So, how did MLB instant replay do?

Fivethirtyeight.com, which might be the best website in human history, discusses it here.

I love the chart showing the percent of times that umpires have their calls overturned, and the Chris Guccione love that follows. I’m enough of a nerd that I want to see the names attached to every single dot on that chart. More information is good, and as the author, Oliver Roeder, points out, the data on challenged calls is an extremely limited data set (and that limit is stacked against the umpire).

But Roeder nails it with this quote:

But baseball is a survivor — it evolves. And expanded replay will be accommodated. Arguments against replay are largely aesthetic. Largely gone may be the dirt-tossing, hat-throwing and even base-heaving. But if a few calls are resurrected from the graveyard of the specious, for the low, low price of a under a minute per game — who can argue with that?

Who, indeed? I hadn’t anticipated the loss of the stupid manager-as-napless-toddler tirade as a side effect of baseball replay, but from the very first time I was in the ballpark for a replay challenge in April, it was clear that such displays were pretty much going to go the way of the dodo for close calls. They never made sense to begin with. Up until about 2002, it was just feather-ruffling and Urination Olympics; then, for a while, maybe you could talk the umpires into getting help. Now, managers’ sole goal when they get on the field is not to put on a show, but rather to stall a little so the guys in the clubhouse can see a couple of different camera angles, then deciding whether to challenge. When people complain about the time lost, they don’t factor in that this dance probably takes less time than the old tirades that followed close calls used to take, so I’d argue we’re losing less time than even the 53 seconds per game that Roeder suggests.

That said, I have two humble suggestions.

#1, I’d like to know what crews are on duty at the replay center. Maybe we can’t always know what individual umpires are assigned each game. In fact, I doubt they do it that way since they cannot predict overlap between late games and early games that run late. But if an umpire has to lay his name and butt on the line with a call in real time, I think we should know at least who the two crews are that could overturn those calls form New York.

#2. Speaking of New York, why have the replay center there? Yeah, I know that this is where the MLB offices are. But if a West Coast game has a rain delay or some extra innings and stretches beyond midnight, the umpires in New York are up past 3AM when they might have to make a critical late-game decision. Why not have the umpires in Los Angeles instead? Park them there among series in Anaheim, and Chavez Ravine so they can get even more time in one spot. Let them relax, get some laundry done, visit the beach. I’d much rather have the umpires starting early with a 9:30 AM first pitch for a day game on the East Coast than attempting to stay awake and alert past 1AM (as a best-case scenario) and beyond 3AM (I bet someone could track how often that happened this year…when the latest late game finished). Am I the only person to come up with this idea? Establish some adjunct MLB office in LA; have Joe Torre or his replacement as the head of umpiring work out of an office there (and Skype or fly to NYC if he needs to see the commissioner). I think the impact on the quality of late-game replay calls matters more than the convenience of having everyone in New York.

But, at any rate, even with those quibbles, I agree with the article that MLB replay has been a smashing success.

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