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Replay and its unintended consequences

Apr 25, 2012, 2:03 PM EDT

Angel Hernandez

Over at The Classical, Eric Nusbaum looks at a new instant replay system that has been instituted in pro cricket, and notes how it has changed the way the game is actually being played:

Technology changed the way umpires approached their jobs, which in turn has changed the way players approach theirs. The comparison doesn’t work perfectly, but this is akin to allowing baseball players to appeal balls and strikes to a machine with the intention of creating a more accurate strike zone, and with the unintended result being that pitchers start throwing over the middle more, resulting in more home runs. (Or vice versa: batters become fearful and begin swinging at bad pitches, resulting in more of the weak pop ups to the second baseman that Mets fans have nicknamed “Jason Bays.”)

It’s interesting to think about — all big changes are going to bring unintended consequences — but if anything it bolsters the case for the “fifth umpire” version of replay in baseball as opposed to anything else.

By having the fifth ump in a booth who is part of the on-the-field crew, you limit that us-vs.-them mentality that may cause umpires to do different things than they might otherwise do. And by taking out some sort of appeals process or challenge system, you limit the ability of players and managers to game the system.

  1. The Dangerous Mabry - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    To add to your “game the system” point, one major problem with an “Appeal” process would be teams using it as a way to slow down the game to get their relievers ready.

    If you have the technology to get the call right, then get the call right. Don’t require a team to challenge. It adds no value.

  2. nothanksimdriving123 - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    I don’t recall hearing replay supporters, including me, say it should be for pitches, Just too many in a game and it would be nearly impossible to streamline such a system. It should be for challenges of close plays at the bases and “did he catch it or trap it” plays. Far fewer of them in an average game, and I don’t see how it would change how the game is played, except perhaps to eliminate lengthy arguments and speed things up.

  3. lardin - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    A system for replay isnt very difficult. Simply add a 5th umpire to the crew who watches the network feed from a booth. He will see all the replays from every angle, and he will let the crew chief know what the correct call is. It will take all of 30 seconds to get it right.

    The problem with replay is what do you do with runners on base. For example: Runner on first, and the batter hits a ball down the line thats ruled foul, but upon further review is declared fair. Where does the runner on first end up? He would most likely make it to second but there is probably a 50/50 chance he makes it to third or home. Then, how do you determine if the batter got a single or a double? I am all for replay but not until these questions are answered.

    • Walk - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:51 PM

      I see it being treated the same as now. The umpires do sometimes allow a runner to score from first on a ground rule double. Umpire’s discretion. This would give umpire’s a bit more power on the field for those worried that replays and such are taking away an umpires power and “human factor”.

  4. jonirocit - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    If we can make it so the umpires have less control over the game I’m all for it . The strike zone is the strike zone it should never change . Just like we should never even know an umpires names. They are just like the ball .. The bat …the glove …the grass ….just a piece of equipment needed to play .

  5. Loren - Apr 25, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    I think that for balls and strikes, the way to do it would be to provide the home plate ump with instant feedback from the pitch f/x data, either via an earpiece or some light indicator embedded in their mask that only they can see. The main thing is that the home plate ump is instantly informed as to whether the pitch was a strike or not according to pitch f/x (possibly with indication of borderline strike vs clear strike), and no one else but the ump is informed. That way no one shows up the ump by challenging him, the ump can still overrule pitch f/x if he thinks it blew the call, but the ump has all the info and should be held responsible by MLB if he keeps overruling pitch f/x for no reason.

    • rips08 - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      Why have a home plate umpire calling the strikes at all if it is based on the this system? I don’t like replay for balls and strikes. Even a checked swing can be replayed and still be called either way. I am for replay when a call is just wrong. Was the ball caught? Was the runner out? Was it a fair or foul ball? I think looking at every pitch would be too much. It’s not exactly the same thing, but I don’t want Football looking for holding on every replay either.

  6. karaterobot - Apr 25, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Cricket? Nobody understands cricket! You gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket!

  7. heynerdlinger - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    We’re already seeing this in baseball, and it’s been true in the NFL for years. Umpires are starting to be much more conservative about calling home runs, with the expectation that a review will overturn a double more cleanly than if they have to “reset” players after calling a false home run.

  8. oldpaddy - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    I think instant replay is the work of the devil.
    Am I the only one who detests it?

  9. tigersoftball - Apr 25, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    DRS has indeed changed the way umpires behave in cricket but this has been a GOOD thing, It’s made the game much more interesting because it’s forced umpires to actually apply the laws of the game as written, this means more batsmen are being given out, batsmen are actually having to use their skills to play at the ball rather than sticking a pad in the way, and spin bowling is flourishing.
    The baseball equivalent would be an explosion of knuckleballers, submarine pitchers and other unorthodox hurlers that technology suddenly revealed had been the victims of mindless umpiring prejudice for 100+ years, (it can’t be a strike cos he throws funny). Don’t assume that if technology changes a game that must be a bad thing, it could make the game a lot more varied and interesting.

  10. dawgpoundmember - Apr 25, 2012 at 7:36 PM

    Replay should never ever be used for balls and strikes, and that F/X data thing is horrible.
    I agree with the fifth umpire idea tho. It would help in situations like the Gallaraga 28 out perfect game or Sunday when the Rangers bunted off his leg. But then that’s fewer stories for Craig to write about and we don’t want that, do we?

  11. mj1818 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    I agree with Loren. It should not be on the umpire because the game is slow as it is. Slowing it down more is not good for business. But I am against balls and strikes being reviewed. Human element is still a great part of the game for the true fan.

    • cktai - Apr 26, 2012 at 2:20 AM

      Silly me, here I was thinking the players provided the human element.

    • heynerdlinger - Apr 26, 2012 at 9:39 AM

      Sorry. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t a true fan.

  12. anxovies - Apr 26, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    “Gaming the system” is the game. Imagine no Leo Durocher, Billy Martin or Lou Pinella.

  13. gloccamorra - Apr 26, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Put a fifth umpire in the booth, and you may as well follow Tony Demarco’s suggestion to have him be the official scorer too. Tony mentioned it would take away some uneven scoring decisions in some cities made by those baseball writers who are paid by the club while doing their other job.

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