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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

2023 MLB Call-Up Umpire Hiring Outlook

Here at Closecallsports, our replay guru TMAC has watched every single replay and charted it since the inception of expanded replay.  Besides needing a hobby, over the next few weeks TMAC will share that data with you in three parts.  The first will be an analysis of all the MILB Call-up umpires.  MLB will be announcing 10 new hires soon!  

In 2022 there were 670 calls overturned (OT) by the replay system, or one in every 3.63 games.  Remember there are four umpires assigned to regular season affairs so that comes to one OT every 14.5 games as the average for each umpire.  If 14.5 is the barometer, you will notice some better and some not quite up to the MLB average.  That average takes into account ALL umpires, both Full-Time, and MILB Call-Ups! 

We will sort each umpire in two ways!  The top chart is by games worked and the lower is by fewest overturns per game.  There is no analysis on total replay reviews.  We only concentrate on overturned calls.  Over the long haul, OTs are the best way to determine who has the best judgement on calls not only that are eligible for replay review, but decisions that encompass all aspects of the game with the exception of handling situations and balls and strikes!    

Nick Mahrley: 476 Games/45 OTs Overturn Rate 1 in 10.6 games
Shane Livensparger: 382/41 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/9.3
Edwin Moscoso: 332/22 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/15.1
Jeremy Riggs: 263/10 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/26.3
Adam Beck: 253/14 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/18.1 
Nestor Ceja: 253/22 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/11.5
Ryan Wills: 250/19 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/13.2
Dan Merzel: 241/6 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/40.2
Junior Valentine: 235/18 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/13.1
Eric Bacchus 234/19 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/12.3
Brennan Miller: 195/12 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/16.3
Alex Tosi: 191/21 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/9.1
Malachi Moore: 156/14 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/11.1
John Bacon: 149/14 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/10.6
Charlie Ramos: 138/10 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/13.8
Clint Vondrak: 133/11 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/12.1
Jose Navas: 130/8 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/16.3
Nate Tomlinson: 92/6 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/15.3
Paul Clemons: 73/4 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/18.3
Alex MacKay: 47/5 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/9.4
Randy Rosenberg 39/5 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/7.8
David Arrieta: 39/1 OT: Overturn Rate 1/39
Brock Ballou: 30/5 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/6
Lew Williams 28/2 OTs: Overturn Rate 1/14

1) Dan Merzel: Overturn Rate 1 Overturn per 40.2 Games (1/40.2)
2) David Arrieta: 1/39
3) Jeremy Riggs: 1/26.3
4) Paul Clemons: 1/18.3
5) Adam Beck: 1/18.1
T6) Brennan Miller: 1/16.3
Jose Navas: 1/16.3
8) Nate Tomlinson: 1/15.3
9) Edwin Moscoso: 1/15.1
10) Lew Williams: 1/14
11) Charlie Ramos: 1/13.8
12) Ryan Wills: 1/13.2
13) Junior Valentine: 1/13.1
14) Eric Bacchus: 1/12.3
15) Clint Vondrak: 1/12.1
16) Nestor Ceja: 1/11.5
17) Malachi Moore: 1/11.1
18) John Bacon: 1/10.6 (10.64)
19) Nick Mahrley: 1/10.6 (10.58)
20) Alex MacKay: 1/9.4 
21) Shane Livensparger: 1/9.3
22) Alex Tosi: 1/9.1
23) Randy Rosenberg: 1/7.8
24) Brock Ballou: 1/6

- David Arrieta wasn’t flipped until his 29th MLB game and he’s on a stretch now of 10 straight.  
- Nate Tomlinson was OT’d three times in his first MLB game, but in his 91 since, he’s been wrong via review only three times also! 
- Brock Ballou’s body of work is small so after one year it’s best to wait for more complete data.
- Dan Merzel’s one overturn in every 40 + games is the best for a call-up at the end of a season since replay began (minimum 50 total MLB games).
- Edwin Moscoso had a breakthrough 2022 season with four flips in 145 games or 1/36.3

This data is by no means the be all and end all but combined with ball-strike success rate it would be a great way to point yourself in the right direction when selecting the newest full-time MLB umpires.  

In our next data drop, we’ll do the same with the replay stats, but we’ll apply our breakdown to the Crew Chiefs!  The data may just surprise you! 

Friday, January 13, 2023

All Triple-A Games to Use Electronic Strike Zone Tech

All 30 Triple-A ballparks will house electronic balls and strikes technology in 2023, according to an ESPN report. Half of the games will use RoboUmp's fully-Automated Balls/Strikes System (ABS), in which the computer calls all pitches, while half of the games will feature a hybrid challenge system, in which human umpires continue calling balls and strikes, but teams (specifically, pitchers, catchers, and batters) will be allowed to challenge three umpire calls per game (retaining the challenge if the call is overturned).

Minor League Baseball in 2022 expanded its automated strike zone tests with the introduction of ABS to certain Spring Training sites in Florida, as well as certain selected minor league games in AAA West and Low-A Southeast.

This itself followed the Atlantic League's 2022 announcement that it would abandon its ABS RoboUmp experiment, following a few years of significant computer errors that led to contentious strike calls and ejections, most frequently of pitching coach Frank Viola.

In 2021, an Arizona Fall League game had to be ended early after both teams ran out of pitchers due to ABS RoboUmp's strict strike zone, leading to more ball calls than customary for a baseball game, which in turn required all 12 pitchers to throw more pitches.

The imminent 2023 Triple-A setup of half-full ABS and half-challenge system, as we point out scientifically, stipulates that the computer will get it wrong some of the time. For instance, strike zone heights will be calculated based on a percentage of total batter height (every person has different body  proportions, meaning this methodology is error-prone), while the addition of an inch to either side of home plate in calculated horizontal ball/strike calls is, itself, not quite the correct radius of a baseball.

This, of course, is in addition to the plethora of computer strike zone errors we have previously reported on.
Related PostDude, What Happened Last Night? About Pitch f/x Error (8/30/16).

Video as follows:

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Jeff Nelson Officiates a Back-Tag in the Middle Infield

On a first-and-third base hit to left field, Blue Jays runner R1 Santiago Espinal rounded second base in anticipation of a throw to the plate on the lead runner—a throw that instead was cut off and found its way to second base as Espinal dove back. 2B Umpire Jeff Nelson, reading the cutoff sequence, gradually drifted along the first base side of second, anticipating a potential play on the trailing R1 Espinal.

This call would stand via Replay Review as the result of an Orioles challenge, but no camera had a better angle than 2B Umpire Nelson, who worked throughout the play to gain a position and keyhole angle with which to see a potential back-tag situation, which is precisely what ended up happening.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Getting Set - Using Body Position to Improve Call Accuracy

In this Teachable Moment, tmac spies 2B Umpire Greg Gibson making a safe (pulled foot) call in Minnesota, a reviewed-and-affirmed call made possible by Gibson's use of sound umpiring technique in pivoting and getting set prior to the critical action of the play.

Gibson's static positioning allows him to maintain a constant head height and thus keep his eyes in similar constancy, which increases the likelihood of seeing the play clearly and making the correct call.

Video as follows:

Thursday, December 29, 2022

MLB-High 10 Umpires Retire During 2022-2023 Off-Season

It's official—10 Major League Baseball umpires have retired following the 2022 season, a record-high for the unified MLB era and most since 1999, when a failed contract strategy led to 22 resignations. Seven crew chiefs and three 'number twos' won't return in 2023, opening the door to call-up umpires looking for a full-time job as well as current backup chiefs looking for a permanent promotion to that role. This retiring class combined for 261 years of on-field Major League experience.

The retirements of Greg Gibson (10/6/22), Tom Hallion (12/8/22), and Jim Reynolds (12/21/22) were previously disclosed by the indivual umpires prior to this announcement of all 10 retirements.

Retirements, Listed as Name, Service Time (Seasons with 1+ games)
- Postseason & total ejection stats listed on following lines:

Ted Barrett, 26 Years (29 Seasons AL/MLB [1994-2022]): Crew Chief with 3,400 regular season games.
6 Wild Cards (2012, 13, 15, 16, 20, 22)
- 12 Division Series (2000, 01, 02, 03, 06, 07, 11, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21)
- 10 League Championship Series (2005, 08, 09, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 20, 22)
- 5 World Series (2007, 11, 14, 18, 21)
> 65 MLB ejections

Greg Gibson, 24 Years (25 Seasons NL/MLB [1997-2019, 2021-22]): Crew Chief with 2,746 games.
- 3 Wild Cards (2012, 13, 18)
- 10 Division Series (2001, 03, 04, 06, 07, 09, 10, 11, 15, 21)
- 5 League Championship Series (2005, 12, 13, 14, 18)
- 1 World Series (2011)
> 92 MLB ejections

Marty Foster, 24 Years (27 Seasons AL/MLB [1996-2022]): Number Two with 2,745 games.
- 1 Wild Card (2020)
- 3 Division Series (2006, 08, 17)
> 110 MLB ejections

Tom Hallion, 30 Years (32 Seasons NL/MLB [1985-99, 2005-19, 2021-22]): Crew Chief w 3,645 games.
- 10 Division Series (1996, 97, 2008, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21)
- 5 League Championship Series (1998, 2007, 09, 10, 11)
- 2 World Series (2008, 21)
> 102 MLB ejections

Sam Holbrook, 22½ Years (22 Seasons A/NL/MLB [1996-99, 2002-19, 2021]): Crew Chief w 2,423 games.
- 1 Wild Card (2012)
- 7 Division Series (2005, 07, 10, 13, 16, 19, 21)
- 4 League Championship Series (2008, 09, 11, 12)
- 3 World Series (2010, 16, 19)
> 78 MLB ejections

Jerry Meals, 26 Years (31 Seasons NL/MLB [1992-2022]): Crew Chief with 3,303 games.
- 3 Wild Cards (2020, 21, 22)
- 9 Division Series (1999, 2004, 05, 09, 10, 11, 14, 19, 20)
- 3 League Championship Series (2008, 17, 21)
- 2 World Series (2014, 20)
> 61 MLB ejections

Paul Nauert, 22½ Years (24 Years NL/MLB [1995-99, 2002-20]): Number Two with 2,450 games.
- 1 Wild Card (2020)
- 6 Division Series (2004, 08, 10, 13, 14, 17)
- 1 League Championship Series (2016)
- 1 World Series (2017)
> 33 MLB ejections

Jim Reynolds, 22½ Years (24 Years AL/MLB [1999-2022]): Crew Chief with 2,815 games.
- 3 Wild Cards (2015, 17, 20)
- 7 Division Series (2005, 07, 08, 12, 13, 14, 18)
- 5 League Championship Series (2010, 15, 16, 17, 20)
- 2 World Series (2014, 18)
> 43 MLB ejections

Tim Timmons, 22½ Years (23 Years NL/MLB [1999-2021]): Number Two with 2,746 games.
- 2 Wild Cards (2013, 20)
- 3 Division Series (2005, 09, 18)
- 4 League Championship Series (2011, 14, 15, 20)
- 1 World Series (2018)
> 90 MLB ejections

Bill Welke, 22½ Years (24 Years AL/MLB [1999-2022]): Crew Chief with 2,816 games.
- 3 Wild Cards (2014, 16, 20)
- 6 Division Series (2003, 06, 08, 11, 15, 20)
- 4 League Championship Series (2014, 16, 17, 19)
- 1 World Series (2015)
> 102 MLB ejections

Video as follows:

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Correcting Broadcast Blasphemy in Runner Placement Play

When Dodgers broadcasters Joe Davis and Orel Hershiser incorrectly stated that the base award for a thrown ball bouncing out of play is based on the batter-runner's location at the time of the ball leaving the field (in this case, bouncing into and out of the Dodger Stadium camera well), Tmac decided to correct the record.

Official Baseball Rule 5.06(b)(4)(G) states that a runner advances two bases from their position *at the time the wild throw is made."* In turn, because R1 Kris Bryant was located between second and third base (having passed second base) at the time of the wild throw, his two-base award takes him to third base and to home plate, scoring a run.

The umpires initially ruled that Rockies batter-runner Brendan Rodgers had not yet arrived at first base when center fielder Cody Bellinger released his throw, resulting in a Rockies challenge for runner placement, a call that was confirmed as the Replay Official conclusively determined that batter-runner Rodgers was indeed somewhere between home plate and first base at the time of the throw, confirming the on-field umpires' ruling and making Rodgers' two-base award first base and second base.

*Please note there are limited exceptions to this rule, but none of them award bases based upon the runner's position at the time the ball left the playing field. The main exception pertains to a ball thrown out of play by an infielder on the fielder's first play (usually on a ground ball). In such a case, the runners are awarded two bases based on their positions at the time of the pitch.

Video as follows:

Friday, December 23, 2022

Jose Siri Ejected From Winter League After Drawing a Line

A Dominican Winter League HP Umpire ejected Gigantes de Cibao CF José Siri (strike one call) in the top of the 10th inning of the Giants-Eagles game. With one out and none on, Siri took a 1-0 pitch from Eagles pitcher Neftali Feliz for a called first strike, resulting in a dispute over the pitch call. Siri was ejected not for verbally arguing the call, but what the Umpire Manual refers to as "actions intended to ridicule," which specifically includes drawing a line in the dirt or making other gestures indicating resentment. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 3-3. The Eagles ultimately won the contest, 4-3, in 10 innings.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

MLB Ejection 177 - Chad Fairchild (2; Austin Romine)

The following ejection occurred on September 17, 2022: HP Umpire Chad Fairchild ejected Reds catcher Austin Romine (runner's interference no-call; QOCY) in the bottom of the 11th inning of the #Reds-#Cardinals game. With none out and the bases loaded, Cardinals batter Paul Goldschmidt hit a 1-2 splitter from Reds pitcher Fernando Cruz on the ground to center fielder Nick Senzel (playing in on the shift), who threw to home plate as Cardinals baserunner R3 Andrew Knizner attempted to score. Replays indicate the throw hit Knizner's left arm before bouncing away from catcher Romine; because the runner establishes their own base path and no tag attempt was being attempted at the time of the ball contacting the runner, who did not intentionally interfere with the thrown ball, the no-call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Cardinals had won the contest, 1-0, in 11 innings.

This is Chad Fairchild (4)'s 2nd ejection of 2022.
For scorekeeping purposes, this is logged as Ejection 177 despite occurring between Ejections 164 & 166.

*There is no base path violation pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 5.09(b)(1) governing base paths and out-of-the-base-path (three-foot) calls. There is no runner's lane violation because the runner's lane only applies at first base. This leaves the question as to whether or not the runner intentionally interfered with a thrown ball, as in OBR 5.09(b)(3), which is unlikely given that the throw did not yet exist as the runner established his running motion in fair territory between third base and home plate.

Refer to our September 18 analysis for further explanation.
Related PostCardinals Win When Reds' Throw Hits Runner - Legal? (9/18/22).

This is the 177th ejection report of the 2022 MLB regular season.
This is the 62nd player ejection of 2022. Prior to ejection, Romine was 0-4 (2 SO) in the contest.
This is Cincinnati's 5th ejection of 2022, 4th in the NL Central (CHC 10; PIT, STL 6; CIN 5; MIL 4).
This is Austin Romine's 1st ejection since August 24, 2017 (Dana DeMuth; QOC = U [Fighting]).
This is Chad Fairchild's 2nd ejection of 2022, 1st since Sept 11 (Max Scherzer; QOC = Y [Replay Review]).

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Jim Reynolds Retires Following 24 Major League Seasons

A member of MLB's large Class of 1999, 24-year Major League umpire Jim Reynolds announced his retirement after 2,815 regular season games, three Wild Cards, seven Division Series, five League Championship Series, and two World Series.

Born in Marlborough, Massachusetts, Reynolds' professional baseball career began after meeting University of Connecticut classmate Dan Iassogna during a 1987 fire drill on the north campus. Iassogna's father had been a football referee, and the pair began working games here and there under the tutelage of UConn baseball coach Andy Baylock.

After college, Reynolds and Iassogna were roomates at the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring in Arizona, with both candidates making it to the lower minor leagues after graduation. Reynolds officiated the New York-Penn League in 1992, advancing through the South Atlantic, California, Eastern, Southern, American Association, and International Leagues before getting the call in June 1999.

Two and a half months after Reynolds' first American League game on June 4, 1999 in Boston, he found his first ejection in Tampa Bay's Larry Rothschild on July 25. Reynolds ejected 43 players, coaches, and managers during his big league career.

Reynolds, who confirmed his retirement on The Jay and Brian Show, retires as a crew chief, having received that promotion ahead of the 2020 season. Thursday is Jim Reynolds' 54th birthday.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Watch the Berti - 1B Umpire Ceja's Teachable Moment

 latest offseason Teachable Moment highlights an adjustment at first base. Nationals batter Luis Garcia grounds out after a bad bounce that looked to ruin Miami's play at first, but then Marlins 2B Jon Berti makes a snazzy play to beat the runner, 1B Umpire Nestor Ceja instinctually adjusting both his physical position and point of focus in order to make a call ultimately confirmed following Replay Review.

The key for this play is to always keep in mind one's responsibilities while reacting to the unexpected. In this scenario, Ceja knows his responsibility after signaling "fair" is to first base, so after locating the ball and reading that fielder Berti has backed up the play and fielded the ball, Ceja turns his attention back toward first base in order to rule on the out/safe issue.

Video as follows: