MLB’s New Replay System: A Breakdown of Plays So Far

Well well well, MLB has a new replay system set up for every game of this year. Some people – although I would say most – are not too fond of this new system, myself included. They would say that it slows down an already slow enough game, which is true. The way the system is structured allows managers to be exploitative by confirming with their bench to see whether or not it the call should be challenged. This part of the process is what really gets me. Granted I haven’t seen too many games this year but already I miss the arguments between managers/coaches and the umpires; they were fun and made the game pretty interesting (especially when the manager of the team playing against yours got ejected). Regardless, this post is not intended to analyse the dynamics between managers and umpires but rather look at how successful the replay system has been and to examine the tendencies of the challenges. Using the twitter account @MLBReplays I examined all of the calls challenged so far this season. While the sample size is arguably small it did take quite a long time to examine various angles from the 49 calls made (as of the morning of April 9th 2014). For each replay I collected the following information which I then organized into a spreadsheet:

  • Date: MM-DD-YYYY (used for future reference and look-ups)
  • Challenger: Which team challenged the call
  • Challenged: The team that was under challenge and who’s player would be affected
  • Ump: Yes/No (did the umpires initiate the challenge themselves? This was rare but did happen in some odd situations)
  • Player Involved: Player Name (player which was the centre of the challenged play)
  • Inning: The inning in which the challenge occurred  (this could be used to determine if more challenges were made in earlier or later innings)
  • Result: Confirmed – Out Stands/Confirmed – Call Stands/Overturned – Out Added/Overturned – Out Retracted/Overturned – No Runs (this is where it may get confusing and I will explain each category below)
  • Location: 1/2/3/4/Outfield/Foul Ball/Count (where the play happened, numbers correspond to bases, Outfield corresponds to the outfield, Foul balls correspond to foul lines, Count corresponds to one unique situation during an at-bat
  • Pickoff: Yes/No (was the play a pickoff at a base?)
  • Plate: Yes/No (was the play at the plate regarding the new rules for catchers?)

Right, so after that lengthy process I will quickly explain the Result portion of the methods.

Confirmed – Out Stands: This call was challenged and the original call that was made stands, the player involved was out

Confirmed – Call Stands: This call was challenged however the original call that was made stands and the player in question is safe

Overturned – Out Added: The challenge was successful and upon reviewing the replay the umpires overturned their original call and the player in question is out. When these calls are made this is almost always the challenging manager’s desired outcome

Overturned – Out Retracted: The player in question who was originally out is now ruled safe

Overturned – No Runs: This happened once in the 49 replays so far this year and the original call that lead to run(s) being scored was overturned and those runs removed

Now that the definitions of each category are out of the way I can provide the data in a table for your viewing enjoyment! Following the table is my analysis of the results and some quick number crunching to see what has been happening so far with the replays.

Date Challenger Challenged Ump Player Involved Inning Result Location Pickoff Plate
3/31/2014 Cubs Pirates No Jeff Samardzija Top 5th Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
3/31/2014 Braves Brewers No Ryan Braun Bot 6th Overturned – Out Added 1 No No
3/31/2014 Pirates Cubs No Emilio Bonifacio Top 10th Overturned – Out Added 1 Yes No
3/31/2014 Nationals Mets No Danny Espinosa Top 10th Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
4/1/2014 Umpires Athletics Yes John Jaso Top 6th Confirmed – Out Stands 4 No Yes
4/1/2014 Rangers Phillies No Ben Revere Top 6th Overturned – Out Added 2 Yes No
4/1/2014 Umpires Blue Jays Yes Melky Cabrera Top 9th Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
4/1/2014 Giants Diamondbacks No AJ Pollock Bot 4th Confirmed – Call Stands 1 Yes No
4/2/2014 Tigers Royals No Tyler Collins Bot 6th Overturned – Out Retracted 1 No No
4/2/2014 Tigers Royals No Norichika Aoki Top 10th Overturned – Out Added 1 No No
4/2/2014 Twins White Sox No Adam Eaton Top 7th Overturned – Out Retracted Outfield No No
4/2/2014 Athletics Indians No Yan Gomes Bot 2nd Confirmed – Out Stands 4 No Yes
4/2/2014 Marlins Rockies No Jordan Pacheco Top 4th Confirmed – Call Stands 2 No No
4/2/2014 Cubs Pirates No Anthony Rizzo Top 8th Overturned – Out Retracted 2 No No
4/2/2014 Pirates Cubs No Starlin Marte Bot 8th Confirmed – Call Stands Foul Ball No No
4/2/2014 Indians Athletics No Mike Aviles Top 6th Overturned – Out Retracted 2 No No
4/3/2014 Cubs Pirates No Pedro Alvarez Bot 13th Confirmed – Call Stands 3 No No
4/3/2014 Rockies Marlins No Marcell Ozuna Bot 3rd Confirmed – Call Stands 1 No No
4/3/2014 Rockies Marlins No Christian Yelich Bot 8th Confirmed – Call Stands 2 No No
4/3/2014 Umpires Reds Yes Matt Holliday Top 7th Confirmed – Call Stands Outfield No No
4/3/2014 Umpires Umpires Yes Yangervis Solarte Top 9th Confirmed – Call Stands Count No No
4/4/2014 Athletics Seattle No Mike Zunino Bot 5th Confirmed – Out Stands 4 No Yes
4/4/2014 Braves Nationals No Ian Desmond Bot 5th Overturned – No Runs Outfield No No
4/4/2014 Tigers Orioles No Austin Romine Bot 5th Confirmed – Call Stands 2 No No
4/4/2014 Royals White Sox No Jose Abreu Top 7th Confirmed – Call Stands 1 No No
4/4/2014 Giants Dodgers No Hanley Ramirez Bot 7th Overturned – Out Added 2 No No
4/4/2014 Yankees Blue Jays No Ichiro Suzuki Top 3rd Overturned – Out Retracted 1 No No
4/4/2014 Rays Rangers No Will Myers Top 7th Overturned – Out Added Outfield No No
4/4/2014 Yankees Blue Jays No Jacoby Ellsbury Top 8th Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
4/5/2014 Umpires Blue Jays Yes Josh Thole Top 3rd Confirmed – Out Stands 4 No Yes
4/5/2014 Mets Reds No Juan Lagares Bot 9th Overturned – Out Retracted 2 No No
4/5/2014 Dodgers Giants No A.J. Ellis Bot 7th Confirmed – Out Stands 4 No No
4/5/2014 Rays Rangers No Robinson Chirinos Top 2nd Overturned – Out Added 1 No No
4/6/2014 Nationals Braves No Ian Desmond Bot 1st Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
4/6/2014 Red Sox Brewers No Jackie Bradley Jr. Bot 2nd Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
4/6/2014 Blue Jays Yankees No Ichiro Suzuki Top 6th Confirmed – Call Stands 2 No No
4/6/2014 Royals White Sox No Marcus Semien Top 6th Overturned – Out Added 1 No No
4/6/2014 Phillies Cubs No Chase Utley Top 5th Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
4/6/2014 Rockies Diamondbacks No Charlie Blackmon Bot 1st Overturned – Out Retracted 1 No No
4/6/2014 Indians Twins No Trevor Plouffe Top 9th Confirmed – Call Stands 4 No No
4/6/2014 Athletics Mariners No Sam Fuld Bot 4th Confirmed – Out Stands 1 No No
4/6/2014 White Sox Royals No Eric Hosmer Bot 6th Confirmed – Call Stands 1 No No
4/7/2014 Umpires Athletics Yes Jed Lowrie Bot 3rd Confirmed – Call Stands Foul Ball No No
4/7/2014 Rangers Red Sox No Daniel Nava Bot 1st Confirmed – Call Stands 2 No No
4/8/2014 Rays Royals No Ben Zobrist Bot 3rd Confirmed – Call Stands 2 No No
4/8/2014 Astros Blue Jays No L.J. Hoes Top 8th Confirmed – Out Stands 4 No Yes
4/8/2014 Mets Braves No Juan Lagares Top 8th Overturned – Out Retracted 1 No No
4/8/2014 Mariners Angels No Josh Hamilton Bot 5th Overturned – Out Retracted Outfield No No
4/8/2014 Tigers Dodgers No Victor Martinez Bot 9th Confirmed – Out Stands 2 No No

Now I know it isn’t the prettiest chart but damn it took me a long time and I am proud of it! As you can probably tell I’m not incredibly savvy with putting tables into WordPress posts but I try brother. Anyways, through this data we can conclude a number of interesting things.

First, I’m going to throw a few statistics at you; whether or not you find meaning in these as up to you, considering the sample size. As an initial note the only players that appeared more than one time in a replay challenge were Ian Desmond, Ichiro Suzuki, and Juan Lagares.

Location # %
Plays at 1st 21 42.86%
Plays at 2nd 12 24.49%
Plays at 3rd 1 2.04%
Plays at Home 7 14.29%
Play in Outfield 5 10.2%
Foul Ball Plays 2 4.08%
Play at Count 1 2.04%
Inning # %
1 3 6.12%
2 3 6.12%
3 5 10.2%
4 3 6.12%
5 6 12.24%
6 8 16.33%
7 6 12.24%
8 6 12.24%
9 5 10.2%
10 3 6.12%
11 0 0%
12 0 0%
13 1 2.04%
Location # %
Pickoffs 2 4.08%
Plate 5 10.2%
Result # %
Overturned 18 36.73%
Confirmed 31 63.27%

Out of all teams, the majority of challenges came from the Umpires* themselves (12.24%) followed by the Tigers (8.16%), and the Rays, A’s, Cubs, and Rockies (6.12%). This in particular is because of the small sample sizes but there were in fact seven teams who have not yet challenged a play. However, these numbers will obviously change as the season wears on. 36% of calls were overturned and 63% of calls confirmed, again sample sizes, but maybe not. It will be interesting to see if these percentages change throughout the season or stay more or less the same.

While it seems that the majority of plays occur at 1st and 2nd base – as one may have imagined – the new collision rules at home plate make it the third highest challenged area. If I’m not beating the point to death already, due to small samples, most plays have so far occurred in the middle innings, whereas I expected them to occur in greater numbers after the 7th. This is probably due to the specific situations occurring during each game. If there are runners on or it is a tight game I’m guessing there is more likely to be a challenge.

To conclude, the goal of this article was not to put undying faith in the stats on replays in the first 10 days or so of the season. I realize the flaws in assessing the replays so early, however my hope is that it fuels interest for further research on the subject. I could have included the leverage of each situation in the initial table as well as other details (runners on, score, etc.) but perhaps someone else can undertake that endeavour. If anyone does, I know compiling all the data is pretty time consuming so if you want, send me a message on Twitter (@MarkWill_) and I can send you the Excel file. Lastly, this is my first FanGraphs post and as such I welcome any feedback you guys have, hopefully you enjoyed reading my article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

*Note: What a team indeed




Print This Post

Fan of the Toronto Blue Jays, residing in the GTA, Beginner/Amateur Baseball Statistician.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>