Thursday, November 5, 2009

Instant Replay Plus Bases Loaded

Now that the World Series is over with a deserved Yankees victory, let me share with you my ideas for how instant replay can be made part of the game, at least as it applies to the post season. Also, I’ll pass along an idea for better reporting when bases-loaded situations occur:

Instant Replay: As in the last two minutes of each NFL football half, all close plays (but not balls and strikes), would be reviewed by a 7th umpire sitting in a TV booth. He, not the managers, would initiate reviews throughout a game. He would send an electronic signal to the home plate umpire and crew chief that a review is underway. Based on available TV shots, usually ready within a minute, he would make the right call.

Would it lengthen the game? No doubt. But adding only 2-4 minutes of a 210-minute (or longer) game for a few close plays would not be burdensome, especially when you consider that the integrity of the game was at stake and that often it could be accomplished during the same time that a manager is contesting a call.

The argument about affecting the “pace of the game” advanced by Commissioner Bud Selig and others is specious. Teams already delay the flow. During the Yankees-Angels league championship series the Yanks deliberately threw over to first and had mound conferences to give Mariano Rivera time to warm up and enter the game. It was a blatant stall, pointed out by the TV announcers. The umps knew it and were powerless to stop it. Selig couldn’t stop it, either. So let’s not hide behind the “pace of the game” argument.

Technology is available to rapidly and usually unequivocally “call” the game’s most contested and controversial plays. These are not judgment calls (e.g., if Reggie Jackson purposely stuck his hip out to deflect a throw in the base path in the 1978 World Series against the Dodgers). Bang-bang plays that can change the course of a game or series (such as the two blown calls at first base in Game 2 of the Series) can and must be called correctly. Instant replay, when conclusive, can do it without materially lengthening the game.

Bases-loaded reporting: I often hear announcers citing the batter’s experience in past bases-loaded at-bats. Yet no one ever cites the equally important statistic of how pitchers fared when confronted with the bases loaded. (Statistics are used for relievers and inherited runners, but to my knowledge nobody is tracking how pitchers do with the bases loaded.)

Moreover, it might be even more enlightening to reveal how they pitched with the bases jammed with no outs, with 1 out and with 2 outs (same thing could be done for batters) as the pressure to perform clearly changes with the circumstances of how many outs there are.

Remember, if any of these suggestions make their way into baseball, you read it first here.