The umps deny that there is an unwritten rulebook

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In the wake of the Erick Aybar play on Saturday night, an article in today’s New York Times attempts to debunk the notion that there are any unwritten rules:

But as often as Major League Baseball umpires have been caught
making the wrong calls this October, Layne’s call could help eradicate
the notion that umpires make certain calls according to historical
precedent, and not what actually happened on the field.

For
instance, there is no such thing as tie goes to the runner. And pitches
are not strikes if they go over the so-called “black” part of the plate
for the simple reason that there is no black part of the plate in Major
League Baseball.

And umpires do not give credit to a fielder for
making a good throw, [MLB’s VP of umpiring Mike] Port said. If a tag is not made before the runner
hits the bag, then the umpire is supposed to call him safe.

The gist of the article is that if any of those plays are called, it’s simply a matter of the umpire getting the play wrong, not a matter of umps enforcing rules from some unwritten rule book or based on tradition or whatever.

I won’t deny that they’re technically wrong calls, but we see those plays called all the time, right? I mean, the assertion that “there is no such thing” as balls on the black being strikes or the neighborhood play runs counter to our obvious experience watching games.  In light of that, one of two things has to be the case: (a) there really is an unwritten rulebook; or (b) umpires get way more calls wrong than they’ll ever admit to because, like I said, we see that stuff called every single day.

So here’s the question I’d really like to see answered by umpire czar Mike Post, who is quoted in the article: are umpires disciplined or deducted points in evaluations or whatever when they call an out on the neighborhood play? Or when they call a consistent but technically wrong strike zone? I have this feeling that they aren’t or, at the very least, that “we’ve been calling it that way for 100 years” is viewed as an acceptable defense when umps are being graded and evaluated by their bosses.

If so, then there truly is an unwritten rulebook in practice.  Which may or may not be a good thing (I’m split on some of these things), but it certainly means the linked article is more of a propaganda piece than anything else.

Aaron Judge set a new postseason strikeout record

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For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:

The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).

It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: