Umpire Got the Count Wrong, Now What?
The D’backs hosted the Dodgers on Sept. 10. In the top of the sixth inning, the Dodgers had Kike Hernandez on third and Austin Barnes on first with one out. Mookie Betts was at-bat with a 1-2 count. On the next pitch which was called a “Ball” by plate umpire Doug Eddings, the. Dodgers attempted a double steal. Hernandez was called out at home (2-4-2). Barnes took second on the play.
The count on Betts was now 2-2 but Eddings failed to register the “Ball.” This is common when a plate umpire is distracted by an intervening play. So Eddings had the count as 1-2 which is what the scoreboard had. The next pitch was a “Ball.” This made the count 3-2 but the ump had it 2-2. The next pitch was called a “Ball” which should have been “Ball Four.” But the count on the field was incorrectly, 3-2.
Betts then fouled off the next pitch with a count of 4-2. At that point, the Dodgers’ bench got Eddings’ attention and pointed out that Betts should be on first base via a base on balls. Regarding incorrect counts, the umpires are allowed a Crew Chief review. And it was determined in NYC that Betts rightfully walked and was placed at first base.
Was the incorrect count a correctible error? The answer is yes if done in a timely manner.
Rule 8.02 (c) says, “…correction of a missed ball-strike count shall not be permitted after a pitch is thrown to a subsequent batter, or in the case of the final batter of an inning or game after all infielders of the defensive team leave fair territory.”
Here is a situation akin to the batting out of turn rule. Managers should exercise patience if they are aware of an incorrect count. It’s difficult to fault managers or coaches here since the provision in rule 8.02 (c) was added to the Official Baseball Rules in 2018 and is not a common occurrence.
From the perspective of the offensive manager, if the at-bat ends in a putout where the batter should have walked, the manager can request a Crew Chief review. NYC can correct the error and award the batter first base as long as it’s done before the first pitch to the next batter. For instance, in the Betts scenario, if the Dodgers waited until the end of the at-bat (with the incorrect count) and Betts hit a double, triple, or home run, that would certainly benefit the Dodgers more than the walk unless the D’backs caught the error.
If the D’backs caught the error before the next pitch to Corey Seager, Betts was guaranteed at least first base following a Crew Chief challenge. In essence, Betts had a free swing.
A D’backs coach said, “We were aware of the incorrect count but there was no reason to bring it to the attention of Eddings since the incorrect count did not create an advantage for us.” But if Betts collected an extra-base hit, the D’backs would have requested a Crew Chief review.
Is there a situation where the manager of the defensive team would remain mute if the umpires missed a “Strike Three?” That would be an individual team decision. If it’s possible for the batter to hit into a double play, the manager of the defensive team can remain silent and hope his team picks-up a double play. This would work if the manager of the team at-bat was not aware of the incorrect count. If the offensive manager was aware of the incorrect count, he can ask for a Crew Chief review and eliminate the double play. Only the batter would be out on the strikeout.
There can be many permutations here that would make for good discussion among coaching staffs. I think in most situations it would be wise on the part of both dugouts to not bring the incorrect count to the attention of the umpires until the at-bat is completed, or not at all.
When the plate umpire is asked to multi-task such as Eddings was in this play, it’s very common for the umpire to fail to register the “Ball” or “Strike.” I question why none of the three other umpires (Nestor Ceja, Edwin Moscoso, and Rob Drake) picked-up the incorrect count. It would have been helpful if they checked with Eddings following the 2-4-2 putout at the plate.
Managers, coaches, players, and broadcasters should be on red alert for incorrect counts anytime there is a lengthy interruption following a pitch. It could be a play at the plate as we saw in the Betts at-bat; it could be an argument over a “Ball” or “Strike” call; it could be a situation where the plate umpire is chasing the catcher after a foul ball and fails to register a “Strike” on his indicator; it could be a foul tip that injures the umpire etc.
To summarize, never rely solely on the scoreboard for the correct count and be patient if the incorrect count becomes part of the at-bat.
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