Ron Roenicke missed an opportunity to use his first replay challenge in the second inning on Opening Day.
In a scoreless tie in the second, Aramis Ramirez was doubled off at second base on a Lyle Overbay liner, and the inning ended on a 3-6 double play. It looked like a close play in the stadium, and reading about the play after the game suggests that people with a monitor nearby* also thought that Roenicke had a chance to challenge the play.
*There was no replay in Miller Park without a challenge.
Ultimately, the play had little effect on the outcome since the Brewers went on to beat the Braves 2-0, but we probably got a glimpse at Roenicke’s view of the replay system and his conservative approach to challenges. The problem is that there is no advantage to hoarding flags.
A study by “Outside the Lines” in 2010 found that an average of 1.3 calls per game were close enough to warrant a replay. Of those 1.3 calls per game, just over 20% were confirmed as incorrect. We saw two challengeable plays on Monday, with Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez correctly challenging a Ryan Braun infield single.
Dan Brooks and Russell Carleton broke down the value of a challenge (subscription required) for Baseball Prospectus in January and concluded that even a minor call early in a game is worth a challenge as long as a manager believes he has a 50/50 shot at being right. The second inning double play was the perfect example of a play where Roenicke should have used his challenge without hesitation since it was unlikely he’d have another opportunity to use it. And by that point in the game, there was about a 50/50 chance that a reviewable play would occur in the seventh or thereafter when the umpires could decide a play needed to be reviewed.
This really shines another light on the biggest flaw of expanded replay: Managers should not have to monitor the way the game is officiated. The Braun’s overturned infield single was reviewed in 58 seconds by the MLB command center. The MLB Advanced Media headquarters should be able to monitor the game and signal the umpires when a play is close enough to be reviewed. By the time the umps get the signal, the MLBAM should be close to their decision.
This is the first season of expanded replay in Major League Baseball and adjustments will be made as the system is tested and everyone gets used to the new game flow. Hopefully MLB is savvy enough to trust their Advanced Media department in the following season and allow them to just improve the quality of officiating without placing the burden on the managers.
Until that happens, let’s hope that Roenicke gets comfortable challenging close plays early and often, because there’s no advantage to sitting there and being polite.