Great Moments in Instant Replay: Yunel Escobar strikes out on a 4-2 count

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With the disclaimer that I like instant replay and that I think its results so far are a net positive even if it’s hard to get used to the often clunky implementation, it did not experience its finest hour in last night’s Rays-Twins game.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Yunel Escobar came to the plate. At one point he checked his swing and the ball bounced off the catcher’s mitt. At first glance it appeared to be a foul ball — that’s what the scoreboard operator registered anyway — but it was a ball. A few seconds later Escobar took his fourth ball, and then confusion reigned. Watch it all unfold here.

Both dugouts and Escobar thought it was ball four. The home plate umpire wasn’t sure — this is not terribly uncommon, actually, and sometimes they double check their little handheld clickers with the scoreboard — so they went to instant replay to review. But even instant replay got the call wrong and the count was officially set to 3-2, even though Escobar should have already been on first base. On the 4-2 pitch, Escobar struck out.

Major League Baseball agreed, issuing a statement after the game:

”An error was made when replay officials and supervisors mistakenly thought one of the pitches was a foul ball when it was actually a ball,” MLB said in a statement.

It ended up not mattering in the game, but it’s not a defining moment for instant replay, that’s for sure.

Mike Trout has been really good at baseball lately

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“Water wet,” “Sky blue,” “Dog bites man” and “Mike Trout good” are not exactly newsworthy sentiments, but once in a while you have to state the obvious just so you can look back later and make sure you were, in the moment, aware of the obvious.

And to be fair, “Mike Trout good” is underselling the Angels outfielder lately. He’s on the greatest tear of his great career lately, and dang it, that’s worthy of a few words on this blog.

Last night Trout went a mere 1-for-1, but that’s because the Diamondbacks were smart enough not to pitch to him too much, walking him twice. There was no one on base the first time he came up and he got a free pass. There was a guy on first but two outs the second time, so he was once again not given much to hit and took his base again. Arizona was not so lucky the third time. The bases were loaded and there was nowhere to put Trout. He smacked the first pitch he saw for a two-run single. They probably shoulda just walked him anyway, limiting the damage to one. The last time up he reached on catcher’s interference. Maybe Arizona figured that literally grabbing the bat from him with a catcher’s mitt was the best bet?

If so you can’t blame them, really. Not with the month he’s had. In June, Trout is hitting .448/.554/.776 with five homers. He currently leads the league in the following categories: home runs (23), runs (60), walks (64), on-base percentage (.469), OPS (1.158) OPS+ (219), total bases (179) and intentional walks (9). He currently has a bWAR of 6.5. WAR, in case you did not know, is a cumulative stat. When he won the 2014 MVP Award, he “only” had 7.6 for the entire year.

Sadly, one man does not a team make, so the Angels are only 9-8 in the month of June and have fallen far back of the red-hot Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners in the division race. For this reason I suspect a lot of people are going to do what they’ve long done and overlook Mike Trout’s sheer dominance or, even more ridiculously, claim he is overrated or something (believe me, I’ve seen it even this month).

Feel free to ignore those people and concentrate instead on the greatest baseball player in the game today, who has somehow managed to up his game in recent weeks.