clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Brett Weber’s replay team is the real MVP of the Yankees

New, comments

New York consistently tops the league in replay success, but what is that worth?

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees
Here, John Farrell is being ejected from a game in the Bronx after, you guessed it, the Yankees won a challenge
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Let’s take a quick trip back to Saturday night. I know it’s difficult, given the Yankees have played two more games since then, but it’s the ninth inning, Aroldis Chapman is in to put away a game the Yankees have a healthy lead in, and Hunter Dozier is at first:

A great throw and an even better, disciplined tag from a rookie, and yet Dozier was still called safe. The Yankees almost immediately challenge, the call is overturned and New York is one out closer to a win.

By now, Yankee fans have seen similar situations play out over and over since the challenge system was implemented in 2014. Now five seasons later, a rookie manager like Aaron Boone is still able to be better than most at successfully challenging the call on the field:

Of course, while Boone deserves the credit, the real mastermind behind the Yankees’ replay success is their own in-house specialist, Brett Weber. When you see Boone or bench coach Josh Bard on the phone after a close play, you can bet Weber is on the other end of the line, scouring his 15 different camera angles to see if a play is worth challenging. More often than almost anyone else in baseball, Brett’s right.

This 2016 profile in the New York Times is about as much information as you can find on Brett Weber post-minor league retirement. His job is by nature one that will be overlooked by most people, but in the past three seasons - the time since that profile was published - he’s remained as important as ever:

It’s hard to ascribe an absolute value to an overturned call, and there’s no real correlation between replay success and winning percentage. Where the value shows is in tight races and the disruption of pitchers.

When you have arguably the two best teams in baseball in the same division, you can be reasonably assured that the division race will come down to a game or two in the standings. In fact, as of today, Fangraphs projects that the AL East will be won by the Yankees by a single game over the Red Sox. In a race that close, every out really does matter. The fact that the Yankees are so consistently good at squeezing extra outs from games, and Boston is consistently worse - they haven’t finished above MLB average in replay challenges, ever - give the Yankees one slight edge that, when the division can come down to the last game of the year, might actually matter.

The other edge gained or lost on the back of a challenge is the change in a pitcher’s tempo. Take another example from last Saturday, this time in the seventh inning:

Had that call stood, or not even been challenged, Chad Green is facing the tying run at the plate and only one out. A single swing completely changes the game and potentially could blow what was at the time a pretty impressive offensive output. Instead, the call is challenged, overturned and Green now gets to work with two out, a much less stressful position. The expected runs allowed when runners are on first and second with one out- the situation before the challenge - is 0.92, while post-challenge, with a runner at second and two out, expected runs drops all the way down to 0.33.

Brett Weber is not going to be rich or famous because of his job. He’ll continue to sit in the dark, alone, with a dozen laptop screens focused on baseball, just like me in a way. Unlike me, though, he has a ridiculous level of impact on Yankee performance, and his success could very well end up as a part of the difference between the two very good teams at the top of the AL East.