Controversy, Doosan Bears, Featured writer, Home runs, KIA Tigers, KT Wiz, Lee Jong-hoo, Lotte Giants, Matthew Care, NC Dinos, Nexen Heroes, Samsung Lions, Son A-seop, Suspensions, Umpires, Video reply

Teething Problems With KBO’s New Instant Replay System

Following Major League Baseball’s implementation of instant replay technology in 2008, and it’s subsequent upgrade to the modern day system in 2014, many other countries have followed suit in an effort to improve their domestic leagues. When asked for his opinion on video replay technology before his 5000th game, MLB umpire Joe West said to USA Today, “I love the fact that baseball spent $40 million to prove that we’re right 99 percent of the time. It’s a good thing for umpires.”

On occasion however, umpires do blow a call and the video review centres will aim to correct it. Following the Korean Baseball Organization’s transition to an HQ-based review system in March 2017 there have been seven calls brought to the KBO video review centre with contested outcomes.

1. March 14, 2017 Doosan Bears vs KIA Tigers Preseason Game

With bases loaded in the top of the eighth inning and Doosan trailing 2-7, Guk HaeSeong (국해성) blasted a shot over the foul pole in left field. Originally called a grand slam by the umpires at the game, the decision was overturned to a foul by the review centre. Guk HaeSeong would hit a 2RBI single shortly after, but Doosan still lost the game 7-4.

Source: Game broadcast by MBC Sports+.

2. April 16, 2017: Nexen Heroes vs KIA Tigers

With KIA leading 1-0 going into the top of the third, Park DongWon (박동원) hit a lead-off single for Nexen. Next at bat was Rookie Of The Year favourite, Lee JeongHoo (이정후). Lee worked Hong GeonHui (홍건희) to a full count, but struck out swinging as Park attempted to swipe second. The throw was high and wide forcing KIA’s shortstop Kim JiSung (김지성) to jump off of the bag before attempting to apply the tag. The original call from the second base umpire was safe. Following a challenge and a review that lasted over 5 minutes, the original call was maintained despite the replay angle shown by KBSN appearing to show contact on the tag to Park’s knee prior to Park reaching the second.

Source: Game broadcast by KBSN Sports.

3. April 18, 2017: NC Dinos vs Lotte Giants

In the bottom of the fifth inning with runners on the corners and 2 outs, Lotte Giant’s Lee WooMin (이우민) hit a fly ball into left field. Due to the heavy rain, and the close proximity of the bullpen wall to the foul line however, NC’s Kwon HuiDong (권희동) missed what should have been a routine catch. The Dinos outfielder did not field the ball and claimed it was foul, a viewpoint shared by the umpires at the time. The Lotte Giants players did not share this conviction and issued a challenge as Lee WooMin rounded the bases to touch home plate. After nearly 7 minutes of review, the original decision was upheld due to footage either not showing the ball’s point of impact, or poor quality in available footage. NC’s Eric Hacker closed out the inning after walking Lee WooMin, and grounding out Moon GyuHyun to short. The Dinos would go on to win the contest 8-3.

Source: Game broadcast by sky Sports.

4. May 5, 2017: Lotte Giants vs KIA Tigers

In the top of the tenth inning with runners on first and second and no-outs, KIA’s Seo DongWook (서동욱) laid down a bunt to advance the runners. Following a miscommunication between Lotte catcher Kang MinHo (강민호) and closer Son SeungLak (손승락) the throw to Andy Burns at first was slightly delayed. While it was a very close call on review, the initial call of out was reversed and KIA loaded the bases for no outs. The Tigers would go on to win the game 5-3.

Source: Game broadcast by SBS.

5. July 21, 2017: Lotte Giants vs kt wiz

With a 6-2 lead and a runner on second in the top of the seventh inning, Lotte’s Shin BonGi (신본기) laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Kim MoonHo (김문호) to third. After a brief fumble by the pitcher the throw to first appeared to be in time, but the first base umpire ruled the runner as safe. kt attempted to challenge the call, but after a short review the runner was again ruled safe despite video evidence showing that the Shin was out by half a step. While this had little effect on the final outcome of the game, it raised serious concerns among netizens over the accuracy of the KBO video review centre.

Source: Game broadcast by MBC Sports+.

6. July 11, 2017: NC Dinos vs KIA Tigers

In the top of the seventh inning with the Dinos trailing by 3-7, Na SungBum (나성범) made an effort to score from first after a double into left field by Mo ChangMin (모창민). KIA’s defense were on point however, and gunned the ball to home to try and make the play at the plate. The plate umpire called Na safe at the first time of asking, and following a review that lasted over 4 minutes the decision was upheld by the review centre. Shortly after the second safe call, the KBSN 4D replay appeared to show conclusive evidence that Kim MinSik (김민식) had successfully applied the tag about 4 inches from home plate.

Source: Game broadcast by KBSN Sports.

7. July 20: Samsung Lions vs Lotte Giants

In the bottom of the third inning with Samsung leading 4-1 and nobody on base, Lotte Giants’ Son AhSeop (손아섭) hit a ball deep into left-center field at Ulsan’s Munsu Baseball Stadium. The ball hit the top of the yellow line and proceeded to ricochet off of the protective railings two feet behind the home run line and back into play. The umpires originally ruled Son’s shot as a home run. Following a challenge by the Samsung manager, the video review centre opted to reverse the decision and changed Son AhSeop’s home run to a double. The game would eventually tie 4-4 after the 12th inning.

Source: Game broadcast by MBC Sports+.

While an increasing number of complaints have been raised by fans, and teams with regard to the accuracy of the KBO video review centre over the previous 6 calls mentioned, the decision to change Son AhSeop’s home run to a ground-rule double was the first such decision to ignore a precedent set in a previous season. On April 5, 2014, also in Ulsan Munsu Baseball Stadium, Samsung Lions star slugger Lee SeungYeop (이승엽) crushed a fastball from Shane Youman into center field. The shot ricocheted off of the protective barrier behind the home run line, and back into fair territory. This was originally ruled an RBI double, but following a challenge by the Samsung manager, and a review by the crew chief, the decision was changed into a home run

Source: Game broadcast on MBC Sports+.

On Friday, July 21 the KBO announced that a clear error on the part of the review centre had occurred the previous night in the analysis of Son AhSeop’s shot to left field. As a result of this, the director of the replay centre, Kim HoIn (김호인) was suspended for ten days, and two other umpires involved in the replay decision were each fined 500,000 won (Approx $447) for their errors.

As part of a press release issued after the incident in Ulsan between Samsung and Lotte, and the subsequent punishments handed to it’s umpires, the Korean Baseball Organization has promised to invest in better rules and analysis training for staff, and additional camera feeds to eliminate blind spots and poor angles like those encountered with Guk HaeSeong’s preseason home run, Lee WooMin’s fly ball, and Na SungBum’s slide to home plate.

As with any system, teething problems are to be expected, but should the KBO honour it’s pledges then the video replay centre should show a marked improvement in quality come April 2018.

Title image from OSEN: KBO Video Review Centre

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