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October 25, 2014

Baseball commentary: MLB replay makes first major adjustment

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Posted: Saturday, April 26, 2014 3:44 pm

We focused on early season trends with the Atlanta Braves a couple of weeks ago. This week, let’s jump around the majors for some first-month impressions — with a couple of Braves nuggets thrown in for good measure.

HOW ABOUT REPLAY?: We will explore this more as the season progresses, but it’s been interesting to see the results of MLB’s first foray into using replay in an effort to get calls wrong, er, right.

So far we’ve had a four-ball, two-strike count not get overturned when an umpire messed up the count, and we’ve had one manager (Texas’ Ron Washington) get tossed after a replay mix-up. And that’s just been a small part of the fun.

MLB made its first major adjustment of the replay era Friday by tweaking the transfer rule, beginning immediately. Umpires are now free to rule on catches the way they did in the past, using a more common-sense approach when players drop the ball after making a catch and attempt to transfer the ball to their throwing hand. This mostly happens on double-play turns at second base.

Now, a catch, forceout or tag will be considered legal if a fielder has control of the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after opening his glove to transfer it to his throwing hand.

There have been several no-catch calls made on balls that were once considered outs during the first four weeks of the season — one of those led to Washington’s ejection.

In case you don’t know, every baseball telecast feeds 12 to 15 camera angles to a center in New York, split between the home and away teams’ TV truck feeds. Those videos also go to each team to help them decide when to challenge calls.

Through April 19, the last date MLB made data available, replay had been used 115 times in 262 games, including twice for record keeping. Of the 113 calls challenged, 46 were overturned, 35 were confirmed and 32 stood, meaning evidence was inconclusive.

ALL-STAR GAME VOTING: As of this past Friday, you can begin voting for your favorite all-star. I don’t know … seems like this is way too early to start that. I know MLB wants to build momentum for the game, but can we at least get through the first quarter of the season first?

BY GEORGE, PINEDA BUSTED: The most disappointing part of New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda’s ejection for using a foreign substance (pine tar) in last Wednesday’s game with rival Boston was his reaction or complete lack thereof.

It would have been great for him to go all George Brett when the umpire wiped the pine tar off his neck and then ejected him, but Pineda instead acknowledged what was painfully obvious and walked off the mound.

The whole incident was a bit baffling. Television cameras caught Pineda with pine tar on his hands two weeks before when the Yankees and Red Sox played. Everybody had to know Boston would be watching him closely this go around — and he did it anyway in the second inning, after struggling through the first.

You would think a team with veterans including Derek Jeter, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran and a manager like Joe Girardi would have warned Pineda to be careful. Maybe they did, and he ignored it.

It’s silly to believe other pitchers don’t use pine tar or other substances to help with their grip on the ball. Anyone looked closely at the bill of Craig Kimbrel’s cap lately? Most pitchers just show more discretion than Pineda did.

Pineda was guilty of blatantly using a foreign substance more so than his use of one. It will be interesting to see if there are more instances of checking pitchers for substances going forward, especially with pitchers by and large dominating hitters.

FERNANDEZ-WOOD, PART II: What a game last week when Jose Fernandez and of the Marlins and Alex Wood of the Braves tossed 16 impressive innings in a 1-0 Marlins win. Fernandez struck out 14, Wood struck out 11, and it marked the first time since 1901 opposing pitchers 24 or younger each struck out more than 10 batters since 1901, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The good news is that we get to see the matchup all over again Tuesday night when the Braves play in Miami. No way it can live up to the first, can it?

SPEAKING OF BRAVES PITCHING: Atlanta’s starting rotation had put up staggering numbers entering this weekend’s series against Cincinnati, including a 1.50 ERA through 21 games. It’s an amazing stat when you consider that three-fifths of the projected starting rotation hasn’t contributed one inning of that.

Aaron Harang, David Hale, Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana and Wood also have a majors-best .204 opponents average. Including Braves’ relievers, they are tops in the majors in ERA (2.10) and opponents average (.214). Just staggering results. And Mike Minor should rejoin the rotation, bumping Hale, sometime in the next 5 to 10 days.

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