Tag Archives: video review

Upon further review

Star-crossed umpiring

Something I’ve wanted to do since umpires began taking requests from managers who felt wronged by their judgements on the field was see whether some teams were more or less likely to have the initial calls go their way.

There has long been a perception in Japan of umpiring bias toward the Giants, but without hard evidence, there’s not much one can say about it.

When Tokyo Dome first opened, Nippon Television, which owns the rights to the home games and is owned by the Giants’ parent company, frequently showed video of pitches from a camera suspended below the dome ceiling — until too many of those shots were called strikes not close to being over the plate.

Like watching from the cheap seats

One problem with the “Request System” is that the umpires have to work from whatever crappy little monitor the home team’s owner provides for them. This once led to a disastrous decision against the Orix Buffaloes, when forced to review a long foul ball in the top of the 10th inning at Kyocera Dome. On the crappy little monitor provided by Orix, the umps saw the ball disappear from the screen as it crossed the line of the foul pole. They called the ball a home run, and the Hawks won in extra innings.

After the game, they looked at the call on a better monitor and were shocked to see the ball pass on the foul side of the pole. Orix, whose fault it was the umps didn’t have better equipment to work with, was outraged that such an awful mistake could have happened to them in their home park.

Osamu Ino, the head of NPB’s umpiring technical committee, said recently that things haven’t changed much since then, that the monitors available to the umps are often substandard.

Since the Nakamura call, however, the umps have resolved to only overturn calls on the field when there is clear evidence that it was wrong. They seem to deviate from that standard from time to time, but it’s probably right to assume that if you can’t see it on the monitor, then perhaps the person on the spot was in the best position to judge.

Bad luck Alex

I noticed today that the data I’d collected this season included a record of which teams reviewed calls and whether the calls on the field were overturned or upheld, so I ran them into a database and had to wonder if some umps were among those singing for Daisuke Miura to replace Alex Ramirez as DeNA BayStars managers.

I have a record of 480 video requests during the 2020 season. There may have been more, but these are the ones I have notes on. Of those reviewed calls 63 were overturned or 32 percent. The Pacific League’s Rakuten Eagles and the Central League’s BayStars ranked 1, 2 in the number of challenges by their skippers, and for good reason, those two teams led their league in calls against them that were overturned.

In last year’s CL, there really were four teams in the middle with little separating them, but one could argue the BayStars were really the second-best team in the league behind the run-away champion Giants. Finishing second might not have helped Ramirez’s chances of staying on with a team that was looking for excuses to get rid of him, but it didn’t help that he had to do extra work to correct the umps.

Of the 21 calls in BayStars’ games that were overturned upon review, 18 had originally gone against DeNA. The Eagles were second percentage-wise with 63 percent of the overturned calls having first gone their opponents’ way.

TeamOverturned against teamOverturned against oppsPct
BayStars183.86
Eagles2012.63
Carp1410.58
Fighters1914.58
Giants1110.53
Marines1515.50
Hawks911.45
Swallows912.43
Lions1520.43
Tigers1017.37
Buffaloes814.36
Dragons717.29

Hawks come up empty

I have only one year of data to work with but of the 243 requests by the batting teams, the SoftBank Hawks made just 15, the fewest in either league, and every one of those times, the umps’ call on the field was upheld.

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NPB 2020 10-16 members’ notes

Mastering video reviews

I’ve written before about how Japanese baseball’s ultimate mantra is “prepare and execute,” so when things go south, things must be done. At the very least, there must be “hansei” — self reflection — on one’s failures.

The big issues on Friday were the inadequacy of the current replay system. A string of challenges at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium held up the Marines-Eagles game for nearly half an hour. They were a string of close plays that were not obviously wrong although one was overturned.

The rule in Japan is for the umps to uphold decisions on the field without clear evidence to the contrary. The most egregious mistake came when Akira Nakamura of the Hawks was granted a decisive tie-breaking home run on a foul ball because the poor quality of the monitor afforded the officials at Kyocera Dome made it look as if it had passed on the fair side of the foul pole.

When the umps saw it on a better quality monitor after the game, they realized it was obviously foul.

Osamu Ino, the director of NPB’s umpiring technical committee has in the past blamed the cheapskate owners for not making the umps job easier and then blasting the officials for not being able to make better decisions.

On Thursday, Haruki Nishikawa was called safe at second base on a stolen base attempt despite a fairly clear image of him being tagged before his foot hit the bag.

NPB games, news of Aug. 9, 2019

Because of the upcoming national holiday on Monday, when Japan celebrates mountains, the Pacific League took Friday off, leaving just three games on the NPB calendar.

A lot of the focus was on Yokohama Stadium, where a season-ending injury to third baseman Toshiro Miyazaki saw more creativity from Japan’s most creative manager, Alex Ramirez.

Ramirez’s response was to play big-hitting left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo at third for the first time in five years and batted him second again — something that seriously annoys Japan’s talking-heads. The move allowed Ramirez to get one of his favorite prospects, 21-year-old slugging outfielder Seiya Hosokawa into the starting lineup in left. If that wasn’t bad enough for the late-night talk guys, Ramirez batted his starting pitcher eighth.

Central League

BayStars 10, Dragons 6

At Yokohama Stadium, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo rescued what looked like it was going to be a tough game for DeNA with two homers, including a grand slam, and a two-run single in a come-from-behind win over Chunichi.

BayStars starter Kentaro Taira (5-2) allowed three runs over five innings despite allowing eight hits and a walk. He surrendered a two-run, first-inning homer to Dayan Viciedo, but pitched out of a bases-loaded situation in the second.

Giants 10, Swallows 9, 10 innings

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri came from behind to beat Yakult on a Yoshiyuki Kamei sacrifice fly after trailing 7-0. The win allowed the Giants to cling to their one-game CL lead over DeNA.

On further review

The Giants overcame a seven-run deficit with four runs coming on two-run Kazuma Okamoto home runs. His one-out shot in the eighth should have come with the bases empty, but NPB’s video review system broke again.

Giants base runner Shingo Ishikawa was ruled safe when the Swallows tried to double him off first on a fly out to left. The ball was clearly in the first baseman’s glove before the runner’s foot got to the bag. But despite pleas from NPB umpires, umps have only tiny monitors under the stands to evaluate the plays. As a result, they often have no clue what the replays show and can’t make clear judgments about calls that everyone at home and in the stands have a better view of.

Analyst Suguru Egawa, a former Giant, said, “It certainly looks like he’s out.”

Seconds later when the umps came out with their decision, Egawa said, “Well, I guess he got his foot in there.”

That’s the state of replay in NPB. It’s a whole lot better than it used to be, when there was no recourse for terrible calls, but on close calls, forget it.

As a result, the call at first was upheld. Yoshihiro Maru singled, and Okamoto tied it with a three-run home run.

Hayato Sakamoto started the Giants’ counterattack in the fourth inning, when he reached 30 home runs for the first time since 2010.

Game highlights are HERE.

Carp Tigers

At Kyocera Dome, Daichi Osera (9-6) bounced back from a four-run nightmare of a second inning to work six, and Alejandro Mejia hit his second three-run homer in a week to put Hiroshima in front in a win over Hanshin.

Game highlights are HERE.

NPB umps singing new tune

Osamu Ino
Osamu Ino, NPB’s umpiring technical committee chairman.

A few years ago, a senior NPB umpire told me video review was not necessary or practical in Japan because,

  • Umpires rarely made mistakes.
  • Umpires could see things video couldn’t.
  • Owners would never absorb the costs of installing enough cameras to make such a system work.

A few days before NPB unveiled the 2019 upgrade to its video challenge format, known as the “request system,” Osamu Ino, who chairs NPB’s umpiring technical committee, explained that 80 percent of the umpires were at first opposed to the new system.

They expected heckling and abuse, loss of face, you name it.

Having watched lengthy video reviews on the three plays umpires were allowed to check on their own, home runs, catches against the outfield wall and plays at the plate, a lot of NPB watchers expected games to get even slower. Actually 2017 had seen the fastest games since 2012.

That was the last of a two-year period of ultra-dead baseballs that caused offense to plummet and resulted in a coup de e’tat to ouster then commissioner Ryozo Kato.

Since then offense and game times had been on the rise. 2018 sawa more offense than 2017, with game times jumping from an average of 3:13 to 3:18. Not great but not the catastrophe many expected.

Instead, umpires, players and managers moved on with the game, fans watched the close plays replayed on the big screens, something that had been taboo in Japanese sports up to that point, and everyone liked it.

There were complaints about the quality of the equipment available to umpires and the number of cameras — indeed I heard at least two players say, “If you’re not going to have enough cameras in all the parks don’t do it at all.” That struck me as a dumb comment then and a dumb comment now — although owners have proven themselves too cheap to provide the umpires with decent monitors for their reviews.

According to Ino, the umps went from 80 percent disapproval when they first heard of the system at the end of 2017, to 50 percent before the start of the season, to 100 percent after the season.

You can find my related story in the Japan Times here.