Levine: What we’ve learned about replay in baseball so far

From SABR member Zachary Levine at Baseball Prospectus on May 29, 2014:

When a totally new system like Major League Baseball’s expanded instant replay—complete with brand-new job descriptions and job openings and technology—is assembled on the eve of the season, you’d imagine its implementation would look more like an evolution than the arrival of a fully formed process.

And by most accounts it has been. Whether it’s the change in the transfer rule that tangentially went along with it, or managers getting used to the silly choreography of how to argue with an umpire while simultaneously looking back at the dugout for a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, everybody involved in the process seems to be getting better at it.

“We’re getting a little more educated in different ways not to manipulate the system but to use it properly,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We went in with a plan, but I think we’ve been able to refine and make it a little bit better along the way. … Every team’s going about this in their own method. We’re keeping records on all the calls—specific calls that are made, leverage situations.”

Major League Baseball is keeping records too, and in the face of all the fears from this spring that teams would seriously game the system and massively disrupt the flow of the game, the records portray a pretty good picture.

According to data obtained from Major League Baseball’s central office on Tuesday, there were 381 traditional replay reviews—15 percent of which were umpire-initiated rather than challenge-initiated—plus four more looks to check counts or other record-keeping procedures in the first 759 games. Those challenges totaled 830 minutes, meaning that the replays averaged 2:09.

(The measurements will tell you that replay review has added 1:06 to each game, but that’s a pretty blunt estimate considering that it measures only the time from the challenge to the decision and not the manager’s stalling with an eye on the dugout. And it assumes no delay that would come with full-length arguments without replay.)

But most notable is just how high a percentage of calls have been overturned, with the frivolous challenge not really materializing. Despite no penalty for getting a challenge wrong, beyond just losing the challenge, the success rate of 47.2 percent overturns is considerably higher than the 40 percent that tends to be close to the yearly rate in the NFL, where lost challenges cost a valuable timeout.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23718

Originally published: May 29, 2014. Last Updated: May 29, 2014.