Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is It Time For Robot's To Call Balls and Strikes

Beyond the Boxscore poses an interesting argument. They think it's time for the some sort of automative system to call balls and strikes based on a tracking device. Below is a picture of gameday's placement of the pitches during Pat Burrell's at bat in the 5th inning.

BTB goes onto say:
Pitches 6 and 4 were either fouls or swinging strikes with pitch 1 being a favorable called strike. Where did pitches 5 and 9 miss? Well, I don't know, actually. Even the Fox Track thing, which I don't entirely trust, had them within the strike zone. Essentially Kazmir struck Burrell out, twice. Instead Burrell walked, Kazmir was lifted, and Grant Balfour had to work his way out of a jam.

I'm not going to say that if we had robot strike callers last night the outcome would've been different. For one, knowing MLB, the robots would've short circuited in the rain, and two, using results based analysis we know the game is tied. However I question the judgment of anyone who places tradition or anything else over getting calls like these right in every game, and especially in the biggest games.

It hasn't changed the outcome of the series, but when the gold standard of umpires are getting this many calls wrong, it might time to implement instant replay and robots.

Dave Pinto at Baseball Musings:
It strikes me that there should be some electronic way to determine if the ball crossed the plate. Either a transponder or a local GPS system. It would then be up to the umpire to call the ball high or low. That's the tough call, because every batter has a different strike zone based on height and stance. Take away one dimension from the umpire, and you make their job a bit easier.

While I can go back and forth on this one, I firmly believe that with Bud Selig running the show, any implementation of this type of system would be an absolute disgrace. So before they start adding robots into the booth, they should replace him.

Kid Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

I don't know... maybe this kid wanted to take out the ref... maybe not. Just seems like too much of a coincidence. My guess, his dad hates ref's and this young guy wanted to make daddy proud.

Via KATU: (from Deadspin)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- A young child drove a golf cart onto a high school football field and hit a referee before the start of the game last week.

The incident happened before the Thurston and North Eugene high school football game Oct. 17.

Security camera footage captured the scene.

The golf cart emerges on the field and drives toward the unsuspecting official.

People can be seen chasing the golf cart across the field.

Afterward, people attend to both the referee and the child in the golf cart.

The child, who was not a Springfield School District student, did not intend to hit the referee but couldn't control the cart, said Jeff DeFranco with the school district.

Details are sparse at this time regarding why the child was on the cart or whether the referee suffered any injury.

DeFranco said a spectator told him the referee officiated the game after the incident.

Slow motion still camera video can also be seen by clicking on the link. It's actually quite humorous.

MLB Umpires CBA Needs Revisited

I have always respected Ken Rosenthal. He's up in the Buster Olney, Jayson Stark category in my book. One of the best. Actually, I was priviledged enough to shake his hand in a game in Philly this past year. True story, my buddies and I went to a Mets/Phillies game earlier this summer which was broadcast on Fox. During the 9th inning a fight broke out down the first base line between fans - typical stuff really. We were sitting in the left field bleachers and we could clearly see punches being thrown from all the way across the field. The action on the field was delayed and Billy Wagner took a few steps off the mound. The whole stadium was aware of what was happening. The guy doing most of the punches was wearing a Mets jersey was taken away in handcuffs to the approval of the roaring crowd. Upon completion of the game, my 2 buddies and I proceed to exit the stadium and head to our car. I'm wearing a Mets Reyes jersey, my buddy's wearing an Phillies Utley jersey. As we're making our way around the stadium, out from the media entry walks Ken Rosenthal, dragging his little pull behind suitcase. Immediately I say, "Rosenthal!" and he smiles and pulls up to walk beside us. We shake hands and we begin talking. The first words out of his mouth, "That wasn't you down the first base line was it?" Haha... that Rosenthal, always very witty. We shared a laugh and a few stories as we walked. It was a cool moment for a fan. So everytime I see him, I think back to that afternoon.

Last night, Rosenthal shows up again - this time in his black overcoat, protected by his overly large black umbrella, and thick black gloves standing in the dugout. He appeared visibly frustrated as he began talking about how the umpires cannot work back to back World Series and how that is a problem. He continued his rant in an article he wrote last night on
"The umpires are less under Selig's control; their collective-bargaining agreement restricts the use of the best umps in the playoffs and World Series. That's right, umpires cannot work in back-to-back postseason series in a single year or in back-to-back World Series.

The latter provision is plainly ridiculous; if the best players can teams can qualify for the World Series two years in a row, why can't the best umpires? When the umpires' CBA expires after next season, Selig should demand a change."
The reason for this, according to Rosenthal, is to promote those umpires that would not otherwise have the opportunity to work in a high profile series. In other words, there's a good chance that the best umpires would be working in the World Series every year which would therefore prevent younger or "not as good" umpires to call games in the Fall Classic. Sounds fair though right?

Hmmm... why does this sounds familiar? Oh yeah! Could this be something along the same lines as this whole "redistribution of wealth" thing?

The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is the absolute horrible calls during this year's Fall Classic. Let's face it... sometimes what sounds good on paper turns out to be an absolute disaster. Sorry to throw in that little political plug, but think about the brutal calls during this World Series as a potential foreshadowing to what could possibly happen if a certain politician is elected next Tuesday. Rewarding the undeserving sometimes has costly repercussions.

Oh... and Ken, if you're out there... hit me up at

Frosted Flakes

Lost in all the chaos of last night's suspended game, and the unknown of when game 5 will resume was the fact that Kellogg's Frosted Flakes behind the plate was absolutely brutal. His strike zone seemed to changed like the wind, and quite frankly seemed to favor Philly all night long (except the Utley call for a strike on 3-1 with the bases loaded). The biggest winner in the whole thing was Pat Burrell who should have been called out on strikes twice - once in the 1st and once in the 5th. During the 1st inning Shane Victorino would follow with a single to give the Phils their only 2 runs of the game. Those 2 runs would have never crossed the plate if not for a shifting strike zone by Frosted Flakes. Philly fans should be thankful this game is tied at 2, and that they are not losing this game heading to the bottom of the 6th.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What Happens When Replay Goes Wrong?

It seems that officiating recently has gone from bad to worse. From the absolute brutal umpiring in the World Series, to the bad calls that we've seen in both college and the NFL this year, it seems as if the easy answer to fix these errors (pointing the finger my way also) is instant replay. Mike and Mike both agree (gasp... WHAT!?!) that instant replay should be implemented more into baseball and also to create a way to get around the whole no timeout thing in the NFL. Even PFT, which seems to be the "go-to" NFL blog weighs in at the Sporting News with this:
The easy fix is to go back to the old rules. So what if it takes a little extra time to get the call right? Too much is riding on the outcomes of these games to rush the process.

But if saving time still takes precedence over being accurate, why not make replay automatically available on any play when the question is whether a team scored, whether a turnover happened, or whether a first down was achieved? The challenge system can be maintained for all other situations.

At a bare minimum, the league should allow the booth to initiate replays with less than five minutes to go in each half.

But what happens when Replay goes wrong? You'd be amazed, but we've seen it happen many times. For instance, when Al Michaels will say something about how "they won't overturn this", and there's "not enough inconclusive evidence", and you the viewer seem to agree with him, but sure enough the referee emerges from his little review hideout to overturn the call and you wonder what angle he was even looking at. This past weekend, there was another case where the replay booth got it wrong! Over at The Detroit Free Press, Big Ten commish admits an error was made during the Michigan / Michigan State game:
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the decision by a replay official to award Michigan’s Brandon Minor with a touchdown against Michigan State on Saturday, overruling the on-field referee’s call, was “not acceptable.”
Minor leaped to make a 19-yard catch from Steven Threet and landed out of bounds, causing the on-field referee to rule the play incomplete. The replay official overturned the call, saying Minor’s foot hit the pylon. According to NCAA rules, however, an airborne player that touches a pylon is considered out of bounds.
Will there be punishment?
“I haven’t decided yet, but we may,” he said. “I doubt if we do anything publicly, but there has to be an understanding that we expect on the field and in the booth 100% knowledge of the rules, applying the right rule to the right situation. You might make a mistake in terms of judgment, but I expect our officials to know the rules and apply the right rule to the right situation. We didn’t do that, and that’s not acceptable.”
Well... at least Delany is serious about fixing the problem. And thankfully this blown call did not affect the outcome of the game as Michigan State eventually won the game. But this is a reminder to all that think instant replay will fix the problem, sometimes even the replay guys get the call wrong.

Weekend Bad Calls

In a weekend with a few bad calls - it seems like the World Series (and more specifically Philadelphia) will lead the way in the bad call department. My eyes can only be on so many games, and by going on a retreat and only being able to watch Penn State / Ohio State saturday night and the Eagles/Falcons game on Sunday followed by the Phils win last night - it seems like I was fortunate to catch the games where the umpires/referees were..... awful!

Starting with the Penn State game - I'm not going to get real picky here, because lets face it, we'd prefer the refs keep their hankies in their pockets most of the time rather than littering the field with yellow. Ohio State fans could argue that this was not an evenly called game - I believe there were only 4 calls the whole game but all of them were called on the Buckeyes. However, if you watched the game, you would have noticed that Ohio State was also repeatedly holding the Penn State's defensive end's. Quite frankly, they had no choice, the Penn State D-ends were much quicker than the OSU offensive line. This game would have not been as close as it was if the refs would have even called just a few of the obvious holding calls. Chris Fowler also mentioned this at halftime. Overall though - I thought the officials did a better job of not being overly picky with their calls.

Next - Game 3 of the World Series. Another game, another bad call. Each team has had to suffer through some bad calls, but in this game it went the Rays way and they capatalized on the opportunity. Down 4-1 in the 7th, and needing something to go their way, Carl Crawford sent a dribbler up the first base line. How any pitcher can make this play, much less, "the ageless one" is beyond a miracle. Moyer slides, scoops, and flips the ball to Howard all in one motion and beats Crawford by a half step! Great play right? Not according to first base umpire Tom Hallion. Safe was the call, Crawford would later score and the next inning we had a tie ball game. Thankfully for Hallion and Philly fans - the Phils would have the last laugh and win on a walk off single. Meanwhile, Moyer and Joe Paterno returned back home about the same time.

Jumping over to the NFL, and again we stay in Philadelphia. In yesterday's Falcons/Eagles game, a great game was interrupted with a couple of questionable calls. The first one was a horrible "lets protect the Quarterbacks" call. According to the reading eagle,
"there was little doubt that the officials erred in flagging Trent Cole for roughing the passer in the first quarter. Cole's raised hand hit Matt Ryan on the passing arm as he drove the rookie quarterback to the ground, and did not touch Ryan's helmet."
The AJC chimes in with this - which was probably the worst call of the weekend:
"The officiating crew took away any chance of a Falcons comeback. They ruled that Adam Jennings muffed a punt that the Eagles recovered with 2:22 left in the game and the Falcons trailing by six points. Replays appeared to show that Jennings did not touch the ball. The call effectively ended the game —- the Eagles scored a touchdown two plays later. The Falcons could not challenge the play because they had no timeouts left."

Lastly, the World Series game 4. It didn't take the umpires long to make their first blunder of this game. This time it happened with the Phils batting in the first. With runners on the corners, 1 out and Ryan Howard at the plate, a ball is hit back to the pitcher who mistakenly doesn't start the double play. Instead, he gets Rollins into a rundown and throws to 3rd to get him out. Rollins slide's into 3rd well after the tag of Longoria, but for some reason is called safe. Wasn't even close. Even the Philly announcers on the radio (who are the biggest homer announcers out there) are questioning the call. It was a brutal start to the game for the Rays. Rollins would eventually score, and momentum was on the Phils side the rest of the night.

To sum it up. Dave Brown @ BLS asks this important question:
"But what's with the amateurish umpiring in the series? Controversies in every game, most of them hurting Tampa Bay, and none of them reviewable by Bud Selig's holy grail, instant replay."

I hate to get into the discussion as much as anybody... but at least 2 of the 4 really bad calls could have been prevented by a quick review. I don't think missed 3rd strikes, a hit batsmen, or did he balk will ever be reviewable - but these close plays at the bases need to be reviewable! Do whatever it takes to get it done Bud!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Umpire Blunders - World Series

So far, we've seen some strange calls this world series from our umpires. While I haven't been able to watch every pitch because of other obligations, I have seen and heard enough to know that our favorite men in blue aren't doing enough to stay out of the spotlight.

During last night's game: Kerwin Danley had 2 calls that were clearly missed. The first was the strange strike 3, no maybe not call during Rocco Baldelli's at bat early in the game. Via Dave Pinto at Baseballmusings:

With Navarro at first after a single, Baldelli appears to strike out on a 3-2 pitch. He tried to check his swing, but the pitch looked to me like it caught the outside corner. The home plate ump's (Danley) right hand goes up as if calling a strike, but then points to first for help. The first base ump says no swing, and Baldelli goes to first. Even if it was a check swing, it looked like a strike. A bad and confusing call there.

Danley would not be finished... his 2nd bad call of the night came during the 9th inning with Jimmy Rollins up as the potential tying run. This time a David Price fastball brushed the jersey of Rollins, who heard and felt the ball hit him. He immediately looked at the ump, and even the always observant, watches no baseball during the regular season, Joe Buck noticed the non-call before the replay. Replay's confirmed the ball did in fact hit Rollins, but he was not awarded first base. It turned out to be a big non-call as Rollins would eventually pop out to the shortstop. 3 batters later, the rally and the game was over. Series tied 1-1, and Bud Selig sends Danley his bonus check.

But... could Danley have simply been getting back at the Phils for a missed call during game 1? If you recall, there was an obvious balk that was not called (ok... maybe not obvious), but the missed call prevented what would have been man on 2nd with no outs and down 1 run during the 6th inning for the Rays. With the momentum shift back in the Phils (and Hamels) favor after that play, he would get the next two guys out, inning over.

Even Duk at BLS agreed this was a balk and Carlos Pena should have been awarded 2nd base. This would have put a man in scoring position with no outs and Longeria and Crawford up with a chance to tie the game. One could argue that Hamels didn't give up a hit and therefore Pena would have not scored anyway, but with a momentum shift like that you never know if Cole reacts differently with a man on 2nd no outs, versus nobody on base and 1 out.

In case you were wondering... the first base umpire during game 1: Kerwin Danley

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update on Tackling Ref via Deadspin gives us this update:

The umpire in question is Wilbur Hackett Jr. and even though every sane observer says it looked intentional when he stepped up, dropped his shoulder, and laid out the scrambling quarterback, the folks in charge (including USC coach Steve Spurrier) say it's no big whoop.
But the SEC office believes Hackett was protecting himself and plans to take no disciplinary action on the veteran official. Rogers Redding, the conference's coordinator of football officials, reviewed the tape of the play and thought it was inadvertent contact.
"Garcia changes his direction just a tad, which ties up the umpire just a tad and makes it look a lot worse than it really was," SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said.
So just a harmless "inadvertent" collision, right? Until you learn that Hackett just so happens to be a former Parade High School All-American and a three-year starter at linebacker for Kentucky in the late '60s. So unless Hackett had some sort of acid flashback to his playing days (or the patrons of a rogue BW-3 franchise called in a hit on Gracia so they could keep eating mini-corn dogs), I still say something fishy is going here. Maybe Garcia said something foul about Zinedene Zidane's sister?

Espn adds this:
When contacted by ESPN's Joe Schad, the Southeastern Conference office said after reviewing the play, it believes the umpire was in appropriate position. A spokesman said the umpire raised his arm to defend himself after a change of direction by the runner.

I just watched that video again, and there's no way that was an accident. Definitely a flashback to the linebacker days. This guy misses playing that's for sure... looks like he's got the right job though to keep him happy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chiefs Upset at Missed Field Goal Call

Read this over at PFT. The AP reported yesterday that the Chiefs were upset that a field goal was called "No Good" after the ball appeared to go directly over the uprights. By rule this play is unreviewable. Here's part of the AP report:

With the Chiefs trailing 10-0 early in the quarter, kicker Nick Novak thought he had curled a 49-field goal inside the left upright. But the officials standing up the goal posts ruled the kick no good, leading to boos from the fans in Arrowhead Stadium and arguments from the Chiefs.

Kansas City coach Herm Edwards threw the red replay flag to dispute the call, but was told by referee Gene Steratore that only field goals crossing below the top of the goal posts are reviewable. Television replays appeared to show the kick curl just inside the upright, but above the top of the post.

As PFT mentions... maybe it's time to raise the bar, and make the uprights stretch higher into the air.

Ref Tackles Player

This is the type of thing you'd expect to see in lower level football, or perhaps more likely the WWE, not a high profile College Football game on National TV. For whatever reason, the ref in this video literally throws a shoulder into the South Carolina quarterback as he scrambles through the middle of the field. Seriously... did he forget what uniform he was wearing. I didn't believe it when I first read about it, but watching this video makes you really scratch your head and wonder what he was thinking: