Saturday, April 8, 2023

Hit By Pitch, Stay Here! Rule Differences & NCAA Strike

An ejection occurred after a home plate umpire called a batter out on strikes for intentionally allowing a pitch to hit him with no attempt to avoid being touched. Not only did the infamous "HBP: Stay Here!" call befall St Mary's batter Blake McDonald, it resulted in a strike call, which, on a 0-2 pitch, produced an inning-ending strikeout (and parting-shot ejection) early during the team's game against Pepperdine University.

This is where college (NCAA) and professional (OBR) rules differ on hit-by-pitch awards and penalties.

In college, such as the St Mary's-Pepperdine game, NCAA Rule 7-4-i states that, "A strike is awarded if the batter is judged to intentionally make a movement to be hit by a pitch, regardless of where the pitch is located; or allows themself to be intentionally hit by a pitch that is not thrown within the boundaries of the batter's box unless it was not possible to avoid being hit." Thus, even though the pitched ball appeared to touch the batter outside of the strike zone, by rule, a strike was nonetheless called.

In MLB or MiLB, though, this same play would result in a ball added to the count, pursuant to OBR 5.05(b)(2), which adjudicates the play differently: "The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball...If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if they make no attempt to avoid being touched."

For good measure, NFHS (high school) shares OBR (pro)'s rule: the pitch is adjudicated as a ball or a strike depending on its location.

Video as follows:

Friday, April 7, 2023

Reversing an Incorrect Call - Sean Barber's Foul Ball

Chief Alan Porter's crew changed an errant foul ball call by 1B Umpire Sean Barber during the Mets-Brewers game in Milwaukee, un-ringing the ball to reverse a dead ball to a fair ball off the bat of New York's Omar Narvaez. HP Umpire Mike Muchlinski, who from his position at home plate had a fairly decent angle to see the line drive hit past first base and down the right field line, called the crew together following the play, leading to the reversal.

Official Baseball Rule 8.02(c) allows umpires to change earlier calls: "...No umpire shall criticize, seek to reverse or interfere with another umpire’s decision unless asked to do so by the umpire making it. If the umpires consult after a play and change a call that had been made, then they have the authority to take all steps that they may deem necessary, in their discretion, to eliminate the results and consequences of the earlier call that they are reversing, including placing runners where they think those runners would have been after the play, had the ultimate call been made as the initial call, disregarding interference or obstruction that may have occurred on the play; failures of runners to tag up based upon the initial call on the field; runners passing other runners or missing bases; etc., all in the discretion of the umpires. No player, manager or coach shall be permitted to argue the exercise of the umpires’ discretion in resolving the play and any person so arguing shall be subject to ejection."

NCAA/college's correcting an earlier call rule goes further to specify that certain calls lend themselves quite well to post-play reversal (such as erroneous foul ball vs home run calls, etc.) while others should not be reversed (such as ball/strike decisions).

As for OBR, although the rule states no umpire shall seek to reverse another umpire's decision unless asked to do so, there exist some calls—such as Barber's foul ball call—that aren't your garden variety 50-50 judgment or other close calls that portion of the rule is designed to protect. Instead, this was a definitively obvious error, and the crew's convening resulted in a crewsaver of a changed call. From a Replay Review standpoint, this is an important fix because if the play was closer, "call stands" would revert to whatever the umpires called after their conference.

Finally, the umpires considered the batted ball's path caroming off the outfield wall and in proximity to Brewers right fielder Brian Anderson, combined with Narvaez's below average running speed, suggesting the likely outcome of this play had the initial call been "fair" was a single for Narvaez, so they placed him at first base.

Video as follows:

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Ejection 003 - Nic Lentz (1; Kevin Long)

HP Umpire Nic Lentz ejected Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long (strike one call; QOCN) in the top of the 5th inning of the #Yankees-#Phillies game. With two out and one on, Phillies batter Jake Cave took a first-pitch knuckle curve from Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole for a called first strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner half of home plate and below the hollow of the knee (px -0.52, pz 1.30 [sz_bot 1.54 / RAD 1.42 / MOE 1.33]), the call was incorrect.* At the time of the ejection, the Yankees were leading, 1-0. The Yankees ultimately won the contest, 4-2.

This is Nic Lentz (59)'s 1st ejection of 2023.
*This pitch was located 0.41 vertical inches from being considered a correct call.
The Nick Castellanos ball/strike calls are not eligible for QOC consideration for this ejection.

This is the 3rd ejection report of the 2023 MLB regular season.
This is the 1st non-manager coach ejection of 2023.
This is Philadelphia's 1st ejection of 2023, 1st in the NL East (PHI 1; ATL, MIA, NYM, WAS 0).
This is Kevin Long's 1st ejection since Sept 22, 2022 (Andy Fletcher; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Nic Lentz's 1st ejection since June 23, 2022 (Seth Brown; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Philadelphia Phillies vs New York Yankees, 4/5/23 | Video as follows:

Ejection 002 - DJ Reyburn (1; Tim Anderson)

HP Umpire DJ Reyburn ejected White Sox SS Tim Anderson (unsportsmanlike toward opponent) in the bottom of the 3rd inning of the #Giants-#WhiteSox game. With none out and none on, Anderson took a 1-2 changeup from Giants pitcher Logan Webb for a called third strike. Replays indicate that during delivery of the pitch, Anderson walked out of the batter's box and that prior to the pitch, Webb appeared to come set prior to Anderson being ready and alert to the pitcher in the batter's box; this was an uncalled violation.* Anderson's ejection occurred after ensuing batter Luis Robert's strikeout, the call was irrecusable. At the time of the ejection, the Giants were leading, 2-0. The White Sox ultimately won the contest, 7-3.

This is DJ Reyburn (17)'s 1st ejection of 2023.

*t has been pointed out that this was Webb's windup position and after review I agree; however, replays indicate he begins his delivery motion prior to Anderson being ready in the box (Anderson was still in his preparatory motions). This takes this play from "Max Scherzer Rule" territory to potential quick pitch territory. Both actions are illegal and, in this case, both would result in the same penalty: a ball added to the count.

tldr: It was Windup Position, not Set, but the pitcher still violated the rule by starting his delivery before the batter was ready.

This is the 2nd ejection report of the 2023 MLB regular season.
This is the 2nd player ejection of 2023. Prior to ejection, Anderson was 0-2 (SO) in the contest.
This is Chicago-AL's 1st ejection of 2023, 1st in the AL Central (CWS 1; CLE, DET, KC, MIN 0).
This is Tim Anderson's 1st ejection since July 29, 2022 (Nick Mahrley; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is DJ Reyburn's 1st ejection since Aug 27, 2022 (Brian Anderson; QOC = N [Out/Safe]).

Wrap: San Francisco Giants vs Chicago White Sox, 4/5/23 | Video as follows:

Vic Carapazza Knocked Down at 1B But Still Makes the Call

For 1B Umpire Vic Carapazza, an innocuous groundout by Blue Jays batter Kevin Kiermaier's in Kansas City turned into a collision with Royals pitcher Aroldis Chapman behind first base as the closer bowled over the umpire while running to avoid his own first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, who had fielded Kiermaier's ground ball and was taking the play to the bag himself.

Having fallen to the ground, Carapazza appeared to initially signal "safe" from a prone position before rising and quickly signaling Kiermaier out, clarifying that the batter-runner had in fact been retired. The crew got together and the out call prevailed. Replays indicate the batter-runner did indeed appear to be out.

Following this play, with a 1-1 count to ensuing Blue Jays batter George Springer, Royals catcher Salvador Perez requested "Time" with three seconds remaining on the pitch clock, with HP Umpire Jerry Layne granting the request at the two-second mark. After a conversation with 3B Umpire Adam Hamari and despite Layne's own signal of an apparent pitch clock violation by pointing to his wrist, no additional ball was added to the count—the "Time" call made sense, with replays showing a strong gust of wind at Kauffman Stadium during that sequence.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Ejection 001 - Ron Kulpa (1; Manny Machado)

HP Umpire Ron Kulpa ejected Padres designated hitter Manny Machado (pitch clock violation automatic strike three call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 1st inning of the #Diamondbacks-#Padres game. With two out and none on, Machado was called for a pitch clock violation when he failed to occupy the batter's box and be alert to the pitcher, or request "Time" (batters are allowed one request per at-bat) prior to the eight-second mark of the pitch timer on a 3-2 count against Diamondbacks pitcher Zac Gallen, resulting in an automatic third strike and inning-ending strikeout.* Replays indicate Machado was not ready to bat and failed to request "Time" prior to the eight-second mark, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Diamondbacks ultimately won the contest, 8-6.

This is Ron Kulpa (46)'s 1st ejection of 2023.
Related PostPitch Clock Violation Strikes on 1st Day of Spring Training (Machado) (2/25/23).

This is the 1st ejection report of the 2023 MLB regular season.
This is the 1st player ejection of 2023. Prior to ejection, Machado was 0-1 (SO) in the contest.
This is San Diego's 1st ejection of 2023, 1st in the NL West (SD 1; ARI, COL, LAD, SF 0).
This is Manny Machado's 1st ejection since May 31, 2022 (Chris Segal; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Ron Kulpa's 1st ejection since Sept 12, 2022 (Phil Nevin; QOC = U [Denied Warmup Pitches]).

More Runner's Lane Interference in Chicago & DC

After our first RLI play of the season in Seattle, you asked us to take a look at two (potentially three) other runner's lane interference no-calls in Chicago and Washington. In Chicago, we follow the umpire positioned well on the line to call the play, but was the call proper? In DC, we scout Rays batter-runner Manuel Margot's footwork as Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams' throw arrives as Margot's knee knocks the first baseman's mitt off of his hand.

To review, Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(11) governs RLI plays: "A batter is out when, in running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, they run outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interfere with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead." A runner who is legally within the lane the entire way to first base is allowed to exit the lane in the immediate vicinity of first base in order to touch the bag.

We also discuss the history of the runner's lane in baseball: why does it exist, anyway?

In the 1850s, baseball began its life with first and third bases centered over the foul lines.
In 1882 (NL) and 1884 (AA), a runner's lane was added in foul territory. 1B remained half fair & half foul.
By 1893, both leagues had moved first and third base to be entirely in fair territory.
The runner's lane remained and an exception was added to the rule allowing a runner to exit at first base.

Finally, we provide a request commentary critique on Milwaukee TV's broadcast remarks, which appeared to confuse the three-foot tag avoidance rule (out of the base path rule) with the runner's lane rule. Although the runner's lane is also three feet wide, these are different rules. Because this situation involved a thrown ball, the three-foot out of the base path rule does not apply.

Runner's Lane Interference, OBR 5.09(a)(11), applies on thrown balls to first base.
Out of the Base Path, OBR 5.09(b)(1), applies on tag attempts at any base (or between bases).

Video as follows:

Monday, April 3, 2023

Cleveland Scores Game-Winning Run on Runner's Lane Interference No-Call

Before Cleveland secured a 6-5 win over Seattle in extra innings on Sunday, the Guardians scored the eventual winning run on a throwing error and runner's lane interference no-call by HP Umpire Brennan Miller. Was this the correct ruling?

With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the 10th inning of a tied game, Guardians batter Josh Naylor hit a ground ball to Mariners pitcher Gabe Speier, who threw to catcher Cal Raleigh to retire Guardians R3 Steven Kwan. Raleigh then turned to throw to first baseman Ty France, but his throw bounced on the dirt in front of the base, and France was unable to field it, resulting in a throwing error that allowed Guardians runner R2 Jose Ramirez—hustling from second base—to score the eventual winning run.

Replays clearly indicate that batter-runner Naylor failed to run within the 45-foot runner's lane on his way to first base, but does that mean HP Umpire Miller should have called him out for runner's lane interference, which would have resulted in an inning-ending double play?

Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(11) puts the batter out for runner's lane interference if the following occurs: "A batter is out when, in running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, they run outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interfere with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead." (an exception allows a runner who has been legally within the lane the allotment to exit the lane by a stride within the immediate vicinity of first base).

In addition to the simple question of batter-runner Naylor's positioning (inside the foul line), OBR 5.09(a)(11) requires the batter-runner's position inside or outside the line to interfere with the fielder taking the throw, whom in the case was first baseman France. Whether or not Naylor's running interfered with catcher Raleigh's throw is irrelevant: it only matters whether or not Naylor's running inside the line interfered with France taking the throw, and in order for that to be the case, the throw must have had a chance of reasonably retiring the runner had the runner not been inside (or outside) the line.

As Miller—who was in perfect position to see the play on first baseline extended—ruled that the throw would not have reasonably retired the runner, Naylor was not declared out for RLI.

Video as follows:

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Coach Ejected from NCAA Softball Game After Runner Called Out for Leaving Early on HR

We don't cover softball all that often, but considering how well Mississippi State assistant coach Tyler Bratton's clothing blended in with the umpire crew—making his ejection look more like a scene from The Naked Gun than an NCAA game—we decided to visit the case of a runner called out on a HR, for leaving first base early.

NCAA softball instructs its umpires to signal a delayed dead ball by extending their arm with a fist out to the side; one such reason for a delayed dead ball concerns baserunners leaving prior to the pitcher's release of the pitch: "A base runner may not leave the base they attained until the pitcher releases the pitch to the batter. A base runner must be in contact with their base at the time a pitch leaves the pitcher’s hand" (NCAA 12.14.2).

With one out and one on (R1), Mississippi St batter Chloe Malau'ulu hit an apparent two-run home run; however, the umpires had called R1 Macy Graf for a violation of 12.14.2 and signaled a delayed dead ball. At the conclusion of the play, bearing in mind the penalty which is an option for the defensive coach to either "(1) take the result of the play or (2) 'No pitch' is declared, the batter is returned to the batter’s box and the offending base runner(s) is out," R1 Graf was declared out and Malau'ulu returned to bat, leading to Bratton's ejection.

Arkansas ultimately won the contest, 11-0, in five innings.

Video as follows: