Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pirates & Cubs Ends on Confirmed Safe Call at Plate When Runner Knocks Ball Out of Catcher's Hand

Saturday's Pirates-Cubs game ended on a walk-off slide by Cody Bellinger into home plate despite Pittsburgh catcher Joey Bart appearing to tag the runner...only to drop the ball when Bellinger knocked the ball out of Bart's hand. Replay Review confirmed HP Umpire Chris Conroy's safe call, leaving some Yinzers to wonder how replay could confirm a safe call only made because of a dropped ball...which only was dropped because the runner knocked it out of the catcher's hand.

With one out and one on (R2), Cubs batter Christopher Morel hit a 3-2 splitter from Pirates pitcher David Bednar on a line drive to center fielder Michael A Taylor, who threw home to catcher Joey Bart as Cubs baserunner R2 Bellinger slid into home plate. HP Umpire Conroy called Bellinger safe, a call challenged by Pirates manager Derek Shelton and ultimately affirmed via Replay Review.

Replay Review relied on the definition of tag, which includes this passage: "It is not a tag, however, if simultaneously or immediately following his touching a base or touching a runner, the fielder drops the ball. In establishing the validity of the tag, the fielder shall hold the ball long enough to prove that they have complete control of the ball." The phrase "holding the ball securely and firmly in their hand or glove" is also used. With the ball on the ground, Replay would determine the full process of "tag" was not completed and, thus, the tag was not valid.

The Official Baseball Rules, regarding offensive interference, specify in OBR 5.09(b)(3) that a runner is out when "they intentionally interfere with a thrown ball; or hinder a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball." OBR 6.01(a)(10) agrees ("fails to avoid a fielder who is attempting to field a batted ball, or intentionally interferes with a thrown ball"), and this establishes a right-of-way hierarchy we've been over several times before.

During a batted ball, a fielder has the right to field it; however, the runner has the right to run the bases at any other time.

The standard for a non-batted ball situation is intentional interference, or, the runner must commit an intentional act to be called for an interference violation. Unintentional interference only applies to batted balls (and potentially bona fide slides on force plays, collisions at home plate, runner's lane, and batter's interference), but your garden variety tag play on the bases falls under the so-called intentional or "willful and deliberate" standard.

HP Umpire Conroy did not rule interference initially, just that the runner was safe because the catcher dropped the ball.

Because non-slide rule or HP collision interference is not reviewable, the Replay Official was unable to consider the element of Bellinger's swipe knocking the ball out of Bart's hand. Even so, it would have to be an intentional act to be interference.

Accordingly, Replay Review ruled that because Bart failed to complete the process of the tag with full control and possession of the ball, the runner was safe: call confirmed.

Did Replay get this questionable Cubs catcher caper (confirmed) right? | Video as follows:

Laz Diaz Calls Nestor Cortes' Quick Pitch...for a Needlessly Complicated Reason

When HP Umpire Laz Diaz called Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortes for an illegal pitch vs Chicago, he told New York that Nestor stepped off and on the rubber, a technically correct reason to call a violation, but a lizard of a reason during a play where the primary illegal act was a quick pitch that didn't need a pivot foot vs pitcher's plate violation to be considered.

Official Baseball Rule 6.02(a)(5) Comment states, "A quick pitch is an illegal pitch. Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball." (there were no runners.)

OBR's definition of Quick Pitch goes one step further: "A QUICK RETURN pitch is one made with obvious intent to catch a batter off balance. It is an illegal pitch."

One pitch prior to the play in question, Cortes delayed his delivery by throwing a "slow pitch"—a tactic he has employed in the past—only to then quick pitch White Sox batter Corey Julks on the very next pitch by hurrying his delivery as Julks was just starting to come reasonably set.

But instead of calling Cortes simply for making a quick return pitch with obvious intent to catch Julks unaware or unprepared, Diaz called a minute moment of Cortes's pivot foot breaking contact with the rubber before Cortes threw home.

Diaz's call was technically correct, but from a game management standpoint, a harder call to sell than the obvious quick pitch that occurred. This is because throughout baseball, if you slow it down and zoom in enough, you'll find that many pitchers routinely break contact between pivot foot and rubber during delivery, which sets a dangerous precedent.

Why is it called here and not when, say, Justin Verlander does it routinely? The answer is the same conclusion made at the very beginning of the article—it was a quick pitch, that's what made the sequence illegal. Just because we might know a rule doesn't mean we have to apply it to a situation which can be adjudicated using a much more obvious rule.

Video as follows:

Friday, May 17, 2024

Why Did Umps Allow Glasnow to Pitch Despite Sticky Hands?

During Cincinnati's 7-2 victory over LA on Thursday, umpire Bill Miller's crew found Dodgers pitcher Tyler Glasnow's throwing hand particularly sticky and discolored during a 2nd inning illegal substances inspection, but did not eject Los Angeles' starter for violation of the foreign substance rule. Given Laz Diaz's recent ejection of Astros pitcher Ronel Blanco for such a violation, why did Miller's crew allow Glasgow to remain in the game?

In June 2021, MLB issued new foreign substance guidelines designed to more strictly enforce Official Baseball Rules 3.01 and 6.02(c), both of which pertain to foreign substances.

OBR 3.01 states, "No player shall intentionally discolor or damage the ball by rubbing it with soil, rosin, paraffin, licorice, sand-paper, emery-paper or other foreign substance" while OBR 6.02(c) prohibits the following actions: "rub the ball on their glove, person or clothing...apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball...deface the ball in any manner...have on their person or in their possession any foreign substance."

That last clause of OBR 6.02(c) is the most important because it prohibits a pitcher from simply possessing any foreign substance. It was this violation of OBR 6.02(c)(7) that prompted Diaz to eject Blanco two days before this Reds-Dodgers game. So why didn't Glasnow get the boot, too?

It all boils down to the type of illegal substance inspection conducted by the crew.

In Diaz's case, 1B Umpire Erich Bacchus detected something bizarre during an entry inspection in the 4th inning, or one conducted as Blanco took the field to pitch the top of the 4th. By contrast, Miller inspected Glasnow during an exit inspection after the Dodgers pitcher retired Cincinnati to end the top of the 2nd inning in LA.

The difference here is succinctly entry vs exit inspections, and, specifically, the rosin bag rule.

OBR 4.01(f) states "that an official rosin bag is placed on the ground behind the pitcher’s plate prior to the start of each game." Rosin is a legal substance and if an umpire detects rosin on the pitcher's hand, this is not grounds for ejection. However, the pitcher should only have rosin on their hand when actually pitching or directly after doing so, as the official, MLB-approved rosin bag is located on the field, not in the dugout and not in the bullpen.

Therefore, during an exit inspection conducted after a pitcher has been on the on-field mound and used the on-field rosin bag, it is not unusual for rosin to be on said pitcher's hand. If there is a question as to stickiness, the pitcher has plausible deniability (the "it's just rosin and sweat" line), and umpires who are suspicious but cannot prove anything can simply ask the pitcher to wash the hand prior to returning to the field the next inning.

But during an entry inspection, the pitcher from the dugout should not have any substance, including rosin, on their hand. The MLB-approved rosin bag is on the field, not in the dugout, after all.

And this is why most illegal substance ejections occur during entry inspections, rather than exit inspections: the rosin angle of plausible deniability cannot be used during an entry inspection, but can during an exit one.

Video as follows:

Thursday, May 16, 2024

MiLB Manager Ejected Arguing a Call That Helped Him

Columbus Clippers manager Andy Tracy passionately argued himself through an ejection from HP Umpire Macon Hammond, even though the play Tracy was arguing actually benefited his own team. With one out and the bases loaded, Clippers batter Myles Straw hit a line drive to Mud Hens 2B Jace Jung, ruled an out on the catch by 3B Umpire Kelvis Velez. Both Velez and 1B Umpire Jen Pawol then signaled "safe" when Toledo unsuccessfully tried to double up the Columbus baserunners at second and first, before Toledo threw to third base to appeal Clippers baserunner R3 Micah Pries, who took off for home plate and scored for leaving early.

HP Umpire Hammond, however, ruled the runner safe—that he left timely—and the inning appeared poised to continue with two out and runners at first and second...until the runner on second, Dom Nuñez took off for third and was easily tagged out by Toledo third baseman Buddy Kennedy, who still held the baseball from the appeal executed moments earlier.

Although replays do not conclusively indicate whether or not R3 Pries timely tagged at third, the runner's speed in touching home plate suggests he may have not. If any manager were to be upset with the umpires about the outcome of this play, it would be Toledo's Tim Federowicz, because Columbus scored a run it may not have been entitled to.

Instead, Federowicz's discussion with the umpires was fairly brief and it was Tracy who approached Hammond as the umpire and catcher Nuñez discussed the play at home plate prior to the next inning.

Hammond quickly ejected Tracy, who appeared to be unaware that umpire Velez had signaled the batter out on the catch.

In this case, Tracy's ignorance was not bliss. | Video as follows:

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

TOR-BAL Obstruction & 'Late' Check Swing Appeal

When Toronto's Daulton Varsho collided with Orioles 2B Jorge Mateo during a stolen base attempt as he attempted to advance to third base on an overthrow, 2B Umpire Brian O'Nora called Obstruction Type 2(B), but didn't award Varsho third base. Later, Blue Jays batter Vlad Guerrero attempted to check his swing on a 3-1 pitch with George Springer stealing second, ruled a ball by HP Umpire Chad Fairchild, but reversed to a strike after a 'late' check swing appeal to 1B Umpire Brennan Miller by Baltimore.

Obstruction: The first decision making business regarding the Varsho play is to determine whether this is Type 1 (A) or Type 2 (B) obstruction. Type 1 applies to a play being made on the runner at the time of the obstruction OR the batter-runner being obstructed prior to reaching first base while Type 2 applies in every other situation in which obstruction occurs. With the ball rolling free in the outfield at the time of obstruction, this is an example of Type 2.

Type 1 (A) kills play immediately, with umpires automatically awarding the obstructed runner at least one base beyond the last legally touched base at the time of obstruction. All other runners are placed where they would have ended up had obstruction not occurred.

Type 2 (B), however, keeps play alive until no further action is possible. After this, pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 6.01(h)(2), "The umpire shall then call “Time” and impose such penalties, if any, as in their judgment will nullify the act of obstruction."

Because Varsho, after being obstructed, retreated to second base, 2B Umpire Brian O'Nora determined he could only protect the runner back to second. Because no further attempt was made to run to third—and perhaps of greater importance, the center fielder backed up the play and retrieved the ball quickly—O'Nora could not deem that runner Varsho would have made it to third had obstruction not occurred.

'Late' Check Swing Appeal: With a runner on first running on a 3-1 pitch to Vlad Guerrero, HP Umpire Chad Fairchild called ball four as Orioles catcher James McCann threw to try and retire the runner. After baserunner George Springer slid safely into second base, Baltimore, after a few seconds of delay, appealed the check swing (no swing) call to 1B Umpire Miller, who ruled Guerrero had swung for strike two.

Other than pitch clock timer-related restrictions, a check swing appeal is treated the same as any other appeal such as a base touch appeal—it may be made at any time until the next pitch, play, or attempted play (that is not part of the continuous action [e.g., the stolen base try] of the original play).

OBR allows both catchers or managers to request such an appeal: "The manager or the catcher may request the plate umpire to ask his partner for help on a half swing when the plate umpire calls the pitch a ball, but not when the pitch is called a strike.... Appeals on a half swing must be made before the next pitch, or any play or attempted play."

As such, even though the umpires conferred afterward, no pitch, play or attempted play had occurred, meaning this was a valid appeal, even if it was a tad 'late'—but not too late.

No, "fielder interference" and "he's in the baseline" don't apply (or make any sense here).

Video as follows:

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

MLB Ejection 051 - Laz Diaz (2; Ronel Blanco)

3B Umpire Laz Diaz ejected Astros pitcher Ronel Blanco (illegal substance/failed inspection) in the top of the 4th inning of the #Athletics-#Astros game. During an entry inspection conducted by 1B Umpire Erich Bacchus, umpires detected an illegal substance on Blanco's glove and ejected Blanco for violation of the prohibited substance rule. At the time of the ejection, the Astros were leading, 1-0. The Astros ultimately won the contest, 2-1.

This is Laz Diaz (63)'s 2nd ejection of 2024.
Official Baseball Rule 6.02(c)(7) states, "The pitcher shall not have on their person, or in their possession, any foreign substance."

This is the 51st ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 19th player ejection of 2024. Prior to ejection, Blanco's line was 3 IP, 0 R, 4 K.
Ejection Tally: 23 Managers, 9 Coaches, 19 Players.
This is Houston's 3rd ejection of 2024, 1st in the AL West (HOU 3; OAK 2; LAA, SEA, TEX 1).
This is Ronel Blanco's first career MLB ejection.
This is Laz Diaz's 2nd ejection of 2024, 1st since April 15 (Skip Schumaker; QOC = Y [Pitch Clock]).

MLB Ejection 050 - Ben May (1; Luis Urueta)

HP Umpire Ben May ejected Marlins bench coach Luis Urueta (strike two call; QOCY) in the top of the 2nd inning of the #Marlins-#Tigers game. With two out and none on, Marlins batter Vidal Bruján took a 0-1 fastball from Tigers pitcher Reese Olson for a called second strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer half of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px -0.62, pz 1.48 [sz_bot 1.53 / RAD 1.41]), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Marlins ultimately won the contest, 1-0.

This is Ben May (97)'s 1st ejection of 2024.
*This pitch was located 1.80 vertical inches from being deemed incorrect.

This is the 50th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 9th coach ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 23 Managers, 9 Coaches, 18 Players.
This is Miami's 3rd ejection of 2024, 1st in the NL East (MIA 3; WAS 2; NYM 1; ATL, PHI 0).
This is Luis Urueta's first career MLB ejection.
This is Ben May's 1st ejection since Sept 19, 2023 (Bruce Bochy; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Miami Marlins vs Detroit Tigers, 5/14/24 | Video as follows:

Monday, May 13, 2024

MLB Ejections 048-9 - Mark Carlson (1-2; ARI x2)

HP Umpire Mark Carlson ejected Diamondbacks DH Joc Pederson and manager Torey Lovullo (strike three call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 8th inning of the #Reds-#Dbacks game. With one out and two on, Pederson took a 0-2 slider from Reds pitcher Justin Wilson for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the outer edge of home plate and at the hollow of the knee (px -0.86, pz 1.47 [sz_bot 1.66 / RAD 1.54 / MOE 1.46]), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejections, the Reds were leading, 5-4. The Diamondbacks ultimately won the contest, 6-5.

These are Mark Carlson (6)'s 1st and 2nd ejections of 2024.
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
This pitch was located 0.65 horizontal inches and 0.12 vertical inches from being deemed incorrect.

These are the 48th and 49th ejection reports of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 18th player ejection of 2024. Prior to ejection, Pederson was 2-5 (HR, 3 SO) in the contest.
This is the 23rd manager ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 23 Managers, 8 Coaches, 18 Players.
This is Arizona's 1/2nd ejection of 2024, T-2nd in the NL West (SF 3; ARI, SD 2; COL 1; LAD 0).
This is Joc Pederson's 1st ejection since August 24, 2021 (Chris Conroy; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).
This is Torey Lovullo's 1st ejection since June 12, 2023 (Vic Carapazza; QOC = U [Fighting]).
This is Mark Carlson's 1st ejection since April 9, 2023 (Kyle Tucker; QOC = Y [RLI]).

MLB Ejection 047 - Junior Valentine (1; Craig Counsell)

1B Umpire Junior Valentine ejected Cubs manager Craig Counsell (check swing ball three call to Ronald Acuña) in the bottom of the 4th inning of the #Cubs-#Braves game. With two out and the bases loaded, Braves batter Acuña attempted to check his swing on a 2-1 splitter from Cubs pitcher Shōta Imanaga for a called third ball by HP Umpire Quinn Wolcott, affirmed as no swing on appeal by 1B Umpire Valentine. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 0-0. The Braves ultimately won the contest, 2-0.

This is Junior Valentine (25)'s 1st ejection of 2024.

This is the 47th ejection report of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 22nd manager ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 22 Managers, 8 Coaches, 17 Players.
This is Chicago's 1st ejection of 2024, T-4th in the NL Central (MIL 4; PIT 3; STL 2; CHC, CIN 1).
This is Craig Counsell's 1st ejection since July 8, 2023 (John Tumpane; QOC = N [Balk]).
This is Junior Valentine's 1st ejection since August 20, 2023 (Alex Cora; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Chicago Cubs vs Atlanta Braves, 5/13/24 | Video as follows:

Sunday, May 12, 2024

MLB Ejections 045-6 - Alan Porter (1-2; STL x2)

HP Umpire Alan Porter ejected Cardinals bench coach Daniel Descalso and manager Oliver Marmol (Replay Review decision that overturned 1B Umpire Sean Barber's out call at 1B; QOCY) in the top of the 3rd inning of the #Brewers-#Cardinals game. With one out and one on, Cardinals batter Iván Herrera hit a 1-0 cutter from Brewers pitcher Bryse Wilson on the ground to third baseman Joey Ortiz, who threw to second baseman Brice Turang to retire Cardinals baserunner R1 Nolan Gorman, and onto first baseman Rhys Hoskins to attempt a double play, batter-runner Herrera ruled out by 1B Umpire Sean Barber. After Replay Review as the result of a challenge by Cardinals manager Oli Marmol, the call was overturned and Herrera ruled safe. Replays indicate Herrera touched first base prior to Hoskins receiving the baseball, the call was correct. At the time of the ejection, the Brewers were leading, 3-1. The Cardinals ultimately won the contest, 4-3.

These are Alan Porter (64)'s 1st and 2nd ejections of 2024.

These are the 45th and 46th ejection reports of the 2024 MLB regular season.
This is the 8th coach ejection of 2024.
This is the 21st manager ejection of 2024. Ejection Tally: 21 Managers, 8 Coaches, 17 Players.
This is St Louis' 1/2nd ejection of 2024, 3rd in the NL Central (MIL 4; PIT 3; STL 2; CIN 1; CHC 0).
This is Daniel Descalso's 1st ejection since August 9, 2013 (David Rackley; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Oliver Marmol's 1st ejection since March 8, 2024 [Spring] (Angel Hernandez; [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Alan Porter's 1st ejection since Sept 7, 2023 (Anthony Rizzo; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Umpire Calls Runner Out for Missing Home Plate on HR, Coach Ejected

Sergio Guerra thought he hit his first home run of the season, only to be called out by HP Umpire Asa Howard for failing to physically touch home plate when Utah Valley appealed the Tarleton State batter's baserunning infraction. Head Coach Fuller Smith was ejected arguing the umpire's ruling.

In calling Guerra out on the defense's successful appeal, umpires enforced NCAA Rule 8-6-3, which states that a runner may be called out on appeal for missing a base when "The runner fails to touch each base in order when advancing or returning to a base. Either the runner or the missed base may be tagged."

College isn't the only level to require base touches; all codes agree on this matter. The equivalent rule for professional baseball is OBR 5.06(b)(1) Advancing Bases and for high school is NFHS 8-2-1.

So next time you spy an umpire running alongside a home run hitter in the infield like 1B Umpire Clayton Hamm did alongside Guerra here, or see a plate umpire lean in to look at home plate as the runner approaches, this is precisely what they are looking for: a required base touch, in case there is an appeal play afterward.

Video as follows: