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October 6, 2014 / Nat Anacostia

More on balls and strikes in game 2

August Fagerstrom of FanGraphs did a really nice analysis of home plate umpire Vic Carapazza’s inconsistent strike zone during game 2, the 18 inning marathon. He picked up on some points that I missed when I discussed the game.

Carapazza was a bit better to the lefties, but what these images call to my attention is Carapazza’s consistency. Consistency, as an umpire, is giving the same strike zone to both teams. The Giants got 20 called strikes outside the typical strike zone. The Nationals got just 10. Look at the right-handed plot. Of the 15 pitches called for strikes outside the typical right-handed strike zone, 12 of them were in favor of the Giants. The Nationals didn’t get the same calls up in the zone as the Giants. The Nationals didn’t get the same calls low-and-away as the Giants. Now look at the left-handed plot. Yes, for the most part, Nationals pitchers also threw to an expanded zone, but they also saw several of their pitches within the expanded zone go for balls, whereas nearly every close pitch the Giants threw went for a strike.

But the issue isn’t just that Carapazza was inconsistent in the Giants favor. It’s that he was inconsistent at the worst possible times…

All game long, Jordan Zimmermann was dealing. And all game long, Jordan Zimmermann was getting the outside strike. Until the last batter he faced. One out away from victory… Zimmermann throws a pitch that he got for a strike all night, but Carapazza calls it a ball. Zimmermann shakes his head in slight disapproval, now behind 1-0 in the count… Zimmermann comes back to the exact same spot, because, again, that pitch had been a strike all night. But again, Carapazza sticks with his newfound zone and calls a ball… The ball four pitch was a shade outside, but the first two were both not only within the boundaries of a typical strike zone, but strikes Carapazza had already called that night, given his expanded zone.

Adding insult to injury is that after Zimmermann’s costly walk, Carapazza went right back to calling this pitch a strike!

It seems the only time all night that pitch wasn’t a strike was during Panik’s walk. That is, until one pitch before Belt’s game-winning homer in the 18th, when he got this pitch for a ball in a 2-2 count… Granted, this pitch is little high, and it’s probably a borderline call either way. Granted, catcher Wilson Ramos is not a good receiver and did a terrible job framing this pitch. But both teams had gotten strikes higher than this, and both teams had gotten strikes more outside than this… Had this pitch gone for a strike, Belt would have been out. Instead, Belt got one more pitch that resulted in a bat flip and a trot around the bases.

See the article to see gifs of the pitches that he’s discussing. It’s a really nice analysis—and a sad comment on how much influence poor umpiring can have on crucial games.

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