Thursday, March 30, 2023

Baserunner Pete Alonso Called for Pitch Clock Violation in Miami

MLB's new pitch clock took no time to make an appearance on Opening Day, with a violation in Boston striking out Red Sox batter Rafael Devers. In Miami, however, baserunner Pete Alonso was called for a clock violation by HP Umpire Larry Vanover, batter Jeff McNeil incurring an automatic strike penalty as a result of his teammate's infraction...which was...what exactly?

The Devers play at Fenway Park is fairly simple: batters must be in the batter's box and alert to the pitcher by the eight-second mark of the pitch clock. Devers wasn't, and HP Umpire Lance Barksdale assessed the automatic strike, resulting in the third strike of Devers' at-bat and a clock-induced strikeout.

But at the Mets-Marlins game, Vanover called the violation not because batter McNeil wasn't ready to go by the eight-second mark, but because New York baserunner R1 Alonso apparently took too long to return to first base after a foul ball by McNeil. Replays indicate Alonso walking back to first base after the foul, with Vanover eventually signaling "Time" and pointing to Alonso before assessing a pitch clock violation and auto-strike to McNeil.

The rules do allow umpires to call violations based on baserunners employing tactics to delay the game or hinder pace of play, such as by intentionally delaying their return to a base on a foul ball or other disruption in order to prevent the pitch timer from starting (the timer starts when all players return to their positions).

Video as follows:

2023 MLB Umpire Crew Roster & Call-Up Umpires

Major League Baseball has assigned the following umpires to its full-time staff for the 2023 season, divided into 19 crews and comprised of four umpires led by a Crew Chief. Jerry Layne is now the senior-most crew chief on staff, while seven new crew chiefs will lead permanent crews for the first time in 2023. MLB also hired 10 new full-time umpires for the 2023 season to fill vacancies left by 10 retirees. Below the Umpire Crews is the roster of the 2023 call-up officials, who are minor league (AAA-level) umpires authorized to fill in for vacationing or injured full-time MLB umpires during the regular season.

#Crew ChiefUmpire 2Umpire 3Umpire 4
A24 Layne, Jerry19 Carapazza, Vic78 Hamari, Adam48 Mahrley, Nick
B45 Nelson, Jeff54 Bucknor, CB96 Segal, Chris97 May, Ben
C26 Miller, Bill8 Drake, Rob62 Whitson, Chad40 Ortiz, Roberto
D27 Vanover, Larry68 Guccione, Chris86 Rackley, David32 Moscoso, Edwin
E50 Emmel, Paul4 Fairchild, Chad59 Lentz, Nic35 Rehak, Jeremy
F14 Wegner, Mark1 Dreckman, Bruce85 Scherwater, Stu44 Moore, Malachi
G72 Marquez, Alfonso88 Eddings, Doug16 Barrett, Lance18 DeJesus, Ramon
H58 Iassogna, Dan87 Barry, Scott47 Morales, Gabe38 Beck, Adam
I6 Carlson, Mark71 Baker, Jordan73 Gibson, Tripp55 Miller, Brennan
J63 Diaz, Laz49 Fletcher, Andy83 Estabrook, Mike12 Bacchus, Erich
K46 Kulpa, Ron89 Blaser, Cory37 Torres, Carlos52 Visconti, Jansen
L51 Hudson, Marvin21 Wendelstedt, Hunter74 Tumpane, John36 Blakney, Ryan
M23 Barksdale, Lance15 Hickox, Ed*93 Little, Will67 Additon, Ryan
N92 Hoye, James5 Hernandez, Angel17 Reyburn, DJ84 Libka, John
O80 Johnson, Adrian79 Gonzalez, Manny81 Wolcott, Quinn25 Valentine, Junior
P2 Bellino, Dan10 Cuzzi, Phil90 Ripperger, Mark43 Livensparger, Shane
Q13 Tichenor, Todd91 Knight, Brian11 Randazzo, Tony66 Tosi, Alex
R64 Porter, Alan28 Wolf, Jim76 Muchlinski Mike29 Barber, Sean
S98 Conroy, Chris7 O'Nora, Brian31 Hoberg, Pat33 Ceja, Nestor
Injured List:15 Hickox,

Triple-A Call-Up Umpires:
Arrieta, David (Sleeve #100)
Bacon, John (70)
Ballou, Brock (119)
Clemons, Paul (104)
MacKay, Alex (105)
Merzel, Dan (107)
Navas, Jose (110)
Ramos, Charlie (111)
Riggs, Jeremy (112)
Rosenberg, Randy (113)
Tomlinson, Nate (114)
Vondrak, Clint (116)
Williams, Lew (117)
Wills, Ryan (118)

Video as follows:

Reggie Drummer, Umpire of Infamous Game-Ending Strike Three Call in Mississippi Valley State vs New Orleans, Tells His Story

Umpire Reggie Drummer's game-ending strike three call in the top of the 9th inning of a recent Mississippi Valley State vs New Orleans college game took on internet infamy and drew widespread condemnation ever since the game on March 10.

Sensing there may have been more behind this viral moment than first met the eye, Close Call Sports launched an investigation, reaching out to both schools involved, and uncovering a trail of ejections—including that of a fan—that precipitated the last pitch of the game.

In this Plate Meeting Podcast, we speak with Reggie Drummer, home plate umpire whose game-ending strike call took on an internet life of its own, who tells his side of the story and what led up to this fateful moment. It's a story of umpire abuse, an apparently uncooperative coach, racial slurs, and a hostile environment that pushed things too far.
Related (Original) PostCalled Third Strike Ends NCAA Game - About Umpire Power (3/11/23).

Video as follows:

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Giant Un vs Intentional Ball Attendant Interference

As Athletics left fielder Conner Capel slid in attempt to catch Giants batter Bryce Johnson's foul fly ball, San Francisco ball dude Harvey reached in front of Capel and touched the baseball, ruled no catch (foul ball) by the umpire as Oakland sought an interference call. We now review the Official Baseball Rules concerning interference by a person authorized to be on the playing field.

In the bottom of the 6th inning of the final Spring Training Battle of the Bay, Giants batter Johnson hit a fly ball into foul territory in left, Capel giving chase and going into a slide in an attempt to catch the ball at the tarp along the short wall. As Capel slid into position with his glove outstretched, however, the ball attendant ("ball dude" in SF) attempted a catch of his own, with ball dude Harvey's glove contacting the ball before Capel had a chance to play it. Capel ultimately came away with the baseball, but the damage had already been done by Harvey's premature touch, resulting in a foul ball [no catch] call by 3B Umpire Nate Tomlinson (umpires in Spring tend to switch bases every few innings; Alex Tosi was originally at third base but had moved to first base for this inning).

Official Baseball Rule 6.01(d) is called Unintentional Interference, and states, "In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the team at bat who are participating in the game, or a base coach, any of whom interfere with a fielder attempting to field a batted or thrown ball; or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in their opinion will nullify the act of interference."

The comment to OBR 6.01(d) states, "The question of intentional or unintentional interference shall be decided on the basis of the person’s action. For example: a ball attendant, police officer, etc., who tries to avoid being touched by a thrown or batted ball but still is touched by the ball would be involved in unintentional interference. If, however, they pick up the ball, catch it, or touch the ball by intentionally pushing or kicking at the ball, this act would constitute intentional interference."

Because ball dude Harvey clearly tried to catch the ball (as opposed to avoid it), this is an example of intentional interference, the penalty for which is to call "Time" and nullify the act. In order to nullify the act, 3B Umpire Tomlinson would have had to determine whether or not fielder Capel would have caught the ball, had Harvey not interfered.

Crew Chief Bill Miller ultimately announced that Replay Review had confirmed the "safe" call, but OBR 6.01(d) interference is not reviewable (unlike fan interference, which is reviewable as a boundary call). Thus, Replay was used here simply to determine whether or not Capel caught the ball cleanly, which, thanks to Harvey's touch, he clearly did not.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Legality of Nestor Cortes' Delay from Windup Position

After HP Umpire Reed Basner called Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes for a quick pitch (automatic ball) during Nationals batter Jeimer Candelario's 3rd inning at-bat in Washington, Cortes reacted by drawing out his windup on the very next pitch. Is this legal or a rules violation?

Official Baseball Rules 5.07(a) and 6.02(a)(5) govern the quick pitch part of the play. OBR 5.07(a) Comment states, "[Pitchers] may not step quickly onto the rubber and pitch. This may be judged a quick pitch by the umpire" and 6.02(a)(5) comment defines a quick pitch as an illegal pitch "delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter's box" (penalty with runners: balk; penalty without runners: ball).

The quick pitch was the correct call because pitcher Cortes began his windup motion prior to batter Candelario becoming reasonably set in the batter's box (e.g., he was not alert to the pitcher).

Immediately thereafter, Cortes responded by throwing a *slow pitch* on the ensuing offering, effectively drawing out his windup. Although OBR 5.07(a)(1) pertaining to Windup Position states, "any natural movement associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter commits him to the pitch without interruption or alteration. He shall not raise either foot from the ground, except that in his actual delivery of the ball to the batter, he may take one step backward, and one step forward with his free foot," pitcher Cortes didn't actually stop mid-delivery (no interruption). As for the alteration angle, even if it were to be adjudged a violation of 5.07(a)(1), there is no penalty other than "don't do that"—no automatic ball like a quick pitch.

Video as follows:

Monday, March 27, 2023

Spring Ejection 3 - Randy Rosenberg (1; JT Realmuto)

HP Umpire Randy Rosenberg ejected Phillies catcher JT Realmuto (pitch clock violation/resumption of play) in the bottom of the 4th inning of the #Phillies-#BlueJays game. With one out and one on, Phillies pitcher Craig Kimbrel was called for a pitch clock violation after he failed to begin his pitching motion prior to the expiration of time, resulting in an award of an automatic ball to Blue Jays batter Danny Jansen's count. After the violation, Kimbrel requested and received a replacement baseball from HP Umpire Rosenberg, who threw the replacement ball to the pitcher directly. Catcher Realmuto, having initially reached back with his catcher's mitt to receive a replacement ball, retracted his arm and mitt after realizing that Kimbrel had already received a replacement ball from the umpire. HP Umpire Rosenberg, however, had begun giving a new baseball to Realmuto and was mid-throw when Realmuto pulled his mitt away, the errant gesture resulting in the ball falling to the ground. Realmuto was then ejected. Replays indicate the pitch clock displayed zero prior to Kimbrel's delivery, the violation call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Phillies were leading, 4-0.

This is Randy Rosenberg (113)'s 1st ejection of Spring Training 2023.

This is the third ejection of MLB Spring Training 2023.
This is the third player ejection of Spring 2023. Prior to ejection, Realmuto was 1-2 (SO) in the contest.
This is Philadelphia's 1st ejection of Spring, T-1st in the Grapefruit League (PHI, WAS 1; All Others 0).
This is JT Realmuto's 1st career MLB ejection.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Pitch Clock Curiosity as Catcher Called for Violation for Slow Reaction Time

When asked about a pitch clock violation that resulted in ball four and a walk during Toronto's game against Philadelphia, Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah reported that HP Umpire Brennan Miller called the auto-ball because catcher Alejandro Kirk "didn't react quick enough" after requesting time with the pitch clock nearly at zero.

The newest wrinkle into MLB's pitch clock rule appears to penalize the defense if the catcher doesn't actually venture out to see the pitcher prior to the expiration of time...with some exceptions: Said Manoah, "I was told that Kirk didn't react quick enough coming out to see me. The umpire's arm band buzzed or whatever so it was a ball. I've never heard of that before"

If the pitch clock rules require a catcher to actually leave their catcher's box en route to the mound prior to the expiration of time lest it be deemed an automatic ball, that would be news to us too.

Instead, the likely explanation here involves not just the catcher's lack of urgency, but the game situation as well. Had there been runner(s) on base, the pitcher's disengagement (one of two legal penalty-free disengagements per at-bat [resets if a base runner advances]) would have on its own caused a full reset of the pitch clock.

But because the bases were empty, the pitcher stepping off doesn't actually affect the clock and the catcher's remaining in the crouch behind home plate as the clock expired—even though "Time" was requested and granted by HP Umpire Miller—resulted in a pitch clock violation call as the clock continued to run. Going forward, would you like to see this situation result in a reset, as it does with baserunners?

Video as follows:

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Spring Ejection 2 - Bill Miller (1; Ryan Tepera)

HP Umpire Bill Miller ejected Angels pitcher Ryan Tepera (failed illegal foreign substance check) before calling a pitch violation strikeout (automatic third strike) on Angels batter Taylor Jones in the 5th inning of the #Angels-#Rangers game. In the top of the 5th, Angels manager Phil Nevin substituted in relief pitcher Tepera for starting pitcher Griffin Canning. At the conclusion of the half-inning, HP Umpire Miller checked Tepera's glove, hat, and belt before ejecting the Angels pitcher for an illegal substance. At the time of the ejection, the Rangers were leading, 2-0. During the first at-bat of the subsequent bottom of the 5th inning (Rangers pitcher Joe Barlow vs Angels batter Jones), Miller called an automatic strike on Jones for failing to be alert to the pitcher with eight seconds remaining on the pitch clock. The Rangers ultimately won the contest, 6-2.

This is Bill Miller (26)'s 1st ejection of Spring Training 2023.

This is the second ejection of MLB Spring Training 2023.
This is the second player ejection of Spring 2023. Prior to ejection, Tepera's line was 0.1 IP, 2 ER, HR.
This is Los Angeles-AL's 1st ejection of Spring, 1st in the Cactus League (LAA 1; All Others 0).
This is Ryan Tepera's 1st ejection since June 26, 2022 (John Bacon; QOC = U [Fighting]).

Monday, March 20, 2023

NCAA Ejection - John Brammer (Tennessee's Tony Vitello)

HP Umpire John Brammer ejected Tennessee Volunteers head coach Tony Vitello (no step balk call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the TN-Missouri game. With one out and two on (R1, R3), Tennessee pitcher Chase Burns attempted to pick off Missouri baserunner R1 Trevor Austin, ruled a balk. Replays indicate in throwing to first base, Burns failed to step toward the base pursuant to the requirements of NCAA Rule 9-3-c-1, which states, "The pitcher, while touching the pitcher's plate, must step toward the base, preceding or simultaneous with any move toward the base," the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, Missouri was leading, 5-0. Missouri ultimately won the contest, 7-4. 

Pitcher Austin's spin-off move failed to gain requisite distance or direction toward first base, which is a balk pursuant to NCAA 9-3-c-1 (OBR equivalent 6.02(a)(3) & NFHS 6.2.4b). Official Baseball Rules' 6.02(a)(3), for instance, states, "Requires the pitcher, while touching their plate, to step directly toward a base before throwing to that base." If there is any doubt as to potential disengagement on the spin or jump-turn move, see NCAA 9-3-c-5: "The jump-turn move is legal if the pitcher’s free foot steps toward and gains ground to the base that the ball is being thrown. Otherwise, a balk shall be called."

A no-step balk is subject to roughly the same argument provisions as balls/strikes calls in that a manager or coach may be ejected, as HP Umpire Brammer did here after warning the head coach to stop.

Video as follows:

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Spring Ejection 1 - Reed Basner (1; Dominic Smith)

HP Umpire Reed Basner ejected Nationals batter Dominic Smith (strike one and two calls; QOCU) in the bottom of the 6th inning of the #Marlins-#Nationals game. With one out and none on, Smith took called first and second strikes from Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara for called first and second strikes before striking out swinging on a later 1-2 pitch. PitchCast (StatCast) was not utilized for this game, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the Marlins were leading, 7-0. The Marlins ultimately won the contest, 7-0.

This is Reed Basner (-)'s 1st ejection of Spring Training 2023.

This is the first ejection of MLB Spring Training 2023.
This is the first player ejection of Spring 2023. Prior to ejection, Smith was 1-3 (SO) in the contest.
This is Washington's 1st ejection of Spring, 1st in the Grapefruit League (WAS 1; All Others 0).
This is Dominic Smith's first career MLB ejection.
This is Reed Basner's first career MLB ejection.

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs Washington Nationals (Spring Training), 3/18/23 | Video as follows:

Friday, March 17, 2023

Umpire Walks Off Field Midgame - About Ump Abuse

Tmac reviews a viral video showing an umpire appearing to empty his ball bags and walk off the field mid-game following a coach's "get help" nudge regarding a non-appealable check swing strike call.

This is a review of umpire abuse's less over form: continued complaining and the straw that broke the camel's back: when second-guessing and nitpicking instances add up and contribute to a breaking point, or as Lin calls it, the officiating version of pinball's tilt shutdown as a result of too much table nudging.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Outfielder Fools Batter on Jumping Catch to Rob a HR

An center fielder who jumped to catch a fly ball at the wall in the CPBL fooled a batter into thinking he had hit a home run by acting like he missed the catch and the ball went over the fence for a home run...but seconds later the ball appeared in the outfielder's glove. Umpires can learn from this play by paying special attention to a rule near the end of the book about umpiring responsibilities during play.

Official Baseball Rule 8.00—the umpire rule—features a section at the end called General Instructions to Umpires. One of these instructions pertains to this type of a play: "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, than 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 runner out."

To be clear, with a crew of four (or three or even two), not all umpires are watching the ball or the fielder who might possibly catch the ball—umpires who have dedicated base touch responsibilities here (such as a second base umpire working inside with runner(s) on base) should stick with those responsibilities while the umpire with ball responsibilities should pay special attention to the General Instruction regarding keeping an eye on the ball (and fielder[s] attempting to field it).

This play occurred with the bases empty, but in general, an umpire who goes out on such a play doesn't need to immediately kill the play with a "Time" and home run call if it is not blatantly obvious that the batter has indeed hit a home run. In a play such as this where the outfielder tries robbing the batter with a leaping catch at the wall, waiting a second to make sure and follow the ball is beneficial as a late "Time"/HR call isn't really harmful to the development of this play (it's a dead ball, four-base award anyway).

Making sure you have the ball before you make a call (e.g., of out) is also helpful not just in the outfield but at places like home plate on a swipe tag.

But had there been runners on, killing the play too quickly while the ball was live and in play the entire time could be disastrous as a so-called bell that cannot be unrung.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Player Uniforms and Rules About Unbuttoned Shirts

While many fans took to twitter to comment on HP Umpire Angel Hernandez's strike zone during Tuesday's Venezuela-Nicaragua World Baseball Classic game, we zeroed in Venezuela pitcher José Quijada's unbuttoned shirt in the 7th inning and Hernandez's direction for Quijada to button up his uniform top.

To figure out what this is all about—yes, this is the ever-so-exciting discussion about the player uniform rules—we turn to Official Baseball Rule 3.03 (OBR is used in the WBC) and find that only one provision of the rule concerns buttons: "(h) Glass buttons and polished metal shall not be used on a uniform." NCAA Rule 1-14-e is the only uniform rule in any code to specifically mention buttoning or zipping up a uniform top, but that only pertains to a pitcher wearing a jacket while being a baserunner.

Other than that scenario, it appears HP Umpire Hernandez may have practiced some preventative officiating—addressing a potential safety or rules issue to prevent oddities from occurring later on as a result of the unbuttoned shirt. OBR 5.06(c)(7), for instance, discusses lodged balls or balls that find their way into a player's uniform—if a ball were to go into Quijada's shirt, for instance, the resulting penalty would be a one base award for the batter and all baserunners (if deemed inadvertent). The MLB Umpire Manual further expands OBR 5.06(c)(7) to apply to batted and thrown, in addition to pitched, balls.

Video as follows:

Monday, March 13, 2023

Stolen Base on a Foul Ball? Should Runner Have Gone Back?

In the 17th inning of Evansville and Vanderbilt's marathon game, Vandy baserunner R1 Davis Diaz tried to steal second base on a pitch ultimately fouled at the plate, but instead of returning to first base as foul balls generally prescribe, Diaz stayed at second with an umpire standing mere feet away. Was this a legal stolen base or did the fatigue of a 17 inning game factor into a misappropriated 90 feet for the home team?

The answer begins with the definition of a foul ball: "The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base, or return to their bases, without liability to be put out, when…a foul ball is not caught, in which case runners return to their bases" (Official Baseball Rule 5.06(c)(5)), or, because this was a college game, the relevant rule of NCAA 6-2-a: "The ball becomes dead and base runners return when…A foul is hit that is not caught. Runners return and the umpire shall not put the ball in play until all runners have retouched their bases."

No matter the level or how you phrase it, the theme is consistent: foul ball, runners return, right?

Well, there's a little more to it than meets the eye. Replays indicate that baserunner R1 Diaz arrived at and passed second base before Evansville pitcher Nate Hardman begin his motion, of out Set Position, toward home plate. This means that Diaz's advancement to second base was legal despite (ruled defensive indifference with the winning run on third base) the ensuing foul ball because he had already arrived at and occupied second base prior to the pitching motion to home plate: on foul balls, runners are to return to bases occupied at time of pitch.

As for the definition of when, exactly, a pitcher's actions constitute the exact time of pitch, NCAA 2-82 states, "The time of the pitch is (1) in the wind up position, when the pitcher makes any movement habitually connected with the delivery to the plate, or (2) in the set position, when the pitcher begins the natural movement associated with the pitcher's delivery of the ball after the pitcher has come set with both hands together in front of their body."

Accordingly, the runner R1 Diaz successfully advances to second base prior to time of pitch, and thus becomes R2 prior to the foul ball sequence; this means when he returns to his original base at time of pitch, he is returning to second base and not first base.

Video as follows:

Sunday, March 12, 2023

MLB's Max Scherzer Rule - Pitcher Can't Come Set Before Batter is Ready

After Mets pitcher Max Scherzer spent New York's early Spring Training game against Washington playing with the pitch clock rules and throwing off batter timing, MLB has come in and shut him down: The new so-called "Scherzer Rule" or point of emphasis states that pitchers no longer may come set prior to the batter becoming alert in the box; umpires are to award a penalty of an automatic ball if the pitcher violates (after being warned or instructed to wait until the batter is alert before coming set).

HP Umpire John Bacon called the automatic ball infraction multiple times (after a warning the first time) during an Angels-Dodgers Spring Training game, with the last auto-ball penalty occurring during the very last at-bat of the game, which ended via a walk-off walk for the Dodgers.

To be clear, this is not a new Official Baseball Rule but instead a new point of emphasis or procedural/protocol change for umpires, stating that the Scherzer strategy of coming set before the batter is ready in the box, while legal just one week ago, is no longer to be permitted and, instead, will result in a pitch clock violation penalty for repeated infractions.

Video as follows:

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Called Third Strike Ends NCAA Game - About Umpire Power

After a called third strike wrapped up New Orleans' 7-3 win over Mississippi Valley State, questioned surfaced as to whether the NCAA umpire deliberately called a strike on a pitch that was a ball in order to get back at a player who may have shown the umpire up one pitch earlier. We review the play and discuss the issue of umpire and referee authority and abuse of power.

After the home plate umpire called strike two with two outs in the top of the 9th inning, the batter demonstratively jumped out of the batter's box before returning and gesturing with his bat to where he believed the pitch to have been thrown. The umpire did not discipline the batter and play resumed. The umpire did, however, call a third strike on the ensuing 1-2 pitch, ending the at-bat and the game.

The umpire measuredly walked off the field without addressing the player as the struck-out batter followed and attempted to argue, before the batter was restrained by the opposing catcher.

This has led to accusations that the umpire deliberately called strike three on a clear ball out of the strike zone, due to a grudge or way to get back at the player who behaved disrespectfully one pitch earlier.

To be clear, an umpire may discipline a player for unsporting conduct pursuant to the rules.

NCAA Rule 2-26 states, "the game officials have the authority to eject a player, coach, or team representative for misconduct or unsportsmanlike conduct. MLB's version is Official Baseball Rule 8.01(d): "Each umpire has the authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager, or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field."

However, when an umpire or referee instead deliberately disregards the rules of the game, for instance, by calling a strike on a pitch the umpire knows to be a ball and outside the strike zone, the official has abused their authority and violated the ethics of officiating.

In sum, discipline the player for misconduct—the rules and, depending on your game, video will support you—but the moment an official has deliberately called a play incorrectly in order to get even with a player or send a message, that official has abused their authority and committed a disservice to the game.

Video as follows:

Friday, March 10, 2023

Pitch Clock Ejection - Time Violation Prompts Coach's Toss

A pitch clock-related time violation and automatic ball call led to ASU head coach Willie Bloomquist's ejection by 3B Umpire Darren Hyman, after Arizona State pitcher Owen Stevenson was called for a time violation due to excess step-off "reset" disengagements during a 6th inning plate appearance against UC Irvine.

With one out and one on in the top of the 6th, Anteaters batter Anthony Martinez stood in to face Stevenson. NCAA uses a 20-second "action clock" as opposed to MLB's variable pitch clock (30 seconds between batters, 20 seconds between pitches with runner(s) and 15 seconds between pitches with bases empty), and also has different rules about pickoffs and step-offs.

Whereas in professional baseball (MLB/MiLB), pitchers may disengage twice during any individual at-bat—including simply step-offs, fake throws, actual pickoff attempts, and other plays on the runner—the college rule limits pitchers to one step off per at-bat with the following exceptions: in college, disengagements due to pickoff attempts and plays on runners are unlimited and at both levels, the limit resets to two (MLB) or one (NCAA) if a runner advances.

In other words, the only real limit for college are the simple step off and fake throws. For the at-bat in question, pitcher Stevenson made several pickoff throws to first base (remember, pickoff attempts are unlimited under NCAA rules), and then briefly stepped off without making a play on the baserunner prior to delivering the 1-1 pitch. This step-off, known as a "reset", put the action clock back at 20 seconds (hence the term "reset") and counted as Stevenson one and only "reset" for the at-bat.

When Stevenson disengaged the rubber for a step-off again with a 2-1 count, this constituted a time violation of the "reset" limit rule, the penalty for which is an automatic ball, making the count 3-1. HP Umpire AJ Lostaglio enforced the rule by calling "Time" and signaling the count as 3-1. By rule, there are no warnings (NCAA Appendix F).

In NCAA, a so-called time violation of excessive resets results in a penalty of an automatic ball.
In MLB, a violation of excessive disengagements (without retiring a runner) results in a balk.

Head coach Bloomquist was ejected from foul line for continuing to argue the call following explanation.

We also talk about the scoreboard in use. Daktronics scoreboard / shot clock models not using tenths of a second result in a "zero" (or horn if there were to be automatic horn enabled, as is the case in basketball or hockey) when the clock display reads ":00" to fans. But internally, the scoreboard will actually read ":00.9" at the moment of the horn.

The nine-tenths of a second thus is also added to the start of the timer, making it look like the timer is delayed slightly when it is started. For a 20-second action clock, the timer thus begins at 20.9 seconds and expires at 0.9 seconds, reading as ":20" to ":00" for the fans.

Video as follows:

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Panama Turns Double Play After WBC Armbrister Tangle

When a batter-runner and catcher became entangled on a bunt attempt in front of home plate during the World Baseball Classic's Panama vs Chinese Taipei game, HP Umpire Roberto Ortiz no-called the play, ruling the contact incidental and legal, before Panama catcher Christian Bethancourt threw to shortstop Ruben Tejada to force out baserunner Kun-Yu Chiang, before a second throw to first baseman Jahdiel Santamaria resulted in a second out.

In no-calling the sequence in front of home plate, HP Umpire Ortiz cited Official Baseball Rule 6.01(a)(10) Comment: "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." Although OBR 6.01(a)(10) itself puts the batter or runner out for interference if they fail to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball, the exception posed by the rule's comment thus absolves batter Yu-Chieh Kao of any wrongdoing. Obstruction to the catcher is only to be called in "very flagrant and violent" cases here.

Longtime baseball followers might recall the original play that inspired the rule's comment that occurred during Game 3 of the 1975 World Series. That play was strikingly similar: with a runner on first base, Reds batter Ed Armbrister bunted the ball in front of home plate. As Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk tried to field it, the two players collided, with HP Umpire Larry Barnett no-calling the play. This no-call rule interpretation, in today's books under OBR 6.01(a)(10) Comment, is called an Armbrister tangle (untangle).

A similar play occurred during Game 3 of the 2020 ALCS, when HP Umpire Jeff Nelson properly no-called a similar collision between Astros catcher Martin Maldonado and Rays batter-runner Manuel Margot. Two years earlier, however, HP Umpire Dan Iassogna declared Dodgers batter-runner Matt Kemp out for interference when Kemp failed to advance toward first base and thus didn't satisfy the Comment's "going to first base" criterion. 
Related PostMargot-Maldonado's ALCS Tangle Recalls Fisk-Armbrister (10/13/20).

Video as follows:

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

MLB Promotes 7 Crew Chiefs for 2023

After 10 umpires—including seven crew chiefs—retired to close out 2022, Major League Baseball promoted seven veteran umpires to fill the crew chief vacancies. Senior-most on MLB's list of new chiefs is Lance Barksdale, with Dan Bellino, Chris Conroy, James Hoye, Adrian Johnson, Alan Porter, and Todd Tichenor rounding out the new appointments.

In the table below, we have summarized data, including the umpire's age at time of promotion to crew chief, the year of their MLB debut (the era of NL and AL league-specific debuts is just about over), World Series postseason experience, and as we did last time for the 10 Triple-A call-ups hired to the full-time MLB staff, Replay Overturn Rate and Plate Score. The rankings for both Replay and Plate columns are scaled from one (best) to 19 (lowest), relative to other MLB crew chiefs.
NameAgeMLB DebutWorld Series?Replay Overturn RateReplay RankPlate ScorePlate Rank
Barksdale, Lance562000Yes (2)17.7493.41
Bellino, Dan442008Yes (1)15.3892.85
Conroy, Chris482010Yes (1)12.31792.94
Hoye, James522003Yes (2)13.61492.68
Johnson, Adrian472006No13.91391.715
Porter, Alan452010Yes (1)16.6593.32
Tichenor, Todd462007Yes (1)15.7792.76

Video as follows:

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

College Ejection - Brian DeBrauwere's Intentional HBP

HP Umpire Brian DeBrauwere ejected Gonzaga pitcher Ty Buckner for intentionally throwing at Tennessee batter Blake Burke after the former yelled at Buckner about an alleged quick pitch during the 3rd inning at-bat. Even more interesting, Brian had joined CCS years earlier to discuss game management about pitch cadence disputes between batter and pitcher, and how taking steps to slow things down—by calling "Time" or working with the catcher—could also diffuse potential problems.

Coincidentally, guess what game management tools NCAA and MLB's new-ish pitch clock eliminated?

Sunday, March 5, 2023

What if Batter Hits HR After Pitcher's Clock Violation?

The most common follow-up question we received after Saturday's Max Scherzer pitch clock violation video pertained to the batter: can the offense choose to decline this penalty? In the Scherzer video, the timer expires but HP Umpire Jeremy Riggs doesn't immediately call "Time" to kill play, instead simply pointing at the infraction as Scherzer delivers—late—to home plate. Had the batter hit a home run, for instance, could the offensive team opted to take the result of the play instead of have the pitch clock rule enforced?

The answer to this question is no. Pitch clock violations, at least to start 2023, are to be treated as immediate dead balls. Even if the umpire allows the pitcher to throw toward home plate in an untimely manner, only to call "Time" and enforce the rule after the pitch, MLB sought to eliminate discretion and any potential argument that an umpire wasn't "fast enough" in enforcing the rule by making all such violations an immediate dead ball, with no potential options to decline the penalty or choose an outcome.

This runs in stark contrast to the new infield shift restriction rule, which is treated as a delayed infraction or penalty. In this situation, the offense can choose to take the result of the play (e.g., a sacrifice fly) if the defensive team has violated the shift rule by placing three infielders on one side of second base, for instance. If the batter gets a hit, such as a home run, the shift infraction is simply ignored and the HR stands, similar to the catcher's interference rule in disregarding the infraction if the offense benefits via a hit.

Video as follows: