jeremie Rehak and Nic Lentz are the only umpires working their first on-field postseasons. The following listings feature Game 1 configurations such that the plate umpire from Game 1 will work right field in Game 2, and all other umpires will move clockwise (e.g., 3B becomes 2B). 

AL Division Series (Seattle Mariners vs Houston Astros) Umpires:
HP: Pat Hoberg [Game 1 Plate]                     [2 WC, 3rd Division Series, 1 LCS]
1B: Jansen Visconti ^1st^ [Game 2 Plate]     [1 WC, 1st Division Series]
2B: Marvin Hudson -cc [Game 3 Plate]      [1 WC, 8th Division Series, 2 LCS, 2 WS]
3B: Cory Blaser [Game 4 Plate]                   [3 WC, 4th Division Series, 2 LCS]
LF: James Hoye [Game 5 Plate]                  [4 WC, 4th Division Series, 3 LCS, 1 WS]
RF: Carlos Torres                                         [2 WC, 2nd Division Series]

AL Division Series (Cleveland Guardians vs New York Yankees) Umpires:
HP: Jordan Baker [Game 1 Plate]                  [3 WC, 2nd Division Series, 1 LCS]
1B: Jeremie Rehak ^1st^ [Game 2 Plate]      [1st Division Series]
2B: Dan Iassogna -cc [Game 3 Plate]          [3 WC, 7th Division Series, 6 LCS, 2 WS]
3B: Will Little [Game 4 Plate]                     [3 WC, 4th Division Series, 1 LCS]
LF: Alan Porter [Game 5 Plate]                  [4 WC, 6th Division Series, 3 LCS, 1 WS]
RF: Mark Ripperger ^1st^                           [1 WC, 1st Division Series]

NL Division Series (Philadelphia Phillies vs Atlanta Braves) Umpires:
HP: David Rackley [Game 1 Plate]               [4 WC, 2nd Division Series, 1 LCS]
1B: Nic Lentz ^1st^ [Game 2 Plate]              [1st Division Series]
2B: Bill Miller -cc [Game 3 Plate]               [6 WC, 10th Division Series, 8 LCS, 4 WS]
3B: Stu Scheurwater [Game 4 Plate]           [1 WC, 2nd Division Series]
LF: Chad Fairchild [Game 5 Plate]             [1 WC, 7th Division Series, 2 LCS, 1 WS]
RF: Ryan Blakney ^1st^                              [1 WC, 1st Division Series]

NL Division Series (San Diego Padres vs Los Angeles Dodgers) Umpires:
HP: Tripp Gibson [Game 1 Plate]                  [3 WC, 3rd Division Series, 1 LCS]
1B: Chris Segal ^1st^ [Game 2 Plate]           [1 WC, 1st Division Series]
2B: Mark Carlson -cc [Game 3 Plate]        [2 WC, 6th Division Series, 6 LCS, 2 WS]
3B: John Tumpane [Game 4 Plate]              [2 WC, 3rd Division Series, 1 LCS]
LF: Lance Barksdale [Game 5 Plate]          [3 WC, 6th Division Series, 3 LCS, 1 WS]
RF: Scott Barry                                           [3rd Division Series, 1 LCS]

Division Series Replay Review: Ramon De Jesus, Mike Estabrook, Gabe Morales, Bill Welke*.
Video as follows:

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Cardinals Sniff Out Phillies' 1st-3rd Trick - St Louis Time Play

In signaling no run scored prior to the third out in St Louis, HP Umpire Vic Carapazza capped off a time play in which the Cardinals stymied Philadelphia's attempted 1st-3rd trickery during Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series, tagging Phillies trailing runner R1 Alec Bohm for the third out before preceding runner R3 JT Realmuto touched home plate.

With two out and runners at the corners (R1, R3) in the top of the 6th inning of the Phillies-Cardinals game, Phillies batter Brandon Marsh quickly fell into a two-strike hole. With a count of 0-2, Philadelphia opted to put trailing baserunner R1 Bohm in motion to try and coax a throw (and attention) from Cardinals pitcher Jordan Montgomery, buying time so lead runner R3 Realmuto could sprint home and score a run.

The play...didn't quite work as expected as Realmuto hesitated significantly between third and home, getting a very late start toward the plate. This led to a situation in which R1 Bohm became engaged in a rundown, and necessitating HP Umpire Carapazza to determine whether R3 Realtmuto would be able to touch home plate, scoring a run, before R1 Bohm would be tagged out for the third out.

Official Baseball Rule 5.08(a) pertains to such time play scenarios: "One run shall be scored each time a runner legally advances to and touches first, second, third and home base before three are put out to end the inning." Note that if the batter becomes the third out before touching first base or any runner is forced out for the third out, no runs can be scored regardless of the timing issue.

Thus, the Bohm pickoff play is a somewhat rarer time play situation than the standard case of a batted ball preceding a time play during subsequent base-running action. Nonetheless, Carapazza determined that the third out occurred at first base prior to the run scoring and indicated, through a waive off or wash-out signal, that the run shall not count.

Video as follows: