Gar­den­hire up to chal­lenge

The Detroit News - - Baseball -

No one’s go­ing to for­get the Tigers’ Open­ing Day loss to the Pi­rates only a few weeks ago. Nick Castel­lanos ap­peared to score the win­ning run in the 10th in­ning to start the sea­son on a happy note.

While the play­ers cel­e­brated, jump­ing up and down and dog­pil­ing near the plate, the um­pires sig­naled that the play had been chal­lenged and would be de­cided by a re­play of­fi­cial in New York City.

Video re­plays from ev­ery an­gle sure made it look like Castel­lanos avoided the tag. It was cer­tainly close, but not close enough to over­turn the call on the field. Or so we thought.

Castel­lanos was ruled out, and the game went on for an­other hour be­fore the Tigers couldn’t counter Gre­gory Polanco’s three-run home run in the 13th in­ning.

At that point, if you just wanted to throw your hands in the air and won­der why they even have re­play if they still can’t get the calls right, the choir would have re­sponded with a hearty amen.

But that would be a bit of frus­tra­tion show­ing. More of­ten than not, when the re­play is shown on the score­board and tele­vi­sion, you can make a fairly good guess which way New York is go­ing to de­cide.

They might not be per­fect, but they make more calls right than wrong, and that’s what we’re look­ing for in re­play.

If you’re won­der­ing, all five times op­pos­ing man­agers chal­lenged a play the Tigers were in­volved in, the rul­ing on the field was over­turned.

On the other hand, this year’s Tigers might not be a team that will rack up a lot of wins by the end of the sea­son, but there has been one cu­ri­ous statis­tic to note: Man­ager Ron Gar­den­hire has made reg­u­lar use of re­play, and he’s done it quite well.

The Tigers are one of three teams to make six chal­lenges so far — or about one ev­ery other game when you con­sider they’ve only played 13 this sea­son — per MLBRe­playS­tats.com.

Only the Braves and Cardinals have made more chal­lenges, with seven apiece.

What makes the Tigers most re­mark­able is that ev­ery sin­gle chal­lenge by Gar­den­hire has gone in their fa­vor, with all six rul­ings ben­e­fit­ing the team.

Only four teams are “un­de­feated” in chal­lenges, with the other three teams to­tal­ing seven (White Sox, three; Roy­als, three; Rock­ies, one).

Gar­den­hire’s big­gest suc­cess this year came April 5 against the White Sox, mak­ing an 18 per­cent swing in the win ex­pec­ta­tion, per Base­ball Ref­er­ence. He chal­lenged a call at sec­ond base that Jose Igle­sias was forced out in the 10th in­ning in what would have been chalked up as a “neigh­bor­hood play” in the past.

It would have been the sec­ond out of the in­ning. New York ruled that White Sox short­stop Tim An­der­son was be­hind the bag rather than on it, so Igle­sias was safe.

He later went on to score to make the game 9-7.

For his ca­reer, Gar­den­hire has made 27 suc­cess­ful chal­lenges in 46 tries, or about 59 per­cent of the time.

Most of those came in 2014, his last year man­ag­ing the Twins.

He’s proven to be bet­ter than his peers. This year, the suc­cess rate is about 47 per­cent (ex­clud­ing chal­lenges ini­ti­ated by um­pires). So far he’s bet­ter than Brad Aus­mus, who was suc­cess­ful 53 times in 100 chal­lenges in Detroit.

This prob­a­bly isn’t go­ing to have much ef­fect on the Tigers this sea­son. The dif­fer­ence be­tween a lot of losses and a lot of losses mi­nus one or two isn’t that great.

But it’s in­ter­est­ing to see so far and might be a use­ful trait for Gar­den­hire to have if he’s still at the helm when the team be­gins play­ing mean­ing­ful games again.

If it’s a skill, it’s a good skill to have. One good chal­lenge can change ev­ery­thing.

Robin Buck­son/Detroit News

For his ca­reer, Tigers man­ager Ron Gar­den­hire has made 27 suc­cess­ful chal­lenges in 46 tries, or about 59 per­cent of the time. Most of those were dur­ing his time with the Min­ne­sota Twins.

KURT MENSCHING

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