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March 13, 2014

Skewed Left

The Good and the Bad News About Instant Replay's Spring Trial

by Zachary Levine


I give it one year until there’s a fundamental change to Major League Baseball’s new replay system.

I’d give it even less time if we weren’t less than three weeks from baseball season. While MLB certainly isn’t opposed to going seat-of-the-pants on this, the league probably won’t want to make another major change so soon.

But in a year, I’m counting on it.

What we’ve learned from watching the first two weeks of replay review trials in spring training is that the lack of a deterrent is going to be a problem. “Don’t overanalyze spring training stats” might apply here too, but we already saw this coming. Tuesday’s Mariners-Angels game saw the 21st challenge of spring training and the end to a streak that you could see as either embarrassing for the game or good for the umpires, who were 20-for-20 in upholding the other 20 challenged calls.

And why not issue challenges that are unlikely to be upheld? In their January piece at Baseball Prospectus, Dan Brooks and Russell Carleton showed that there’s almost no reason to hold back from challenging anything. The only deterrent is running out of challenges, which would require three close calls in six innings to work against you, and that never happens.

If baseball was looking for an encouraging soft launch of its product, this hasn’t been it. Not even so much for the sideshows or for Joe Maddon already trying to beat the system, because you knew there’d be some of that, but for the managers’ 0-for-20 start, which was also somewhat predictable.

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Related Content:  Managers,  Umpires,  Instant Replay,  Challenges

25 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

whiffers13

I think the out option is way too extreme. I don't want to see a 26-out perfect game with a free out from a stupid challenge.
I don't think anyone would challenge anything.

Mar 13, 2014 04:40 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Dan Brooks
BP staff

You'd challenge if you thought the play was:

...called wrong with a high enough probability that the game needs to be stopped to get it fixed and
...important enough that the game needs to be stopped to get it fixed...

which is ideally the point of replay review.

Mar 13, 2014 07:01 AM
 
Luke in MN

I agree. Make it terrifying to fail on a challenge and keep them to a blessed minimum.

Mar 13, 2014 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
swarmee

I'm not sure if I'm reading it correctly, but you list the following:
1 out ~= 0.28 runs
1 ball ~= 0.36 runs
1 strike ~= 0.43 runs
Either ball or strike ~= 1/7 of an out.

Did you mean ball ~= 0.036 runs and strike ~= 0.043 runs?

Mar 13, 2014 04:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Fixed, thanks.

Mar 13, 2014 05:40 AM
 
BP staff member Zachary Levine
BP staff

Yes, 0.28 for an out, 0.036 for a ball and 0.043 for a strike. Thanks. -Z

Mar 13, 2014 05:41 AM
 
Mike W
(830)

It's taking way too long for the challenges to be reviewed. In the NFL fans watching the game almost always know the correct call before it goes to commercial. The NFL doesn't care that it takes two minutes because they're the NFL and they get that much more commercial time. Baseball - that's not gonna cut it. Make. A. Decision.

Mar 13, 2014 08:33 AM
rating: 2
 
Richie

ThisThisThisThisThis. A 'challenge' commercial in the NFL just replaces a commercial that would otherwise have been run after a punt. A commercial instead ran during a challenge, now instead they can start up play right away. Baseball you can't do that.

The second replay, I guarantee many casual TV viewers will click away just to avoid it. And a few will then stay with whatever they click to.

Mar 13, 2014 08:56 AM
rating: 0
 
Luke in MN

Yes, I hate waiting for the challenge in the NFL and I have really, really hated it in spring training. The game is slow enough already. This needs to be done with close to zero seconds wait.

But I guess I'm also not of the opinion that it's such a crime against humanity to have human error and its consequences out on the field. Especially when you are talking about 162 games. It comes out in the wash. If you can't stand winning or losing a game here or there on bad calls you probably don't have the patience for baseball anyway.

Mar 13, 2014 10:31 AM
rating: 1
 
MHaywood1025

I hate the idea of winning/losing a game on a bad call, and I'd wait all day if it meant the umps got the call right.

Mar 13, 2014 15:23 PM
rating: 4
 
Richie

2 simple solutions:

1), once you lose a challenge, you're out of them. The point is to appeal a play you've reason to believe they got wrong, not double check anything you want to.

2), every wrong challenge costs the franchise a thousand bucks, or some amount more if you think that's not enough. Billionaire owners became billionaires in the first place by really really caring about money. No, they're not going to just wave away the onfield manager pissing it away. Everybody's on some kind of budget when it's their money.

Mar 13, 2014 09:01 AM
rating: -1
 
bhalpern

Is there any possibility MLB has asked managers to just use the challenge whenever there is a very close play just to exercise the system and possibly work out any kinks in the process? It would make sense for them to do that.

Mar 13, 2014 09:23 AM
rating: 2
 
RossBukouricz7

This apparently has been happening: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/249356871.html

Mar 13, 2014 11:29 AM
rating: 1
 
jdeich

The Maddon article is fascinating. (Example: Runner on second, two outs. Batter grounds out on a close play. Maddon is drilling the runner to run hard and try to score while the defense is napping in case he wants to challenge the call at first.)

Of course, the counter-Maddon strategy has defenses running around tagging random runners after the third out has been signalled by an umpire, just in case.

These are clear incentives inherent to the replay system, but it also raises the risk of an injury (to either team), looks unsportsmanlike, and it will be confusing to fans.

Under the current system, a "close play" can be defined pretty loosely, because you lose almost nothing for trying. Plus, the runner is probably not going to get much of a glance, so he may try this even if the runner was out by a full step.

Mar 13, 2014 09:56 AM
rating: 0
 
kmostern

Why not a given number of challenges for the season? Do some decent analysis of how many calls were actually argued last year, add 10%, and call that the number of challenges you get. Or come up with some other method for figuring the number, but limit the number pretty carefully. Bet no one uses a single challenge in the first half of the year, and yes there might be some egregious challenges at the end (you can still of course limit the per game challenges in September, or add an umpire's discretion similar to the 7th through 9th innings now), but you'd accomplish what the per game limit is suppose to accomplish without creating the incentive to slow down the game stupidly all season.

Mar 13, 2014 10:00 AM
rating: 1
 
wildavies

Award a ball or strike to the other team, but allow them to use it whenever they like. Or during the next inning.

Mar 13, 2014 10:07 AM
rating: 2
 
spncrpatterson

I guess I'm missing the reason for needing a deterrent. At most there's going to be four challenges a game, and as you point out, they're happening rather quickly. So...what's the problem? Just because the managers started off 0-20 doesn't really mean anything either. Everyone's just getting adjusted to the system.

Running out of challenges is deterrent enough. If there's a close call at first base in the first inning I bet many managers would hold off challenging that for fear of not having one available for a close call in a close game in the 8th.

Mar 13, 2014 10:11 AM
rating: -1
 
SC

No challenges after the 6th inning, so the "threat" of running out in the late-game is not a concern. The reason is that without a deterrent, there are clear incentives for managers to make spurious challenges that waste everyone's time and detract from the game.

Mar 13, 2014 13:47 PM
rating: 0
 
Johnson Magic

re: the Maddon article, while I applaud him instructing his team to play hard to their fullest advantage, wouldn't the umpires apply a form of "dead ball" reset to the game play? Same way a ground-rule double isn't, in fact, automtically a double, but the umpires awarding base-runners bases using their judgement of where they would have normally advanced (not that they ever award a speedster a triple, but still - per rules it's their judgement to place runners).

So, for instance, runner on second, two outs, upon review batter is safe on what had been ruled a ground out at first, runner from second awarded third, not home.

By Maddon's logic EVERY time a base-runner is called out at first to end an inning you should not just challenge the call, but the runner should continue to second (or beyond) if the defense leaves the field. Just keep running Forrest Gump style.

That falls a lot closer to the "cluster-f&*$" side of things than it does to being good ol' fashioned hustle.

Mar 13, 2014 10:36 AM
rating: 0
 
Ogremace

I can see where this is going: first people can't bear all the incorrect calls, then they cant bear to sit through the replays. Perhaps the solution is keeping them to a minimum, not to save time but so that the plays being reviewed are important enough to keep people's interest.

Mar 13, 2014 11:34 AM
rating: 0
 
Geoff Young

Challenging a call also seems like a good way to get your reliever a few extra warmup tosses in the bullpen.

Mar 13, 2014 12:13 PM
rating: 0
 
bhalpern

No challenges after the 6th so that shouldn't be much of an issue.

Mar 13, 2014 13:07 PM
rating: 0
 
Geoff Young

Maybe, maybe not. Two-thirds of MLB starts last year lasted fewer than seven innings.

Mar 13, 2014 14:50 PM
rating: 0
 
therealn0d

I say award bases. I haven't done the thought experiment out to imagine the ways it could be abused, but then, the leading cause of problems is solutions.

Mar 13, 2014 12:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Adrian

I think punishing with outs or even balls or strikes is going too far. We'll start having to adjust metrics for players that happen to be involved whenever there's a challenge that goes wrong. And as much as i don't want the decisions of games to come about as a result of blown calls, I don't want them coming about due to erroneous challenges, either.

No, I think the best method is to reduce the number of challenges available if they fail. Or make it so none of that team's players can call for time in the next inning.

That's the beauty of the challenge system in football - while losing a TO does impact your ability to win in a small way, the reality is that it doesn't alter or change any of the actual performance on the field or change the score or components of the score.

Baseball's deterrent system, should it choose to implement one, should operate similarly.

Mar 17, 2014 14:02 PM
rating: 0
 
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