Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There Goes the Neighborhood

With all this discussion about expanding the use of instant replay, sometimes the human side of baseball is forgotten. There are certain plays in baseball where it's ok to not get a call right. The strike zone, while actually defined in the rule book, is largely subjective based on the home plate umpire. Tim Tschida's strike zone is different than CB Bucknor's. Another example is the "neighborhood play." The neighborhood play is a reference to a middle infielder being in the neighborhood of second base when turning a double play. In 99% of double play balls, the second base umpire will call a runner out at second as long as the middle infielder comes close to the base when turning a double play.

If baseball selects its best umpires to work the playoffs, it is reasonable to assume that now isn't the time to change accepted conventions. However, in game two of the ALCS, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar was turning a double play where he never touched second base - but came extremely close and was in fact straddling the base - and the Yankee runner was called safe.

Baseball fans can argue for furthering the use of replay all they want but it's important to maintain the human element. In Joe Torre's most recent book he reminds people to always remember that the game has a pulse. Let's keep it that way.

Related Posts by Subject


Ryan said...

You're absolutely right. That "neighborhood" standard is there to protect the middle infielders. If they have to stay on the base to make it clear they've touched it, they could be seriously hurt by the incoming runner- why, during the playoffs of all times, would MLB want players to put themselves more in harms way? Of course postseason seems to make all MLB umps lose their minds, just ask Joe Mauer.

3rdStoneFromTheSun said...

personally I dislike replay and think human error is part of the equation

Rob Burckhard said...

The umpires have been terrible in the postseason this year. In last night's Yanks/Angels game there were several blown calls, notably when the Angels had Jorge Posada in a rundown and Robinson Cano was around third base. Mike Napoli tagged each of them, since they were both off the base, but the umpire allowed Cano to stay on third. Horrible.

Mike Colligan said...

This is purely speculation, but I feel like the strike zones have been more consistent in recent years as it seems like umps are always under the microscope (whether it's the TBS pitch tracker or new ways to grade umpire effectiveness).

What do you think the backlash will be, if any, from all the terrible calls this fall? Is there any solution besides instant replay?