Pitching Change at Houston Astros Game Allowed by Umpires, Rule Misapplied

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Pitching Change Rule MLB

Everyone knows that when it comes to sports, the officials who make the calls are bound to make a mistake at some point since they’re human. Over the years, technology has been introduced to help those officiating cut down on those mistakes; though they still happen from time to time.

In Thursday night’s baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Houston Astros, technology could not help the umpires avoid another bad call, which is the second in less than 48 hours. The only other person that could be said was equally red in the face as the officiating crew was the manager for the Angels, Mike Scioscia.

On Wednesday, Angel Hernandez muffed a video review that nullified a game-tying home run for the Oakland Athletics.

During a Thursday night’s game between the Angels and the Astros, Fieldin Culbreth’s crew did not catch a rookie mistake made by Astros manager Bo Porter. This caused the game to be finished under protest.

The difference in this game was that the Angels were able to bounce back and defeat Houston, so the protest originally made by the Angels’ manager is rendered moot. However, it doesn’t erase what happened during the seventh inning that unfolded into another example of poor officiating in Houston.

The Astros were leading 5-3 when Porter decided to insert lefty reliever Wesley Wright into the game. Just like a chess game, Scioscia made a counter move by having Luis Jimenez pinch-hit, who is a right-handed batter.

The move-counter move is something that is common and has happened in baseball games for decades as a result of rule 3.05(b), which says that a pitcher who is inserted into the game must face one batter, unless illness or injury prevents him from doing so. Porter had thought the rule had been amended, so he lifted Wright and replaced him with right-handed Hector Ambriz.

Anyone who knows the rules at this point would have looked on in disbelief and saying to himself “did he do what I think he just did?” For Scioscia, he did more than that and ran onto the field and immediately protested.

The umpires huddled together to discuss the situation without the use of technology to help them as it came down to their interpretation of the rule.

The end result was that they allowed Ambriz to pitch to Jimenez.

Porter’s take on the rule was that “technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit, but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit — which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Though that might be his interpretation, this is news to hundreds of managers who for decades have operated under a different assumption.

It seems that there is nothing in rule 3.05(b) to suggest that such an interpretation can be made as well as there is no indication that the rule has been recently amended, as Porter suggested.

Scioscia said afterward that “I think the rule’s pretty clear.” As for crew chief Culbreth, he wouldn’t say much about what happened. He said, “Well, the only thing I can tell you is that all matters concerning protests are handled through the league office.”

A statement was issued by Major League Baseball on Friday that confirmed the rule in regards to pitching changes “was not applied properly” and as far as disciplining the umpiring crew, the situation was “being reviewed.”

MLB has been in the spotlight for the wrong reason now for the second day in a row. MLB vice president Joe Torre released a statement on Thursday confirming that the umps blew a video review in Cleveland.

The relationship between the game’s central office and the umpires has always been a delicate relationship.

As the 2013 season progresses, that relationship will only get more tenuous with every blown call as well as the looming specter of expanded replay that is to occur in the 2014 season.

Though it might shorten the amount of wrong calls being made, it won’t eliminate the acts of incompetence that is bound to happen. Also, it will not force those who make them to display a level of accountability that goes beyond the bobs and weaves of Culbreth and Hernandez on consecutive nights.

How Accountable Are MLB Umpires?

Buster Olney looks at the pitching change that led the Angels to protest Thursday night’s game.

Angels’ Win Nullifies Controversy

The Angels played Thursday’s game under protest after Mike Scioscia argued Astros skipper Bo Porter wasn’t allowed to make two pitching changes before the first reliever fired an official pitch.

Torre Addresses Perception Of Umpires

Joe Torre discusses this week’s missed home run call, whether replay would have helped, and the resulting perception of umpires.

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