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Brett Lawrie crossed the line when he threw his batting helmet at an umpire.

The Tuesday Takeaway
Brett Lawrie can hit, and the 22-year-old is rapidly learning how to pick it at the hot corner. But the questions about his makeup that led the Brewers to ship him to the Blue Jays in a one-for-one deal that brought back Shaun Marcum reared their ugly heads again last night in an incident that is likely to result in a suspension.

At the plate with nobody on and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Toronto trailing Tampa Bay 4-3, Lawrie worked the count to 3-1. Then, home plate umpire Bill Miller clearly gipped him of a walk, calling a Fernando Rodney fastball that crossed the plate at least four inches outside a strike. The payoff pitch was a changeup that threatened the upper fringe of the zone but stayed an inch or so too high. Miller rang Lawrie up, and—moments later—the young third baseman seemed ready to ring the ump’s bell.


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When it comes to determining the actual upper and lower boundaries of the zone, pitchers may have more to tell us than the players at the plate.

Three months ago, I investigated the nature of the major-league strike zone, focusing on its inside and outside boundaries. I concluded that the location of a pitch relative to the catcher’s target had a significant impact on the umpire’s likelihood of calling a strike. This article will examine the top and bottom boundaries of the strike zone.

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Some thoughts on the pros and cons of instant replay.

Umpires are terrible, right? 

Well, no, not really. But listen to fans in Boston or Tampa Bay or Anaheim or Minnesota or pretty much any other major league city and they'll tell you they are. Recent blown calls - some minor, some major - in those cities can't help but give the everyday fan that opinion. With 24-hour talk radio, high profile cable shows like Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, MLB Tonight and others, official team blogs and websites, and a countless number of fan blogs all there to analyze any and every movement on the field, a blown call can reverberate like never before. Umpires can turn into household names - for all the wrong reasons - overnight. It's not an easy job.

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Wrapping up a tour through the baseball rulebook with a look at discretionary calls, interference, neighborhood plays, the strike zone, rule changes, and instant replay.

Most baseball fans feel they know the rules, but many of them are actually misunderstood, at least their nuances and technical definitions. Even you are fairly well-versed in the rulebook, a primer never hurts, so BP asked the MLB Umpiring Department about 10 of them. Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford, a 19-year major-league umpire, and Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Larry Young, a 23-year major-league umpire, provided the definitions and clarifications.

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April 12, 2011 2:04 am

Prospectus Q&A: YOU Make the Call! Part I

10

David Laurila

Fans love to call for the invention of RoboUmp, but the humans are the ones well-versed in the baseball rulebook.

Most baseball fans feel they know the rules, but many of them are actually misunderstood, at least their nuances and technical definitions. Even you are fairly well-versed in the rulebook, a primer never hurts, so BP asked the MLB Umpiring Department about 10 of them. Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Charlie Reliford, a 19-year major-league umpire, and Major League Baseball umpire supervisor Larry Young, a 23-year major-league umpire, provided the definitions and clarifications.

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Examining umpire calling and catcher framing leads to thought-provoking questions about the amorphous nature of the strike zone.

Ever since the PITCHf/x system debuted in the 2006 playoffs, people have been interested in what it says about the strike zone that the umpires call.

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October 22, 2010 11:00 am

Prospectus Perspective: Four Hours of TV, 10 Minutes of Action

24

Steven Goldman

Major League Baseball, for the sake of attracting or keeping fans, needs to pick up the pace of games.

As compelling as the action of some post-season games have been, the slow pace of the contests has revived cries for a sped up game, with Peter Gammons and Buster Olney suggesting, respectively, that trips to the mound by coaches and managers be banned and the imposition of a pitch clock. It is easy to sympathize with such requests. None of us are getting any younger, and baseball is asking a lot of us by demanding that we devote more time to a single game than it would take to watch a David Lean epic (“Doctor Zhivago,” 3: 17; “Lawrence of Arabia,” 3: 36) or undergo any one of numerous intensive surgical procedures. If you went under for kidney transplant surgery (average time: two to three hours) during the first inning of Wednesday’s Rangers-Yankees game in the ALCS, the doctors could have woken you up in time for the seventh.

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July 27, 2007 12:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies: Fixing It

0

Nate Silver

Could a Donaghy scenario happen in baseball?

Baseball must be toasting this week's sports pages over glasses of vodka and schadenfreude. Last Friday, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was implicated in a betting scandal. On Wednesday, Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen, under heavy suspicion of doping, was kicked out of the race by his own team. And on Thursday, Michael Vick was scrambling away from reporters in a federal courthouse, rather than opposing linebackers on the field.

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July 2, 2007 12:00 am

Watching the Detectives

0

Mike Carminati

Mike looks at how home teams and visiting teams are impacted by different umpires.

Mother, may I slug the umpire
May I slug him right away?
So he cannot be here, Mother
When the clubs begin to play?

Let me clasp his throat, dear mother,
In a dear delightful grip
With one hand and with the other
Bat him several in the lip.







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June 18, 2007 12:00 am

Watching the Detectives

0

Mike Carminati

The tendencies of field umpires are put under the microscope.

This is the second part of a series on umpires. Read the first part here.

Bad Calls

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June 4, 2007 12:00 am

Watching the Detectives

0

Mike Carminati

Kicking off a series of historical investigations on the impact of different umpires.

"Despite all the nasty things I have said about umpires, I think they're one-hundred percent honest, but I can't for the life of me figure out how they arrive at some of their decisions."
-A's manager Jimmy Dykes

"What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order."
-Mystery writer Phyllis Dorothy "P.D." James



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Steven chimes in on the Delmon Young fiasco, looking to history for a bit of guidance.

That Labor Day at Toledo, Derr was calling the plays at first base. The Mudhens had been leading the pennant race, but were in the midst of a losing streak that had dropped them out of first place; tempers were running short. When Derr called a Mudhen out on a close play at first base, Stengel came running out to argue. Whatever he said--use your imagination--it got him thumbed from the game. That was standard operating procedure. What happened next was new. Stengel didn't leave the field. He turned towards the stands and began conducting them like a band leader, exhorting them. Writing about it a few days later, John Kieran of the New York Times said,

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