December 5, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Umpiring .
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11/29/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Danny Waltonby Bruce Markusen
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11/27/2013: Towards an award prediction systemby Shane Tourtellotte
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11/26/2013: The role of prospects in tradesby Jeff Moore
11/25/2013: Stepping up to the plateby Frank Jackson
11/25/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about player birthdaysby Chris Jaffe
11/22/2013: The end of the road for Chris Carpenterby Chad Dotson
11/21/2013: All the news that’s fit to inventby Azure Texan
11/20/2013: Marcus Stroman, the mythbusting machineby Kyle Boddy
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11/19/2013: 2013 THT awards reviewby Greg Simons
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11/18/2013: Atlanta gets burned againby Frank Jackson
11/18/2013: The 2014 Hall of Fame VC ballotby Chris Jaffe
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11/15/2013: Card Corner: Wayne Granger: 1973 Toppsby Bruce Markusen
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10/23/2013: 20th anniversary: The Joe Carter gameby Chris Jaffe
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10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
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10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
10/21/2013: The best rivalries of 2013by Chris Jaffe
10/21/2013: World Series workhorsesby Frank Jackson
10/20/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/19/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/19/2013: WPS Recap: NLCS, 10/18/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/17/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Bob Baileyby Bruce Markusen
10/18/2013: The 2013 Atlanta Braves and core WARby James Gentile
10/18/2013: The best rookies of the ‘60sby Chad Dotson
10/17/2013: The Screwball: What about Bob Lemon?by Azure Texan
10/17/2013: WPS Recap: LCS, 10/16/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/16/2013: WPS recap: LCS, 10/15/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/16/2013: How much do we know about pitcher value?by Jason Linden
10/16/2013: 10th anniversary: the Aaron Boone Gameby Chris Jaffe
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April 23, 2012
Run Ryan, runThe last out of Philip Humber’s perfect game brought some controversy as an umpire’s call was questioned. The last pitch was on 3-2 count involving a called third strike on a checked swing.
The problem, though, was missed. The controversy should not be about the call itself, but Brendan Ryan’s reaction. Down to your last out in a 4-0 game, instead of attempting to get on base, you argue the call instead of running to first base?!? I think Ryan, if he would have run, probably would have been safe at first.
Yes, Ryan could have ended a perfect game by being safe and also the 27th out, since Humber would have been credited for the strikeout. In fact, if Ryan would have run, the discussion of Brian Runge’s call on the checked swing would have been muted immediately.
The real problem was Ryan’s lack of hustle.
Given that, I still want to take a look at Runge’s call. Interesting enough, it was one of the Fox national games, opposite the Red Sox and Yankees. Significantly, this means the game’s camera coverage was increased a bit.
We—at least, I—have not yet seen a first-base angle replay of the check swing. This leads some people to speculate that MLB is just trying to hide the fact that Runge’s call was incorrect. Most likely the reason for a lack of replay is less sinister.
The center field camera was used to record the pitch, and a normal set of cameras was prepared to cover the live action. Any remaining cameras available to record the batter and different angles probably were used to record the reaction of the White Sox’s dugout, Humber, etc.
Since checked swings are not a reviewable call, the production team has the option not to record it at every angle. Watching a replay of the last pitch and the events surrounding it, it is pretty clear the Fox production team was scrambling a bit. It was a fairly unique circumstance.
But here lies the problem with a fan’s expectation of replays and the reality of the production of a televised baseball game. If something is not reviewable, the production team is under little obligation be able to produce replay material for it. As I believe happened in Humber’s perfect game, Fox used extra cameras for entertainment value.*
*This is why, in a previous post about instant replay, I included uniform standards across games and stadiums for instant replay specifically so something like this could not happen on a reviewable call.
Like most people, Fox did not anticipate a called third strike on a checked swing where the catcher missed the ball and the batter argued before running to first.
Thus, we circle back to the real problem: Brendan Ryan didn’t run.
Posted by: Mat Kovach
March 12, 2012
Harry Wendelstedt career highlightsLast week, former umpire Harry Wendlestedt died at age 73. He was one of the longest-serving umpires in baseball history, arriving in the majors in 1966 and staying until the end of 1998. Along the way, he served in exactly 4,500 regular season games, 74 postseason ones, and a quartet of All-Star contests.
When someone notable in the baseball world passes, one thing I like to do here at THT is recount his career highlights, the greatest and most important games the guy served in and the memorable occasions he was on hand for. Umpires are, of course, part of the story, and a long-time umpire like Wendlestedt can end up serving in a remarkable and unusual number of memorable games. For instance, he personally worked home plate for five different no-hitters.
Thusm the list below, though long, is still but a smattering of the games Wendelstedt arbitrated.
Click for more...
Posted by: Chris Jaffe
June 02, 2011
A very non-statistical look at umpires and strike zonesMike Fast at Baseball Prospectus has done a good job, in two articles (here and here), looking at the nuances of the umpires' strike zones and pondering about why umpires get things wrong. Even the PITCHf/x data are almost a hindrance to discovery; based on how they are is collected and what is missing.
One big missing piece is where, exactly, the umpire is standing when the pitch is delivered. Umpires are taught to stand behind the catcher and position themselves to look high and inside to the batter. If the umpire is positioning himself to get his best view of high and inside, this would lead, based on how the eyes work and process the flight of a ball, to a low and outside pitch being one of the hard ones to follow. It makes perfect sense that those types of pitches cause the most questionable calls.
It also leads to the impression that if a ball is difficult to follow but it appears to go directly where it should (it hits the catcher’s mitt), it must be a good pitch. Some people would say that it's a "gut feeling’’ that the pitch is right when the eyes are confused.
Also, if we know the location of the umpire, we can understand if he is make a prediction on where the pitch might go. Of course if the umpire is attempting to predict the location of the pitch, it would be interesting to see how he calls the pitch if he guesses wrong.
It is this lack of information that make me shake my head and people talk about the need for more gut feelings in baseball. That type of decision-making can be affected by many things, including if you have recently eaten or not.
Note: Always schedule your parole hearing right after a food break. It also might be a good idea to make sure the umpires are fed well between innings.
So, not only do you have to worry about the statistical side of an umpire’s strike zone, but behavioral economics might be involved.
For a little bit of perspective, I wanted to see how called strikes, swinging strikes, balls, and the rest (hits, foul balls, etc.) were affected by the height of the pitch. I reasoned that the boundaries of the strike zone are biased toward the batter's ability to hit the ball. Just a simple bias about basic human limitation: if it is a borderline pitch that can't be hit, it is a ball. (This assumption does not have to be TRUE, but just a common assumption people make.)
I grabbed about 75,000 pitches from this year that were over the middle 12 inches of home plate. Then I split them between right- and left-handed batters and by the previously mentioned categories. This is an approach Mike discussed in his second article.
Between 0.6 feet and 3.8 feet, more than 1,000 pitches are present for each 0.2 feet in height. It should be noted that there is ONE 4.8 foot swinging strike. I suspect that is either a switching pitch-out or a misreported pitch. Sample sizes restrict accurate information from other height ranges. I had an average strike zone bottom of 1.6 feet and an average strike zone top of 3.4 feet.
A lot of things make sense.
At first look, the height of the pitch affects things very much as one would expect. Throwing to the middle of the plate in or around the strike zone is more likely to get you a ball in play or a strike, but generally a called strike. There are still a percentage of balls called, but upon some investigation those balls are due much more to varying heights of batters than to questionable calls by the umpire.*
* I did some minor corrections, normalizing batter strike zones and giving some variance for park corrections, and only about 1 percent of the ball calls between the top and bottom of the strike zone could be considered questionable. But it was a very quick and dirty method, so non-statistical that a statistician would rather remove his left foot with a dull butter knife than review it.
Umpires are calling a rather defined strike zone.
The real question is, does the graph above represent a real strike zone, as Mike suggested, defined by the players, or does it reflect the size of the strike zone as defined by the rules of baseball. Granted, the current size of the strike zone is smaller than written in the rule book, but if we changed the rule book strike zone would we change the size of the reflected strike zone?
Looking back at my graph, just around the average strike zone top and bottom swinging strikes increase and balls in play decrease. This seems to follow exactly what would happen if a batter swings at pitches near the edge of strike zone. We also see balls increasing and called strikes decrease (well, called strikes increase a bit, then tail off). This follows when a batter holds off at pitches near the edge of the strike zone.
Right around the strike zone there are two fairly clearly defined patterns; swinging or not swinging at pitches near the edge of the strike zone.
I say that the strike zone is defined by the batter results. If batters are swinging and missing at more pitches, the locations will be considered a ball. If batters are hitting the balls, swinging and missing less, the location will be considered a strike. Even if the size of the strike zone changes, the boundaries enforced by the umpire will be defined by that simple bias.
If a player has trouble putting the bat on the ball, it is a ball. If he swings and hits it, it is a strike. The strike zone is defined by the rule book, largely refined by the players and enforced by the umpires.
Posted by: Mat Kovach
April 13, 2010
Red Sox-Yankees slow gamesThe New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have garnered a lot of attention for their slow games, particularly their three-hour, 46-minute affair on opening day. I've been thinking about this since then, but Joe Posnanski's post today gave me the push I need to crunch the numbers. He compared the average times for intra-division games in the American League. The Yankees and Red Sox led the way with the longest games in 2009, while the Mariners-Rangers matchups were the shortest.
I compiled the numbers for 38 Yankees-Red Sox games and 41 Mariners-Rangers games for which we have pitch time data from 2008, 2009 and 2010. Here is the breakdown.
Boston-New York Seattle-Texas Event Each Per Game Each Per Game Time between innings 2:50 45:13 2:31 40:54 Pitching changes mid-inning 3:29 8:38 3:23 6:37 Time between at-bats, runners on 0:55 32:39 0:50 27:19 Time between at-bats, bases empty 0:43 15:55 0:38 14:05 Time between pitches, runners on 0:30 54:40 0:26 40:39 Time between pitches, bases empty 0:22 44:32 0:18 34:26 Other (rain delays, untimed pitches) --- 8:59 --- 4:20 Total --- 3:30:35 --- 2:48:19Thanks to MLB Advanced Media and Sportvision for providing the detailed pitch time data.
Posted by: Mike Fast
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