Matthew Pouliot


White Sox lose after obvious interference call missed


It was 4-4 in the top of the 11th of Tuesday night’s game between the Astros and White Sox. George Springer singled with one out against Matt Albers and was looking to run with Carlos Correa at the plate. He took off on the 0-2 pitch, which Correa swung through for the strikeout. Here’s where Correa ended up after his swing.




This was, by any definition, interference. It was Correa’s momentum from the swing that carried him through home plate, but that’s irrelevant, and while he did eventually make an effort to duck, it happened too late for Alex Avila to make the throw he wanted to make.

If interference had been called by home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo, Springer would have been out* and the inning would have been over. Instead, Springer was credited with the steal, Evan Gattis followed with a two-run homer and the Astros went on to win 6-5.

(The reason Springer would have been out is because it was strike three on Correa. If it had happened earlier in the at-bat, Springer simply would have been sent back to first base.)

It seems to me that umpires have gotten better recently about calling interference on these sorts of plays. It used to be that interference was hardly ever ruled unless the catcher hit the runner with the ball or with his arm on the follow through. Obviously, that shouldn’t be necessary to draw the call. Randazzo, though, seemed to be watching the steal attempt, rather than the clear case of interference in front of him.

2016’s hot new trend is batting the pitcher eighth

Madison Bumgarner
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Tony La Russa started it with the Cardinals way back in 2007. Joe Maddon’s Cubs and later Bryan Price’s Reds gave it a try last year. It’s 2016, though, that is shaping up as the year of the pitcher batting eighth. Three of the six NL teams playing day games today are going that route:

San Francisco: CF Denard Span, 2B Joe Panik, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Brandon Belt, 3B Matt Duffy, SS Brandon Crawford, SP Madison Bumgarner, LF Angel Pagan

Milwaukee: RF Domingo Santana, SS Jonathan Villar, LF Ryan Braun, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Chris Carter, 3B Aaron Hill, 2B Scooter Gennett, SP Wily Peralta, CF Keon Broxton

Cincinnati: SS Zack Cozart, 3B Eugenio Suarez, 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, RF Jay Bruce, LF Adam Duvall, SP Raisel Iglesias, CF Billy Hamilton

Even if none of the NL teams playing later tonight follow suit, just three pitchers batting is a huge rarity. It would have been unheard of before 2015. In the 40 years from 1958-1997, pitchers hit eighth a total of eight times. Even as recently as 2013, there were just three games in which a pitcher hit eighth (and only one of those was by an NL team).

But the pitcher batting eighth seems to make a lot of sense. No. 9 hitters in the AL, even though they’re considerably worse than No. 8 hitters, score more frequently and drive in about 97 percent as many runs (after taking homers out of the equation). In the NL, No. 9 hitters batting behind the pitcher won’t get those RBI opportunities. Still, with all of the quality bats following at the top of the order, ninth is simply the more valuable spot.

Interestingly, though, Joe Maddon, the man who really got this started by hitting his pitcher eighth 140 times last year, is planning on going back to the pitcher in the ninth spot this year. That’s because he thinks Addison Russell, last year’s primary No. 9 hitter, is simply too good not to be put into RBI situations, and he doesn’t feel anyone else would fit there.

5 p.m. EDT update: Make it four teams; the Diamondbacks are going with Zack Greinke eighth and Nick Ahmed ninth tonight.

A’s, White Sox working on Brett Lawrie deal

Brett Lawrie
AP Photo

Ignoring all of the fun possibilities a Jed LowrieBrett Lawrie infield affords, the A’s are set to trade Lawrie to the White Sox for a pair of prospects, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports.

In an unrelated move, the A’s are also moving close to adding John Axford to the bullpen, Slusser states.

It’s unclear who the A’s will be getting back from the White Sox in the deal, but it seems they’ve been playing to move Lawrie since the end of the season, if not well before. The 25-year-old hit .260/.299/.407 in what’s expected to go down as his only season in Oakland. He was acquired from the Jays in the Josh Donaldson deal last winter.

The White Sox need all of the infield help they can get, particularly after declining Alexei Ramirez‘s option for 2016. If the season started today, they’d probably open up with Carlos Sanchez at second, Tyler Saladino at shortstop and Mike Olt at third base. None of those are ideal solutions, though Sanchez at least has a very good glove. Shortstop prospect Tim Anderson could arrive at midseason to push Saladino into the utility role for which he’s best suited.

Oakland had been publically stating that Lowrie would play second base next year, but that’s back open again now. Lowrie and Marcus Semien will occupy two of the three non-first base infield spots, with Lowrie probably at second or third and Semien remaining at short. Ideally, they’d do better than Eric Sogard for the remaining starting spot.