May 2, 2014
What You Need to Know
A Busy Thursday in Baseball
The Thursday Takeaway
It was cold and miserable at Target Field. The Twins were starting Mike Pelfrey and Kris Johnson; the Dodgers had Red Patterson going in the nightcap. All of these things contributed to the eight hours and 12 minutes of sometimes-ugly baseball that Welke was responsible for overseeing. None of them would serve as an adequate excuse when he struggled to do so.
The expansion of replay both relieves umpires of the pressure of making irreversible (and inevitable) mistakes and puts those that they do make out there for everyone to see. As Hardball Talk writer and avid Twins follower Aaron Gleeman tweeted amid Welke’s rough afternoon, the latter aspect might shake an umpire’s confidence. It might make a bad day even worse.
Welke was at second base in the first game of the twin bill at Target Field. In the fifth inning, he denied the Dodgers a slick, 6-4 double play by ruling that Brian Dozier had beaten Hanley Ramirez’s flip to Dee Gordon at the bag.
The Dodgers challenged, replay proved Welke wrong, and the call was corrected to “out.”
In the eighth inning, Welke granted the Dodgers a 6-4 fielder’s choice, ruling that Gordon caught the throw from Ramirez and dropped the ball on the transfer (which would not have been a completed catch earlier in the season but is now).
The Twins challenged, replay proved Welke wrong again, and the call was overturned to “safe.”
Neither play had much bearing on the Dodgers’ 9-4 win. And it wasn’t the first time that Welke had flubbed a call that was reversed on review, or the first time that he’d missed a called that would be publicly ridiculed. But it’s fair to wonder if missing two in one game left him wanting to get away.
Of course, Welke had another game to work—a much longer game, it would turn out—and a tougher assignment at first base. This time, he made a questionable call that was not subject to replay review.
Rule 7.08 reads, “Any runner is out when”:
(c) “He is tagged out, when the ball is alive, while off his base. EXCEPTION: A batter-runner cannot be tagged out after overrunning or oversliding first base if he returns immediately to the base.”
(j) “He fails to return at once to first base after overrunning or oversliding that base. If he attempts to run to second, he is out when tagged. If, after overrunning or oversliding first base he starts toward the dugout, or toward his position, and fails to return to first base at once, he is out, on appeal, when he or the base is tagged.”
In general, batter-runners are given the benefit of the doubt when there is no obvious intent to advance to second base. Intent might include squaring toward the keystone, as was pointed out on the Twins broadcast, or crossing into fair territory beyond first. Yasiel Puig didn’t exactly rush back to the bag, slowing down just shy of the grass and then sauntering over as catcher Josmil Pinto retrieved the ball and tagged him, but he made no obvious threat to keep running, either.
Welke might have found Puig in violation of the “at once” clauses. He might’ve thought he’d seen a turn toward second base that didn't happen. Or he might’ve had it in for Puig—though we don’t really have much reason to believe that it was more than an innocent mistake.
All we know for sure is that Tim Welke had a bad day.
Quick Hits From Thursday
On April 18, when the Dodgers lost to the Diamondbacks in 12 innings, he became only the eighth player in at least a century to squeeze three walks and a hat trick into one six-plate-appearance game. That odd night apparently marked a turning point for the Wild Horse, whose OPS was a pedestrian .723 when it ended. Since then, Puig is 18-for-45 (.400) with six extra-base hits.
The 23-year-old went 4-for-4 with a double, a walk, and a stolen base in game one of yesterday’s doubleheader—something only three Dodgers* have done since the start of the 2011 season—and then picked up hits in each of his first two at-bats in game two. With those seven successful trips to the plate, he extended his streak of reaching base safely to nine before grounding out to third in the top of the fifth.
Puig is now up to .309/.396/.495 on the season, having lifted his OPS 55 points over the course of the doubleheader. While the .400 surge might not last much longer, earlier concerns about a sophomore slump appear to have been premature.
*If you can name the last three Dodgers to bat 1.000 with at least one extra-base hit and one walk in a game with four or more at-bats, you should win every trivia prize ever. Give it a try. Okay, you’re wrong. Now, give it another try, but guess the three most can’t-predict-baseball names you can think of. And now, take a look.
The topic of players diving head-first into bases has come up time and time again over the first month of the regular season, largely because it led to a day-to-day thumb injury to Yasiel Puig and a long-term stint on the disabled list for Bryce Harper.
Is it a form of hustle or a display of false hustle? Does it speed up the runner’s time to first or slow it down? Are there any situations in which it makes sense, or should players do their best to break what might have become a habit over their years of learning and growing in the game?
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller shared their opinions on an Effectively Wild podcast about Harper and hustle more generally last week. Coaches, players, and managers debated the merits of the play in this MLB.com article by Anthony Castrovince.
There’s no complete consensus on the matter, except that it’s definitely not worthwhile when the ball is already in center field:
That blooper from Nick Punto aside, a play in the Braves-Marlins game last night presented a situation for those who universally oppose head-first slides to ponder. Here’s the play:
Jason Heyward hit a high chopper toward first base, where Garrett Jones fielded the ball and flipped to Henderson Alvarez, who was on his way to the bag. It was a bang-bang play, but Alvarez, who turned around too soon and lost track of where the bag was, had two choices: He could try to beat Heyward to the sack, or he could attempt to tag him before the outfielder got there. Alvarez wound up slipping toward the line as Heyward approached. Had Heyward stayed upright, Alvarez might have tagged him out.
Instead, because Heyward slid, Alvarez was forced to slide, too, and he barely grazed Heyward with his glove, which—regardless of whether contact was actually made—did not contain the ball. First-base umpire Jim Reynolds called Heyward out, but the ruling was reversed on replay to an infield hit.
The Marlins won the game, 5-4, anyway, but had Heyward been retired, B.J. Upton’s home run in the subsequent at-bat would have been worth two runs instead of three. Was the benefit of ensuring a single (which became a run, if you want to consider that aspect) by reducing the odds of being tagged out worth the risk of injury to Heyward?
That’s debatable. A play on which Heyward would’ve more obviously been tagged had he not slid might better underscore the point. But when it comes to impugning head-first slides in all cases, the play offers a little food for thought.
After getting yanked four innings into his start versus the Cubs on Wednesday, Tony Cingrani downplayed any concerns that he might be injured:
Unfortunately, it appears the steady decrease in his velocity was indicative of a more serious problem:
Fortunately for the Reds, who are also without Mat Latos in the early going, the schedule-makers threw them a bone. If the rest of the rotation stays healthy and Cingrani’s injury is as minor as he suggested to reporters on Thursday afternoon, they might not miss the southpaw much at all:
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle elected to bat his right fielder in the leadoff spot in both games of yesterday’s doubleheader at Camden Yards. In the matinee, Jose Tabata went 1-for-5 from the top spot in the order. In the 10-inning nightcap, Travis Snider went 0-for-5 with a walk and a golden sombrero, including a backwards-K with runners at second and third and two out in the bottom of the seventh.
Snider pinch-hit in game one and grounded out to second base with runners at second and third in the top of the eighth. Tabata pinch-hit in game two and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. The Pirates went 6-for-29 with runners in scoring position across the two contests and left 28 men on base.
Matt Wieters slugged a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th to complete the twinbill sweep. Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Polanco went 1-for-3 with a triple and scored the tying run on Andrew Lambo’s game-winning homer.
The Pirates have lost 15 of 19. They’re 10-18 on the season, one game ahead of the last-place Cubs and 9 ½ behind the first-place Brewers. A jolt from El Coffee can’t come soon enough.
The Defensive Play of the Day
Unfortunately, he dinged himself up doing it and will probably sit out a game or two this weekend:
And then, in the bottom of the first inning, Gomez exacted his revenge:
What to Watch for This Weekend
*Thanks to Harry Pavlidis for research assistance.