- NotGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/not -


Anybody who is still up at this hour is definitely familiar with the play that ended the Pirates-Braves game that began on July 26th. Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a video.

Pretty wild stuff. As the Pirates announcer said, “The throw beat him by a mile!!” But wait, Mike McKenry actually had to tag Julio Lugo. The consensus seems to be it was an obvious call. Obviously, says everyone, or most everyone at least, McKenry tagged him!

Just watch the video again, and try to find the tag on the replays.

“The throw beat him by a mile!” “And he’s saying that he wasn’t tagged?!”

Here is the picture most generally accepted (by myself included) to be proof of the tag, originally posted by @TravHaney.

Maybe I’m just insane. Maybe I’m just looking for something that isn’t there (or maybe I’m trying not to find something that is there). But that is, at best, a tangent-point tag. Can we definitively say, even from that picture, where glove ends and where shadow begins? It’s not like blowing the picture up really helps any, does it? Maybe I need my eyes checked.

Julio Lugo was probably out at home, but because the ball beat him by so much, we seem convinced that the tag was there. Is this fair? Actually, possibly it is. It doesn’t matter by the rules, but I’m damn sure, despite the fact that McKenry’s tag would be just as questionable if Lugo was called out, there wouldn’t be this kind of investigation going on and I would be asleep.

This is just a bunch of rambling, but the point is that watching it in real time, from multiple angles, and even in slow motion, it’s very, very, very difficult for me to point out where the tag actually occurred. This isn’t the Joyce-Galarraga play, where the video and pictorial evidence was so obvious. This is a case where, in my opinion, the confirmation bias of seeing baseball beat runner by so much — “The throw beat him by a mile!!” — manifested itself in a similar reaction.

I’m just not so sure it’s as obvious as everybody says it is.