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How to do instant replay right?


adambr2

I think the consensus today is starting to more strongly lean in the favor of full instant replay. Frankly, I think it's long overdue. There are many excuses like tradition and things like "I don't like the idea of manager's throwing challenge flags every time he thinks a ball is a strike" (worry not Lucroy, I'm sure balls and strikes won't be part of it.) Even Roenicke, who has been lukewarm on replay, admitted tonight that it's better to get the call right than avoid delaying the game.

 

You can say all day that the umpires get most calls right (which they should), but the fact remains that there are missed calls, and some missed calls lead to changed games.

 

The arguments that it's a tough system to implement in this sport are a valid one, because changed calls lead to changed base situations. Umpires have to go back and potentially place baserunners, award runs, and call outs. You also have to determine what is reviewable -- fair/foul, force plays only, tag plays, catches/traps, etc, and how this will be done (up in a booth, manager challenge, etc).

 

Anyone given this any thought and have a system in mind that they feel would work well? I think it would be a huge adjustment for MLB, but can be done.

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sveumrules has it right. Have a 5th umpire in the press box. He watches all plays. If it's an obvious bad call, it gets overturned. If it's the right call or inconclusive the call stands.
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You can say all day that the umpires get most calls right (which they should), but the fact remains that there are missed calls, and some missed calls lead to changed games.

Going off on a slight tangent here, and I don't mean this response as some ad hominem attack at you, Adam.

 

I have a huge problem with the sense of entitlement with which many (most?) fans treat MLB umpires. I won't deny that there are badly-missed calls, and even that some MLB umps just simply don't belong at this level.

 

However, with very few exceptions, these are the most qualified people that exist for these jobs. They are going to make mistakes occasionally, and sometimes those mistakes will extend innings that yield dramatic results. But, for example, Tim Welke didn't serve up the meatball that Starling Marte blasted for a 3-run HR tonight.

 

The umpires have a 100% thankless task, and, as Gerry Davis so precisely put it: "We’re judged not by excellence, but by perfection."

 

There exists this widespread notion, from little league, to MLB, to your softball beer leagues, that the umpires shouldn't miss any call... because any idiot could've seen that one! There is this acceptance that umps have to be perfect, or else they deserve to be not only questioned, but berated in many cases. And I think it sucks.

 

What rules knowledge does even the diehard MLB fan have? The amount of rules knowledge required to be a MLB ump is nothing short of astonishing to me. You see/hear even an experienced former player like Rock get rules issues wrong multiple times in a season, and he's been 'just' calling games for what... over 20 years now? In addition to his likely 20+ years playing baseball? It's not as simple as just go out & make the bang-bang calls correctly. An ump has to be extremely well-educated, experienced, and good in the 'clutch'/bang-bang situations.

 

Fwiw, I welcome any & all modes of instant replay review in MLB and wherever else plausible in baseball. I'm just tired of relatively clueless (wrt MLB's extensive rules, I'd include myself in the clueless category) fans calling for the heads of umpires based on one/a handful of missed calls. Players make errors, fans are ignorant of many rules of the game, and sometimes umpires miss calls -- even obvious ones sometimes. I welcome more instant replay. But not more than I'd welcome fans at all levels of the game taking some time to learn everything that goes into being a good umpire.

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You have the umpires on the field call everything as they do now. You also have an additional umpire watching the game and all close plays. I personally think everything should be able to be reviewed short of balls and strikes; get robots for that.

It works well for football. Seems like a pretty simple solution. The grey areas are obviously what to do with other baserunners involved in a given play, but I have faith that MLB could eventually work out a good system for that.

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My suggestion:

 

Reviewable plays are force plays at a base and fair/foul calls. At this time, until replay can be better evaluated, I would not implement review of tag plays or catch/trap plays, which adds some difficulty to the situation. Reviewing force plays will eliminate a very high amount of questionable calls.

 

A 5th umpire is assigned to the crew as the "replay" umpire and reviews all such close plays immediately in the booth after the conclusion of the play. He will have until the first pitch of the next AB, which will give him about 30-60 seconds to look over the play. If he determines that an overturn is necessary, he will "buzz" down to the homeplate umpire.

 

Fair/foul runner placement:

This one is easy. A fair changed to a foul is a strike on the hitter, runners return to their respective bases and batter returns to the batters box. A foul changed to a fair is ruled a ground rule double, and the runners advance two bases. An exception is if the fair ball call is ruled in the infield, in which case one base will be awarded for the hitter and every runner.

 

Force play runner placement:

If a safe is changed to an out, and it is the 3rd out, the inning is over with no runs scored just as if it occurred. If it is the 2nd or 1st out, the out is recorded and all other continuous action as part of the play counts, except for anything that the "out" runner did.

 

An "out" changed to a "safe" would be one of the most difficult. This is where things could get very complex. (Example: Batter hits a groundball to 3rd base with a runner on 1st. Throw to 2nd is incorrectly called "out". Relay throw goes over the first baseman's head and the batter winds up at 2nd where the original runner was first incorrectly called out). The only solution I can come up with is to count any outs, base advancements, or runs that occur as a result of continuous action, and then place the runners at the discretion of the umpire.

 

You could also call the play dead at the spot of the wrong call, with the runners awarded the base they were en route to, but you'll eventually see a hitting team get screwed by this. (Tie game in the 9th, man on 2nd. Ground ball to left side, hitter called out at 1st, other runner on his way to 3rd. Throw to third goes into foul territory and winning run comes home to score. Then a review comes and calls the runner "safe" at 1st and replaces the runners). Only solution I can think of to this is to allow the team "benefiting" from the changed call the option of declining the review result and accepting the play as is.

 

There are some cases where there is not an easy solution. I'm definitely pro-replay, but the more I talk about it the more I understand the hesitations, because there are so many different possible scenarios to account for that make it very difficult.

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TLB,

 

I can accept that umpires aren't perfect and will make mistakes, and that it's somewhat of a thankless job (there are many thankless jobs out there. $200,000 a year to umpire baseball games isn't a bad gig).

 

What I can't accept is the ego, and downright arrogance, that many of them demonstrate today. Some openly invite or even initiate confrontation with players, coaches, and managers, and show a real lack of professionalism. The fans are not here to see you. Some would rather let a bad call stand than hurt the ego of a fellow umpire by not changing an incorrect call. I have a real problem with that.

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I personally hate Replay in the NFL. It's a total joke that the NFL has made replays into this drama in which coaches have a limited amount of challenges. Seriously, I want the calls right.

 

With MLB, I think all HR's should be reviewed in the booth or to a team in NYC (as currently). But it should be instantaneous. The ump should give an initial signal. If called fair, while rounding the bases the play can be reviewed. If called foul, the batter can step out for a quick moment.

 

Strikes and balls should not be reviewable. But some plays in the field should be reviewable for determining player interference or dead ball (e.g., Maldonado being hit by his batted ball in fair or foul territory, runner inside line on way to first is hit by thrown ball, etc). They should let the plays happen live, then review them.

 

Foul/fair is very difficult. Do we want umps to call everything fair until reviewed? Or last night the phantom tag when Weeks was picked off first. I don't want them reviewing from 12 angles whether or not the tag was made before the player touched the bag. Do we want to start punishing shortstops for the phantom tags at 2b when turning two? It seems to me that the Brewers players are getting killed out there on GIDP's because they ACTUALLY touch the bag while other teams are missing it by quite a bit. Yet when I see Segura almost get killed, I wish he would start with the phantom tags.

 

okay, enough ranting.

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Instant Replay is all about the amount of time it takes to review and in many instances not change a thing after delaying over 5min. to do nothing.

 

Personally, I'd do it strictly by whoever is watching it, see it wrong buzzes and makes the change. The umps down below have no review of the play themselves. If the play is clearly wrongly called from who is watching up above then change it. No questions asked, the man above tells him what happened and changes the play. Things that he'd be changing would be obvious missed outs on the basepaths. Catches or non catches that were called the opposite. Fair or foul balls in play.

 

To me these would be calls that in the first replay it is blatantly obvious to buzz down and change. If it's unclear after one look then forget it the play stands.

 

Where all the delay comes in is getting the replay sent down for the umps/officials to look at. For them to look at the play and it just takes too much time.

 

Other things that I hate the umps/officials being given the knowledge of there being instant replay is they sure seem to get calls wrong more often than before. It's like well, I can make a mistake, replays happen and I can have my mistake overturned. I mean in the NFL, the amount of mistakes the officials made was just annoying. Coaches having both their challenges used up before the end of the first quarter. And it became a problem in coaches having used up their challenges so then not being able to challenge another poor call later in the game.

So if I were to implement an instant replay system, the umps down below would never spend one sec seeing an instant replay. The eyes from above would just buzz down, ump would be informed of the play change and resume the game. MLB would have a no questions asked policy on these plays if they want instant replay so the managers could delay the game more by going out to have the overturned play explained to them/argue over it. The first manager to walk up the stairs to have a talk with the ump would be tossed end of story.

 

As fans say, baseball already takes too long and adding more delay in games being letting umps review a replay to determine if a call is correct or wrong will just turn more fans away from the game. So if any play is overturned by the man upstairs it is blatant black/white in his eyes without a doubt upon first replay or the game continues.

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The biggest danger is too many reviews of calls that are really close. The extremely close plays are almost never controversial. So they shouldn't be reviewed. If the 5th umpire has the power to review anything, it is inevitable that there will be a delay after every close play to "make sure they got it right". Nobody wants that. I think what we want is to remove the really bad errors. So it makes most sense to give each manager a maximum of two challenges per game. There needs to be an incentive to prevent pointless replays like we often see in the NFL. Fair/foul, catch/trap, and safe/out are the three main categories. If a foul/out is overturned, the batters should just be returned to the nearest base. I would not include checked swings or foul tips.

 

I've advocated in other threads for an additional six balls/strikes challenges per game. Three for batters and three for pitchers. This system would be extremely easy to implement and would not even require a 5th umpire. All MLB has to do is copy the technology that is used in tennis and cricket. After a call is made, the syntax is like this:

1) Batter or pitcher asks umpire for challenge

2) Umpire signals to booth

3) Scoreboard operator presses a button and the pitch is replayed as a "gameday" style animation on the scoreboard. It would be completely automated, no umpires necessary

The entire process would take less than 30 seconds.

 

I am tempted to suggest a full automated ball/strike system because it would be really cool to have the "gameday" interface on the big scoreboard. However, baseball has always required hitters and pitchers to adapt to the umpire's strike zone. If we only allow a few challenges per game, it means that borderline pitchers will generally not be challenged and this part of the game would remain in tact. However, it is worth noting that a fully automated ball/strike system would favor the batter, so if offense continues to decline at the current pace, this system could be a way to generate more scoring.

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Last season NFL games were terrible and it wasn't because of the replacement refs it was because every turnover and score is reviewed. Games were taking forever and refs were making calls based on what was reviewable, not what was correct. Meaning if a play MIGHT have been a fumble it was going to be called a fumble because that can be reviewed but not calling it a fumble can't.

 

I'm not in favor of replay in baseball because only certain plays are going to be able to be fixed. Take Segura's "foul" ball on Sunday for example. The home plate ump called it foul even though replay shows it clearly was not even close to being foul. How do you fix that? You can't because the call resulted in nothing happening, how do you fix that call? You are going to have that problem with any non-homerun called foul that was actually fair. No officials of any sport should be making calls based on what's reviewable instead of what they see and that's unfortunately what's happened to the NFL. If replay coming the baseball means umps are going to call any close play foul or fair because that can be fixed I don't want to see replay.

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I vote NO on instant replay. In a perfect worls, yes I would want to use it more in MLB. But it is far froma perfect world. I see lots of good ideas here, honestly, really good ideas on how replay COULD/SHOULD work. But every night you have 15 different replay umpires making these decisoins. You will have some that want to review everything. You will have umps who take forever. Others who rush to make a call, because they know the pressure is on from the top to not dealy the game very long. So calls will get rushed, and they'll still get it wrong.

 

Plus, there's the whole issue of what is reviewable- just like the NFL. So if you are truly going to review everything other than balls/strikes that are close plays, it would get ridiculous in a hurry. On the flip side, if you only review fair/foul, etc., then the one type of play not reviewable will surely be the reason for a lost game. Too bad, not reviewable. It's a slippery slope that would be even worse in MLB because of all the close plays on the bases. You may argue there's not THAT many really close plays. But what if the replay ump feels otherwise?

 

Same thing will happen in MLB that happens in the NFL. Instead of complaining about the officials on the field, we'll be complaining about the officials in the booth. I really don't want artificial delays in the game just because "x" amount more calls are correct. Either it's nearly foolproof, or it isn't. And if it isn't, just leave well enough alone.

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I had the privilege of hearing former MLB ump Tim Tschida speak two Saturdays ago. Eventually, in a room of high school officials, the speech he gave turned into an incredible Q&A session. One of the first questions to come up was what he thought of replay. Obviously he wasn't for it entirely, but he gave some excellent reasons as to why, which really led me to see the issue from the other side. Last year, his crew kept a tally of what they deemed to be "reviewable plays" during a 4 game series in Boston. After going through the game on tape afterward (something they do regularly) they tallied an average of (the exact number escapes me) somewheres in the low 30s PER GAME. Can you imagine even getting buzzed from a booth how long a game would take it you reviewed everything you could? Especially if Josh Beckett were on the mound like he referenced! :) He also stated that even with the flag rule as in the NFL, managers may blow the flag early and then at the end we STILL would have an imperfect process where human judgement would come into play later in the game potentially.

 

He also stated that they have to log in to an MLB database that is in every umpire dressing room in every MLB park and they are given ratings based off of their calls. Typically (no surprise) their scores are very high. If they aren't, they do face action.

 

Finally, he said that a lot of times when you see these glaring bad calls (he referenced a phantom tag between the Yanks/Red Sox I believe) it typically comes off of a day where their travel schedules are extremely long and they are going through fatigue. They take care of their own travel schedule and always fly commercial, so if there is a delay they will often ump on about three hours of sleep. That happens all the time he said. You would think with the amount of money MLB has, they could pony up and get them chartered flights by crew. He even said, "I'm not making excuses, it just is what it is. Next time you go to your job, think about what it would be like to do it on three hours. Now add in the 40K fans and the media. It's not always glitz and glamour."

 

Side Note: He DID know that the crew that had the Segura baserunning blunder did a 12 INNING (edit) night game on the East Coast the night before (AZ/NYY)the mess that was Jean Segura and RRR.

 

He was a great guy and had some incredible stories that only the men in that room know. Frankly, it was an opportunity of a lifetime to sit and listen for 2.5 hours. It also really made me think twice about harping on MLB officials.

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With the time wasted in baseball games singing, sausage races, and manager's arguing calls I think getting the calls right is worth it. I realize people like the sausage race but honestly after seeing it 100x I just use the time to hit the restroom or hit the concessions, same with roll out the barrel, America the Beautiful, etc.

 

They can easily have an ump in the booth who can buzz down to the home plate ump with the correction. We all see it on TV in seconds. There is no need for the ump on the field to view the play or even leave the home plate area. The reduction in manager strolls out to half hearted argue or throw full blown tantrums will save time.

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I don't care of they have it or not. Don't care what they use it for or what not to use it for.

 

But if they do have it, do it right, and follow the NHL method, not the NFL.

 

NHL has a room in Toronto where they are watching every game. By the time the ref makes the phone call, the replay officials usually already have an answer for him.

 

Granted, it's easier for the NHL as they are only reviewing goals. But still, a one room controlled setup, with several high def TV's, compared to 30 or 32 individual setups of varying degrees of quality and privacy. The NHL does it right.

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Great anecdote, azcheesehead. It sounds like MLB could improve things by changing the umpire traveling schedule or giving them more off days. They are on the field for longer than anyone else.

 

I'm somewhat surprised at the number of reviewable calls, but if it includes check swings, foul tips, etc. then it is definitely possible. The issue with a finite number of challenges is definitely there, but I think that it can be mitigated if the correct goal is in mind. For instance, the NFL's goal on reviewable plays is to get every single call correct. However, the NFL does not have any review for penalties and is still subject to games being decided by questionable pass interference calls or missed holding penalties. Scoring plays and turnovers are the most important to 1) the outcome of the game; and 2) the easiest to review, so they receive the most reviews.

 

In MLB, the easiest play to review is balls and strikes because the computer already does it. However, balls and strike have a very low importance on the outcome of the game, except in certain high leverage situations. That's why I advocate for a fixed number of challenges for balls and strikes. If the manager uses them up on low leverage situations, that's his loss.

 

The plays that are most important to the outcome of the game are home runs, fair/foul balls, and safe/out calls. However, we have seen that these calls have some potentially tricky situations such as where to place runners and how many challenges to allow. The umpires have a right to be concerned. But the most question is--are the potential issues/problems solvable? I think the answer is yes.

 

I also strongly agree that a central review room is best.

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Not the way it just worked in the A's/Indians game. Adam Rosales hit a game tying HR in the 9th that the umpires somehow couldn't see.

 

That's why they need the central command center. That was an obvious HR and it took them 5 minutes to blow the call and another minute or two of Melvin arguing after they screwed it up.

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Well it was Angel Hernandez. He is one of the few MLB umps I know by name and sight, only due to his complete ineptitude and sheer number of horrible calls and resulting ejections. I should add his astounding level of arrogance makes it impossible for him to overturn a call no matter what video shows, which is why the review has to be made by someone upstairs.
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Someone in the box instantly watches a replay of anything remotely close and calls for a replay if he is unsure. He watches the replay a couple times and makes the call. No reason this process should ever take more than 2 minutes, if it is so close you can't tell in 2 minutes than you just don't overrule it. Certainly no reason to have the umps on the field ever walk off the field as part of the process.
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It seems like the most logical thing on the planet to me, and it should be universal in every major sport. In every arena create a small room with the best camera feeds, a computer with access to the feeds and a really big monitor. Everything that should be reviewed is. Out on the bases, completed catches, out of bounds, shot clock violations, etc. There aren't enough of these kinds of close plays in a game that a game should be drastically lengthened, and officials get the calls right most of the time.

 

But when there's a question, have that review booth on top of it to make an immediate call down. No challenge flags or timeouts or umpires running to a monitor. Hell, in MLB and the NFL I bet the games get shorter. Managers won't run onto the field, NFL refs won't huddle next to a monitor.

 

Again, for years this has seemed like the dead-simple option and I can't believe it isn't universal by now.

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Some good ideas in this thread, I agree with most of them.

 

I don't really believe the ump's statement about 30+ reviewable plays. Sure, there are many calls that have inherent uncertainty (check swings), and fans understand that those are judgment calls that can go either way. Realistically there are probably 5 or less calls that would truly need a replay decision.

 

What ticks me off most is a play like in last night's game, where Gomez clearly got hit by a pitch on the hand, and the home plate ump calls it a foul ball. It's so easy to fix - literally a 10 second call for a "booth ump" to make. A play like that usually doesn't fit under the replay scenarios that people bring up (fair vs. foul, out vs. safe, etc.) but it absolutely needs to be made right if possible.

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Yeah forgot to mention after the A's game tonight, instant replay itself isn't enough -- you also have to have an umpiring crew with respective sets of properly functioning eyes. It's useless without that.

 

I know the cliche line about MLB umpires is that they do a great job, but it's simply not true. To miss a call with the benefit of replay that some intoxicated college kids could get right from their dorm room is truly an embarrassment for MLB and their umpiring crews.

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