When Mark Buehrle was ejected from Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Cleveland Indians in the third inning, the outlook was poor for the Chicago White Sox. The Sox were forced to go to their bullpen early, and with a runner on 2nd base and only 1 out, the win expectancy was 62.5% for the Indians. However, Buehrle’s replacement, Randy Williams, worked around an infield single to get out of the inning via a double play ball off the bat of Shin-Soo Choo.
The White Sox would go on to win the game, despite Buehrle’s quick hook. The reason for Buehrle’s ejection wasn’t immediately clear. It occurred after a questionable balk call – the second of the game called against Buehrle. We can’t hear if anything was said, but the offense that seems to have agitated Joe West is Buehrle lightly tossing his glove in frustration. Here’s a video of the ejection, from The Sporting Blog.
The ejection of a starting pitcher early in the game is nothing to take lightly. The starting pitcher drastically impacts the run environment of the game, as we account for in our pitcher win values. The relief picher that comes in is typically the long reliever, one of the worst pitchers on the staff.
More importantly, however, is how the additional workload forced upon the bullpen can impact a team’s relievers. Today was the 9th game day in a row for the White Sox. They will not have a day off until May 31st. The White Sox bullpen had already thrown 23.2 innings in the 8 day stretch preceding this game. The early ejection of Buehrle forced another 6.1 innings onto that bullpen. That includes four innings thrown by Tony Pena, the longest outing of his major league career. Pena has recorded two 3.0 IP outings so far this year, and has required four days and two days of rest after those appearances. There’s a good chance the Pena will not be able to be used in the four game series that Chicago will open up against Tampa Bay tomorrow.
Rule 9.01 (d) spells out the rules for ejections in MLB:
Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field. If an umpire disqualifies a player while a play is in progress, the disqualification shall not take effect until no further action is possible in that play.
Purely going by the book, Joe West wasn’t out of line with his ejection. That glove toss can certainly be called unsportsmanlike. Still, the ejection of a starting pitcher has a serious impact on a MLB game, and West’s actions seem overly sensitive given how umpires are generally treated. Umpires need to have thick skins, and it is irresponsible to potentially decide a game because one feels slighted. Luckily for Chicago, West’s ejection of Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen (who called Joe West a very nasty name after the game) didn’t cost them the game today. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that they will feel its effects throughout the entirety of their next series.