CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Overthinking It: Washi... (04/21)
<< Previous Column
What You Need to Know:... (04/20)
Next Column >>
What You Need to Know:... (04/24)
Next Article >>
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (04/23)

April 23, 2012

What You Need to Know

Monday, April 23

by Daniel Rathman

The Weekend Takeaway
Did he go? That was the question percolating through every baseball fan’s mind after the White Sox’ Philip Humber threw the 21st perfect game in major-league history against the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.

Brendan Ryan, who pinch-hit for Munenori Kawasaki, worked the count full, fouled off Humber’s first payoff pitch, and then either swung or did not swing at a slider that broke well off the plate outside. But did he go?

Home plate umpire Brian Runge—who also worked the plate for Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter in 2009—said he did. FOX failed to show the first-base camera angle necessary to make a conclusive call. A YouTube clip posted later and analyzed by Sam Miller didn’t exactly settle the debate either. And first-base umpire Marvin Hudson almost certainly will never reveal what his call would have been.

There are significant issues with both of the prevailing postgame reactions. Those who say that it doesn’t matter, that Runge was right to side with perfection by default, are devaluing the accomplishments of the other 20 pitchers who have accomplished the feat. Those who say that Ryan clearly did not swing, that Runge gifted Humber the perfect game, are both misinterpreting the rule—which gives the umpire considerable discretion when it comes to the batter’s intent to swing—and ignoring the frequency with which check-swing calls are missed in even the lowest-leverage situations.

What Runge should have done is allowed the play to continue and left the close call at Hudson’s discretion. What FOX should have done is immediately showed the first-base camera angle that we still have not seen. Close enough shouldn’t be enough when it comes to perfection, but in this case it’ll have to suffice.

What we should do now is recognize Humber’s perfect game with no asterisk and no further questions. Did he go? The only answer that matters was, is, and will always be “yes.” And we can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Runge’s answer, and his reasoning at that moment, were wrong.

What to Watch for on Monday

  • Mark Teixeira may have found his stroke in Saturday’s comeback victory over the Red Sox, when the first baseman tripled his home run total for the season by going deep twice. That’s a scary thought for Monday’s (7:05 p.m. ET) Rangers starter, Derek Holland, against whom Teixeira is 7-for-15 with three homers.
  • It’s an intriguing day for Red Sox pitching, from the Twin Cities (8:10 p.m. ET) to Pawtucket. After Sunday’s rainout, Daniel Bard is temporarily returning to the bullpen to keep Jon Lester on schedule. But given the utter inability of Boston’s relievers to record outs without bleeding runs, Bard’s stay could be prolonged by a strong Triple-A outing from Aaron Cook. The 33-year-old Cook has a 1.35 ERA and 2.27 groundout-to-fly out ratio for the PawSox, and if he sustains that success against Durham on Monday night, the pressure to use Bard to stabilize the bullpen will mount.
  • No team has been hit harder by the injury bug in the early going than the Diamondbacks. Chris Young is on the disabled list with a separated shoulder. Justin Upton needs time to get over a sore thumb. And now Daniel Hudson is shelved with a shoulder impingement. Tonight (9:40 p.m ET), Wade Miley will get his chance to supplant Hudson—a potential one-and-done opportunity with Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs awaiting theirs—and the Diamondbacks, who have lost seven of their last 10 games, could certainly use a boost from the rookie lefty in their series opener against the Phillies.
  • Matt Kemp has gone deep in four of the Dodgers’ last five games and has eight homers in the team’s last 10 contests. So, uh, you might want to watch him. Kemp is 4-for-14 versus Braves starter Jair Jurrjens (10:10 p.m. ET), with one big fly but also seven strikeouts. 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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

BP Comment Quick Links

CalledStrike3

I beg to differ with the Author - THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY RUNGE SHOULD HAVE ASKED "DID HE GO?".

In that particular situation 3-2 pitch with Ryan - Had Runge not been decisive in calling a swinging strike - it would have resulted in a total Cluster F that likely would have resulted in being Sportcenter's headliner all weekend.

The Umpire had zero responsibility to previous perfect game throwers - who knows how many marginal strikes they recieved when they pitched their games?

This was now and was aunique set of circumstances:
Any Umpire worth his salt knows they have to have significant courage at that point in the game to make a decisive call and live with it.

Deferring the outcome of a Perfect game to the 1st base umpire on a check swing while the ball is rolling around behind the back stop would have created chaos in any number of ways or outcomes.

Not to mention those guys on the crew have to work otgether all season - talk about a loss of repsect for deferring the call at that point in time, in that situation...you don't get that far in the umpiring world unless you have the courage to make that call.

Apr 23, 2012 09:50 AM
rating: 4
 
rweiler

I don't see any controversy. Runge called it a swing and miss, it's a strike, end of story. We also have no way of knowing that every call was flawless before Don Larsen's perfect game, and with the limited camera angles available prior to the 1990s, it would be a stretch to say we were certain that the home plate umpire got every call right for those games. Even with all those camera angles, we can never tell for sure on what is essentially a judgement call. FWIW, I did see Jonathan Sanchez's no hitter, and Runge was giving him a wide plate, particularly on the last pitch. But it's his call, not mine, that matters.

Apr 23, 2012 10:00 AM
rating: 0
 
drimple

The home plate umpire never defers the call to the base umpire. The home plate umpire is always instructed to make the call. The defense has the option to appeal if the home plate umpire rules "no swing." If Runge thought it was a swing, then he made the correct mechanic.

Apr 23, 2012 11:12 AM
rating: 1
 
CalledStrike3

drimple - respectfully, thats untrue ... Home Plate Umpire defers to 1B or 3B (depending on the hitter) many times without being asked .... there are times that the nature of a pitch moves the catcher and blocks their view - they will usually immediately ask when that happens ...if they ask immediately then the 1st or 3rd base umpire knows they have the responsibility to make the call - because HP umpire must have been blocked.

"The Home Plate Umpire is always instructed to make the call" is not the mechanic....again respectfully - I've been there.

Apr 23, 2012 11:27 AM
rating: 1
 
IronPrawn

"Umpires shouldn't settle for "close enough" when it comes to perfection. . . ."

This is the teaser (for lack of a better word) on the home page, but if this IS Rathman's point of view, I don't think his article reflects that.

We like baseball; we are going to read the article. Save the breathless histrionics for daytime talk shows.

Apr 23, 2012 15:52 PM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Overthinking It: Washi... (04/21)
<< Previous Column
What You Need to Know:... (04/20)
Next Column >>
What You Need to Know:... (04/24)
Next Article >>
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (04/23)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Rounders: The Young and the Splitles...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, May ...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Bummed!
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, May 22
West Coast By Us: Day 1: In The Land Where E...
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: The Quarter-Season Odds Report
Going Yard: The Near Perfection of Pederson

MORE FROM APRIL 23, 2012
Premium Article Bizball: 12 Detailed Looks At Early MLB Atte...
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Cautiously Sizing Up April S...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Theo Flips Boston The ...
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Keep Calm and Carry...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Humber's Change in Process
Premium Article Collateral Damage Daily: Monday, April 23
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Monday, April 23

MORE BY DANIEL RATHMAN
2012-04-26 - What You Need to Know: Thursday, April 26
2012-04-25 - What You Need to Know: Wednesday, April 25
2012-04-24 - What You Need to Know: Tuesday, April 24
2012-04-23 - What You Need to Know: Monday, April 23
2012-04-20 - What You Need to Know: Friday, April 20
2012-04-19 - What You Need to Know: Thursday, April 19
2012-04-18 - What You Need to Know: Wednesday, April 18
More...

MORE WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
2012-04-26 - What You Need to Know: Thursday, April 26
2012-04-25 - What You Need to Know: Wednesday, April 25
2012-04-24 - What You Need to Know: Tuesday, April 24
2012-04-23 - What You Need to Know: Monday, April 23
2012-04-20 - What You Need to Know: Friday, April 20
2012-04-19 - What You Need to Know: Thursday, April 19
2012-04-18 - What You Need to Know: Wednesday, April 18
More...