Royals rely on eagle-eye replay guy Duplissea
Club's coordinator shows knack for winning challenges
KANSAS CITY -- On Sunday, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier led off with a sharp grounder that Royals third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert grabbed on a dive.
Cuthbert got up, fired to first, but the throw was low and away. First baseman Eric Hosmer made a tremendous pick, only it appeared Dozier beat the throw. Dozier was ruled safe.
"I didn't even think about challenging that," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "And neither did Hoz or anyone on the bench. It was obvious to us, Dozier was safe."
But about 20 seconds later, one of the dugout phones rang. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu answered the call. It was Bill Duplissea, the Royals' replay coordinator.
"Challenge" was all Duplissea said.
Yost pointed to the umpires to put their headsets on. And, of course, the Royals won the challenge. A stunned Dozier was ruled out.
"He protects us," Yost said of Duplissea. "He's just really, really good."
It has been that kind of season for Duplissea, who has emerged as one of baseball's best replay coordinators, if not the best. Duplissea had won eight straight challenges entering Thursday's game with the Twins, and his success rate of 71 percent (22-for-31) is the best in the Majors.
Oakland is next at 64 percent (16-for-25).
"He's really, really good at it," Yost said. "And he's fast. He's so much faster than anyone else. If we get a call, and the other team is trying to decide to challenge, Billy usually comes back way before them and says, 'Yeah, the call is right.' Or, 'No, it's not.'"
Duplissea said he tries to come up with a yay or nay within 20 seconds of scanning replays on multiple video monitors.
One time this season, in St. Louis, Duplissea took a little longer to decide on a play that had ended a Royals inning. He finally told Wakamatsu and Yost to replay an out call, and the Royals won the challenge.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was incensed, not only about the Royals winning the challenge, but because of the time it took to challenge. Matheny argued so vehemently, he got thrown out.
"I went back and timed how long it took," Duplissea said, "and it was 32 seconds. Not that long."
Yost doesn't care so much about the time as he does about being right. But Yost doesn't provide any guidelines for how certain he wants Duplissea to be.
"We trust his judgment," Yost said. "I don't worry about it because he's dead on. When I go back and look at it, I see the reasoning why he has an argument for it."
"He's always had that trust," Duplissea said. "That's been awesome. Not every [replay coordinator] gets that trust."
There has been the rare occasion when Duplissea has whiffed. There was a crazy play on Sept. 27, 2015, when the Indians had runners on first and third and one out. The hitter lined a ball back to reliever Ryan Madson, who caught it for the second out, and could have doubled the runner up at first. But his throw to Hosmer was wild.
Hosmer laid out to make the stop, then tried to tag the runner as he continued to get control of the ball. Hosmer did tag the runner with his glove, but the ball actually was in his hand, not in the glove. Meanwhile, the runner on third, Francisco Lindor, trotted home with a run.
Duplissea gave the call to challenge. But it was clear the runner at first was safe.
"I had hit pause on my video and all I could see was Hoz's glove making the tag," Duplissea said. "I messed up."
But the story had a happy ending for Duplissea and the Royals. Lindor never tagged at third. The Royals asked for an umpire's review and it was granted. And Lindor was ruled out on appeal.