Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Replays On Trapped Balls - Causes More Confusion Than Solutions

MLB is instituting an instant replay format next year in order to try to get more calls right.    Unfortunately, this attempt might actually cause more controversy, especially on trapped balls in the outfield. Hear me out on this, because I think there are some that will disagree with me.
Trap or catch? Coco Crisp dives for outfield sinking liner.  (photo by Julie Jacobson/AP)

Reviewing these plays opens the game up to even more speculation and additional interpretation.  These plays are not always cut and dry and base runner movement is impacted by the split second decisions made by umps on the field.  

Example # 1:

The Dodgers playing the Giants at AT&T Park and it’s the top of the first inning with one out.  Andre Ethier is at the plate and Hanley Ramirez is on first and Carl Crawford is standing at second base after Hanley’s sharp single.  On a 2-2 count Ethier laces a line drive to the left of Hunter Pence in right field.  Pence attempts to make a diving catch and he appears to do so as he dives, sprawling out on all fours.  Umpire Dan Iosoggna rules that a catch was made and the runners stop in their tracks and retreat to their original bases.  Pence’s throw to first base is in time to beat Ramirez by a step.  The inning is over on a double play.

Don Mattingly believes he missed the call and requests that a replay review be completed.  After an umpire sitting in a studio in New York reviews the play on a TV, a message is sent to the crew that the ball was trapped and the double play needs to be reversed.

This is where things get messed up.  Where are the runners placed?  Does Crawford score a run or do they place him at third. Had Iosoggna called the play correctly in the first place, none of the runners would have put on the brakes.  Crawford would have scored easily from second base.  Hanley would have advanced to third base.  Now the umps will have to interpret how far each runner would have advanced.  Maybe they won’t have that interpretation authority.  Will the runners by rule only be allowed to advance one base? 

So reality is that the replay review is in place to correct human errors but the fix won’t be completely correct, because the Dodgers will have been denied a run, due to human error.

Example #2

Same scenario, 1st inning, same runners in place and again, Ethier lines the pitch on a liner to Pence in right field.  This time, the umpire doesn’t call that the ball was caught and Crawford scores and Ramirez advances to third.  Bruce Bochy disagrees.  He protests and asks for replay review.

This time the umpire viewing the action via monitor in New York determines that the catch was made.  Since the runners took off, an easy double play would have been recorded.  Do the umps call a double play?  How can they assume that Pence would have got up and made an accurate throw to record the putout at first or second?

What will happen is the runners will be forced to return to their original bases and play will resume with only one out recorded on the play.    Again, an effort is made to correct human error and it only does so to some extent.  The inning should be over, but they’ll still be playing.

That’s just my opinion anyway.  If we were to stick to the original umpire calls on trapped balls, runners will react accordingly and play will resume unimpeded.  This stoppage to review and then interpret where to put runners is problematic to me.   First, it'll add minutes to each game and then it doesn't really completely correct a call when a mistake is made.


Old School baseball purists will be upset with today's announcement that MLB will outlaw home plate collisions this coming season or in 2015.  Exactly how this will be done will need to be spelled out in detail because, again, plays at the plate are instantaneous plays and often made on instinct.
Brian Jordan collided with Darren Bennett, then of the Padres back in 2003.  One of the nastier home plate collisions in memory.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, catchers will no longer be allowed to block the plate, if they do so without the ball, "obstruction" will be called and the runner will score.  Runners will not be allowed to target catchers and they will have to slide if there is a play at the plate.  How they will interpret whether a "runner targets a catcher" will strictly be an umpire judgment call, but apparently these types of plays will be reviewable in instant replay as well if challenged.  Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson addressed the topic at a morning press conference at the G.M. meetings in Orlando:

"The exact language and how exactly the rule will be enforced is subject to final determination.  We're going to do fairly extensive review of the types of plays that occur at home plate to determine which we're going to find acceptable and which are going to be prohibited."

Former catchers and current managers Bruce Bochy and Mike Matheny are strong advocates of the plate collision ban.  Both were called upon by MLB to address the topic and were influential in bringing about the rule change.  The players association will vote on the rule change in January, but all expect there to be no opposition to it, as the move will make the game safer for players.

"There's been adjustments everywhere," said Bochy when questioned about changing baseball tradition.  "I think it's time in baseball that we do change the rule and protect these catchers."


1 comment:

  1. I'm not much in favor of more video replays. You make a great point. I expect the runners would get one base on a replay as some standard has to be set, not a judgement on how far they might have gotten as all circumstances will not be the same. On a reversed trap call to a catch, the runners would have to return to their original base regardless of a throw to a base.

    Someone will be unhappy with a call as a reversed call will cost a base, perhaps a run, or perhaps the DP.

    As for the collisions at the plate, I'm all for getting rid of those. No more Ray Fosse's or Buster Posey's would be good. I never did understand why the catcher could block the plate but the not the fielders on the bases. I expect it was because of the catcher's armor.