The batter hits a weak grounder to the first baseman, who tosses it to second for a 3-6-3 double play. On the return throw to catch the runner at first, the ball is snatched from the first baseman by the pitcher, who is still a few feet from the base. Is he safe or out?
Here’s the second scenario:
The batter hits a ball down the third base line, where it is snagged by the third baseman and relayed to first base. In making the throw, the third baseman hops over the bag, releasing the ball before touching the base. The ball arrives to first base as the runner is still a foot away from the bag. Is he safe or out?
Last month, sparked by Angel Hernandez’s disdain for instant replay, we examined the effects that umpiring had on the American League West. After crunching the data provided by UEFL, a website devoted to tracking ejections by major league umpiring crews, the Texas Rangers emerged as the division leaders with 35 ejections from 2008-2013. Close behind them, the Los Angeles Angels’ 27 ejections came on the back of a 57 percent blown-call rate.
From Opening Day through May 31, there have been 50 total ejections in Major League Baseball. The following tables break down the ejections and correct/incorrect calls each major league team has received, split up by division. Division leaders have been highlighted. One caveat: Since UEFL only tracks ejections, it is entirely possible (though unlikely) that a few blown calls may not be represented in these findings. Also, irrecusable calls — those that were not able to be determined as correct or incorrect — have been disregarded.
Edit: In the following installment of this series, I wanted to examine any changes in irrecusable calls from the beginning of the season to the end. I have since adjusted the numbers for this post to reflect irrecusable calls.
Following the call, the Angels took a three-run lead and ended up winning the game 5-2.
Knotted 3-3 with the Miami Marlins, the White Sox’ Alex Rios came up to the plate with one out and the bases loaded. He knocked a soft ground ball to short, which was scooped by Adeiny Hechavarria and tossed to first base for the double play. Rios crossed the bag several steps before first baseman Nick Green could get the inning-ending putout — until Angel Hernandez ruled it an out, incurring the wrath of Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson.
One inning later, the White Sox received their redemption (without any meddling from Hernandez): A walk-off single by Jeff Keppinger to end the contest, 4-3.
Instead of fielding it cleanly, the ball bounced out of the glove and right toward Kendrick, whose slide into second pushed the ball to the bag… and rolled it right into Segura’s glove. Kendrick was safe, but to second base umpire Mike Estabrook, it looked like a clean pick as Segura raised the ball — and Kendrick was ruled out.
Not only did third base umpire Cory Blaser fail to notice that third baseman Nolan Arenado didn’t step on the bag before releasing the ball, but first base umpire Ed Hickox called Yasmani Grandal safe at first, though replays show the ball arriving a good full step before he touched the base.
This was the second game in the NL West where umpires blew two calls. Earlier this season, the San Francisco Giants were forced into extra innings when umpires botched two rallies, mistakenly calling Brandon Belt out at the plate and Marco Scutaro out at third base. To their credit, the Giants still found a way to win — on a walk-off inside-the-park home run by Angel Pagan.
The moral of the story isn’t that all umpires should be fired, or even replaced with shiny, edgier robo-umps. For the past five years, following the ejections of managers, players, and coaches, MLB’s umpiring cadre has managed to make the correct call nearly 67 percent of the time. It’s simply a reminder that while umpires will always be remembered for their mistakes — whether inadvertent or intentional — they aren’t quite as blind as we’d like to believe.