How Far Do We Go with MLB Replay Review?

April 15, 2017: Astros catcher Evan Gaddis eyes the ball coming in down and left. The heavy end of the bat is already moving through an arc of space that will miss the ball by five inches. Umpire Scott Barry will call it a foul tip, negating a strikeout that would have ended the inning for the A’s.


In the bottom of the 3rd inning of Saturday’s Astros game at Oakland, the A’s held a 3-0 lead and were threatening to break it open with the bases loaded, two outs, and RHB Ryan Healy facing RHP Lance McCullars with the bases loaded, two outs, and a 3-2 count on the A’s batter.

McCullars dropped a pitch that was dropping low, outside, and probably unhittable, but Healy swing anyway and missed for strike three to end the threat of greater harm to Houston’s rally chances.

McCullars is walking off the mound. What a relief!

Wait a minute! HP umpire Scott Barry says it wasn’t strike three after all. As he eyes Astros catcher Evan Gaddis fumbling in the dirt to pick up the ball he could not contain for a caught strike three, he also carries his visual conclusion a step further. The pitch was a foul tip. It had to have been a foul tip, otherwise, Gaddis would have caught it. Healy’s must have tipped it and made the ball uncatchable.

Oh, really?

If you examine the masthead photo of this exact play, you will see the heavy side of Healy’s bat swinging through the arc of possible contact and missing the coming in, but falling away pitched baseball by a good five-inch wide country baseball mile.

Two pitches later, McCullers struck out Healy swinging for the second time in the same at bat on a similar pitch, but this time, Gaddis caught the ball. And umpire Scott Barry was not disposed again to jump to any further wrong conclusions.

The Astros later rallied from a 5-0 deficit for the second time in three days to take the game with the A’s by a score of 10-6, but what might have happened had the egregiously wrong call in the 3rd inning by umpire Scott Barry been the door opener for a big Oakland inning that may well have squashed any hope for a Houston rally win? For one thing, it certainly would have been a tough watch for the umpire himself, post-game, to see the big part that his perceptual error played in the unfolding of an unjust outcome. That’s for sure.

While I don’t favor the use of chin music audio-metric devices to fine tune when those close ones actually tip a whisker hard enough to earn the survivor an HBP ride to first base, I do think that instant replay could have set Barry’s call straight as dead wrong quite fast – and spared us all the history of allowing another avoidable error to rule the day.

The Old Law of the Jungle Rules Need Some Attention

Most students of the ancient game know that umpires forever have listened for – certain sounds – occurring milliseconds apart – that would tell them which came earliest on a play at first – the sound of the ball hitting the glove for an out – or the sound of a foot hitting the base for a safe call. And, if a home plate umpire couldn’t see the part of actual transaction between the bat and ball from his spot, he could, at least, learn how catchers react to balls that are tipped – especially, the fact that most tipped balls immediately have a good chance of not being caught because of that last second high-speed directional change that such tips cause. – Is this what happened to umpire Scott Barry? – We can’t prove it did, but we think it did, because there wasn’t anything other than the replay video that showed how utterly preposterous the tip call actually was in fact,.

The Quick Glance Addition to Replay Reviews

We don’t need to cover everything at the plate unless we are ready to move into laser system calling of balls and strikes, but we could add a “quick glance” review on plays like the one featured here. – Allow one quick replay glance on things like the errant tip call of today. If the umpire doesn’t see it right away when he looks at the replay, then, he’s free to hang with the original call. Just don’t it ride with it, as the example today clearly  proves, as an obvious unexamined mistake that could unjustly decide the outcome of the game.


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas


5 Responses to “How Far Do We Go with MLB Replay Review?”

  1. Larry Dierker Says:

    Calling balls and strikes electronically would please both hitters and pitchers. It would change the outcome of more games than the ad nauseum replays they use now. Plus, wouldn’t you like to see Earl Weaver, Tommy LaSorda, Lew Piniella et al, storming around on the field again. What you’re watching now isn’t baseball. Like for example, the DH fiasco today in Oakland.

  2. gregclucas Says:

    Quick replay can only work if a fifth umpire is stationed in a booth at every ballpark and no more waiting for the “word” from NJ. Sounds good, but unlikely cost efficient.

  3. David Munger Says:

    Lol, can you imagine the donnybrook if the next pitch would been a Grand Slam…..Holy Toledo…..

  4. Cliff Blau Says:

    It was not a foul tip, which is defined as a ball that goes directly from the bat to the catcher’s mitt and is held. Clearly the umpire ruled it a foul ball.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Gotcha, Cliff, but the point remains. It wasn’t close to being anything foul and the umpire blew it. Humans do. Besides, I suppose you do concede that some of us out here played ball for years distinguishing foul strikes by “how far” they went from where we were standing. A “foul ball” traveled down the line or at least a few feet away from us in foul territory. A “foul tip” contact was one that just knicked the bat and either flubbed around in the dirt at the plate – or got away and raced toward the backstop. A “foul tip out” – of course – was a foul tip that the catcher caught in the air for an out after it knicked our bat. And this is one prime to-the-bone understanding of the game I’ve played and lived with forever – and am not given to change. What happened Saturday was that the umpire thought that the catcher had dropped a “foul tip” that would have made it a “foul tip out” had he caught it in the air. And again, because it was not even close to being a foul “foul tip” there was no way it was going to be convertible to a “foul tip out.” 🙂

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