Sox-Angels ump admits to being fooled; poor judgment; and making makeup calls

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Yesterday we debated whether or not umpires react to crowd noise and stuff like that. Today comes evidence that other subjective factors color their calls as well:


Umpire
Rick Reed acknowledged Thursday that his ball-four call on a
ninth-inning pitch by Angels closer Brian Fuentes to Nick Green on
Wednesday night “very well could have been a strike” . . . Reed said that on that final pitch to Green, Mike Napoli’s actions led
him to call it a ball after the Angels catcher tried to frame the
knee-high pitch . . . “The catcher did a nice job of bringing it up,
and that was a telling blow. If a catcher moves his glove, it’s to
improve the pitch.”

Anyone who has watched a lot of baseball knows this on some level, but it is odd to hear an umpire acknowledge that the catcher’s framing of the pitch and body language actually influences the call so directly.  Here’s some more evidence that the old conventional wisdom regarding umpires is true:

“I called a [strike] earlier in the game that I thought was low, and I
said, ‘I’m not going to let that happen again.’ I wish they were all
waist-high. They’d be a lot easier to judge.”

The old makeup call. Something umps — and football refs — claim never occurs. Again, we all knew it, but it’s quite a thing to hear an umpire admit it.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.