Pitches 1 and 12 -- not exactly on the corners -- were called balls by home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman. No wonder Papelbon was so angry.
Back in May, David Biderman of the Wall Street Journal looked at the at-bats of every current Yankees and Mets hitter over two seasons and found that the best players get extra assistance from the umpires.
Derek Jeter and David Wright, the most-adored players on their respective teams, have the most generous strike zones, while Brett Gardner, the least-experienced Yankee starter, gets the worst treatment on his team. Research physicist John Walsh used Pitch FX — a camera system in MLB stadiums that measures the speed and route of every pitch — to see how much bigger or smaller Mets and Yankees hitters' strike zones are compared with how big they should be based on their height and batting stance. A smaller strike zone is better for batters because it means umps are calling fewer strikes.This is fascinating stuff! I'd like to see this info for every MLB hitter and pitcher (or at least the Red Sox).
Mr. Walsh included more than 33,000 pitches in his sample, but warned that the difference in strike-zone size — Mr. Jeter's is 15.8% smaller than it should be while Mark Teixeira's is 14.4% smaller — might look different if another two years of pitches were included. An MLB spokesman declined to comment.
But not all the All-Stars get special treatment. Relative to his height, Alex Rodriguez has the third biggest strike zone among current Yankees starters, only smaller than Nick Johnson's and Mr. Gardner's. "He's rubbed some of the umpires the wrong way," says two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen.
Are the beefs of chronic complainers like Kevin Youkilis or David Ortiz legit or do the umps squeeze them as punishment for their whining? The strike zone for Mariano Rivera often seems much wider than it is for other pitchers (as if he needs the help). But is it true? Looking at a ton of pitch FX data could answer that question.