“The Gnats” made their debut for the Mariners on Monday night, and Chone Figgins and Ichiro were as pesky as expected in Seattle’s 5-3 victory over Oakland.
Figgins stole second base twice, each time advancing to third on throwing errors by A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki. Ichiro stole second once, but was then thrown out at third on another attempted steal with Figgins at the plate. As Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes, the M’s want the pair to communicate better.
There was one occasion last night when Ichiro was thrown out at third trying to steal on a 3-1 pitch. Had Figgins known he was going, he could have bluffed a bunt and drawn third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff towards the plate. But Figgins had no idea, took ball four, and Kouzmanoff held his ground and was at the bag to apply the tag.
Ichiro appeared to beat it by a hair, but was called out anyway.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said today that the pair have been working to improve communication with each other. That’s now going to be stepped up somewhat, likely through visual signals they can give each other.
The Mariners stole three bases on Monday, but were also caught twice (Milton Bradley was nabbed trying to swipe second), so their success rate is going to have to improve. With a batting order this weak, the team just can’t afford to give up base runners.
In other Mariner news, Baker also writes that Cliff Lee played catch without pain for a third straight day, and Erik Bedard is set to throw a bullpen session on Thursday. So pitching help might be on the way, but will there be enough offense?
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: