More about the unintended consequences of replay

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In the past several days I have considered some unintended consequence of the replay challenge system. I kind of like thinking about such things and encourage all of you to do the same so that we won’t be surprised when they happen.

I think this observation from reader Tim W. would apply to either a fifth umpire system or a challenge system — and it’s not a criticism; merely an observation — but it is yet another way that replay will change the game in subtle ways. Specifically: players will — or should be — trained to play for four outs:

Will teams now play to 4 outs per inning?   Runners on 1st and 2nd, one out.  Ground ball that looks like a double play with a neighborhood tag of second and a close play at first.  Should be inning ending.  Now the runner on second continues to round third and is headed toward home.  Does the defense give up and assume both outs will be upheld and does the runner head to the dugout.  OR does the runner continue toward home, the first baseman throws home, there is a collision at the plate.  Your catcher just got ran over because you were not sure of the outs being upheld or the offense scores a run on the appeal … There would seem to be endless possibilities if you begin to review every aspect of the game.  Why is the out at first more or less important than strike 3/ball 4.  That out or lack thereof, is one of twenty-seven, just as the play at first.

There has been a lot of talk about where to put runners on overturned calls, the issues facing “continuation plays” as it were.  I feel like there will be at least an initial bias to putting runners back to where they actually got to on the play as opposed to sending them backwards on the basepaths in the interests of undoing what would not have been done.  Not intentionally, but because it will make umpires feel like they’re interfering with natural play more than they really are. Just sort of a psychological quirk.

Smart teams will start to take advantage of that. They’ll tell their runners and fielders to keep moving. To treat the game like there are four outs an inning so as to gain maximal advantage on overturned calls.

A scout thinks the Astros strike out too much. The Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball.

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Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”

Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.

This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.

The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.

This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.

Mets acquire Jacob Rhame from Dodgers

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The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.

The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.