NPB to take more requests

Managers get more review options

Managers were given expanded video review options on Tuesday, when Nippon Professional Baseball rolled out its revised video review program — known as the “Request System” — for 2019 at the NPB managers meeting.

Prior to 2018, video reviews were limited to balls caught against the outfield wall, potential home runs and plays at home plate, and were conducted at the sole discretion of the umps. This didn’t prevent a manager from raising one eyebrow or both, or stepping on the field with a plaintive look to encourage umps to exercise that option.

Last year’s system allowed managers to review only safe and out decisions on the field. Each team is able to request reviews until two requests through nine innings have failed to overturn rulings. Teams are allotted an additional request in extra innings.

In addition to safe-out calls, managers this season will be able to review whether a pitch struck a batter in the head or not, obstruction calls at home plate or takeout slides to prevent a double play.

Hitting a batter in the head with a pitch — a “kikenkyu” or dangerous ball — results in automatic ejection for the pitcher, but now the umpire’s call can be reviewed before the pitcher is kicked out of the game.

No talking back

From this year, NPB intends to enforce its rule that players and managers who dispute the result of a video review will be automatically ejected. In addition any time a player is ejected for that offense, his skipper will also get the heave-ho.

“If a player get thrown out of the game, the manager automatically gets thrown out from this year,” DeNA BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said after the meeting in Tokyo. “That’s one thing that is also very good.”

One less cook seeing to the broth

Although umpires will still go under the stands and stare at tiny screens to examine the video evidence, the umpire who made the call in question will no longer be part of the process.

According to Osamu Ino, NPB’s umpiring technical committee chairman, the umps had wanted someone off the field to handle that duty, but were refused. Video reviews in the majors are handled by Major League Baseball at a remote sight and the umps on the field are then informed of their decision.

A step forward

“Of course, this system is an improvement,” Yakult Swallows manager Junji Ogawa said. “Having it is better than not having it.”

“They’ve expanded the range of things we can review, and I don’t think it will stop there. From now on, we will want more and more reviewable options. But at some point you have to just respect the umpires’ decision and their position.”

Ramirez vowed to be more efficient in requesting reviews, especially after he was “recognized” for his behavior in 2018 and suggested that sometimes he expended requests on plays that really weren’t that close late in games because he felt the need to either use them or lose them.

“It was very new to everybody,” he said. “Sometimes I didn’t know what to expect when requesting. I realize today that I requested the most, 51 times. And 13 times that was correct. I had a 25 percent success rate. So I realized I needed to do better.”

“If we don’t have to (make a request), don’t do it just because.”

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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