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.

Struggling Francisco Rodriguez’s job seems to be secure

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Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez continued to struggle on Thursday, allowing a run in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. It’s the sixth time in nine appearances that the right-handed veteran has allowed a run, bumping his ERA up to 6.23. He’s blown two saves and has two losses on the year.

Despite that, it doesn’t sound like Rodriguez’s job as the Tigers’ closer is in any jeopardy, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. When asked how much of a leash Rodriguez has, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I’ll let you know.” Ausmus continued, “I think people have short memories. This guy did a pretty good job for us last year. Early on, people were worried because the velocity was down. Well, the velocity is back.”

“But at some point,” Ausmus said, “he does have to pitch the way he pitched last year, because he did an outstanding job for us last year and in a city that has been looking for a closer that was consistent for a long time, he was that.”

Rodriguez, 35, doesn’t have the stuff he once did. And the Tigers do appear to have someone who would be a better option in high-leverage situations. Lefty Justin Wilson has thrown 9 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings so far this season with 15 strikeouts and three walks. But for now, it sounds like Rodriguez will be free to work through his issues.

The Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field

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Don’t look now, but the Nationals have the best record in baseball at 16-6. They’re coming off a 10-game road trip in which they went 9-1, including sweeps of the Braves and Mets and a 3-1 series against the Rockies at Coors Field. During that series with the Rockies, the Nationals scored 46 runs, which is nearly as many as the Royals (54) have scored all season long. The Nats scored double-digits in all three wins.

The first game at Coors, an 8-4 loss, saw a three-hit game from Anthony Rendon and a homer from Ryan Zimmerman.

The second game featured Trea Turner hitting for the cycle and driving in seven runs. Daniel Murphy had three hits and five RBI.

The third game saw Turner finish a triple short of the cycle. Bryce Harper had four hits. Zimmerman had three hits including a homer. Murphy homered, too.

The fourth game featured homers from Adam Eaton, Harper, and Murphy. Seven members of the lineup had multiple hits and six had multiple RBI including pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

The series helped the Nationals bring their run differential to +34, the best in the National League. The Yankees are the only team with a better differential at +35.

Indeed, the Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field. They return home to open up a three-game set with the ailing Mets on Friday night.