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Look, I’ve been busy, all right?

September 5, 2009

Yunel Escobar was called out in tonight’s Reds-Braves game after getting hit by a thrown ball while running to first base in fair territory. It was the right call. However, lots of times, the umpires don’t make the right call there. (It only seems like it only happens to the Braves, I’m sure.) But I think I figured out why it doesn’t happen all the time, and it’s not because the umpires are incompetent.

Here’s the thing. If the umpires make that call all the time, then the pitchers, catchers, and first basemen who make the plays will have a fun time. They won’t have to try to throw to first base and miss the runner, and they’ll just nail the runner in the back. That’s probably something you want to avoid. So the umpires only call it sometimes. I’m not saying that’s the best way to go necessarily, but I’m guessing that’s why.

Bobby Cox was ejected for arguing (again, the right call). It’s his career 150th ejection.


Umpires get one right, eventually

August 23, 2009

Baseball Video Highlights & Clips | PHI@NYM: Umps say Francoeur made catch, Manuel tossed – Video | Multimedia

“How many horrible calls can we see?”

Top of the ninth, Mets-Phillies; my bĂȘte noire, Jeff Francoeur, before hitting into his now-infamous game-ending unassisted triple play (who else could do that?) makes a nice sliding catch of a fly ball. The umpire, however, says that it’s not a catch, even though as the broadcasters say, it wasn’t even close. Jeffy, like the whiny little brat he basically is, throws a tantrum and gets in the umpire’s face. (He had a case, but I won’t ever give up a chance to make fun of Francoeur.) The umpires put their heads together and reversed the call.

Charlie Manuel came out to complain. I guess he had to, but normally when it’s that obvious the argument is only pro forma. But he kept at it, during the inning break, and eventually said the magic word or something, because Mark Wegner tossed him. Really, Manuel had to let it go. I’m with the umpires on this one — except for the idiot who made the terrible call to begin with. Maybe he should have been ejected.


August 23, 2009

Brian McCann just drew a walk on three balls and a strike. Not a strike that was called a ball — a foul ball strike.

Checking in…

August 23, 2009

Sorry for nothing this week, I have some health issues that limit my typing. Anyway, Tim Tschida just called the same runner out twice on a ground ball. Second time, he was right.

I really don’t know the rules

August 17, 2009

Thompson’s suspension pleases Wright | News
Giants’ Cain has rough night following Wright beaning – San Jose Mercury News

This isn’t my big Hit By Pitch essay, which I hope to write later this week and is basically an indictment of the entire umpiring profession. Last week, nobody reliever Brad Thompson was fined and suspended for throwing at David Wright. Soon after, star starter Matt Cain actually hit Wright in the head, sending the third baseman to the hospital with a concussion and jeopardizing his career. Cain was not punished.

There are two ways of looking at this. In one case, Cain was not punished because he didn’t mean to hit Wright, while Thompson, who didn’t hit Wright at all, did mean to. It seems morally questionable to me. “I didn’t mean to hurt him, it was an accident!” People get punished all the time for causing injuries they didn’t really mean to. To my mind, the question is less if Cain wanted to hit Wright than if he cared if he did. That’s the story of the great beanings throughout history. Carl Mays didn’t mean to hit Ray Chapman; he just didn’t care if he did.

The other way of looking at it is that Cain is a star and Thompson is a scrub with a 5.13 ERA who is about a week from being released.

Oh, don’t say that!

August 14, 2009

Hawkins upset after receiving fine | News

LaTroy Hawkins, as if he didn’t have enough problems with the shingles, was fined last week — an undisclosed amount but enough that he thought it was too much — for saying that Mike Everitt “wanted” the Cubs to win a late July game. Everitt had ejected Hawkins for — say it with me — arguing balls and strikes. In point of fact, according to the Pitch F/X data, Everitt made a clear mistake on only one pitch Hawkins threw — an outside pitch he called a strike. However, three borderline high pitches, any of which could have been called a strike, were called balls. Hawkins works up in the zone.

Baseball is — understandably — very sensitive to any accusation that its umpires might not be neutral. Personally, I’m surprised that they didn’t suspend Hawkins. In other words, he should shut up and take his medicine. Obviously, if Everitt had decided who would win the game, that would be a huge scandal, but there’s really no evidence of that. Tempers run high.

Bochy on a rampage

August 12, 2009

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants – Box Score – August 12, 2009 – ESPN

Gary Darling ejected him this time. Apparently we’ve had bad calls and a reversal. More later.

UPDATE: It appears that the game was a badly umpired affair all around — but that Bochy was wrong and Darling right on the call at first leading to the ejection. On the other hand, Pablo Sandoval was apparently hit by a pitch — I have a long rant on HBP saved up, though I don’t know when I’ll be able to write it — but the umpire ruled that he fouled it off his bat. Nonetheless, there was a bases-clearing brawl milling about after the pitch. And then in the top of the ninth, Darling pulled a rare two-fer, ejecting the Giants’ acting manager Ron Wotus, leaving the team in the hands of the third-base coach. Wotus was arguing a safe call at first on a Rafael Furcal grounder; Furcal probably should have been called out (it was very close, but I thought the throw beat him) and later came around to score the tying run.

Real-time Awful Umpiring!

August 12, 2009

Watching the Braves-Nats game, and Larry Vanover has ejected somebody on the Nationals, probably hitting coach Rick “My Brother Can’t Throw” Eckstein. After stealing second with one out, Nyjer Morgan took off for third. He was obviously safe — one of those “the throw beat him but the tag didn’t” plays. Vanover called him out anyway. Riggleman came out to argue, fairly briefly and gently, then went back into the dugout. The batter at the plate, Cristian Guzman, then singled over short, “costing” the Nats a run. (Obviously, we don’t know what would have happened if Morgan had been at the plate; Tommy Hanson probably would have thrown a different pitch. Also, you can argue that Morgan trying to steal third “cost” them a run, as he would have scored from second — as he did in the first inning.)

Anyway, the Nats’ dugout started complaing again, and Riggleman came out to argue again. Vanover then tossed someone. I at first thought it was Riggleman, but then Eckstein came out on the field and really went after Vanover; Riggleman and the third base coach held him back, but Chip Caray — who is wrong about many, many things — says an ejected coach coming on the field is a suspendable offense.

I’m surprised more coaches don’t get ejected. If I was a hitting coach, I’d bitch at the umpire all game. There’s nothing a hitting coach can’t do just as well from the clubhouse.

Bill Hohn is cheating on Bobby Cox!

August 11, 2009

Calls, opener go L.A.’s way
cascreamindude: Ejections: Bill Hohn (9)

Ah, Billy Hohn. I think he’s the worst umpire in baseball. I will admit a bias — he has ejected nine people this year, and five of them are Braves (counting Bobby Cox twice). He is really the perfect storm of bad umpiring. He has a quick temper, and a quick trigger, he baits players, and above all he is bad at his job. You could deal with the rest if it wasn’t for that. Take for instance, this pitch plot:


The green dot was the third pitch of a four-pitch AB by J.D. Drew against Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty. The count was 0-2; Drew took the pitch, which was, as you see, clearly a strike. Hohn, because he is bad at his job, called it a ball. Drew hit the next pitch off the wall in left field to give the Red Sox the lead. O’Flaherty, and Cox, were understandably upset. Hohn, as I wrote in my recap of that game, “went crazy” and ejected both of them and went up the third-base line to eject Chipper Jones as well. Ejecting a team’s best player when he’s standing sixty feet away is certainly going overboard. Later in the year, he ejected Cox and Brian McCann, the Braves’ other offensive star. McCann was upset when Hohn called a strike against him on a pitch that was a good foot outside; this came after spending most of the game calling a tiny strike zone. A glimpse — I haven’t studied in detail — of pitch charts from Hohn’s games shows that he normally does call a small strike zone, with many pitches that if not right down the middle are in the middle section of the zone called balls. This is the same game that ended with his now-infamous fist bump with Marlin catcher John Baker, which certainly gave the appearance of impropriety. Is it any wonder that I wrote that Hohn “seems to have a vendetta against the Braves”?

Mustaches ahoy!

Mustaches ahoy!

He has ejected more Braves than anyone else this year, but I’m guessing he leads the majors in ejections generally. There have been 121 ejections this year; Hohn is responsible for nine, or seven percent. There are 96 umpires in the majors; not all of them are full-time, but obviously Hohn has ejected far more than his share. He’s ejected more than his entire crew’s share.

Last night wasn’t a balls and strikes issue. He ejected Bruce Bochy for arguing about two calls at first base. I can’t find video, but in one instance it seems that the hitter beat the throw to the bag, and in the other that the first baseman both dropped the ball and came off the bag. Bochy was rightly furious; Hohn was his usual arrogant self. I wonder if the other umpires are getting fed up with having to defend him; note Gary Darling’s comments and actions in the “fist bump” story linked above. If the past is any guide, we’ll be dealing with Hohn again.


August 11, 2009

Over the weekend, perhaps the two biggest stars in the game, Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols, were hit by pitches. In neither case does it seem that the pitcher was actually throwing at the batter. On Saturday, Jim Joyce ejected Ramon Ramirez for hitting Rodriguez with one out and a runner on base in a 2-0 game, in the seventh inning. A warning had been issued in the first inning, but it seems extremely unlikely that Ramirez was throwing at A-Rod. I have a certain sympathy for Joyce in this situation, in that any Yankees-Red Sox game is a powderkeg and he was most likely trying to keep anything from starting. But it seems clear there was no intent here, and Ramirez was unfairly tossed. Not that it mattered; the Red Sox wouldn’t have scored if the game had gone twenty innings.

On Sunday, it happened again; Pirates closer Matt Capps, who had just blown a 3-2 eighth-inning lead by giving up a two-run homer, hit Pujols, and was ejected by Mike Estabrook. Tony LaRussa thinks that Capps was throwing at Pujols, but I generally ignore anything LaRussa has to say, and Pujols in his turn (though he stared out at the mound) said he didn’t think Capps was throwing at him. (Capps, of course, denied it, but that’s meaningless.)

I think in both cases the umpires overreacted, but were overreacting in a situation where it’s understandable, because things could get out of hand. I should point out that in both cases the HBP (and maybe the ejection) cost the pitcher’s team. Rodriguez scored on a bases-loaded walk, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead that might as well have been 30-0. Pujols scored in front of a Ludwick double as the Cards broke the game open. There’s already a cost to hitting a batter, and it’s why you generally aren’t going to throw at anyone in a close game. It’s in the blowouts that the umpires need to be cautious.