By now, you have probably heard the buzz about the new Major League Baseball replay policy. Was your initial reaction that the change is no big deal because it affects all teams equally? Well, let´s take a closer look at how the change may actually boost the New York Yankees´ quest to bounce back to the top in 2014.
Basically, 90 percent of all plays can now be reviewed. These include home runs, ground-rule doubles, interference by fans, boundary calls, plays at first base, force plays, touching the base, passing runners and disputes about ball-strike counts, outs, score or substitutions. Interference, obstruction, balls and strikes and the ¨neighborhood play¨ at second base are not included.
So how does this effect the Yankees? First, Mark Teixeira is as good a glove man at first base as there is in the game. No one is better at scooping out bad throws than Tex. And this is perhaps the most difficult play for a first base umpire to judge. Trying to keep one eye on the glove to make sure a scoop is made cleanly, while at the same time keeping the other eye on the runner´s foot as it touches the bag, is as tough as it gets. Since, of course, the tie goes to the runner, the easy way out has always been to give the benefit of the doubt to the runner. But now, replay will take that easy way out away.
Another area that replay can benefit the Yankees is found in the two big areas that it won´t cover. First, the Yankees traditionally have excelled in working the pitch count. Last season, however, they slipped in this area. In 2012 they finished second in the American League to Tampa Bay in walks. The Rays has 571 to the Yankees 565. But last season, the Yankees had only 466, far behind the Rays, who again led the league with 589.
So, assuming that the Yankees can bounce back in this area, the result of course can help them. But had the replay rule been extended to balls and strikes, umpires would have been forced to follow the letter of the law and call the strike zone strictly as the rule book dictates.
This would have diminished the value of fouling off borderline pitches, the ones that could have gone either way depending on the strike zone of the particular umpire. There simply would have been fewer of them. So the black and white strike zone would most likely have resulted in more balls being put into play and less walks.
The same goes for the phantom tag at second base. The rifle arm of the Yankees previous second baseman is gone, which may lead to more close plays on the shortstop pivot. It remains to be seen just how mobile Derek Jeter is going to be. Had the replay rule forced him to touch the base every time, this could have resulted in calls going against the Yankees, and even worse, an injury to Jeter.
So overall, the instant replay expansion should be a plus for the Yankees. Not only for what it included, but also for what it didn´t.