By Greg Johnson
Umpires at the 2012 Men’s College World Series will be able to use instant replay to review specified calls under an experimental rule developed by the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee.
The Division I Baseball Committee reviewed and supported the experimental rule at its annual meeting Monday-Wednesday in Indianapolis.
The rule still must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel (as must all playing rules proposals) before being implemented. The panel meets via conference call on Aug. 11.
The Baseball Rules Committee had originally proposed using instant replay on an experimental basis at the regionals and super regionals in addition to the College World Series, but the Division I Baseball Committee narrowed its use to the CWS since it’s possible that not all regional and super regional sites would offer the same logistical consistency that TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha affords.
The list of reviewable plays will be limited to:
“This has been one of the issues that we want to be cautious with and move somewhat slowly,” said Jeff Hurd, the chair of the Baseball Rules Committee and senior associate commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference. “The technology is there. We are not doing due diligence to the sport if we don’t use it. At the same time, there is a fine line as to how far you go with it. That’s the reason for its limited use.”
Division I Baseball Committee chair Tim Weiser, deputy commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, said it makes sense to take advantage of a facility that is “logistically friendly” to review plays.
“We have 17 camera locations available to us,” Weiser said. “If we are really driven by getting the call right, and we have a working model that Major League Baseball uses, it was an easy decision to take advantage of the technology.”
The instant-replay process will operate under the fundamental assumption that the ruling on the field is correct. The only way a call can be changed is if there is indisputable video evidence to remove all doubt that a ruling was incorrect. Otherwise, the original call will stand.
Any instant-replay review would have to occur before the next pitch or play. If it occurs after a game-ending play, it must be called for before all umpires leave the field of play.
There would not be a formal “coaches challenge” opportunity in the instant-replay process. Coaches already have the ability to request a conference among umpires under the “Getting the Call Right” provisions in Appendix E of the NCAA Baseball Rules Book.
The umpire crew chief determines whether to use instant replay.
If instant replay is used, the calling umpire and the crew chief and other members of the crew, as deemed necessary, would go to the designated video-replay area to review all relevant video coverage. At least one umpire would remain on the field.
During a video review, the defensive team players would be required to maintain their positions on the field and would be allowed to practice throw if desired. Baserunners and the on-deck hitter would remain at their positions. All players and coaches would have to remain in the dugout. Any defensive or offensive conferences would be charged as during any other part of the game.
While there is no time limit for the video review, lengthy reviews (more than two or three minutes) are discouraged and would be considered possible evidence that there is no indisputable video evidence to change a call.
The crew chief may confer and discuss the replays during the review with other members of the umpiring crew, but the ultimate final decision is with the crew chief. This final decision may not be contested by either coach.
If a reversal results in the need to decide the placement of baserunners, the crew chief would use his best judgment to determine their locations as if the call had been made correctly. Again, coaches cannot question these decisions.
If a call is changed, the crew chief would notify both head coaches and the official scorer of the ruling.
During the 2011 Men’s College World Series, there were a few plays where the committee believes the umpires could have been aided in getting the call right, including a possible home run that ended up being a double.
“We were kicking around this idea before that incident of the play in Omaha,” Weiser said. “It kind of reinforced the benefit that video replay can provide.”
Hurd added: “Omaha is ideal because the new stadium was built to be fan friendly, media friendly, umpire friendly and team friendly. ESPN has cameras to cover all the angles, and you have a room available where instant replay reviews can be done. We can take advantage of that.”
In other action at the Division I Baseball Committee’s meeting, members recommended changes to the Rating Percentage Index calculation that will be applied beginning with the 2013 season.
The revised RPI formula will value each road victory as 1.3 instead of 1.0. Each home win will be valued at 0.7 instead of 1.0. Conversely, each home loss will count 1.3 against a team’s RPI and each road loss will count 0.7 against a team.
Neutral-site games will remain with the same value of 1.0, but the committee is studying how to determine if a game should be considered a neutral game.
The weighting is based on statistical trends that home teams win about 62 percent of the time in Division I baseball.
Since this is a change to the selection criteria, the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet must approve the committee’s proposal.
“We believe a refinement or a tweak was in order since we know statistically that home teams win 62 percent of the time,” Weiser said. “We are delaying implementation so coaches can tell us their thoughts.”
This is similar to the changes made in Division I men’s and women’s basketball where road wins are weighted as 1.4 and home victories are weighted at 0.6. That was based on statistical data that consistently showed home teams in Division I basketball winning about two-thirds of the time.
The baseball committee decided to make the changes because of the discrepancy in the number of home games teams play. Some schools are able to play 35-40 of their 56 allowable games at home, while other teams, due to factors such as weather, may play only 20 home games.
“We continually point out that the RPI is but one in a whole drawer of tools we use in the selection and seeding processes,” Weiser said.
Additionally, no bonuses would be awarded in the RPI beginning in 2013.
Currently, teams receive bonus points for beating top-75 nonconference opponents on the road, and penalty points for losing to bottom-75 nonconference opponents at home. Bonuses and penalties are on a sliding scale, separated into groups of 25, with the top bonus for a road win versus a 1-25 team and the worst penalty for a home loss to a bottom-25 opponent.
The baseball committee also reviewed final data in college baseball for the 2011 season that show significant changes in power and run production in the wake of new bat specifications that took effect this year.
In Division I, teams had a .282 batting average compared to .305 in 2010. Home runs per game dropped to 0.52 compared to 0.94 in 2010.
Overall scoring dipped from 6.98 last season to 5.58 this year.
Also, earned-run averages were 4.67 in 2011 compared to 5.95 in 2010. The overall fielding percentage registered an all-time high of .964.
Divisions II and III statistics mirror those collected in Division I. Division II batting averages dropped from .309 to .289; Division III batters managed a .292 average, down from .314 in 2010. Division II batters hit 0.44 home runs per game in 2011, down from 0.72 per game the previous season. Division III sluggers managed 0.35 home runs a game compared to 0.58 in 2010.
The new bat standards that went into effect this season feature a stricter “Ball-Bat Coefficient of Restitution” standard that reduces a batted ball’s exit speed.
The BBCOR formula provides a better measure of a bat’s performance and allows the Baseball Rules Committee and bat-testing laboratories to better predict field performance based on lab tests. The goal is for non-wood bats that meet this new standard to perform similarly to wood bats. The Baseball Rules Committee implemented the standards with hopes of bring more balance to the game.
Big South Conference Commissioner Kyle Kallander was elected chair of the committee for the 2011-12 season pending approval of the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet. Dennis Farrell, Big West Commissioner, was elected vice chair and will take over as chair of the committee for the 2012-13 season.