July 6, 2011

The Play At The Plate

Some screenshots of NESN's replays of the game's final play.

John McDonald singles. The ball is in the air, at the very top of the picture, headed to left field.
The ball is in Darnell McDonald's glove and Edwin Encarnacion races around third base.
McDonald throws the ball towards the plate.
Jason Varitek is in perfect position. Umpire Brian Knight is right on top of the play.
Varitek blocks Encarnacion's left leg, but is slow getting his glove down for the tag.
Here are two shots where it looks like Encarnacion's right foot/heel touches the plate a fraction of a second before Varitek can tag him out. (Or has his foot merely passed over the plate?) In the first one, Varitek has absolutely not yet tagged Encarnacion's leg.
We've seen plenty of umpires standing out of position on fairly routine plays, and their calls are clearly nothing more than guesses, but Knight is so well-positioned, he's practically in the middle of the play. (I am making my own guess here, but it looks like he is looking at Varitek's glove more closely than at Encarnacion's feet.)
Is it possible for a pair of human eyes (even those of a properly-trained umpire) to watch at least four different points (all but one of which are moving) at the exact same time and render an accurate (and immediate) decision as to whether something happened at one point maybe 1/100th of a second before something else happened at another point?

I don't think it is possible. Thus, in order to have the correct call made as often as possible, MLB must use existing technology (super slo-mo cameras positioned expressly for replays, the PITCHf/x cameras already installed in every park, the "electronic eyes" used on the lines in tennis matches, etc.).
Example
Also: On the NESN replay, Jerry Remy was gushing about Jason Varitek blocking the plate:
Now watch Varitek - and watch that left leg. ... Just blocks home plate!!! No chance of the foot getting in. Two great plays! The throw and the block! ... Look at that! [The replay shows Encarnacion may very well have been safe, and Remy is quiet for a full five seconds] Now the right foot might have got in, but I know the left foot didn't get in. ... What a way to end the game!
Because we all know that as long as the left foot doesn't touch home plate, the runner is out.

22 comments:

Roone said...

It's one game. Very awesome play nonetheless. I call it a 51/49 us split. Exciting.

Lenny Harris said...

It seemed as if all the umpire was looking for was whether Varitek held onto the ball. As soon as he saw that, he called Encarnacion out. This is a case of the appearance of a good block of the plate being better than an actual one. Great pix!

9casey said...

I don't think it is possible. Thus, in order to have the correct call made as often as possible, MLB must use existing technology (super slo-mo cameras positioned expressly for replays,



I have seen the play 15 times and still have no idea if he was out or safe... So do you think if replay was used that play would be overturned..........

Imagine that at the end of that game we had to wait 5 min. so they could watch a replay.......baseball is boring enough for some people imagine it with replay............

FenFan said...

I watched the replay a few times in slow motion using my DVR and could not tell for sure if there was enough "conclusive evidence" that Encarnacion's foot touched the plate, albeit briefly.

I DO agree, however, that this is an example where a review of the play in the booth is warranted.

Knight also blew another call on a check swing that he called a strike. The NESN replay seemed to show that the batter (I think it may have been McDonald) did not go around.

If you take away those missed strike calls to Patterson and Arencibia, then it's maybe one run allowed (Bautista's HR).

Papelbon's least-deserving save? You may be right. I did a quick check through the BBref Play Index for games that Pap saved and sorted by runs allowed. Not including last night, he has earned a save while allowing one or two runs 20 times. Three times, he has given up three hits; last night was the first time he allowed four and earned the save. Only once has he walked two batters. Last night was also only the third time he gave up two runs and still earned a save; one of the other two times was against Toronto in 2008.

laura k said...

baseball is boring enough for some people imagine it with replay

Because people who find the game boring are more important than whether a runner was out or safe?

Benjamin said...

I have seen the play 15 times and still have no idea if he was out or safe... So do you think if replay was used that play would be overturned.........

The NHL puts a goal camera inside the net; they don't just rely on the telecast cameras to hopefully get a good-enough shot.

Caffeinated Joe said...

I see it as calls happen like this for us and against us, and every other team, often enough during a season. Just the way it goes. The play we have seen replayed and frozen was a split second call for the ump. Has happened before, will happen again, just part of the sport!

allan said...

Imagine that at the end of that game we had to wait 5 min. so they could watch a replay.....

If Farrell had come out and argued with Knight for 5 minutes (with the possibility, however slight, of the call being reversed, so the final outcome was not 100% certain yet), would that be any better?

If the Sox lose a game and a playoff spot on an obvious blown call, is there even one Sox fan who will console himself with the thought that at least the game wasn't delayed 5 minutes to review the play?

And when it comes to looking at a replay, 5 minutes is an enternity. In most cases, the correct call can be determined in well under 1 minute.

It's no secret to anyone who reads JoS, but every day, I am more convinced that baseball needs to do something drastic about the many blown calls that happen night after night.

I used to defend the "human element" of the umpires, but there is no benefit in having strikes called balls and having runners who have been tagged out called safe.

Before instant replay, no one really knew how often an umpire missed a call. Everyone saw it only once (live), and that was it. Plus the umpire was the closest observer. Now everyone watching TV can know right away that the ump blew it. MLB has failed to adjust to that reality.

Making sure the calls are correct should be the only issue.

allan said...

I see it as calls happen like this for us and against us, and every other team, often enough during a season. Just the way it goes. ... just part of the sport!

This comment was in moderation when I typed my comment which appears below it, so I will repeat myself:

If the Red Sox lose a game and a playoff spot on an obvious blown call, is there even one Sox fan who will console himself with the thought that we got some wrong calls go our way during the season, and the umpires' mistakes probably even out, so, oh well, that's the way it goes?

Caffeinated Joe said...

Allan - I do see your point, and I am not against instant replay. I just see it as, for now, this happens for all teams, not just for or against the Sox. Instant Replay would be welcome by me, and I am sure many others!

Jim said...

Strong case, Allan, and you didn't even get into the umps' "personal strike zones" , some of which defy the rule book.
I'm all for using the technology for balls and strikes as well as expanding the reviewable plays. Put the K-zone thing on the big board for all to see. The ump simply raises his arm according to what all can see. The crowd will go nuts on every pitch. Also, when reviewing a play, flash the decision on the big board. The crowd again will go nuts (one way or another). There are still dozens of decisions for the ump to make as the game unfolds. They will continue to have all the control and most of the shit will be taken out of their hands. Win, win.

Jere said...

I think what this play came down to (for the ump) is that A. ball beats him B. plate was blocked C. tag made/ball held onto. Like you said, it's hard enough to watch all that and then notice the back foot sweeping across the plate. (Which very well could have gone above the plate as opposed to drag across it. Dirt flew across the plate but that came from where his foot hit in front of it. Maybe.)

Also, I don't think Tek was slow with the tag as much as he just thought he was gonna get run into, so he held the glove straight out, then, realizing the guy was sliding, put the tag down.

allan said...

WEEI's Full Count blog has a great gif that (I believe) shows clearly that Encarnacion scored the game-tying run.

laura k said...

I just see it as, for now, this happens for all teams, not just for or against the Sox.

I don't think anyone is claiming this issue is specific to the Red Sox.

9casey said...

Allan, would that call last night been reveresed ? I say no, just not enough evidence to reverse it, and if they did every Red Sox fan would then be pissed off..

allan said...

Allan, would that call last night been reveresed ? I say no, just not enough evidence to reverse it

I don't know. It was a very close call. It took many viewings for me to say with conviction that he was safe.

and if they did every Red Sox fan would then be pissed off..

I can only speak for myself: I'd be pissed at Papelbon, but not at the umpire or the process.

FenFan said...

It was a very close call. It took many viewings for me to say with conviction that he was safe.

While I agree 100% that replay should be instated, I'm going to pick on Allan's last statement here.

Honestly, to make replay successful, it needs to be instant. Should we allow for replay to take a half-hour? 15 minutes? Ten minutes? I hear the argument about maintaining integrity but you also need to consider delays to game play that not only makes the audience restless but also allows players to cool down, which might lead to injury.

I'm going to reference the NFL because that is where I am most familiar with its use. From the Wikipedia page on Instant replay in American and Canadian football: "The referee has 60 seconds to watch the instant replay of the play and decide if the original call was correct. The referee must see 'incontrovertible visual evidence' for a call to be overturned."

Again, as I stated earlier, I watched it a few times (and also seeing it from other angles) and the video replay I saw was not conclusive. I do agree that the pictures posted here do seem to show that it's possible that he did, in fact, make contact with the plate. If replay WAS part of the game and these pictures were available "instantaneously," then perhaps that would have been enough to overturn the call.

Kyle said...

Any one notice in the photos how Papelbon did NOT back up the throw? What the heck, man? You just allowed 4 hits but can't back up the throw??

gameday said...

Cases like this call for some sort of instant replay for plays at the bases. On problem that may arise is that the game could be crucially slowed down if every close play is reviewed. One idea is to adopt a system similar to the NFL, so coaches can challenge 1-2 plays a game. This should only apply to plays at the bases, never balls and strikes.

allan said...

On problem that may arise is that the game could be crucially slowed down if every close play is reviewed. One idea is to adopt a system similar to the NFL, so coaches can challenge 1-2 plays a game. This should only apply to plays at the bases, never balls and strikes.

I disagree -- strongly -- with all three of your points.

1. If done correctly, the game will not be slowed down at all. The way HRs are reviewed now is positively Flintstonian. One could be forgiven for thinking that it's a deliberately slow process designed to sour fans on further use of replay.

2. So after 2 challenges against a very shitty ump, a team now has to get fucked over by more bad calls? That sounds great!!!

3. Getting balls and strikes called correctly is absolutely essential. That is far more important than plays on the bases when it comes to accuracy.

9casey said...

Is it possible to set up a ball and strike contraption to be %100 correct all the time?

Would the players have to wear something .

Becuase the strike zone depends on the player not the ball or some magic box, right?

allan said...

MLB could use the FX system that is already in every park and used every night for Gameday. That would be a huge improvement. I am not 100% sure how it plots the zone for every one. But they could measure it for each player and have that stored in the system (with periodic updates and checks).