October 8, 2010

Umps Wasting No Time In Blowing Calls

Three days into the post-season and the list of bad calls by various umpires is growing -- and threatening to overshadow some amazing pitching performances (Roy Halladay's no-hitter against the Reds and Tim Lincecum's 2-hit, 14 K complete game against Atlanta).

Rangers/Rays, Game 2: Texas's Michael Young goes around on a pitch for strike three with one out in the fifth, but 1B umpire Jerry Meals says Young checked his swing. Young hits the next pitch for a three-run dong, boosting the Rangers' lead to 5-0. They win 6-0.Afterwards, Young says he would not have argued if Meals had rung him up, which sounds like an admission that he had whiffed.

Yankees/Twins, Game 1: New York RF Greg Golson catches Delmon Young's sinking line drive for what should have been the final out of a 6-4 win for the Yankees. RF umpire Chris Guccione has the play directly in front of him and he rules Golson trapped the ball. And so Jim Thome bats as the potential tying run in a game that should have been over. Thome pops up, saving the umpires further embarrassment.

Yankees/Twins, Game 2: Carl Pavano struck out Lance Berkman in the seventh inning, but plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it a ball (pitch 4 below).Berkman hit a double to deep left-center on the next pitch to break a tie and give New York a 3-2 lead. Berkman later scored -- and the Yankees won 5-2.

Wendlestedt also ejected Twins manager Ron Gardenhire shortly after the Berkman at-bat. I am going to assume this Gardy rant from 2009 was in the back of Wendlestedt's mind yesterday.

Atlanta/Giants, Game 1: San Francisco's Buster Posey is thrown out trying to steal second base, but umpire Paul Emmel -- positioned so he can't see either the tag or Posey's foot at the bag (off to the right-hand side of this picture) -- called him safe. Posey scored the only run of the game as the Giants won 1-0.A less than obvious blown call happened in game 1 of the Rangers/Rays series. After Tampa Bay loaded the bases in the first inning, Carlos Pena appeared to have been hit by a pitch. Plate umpire Tim Welke said the ball hit Pena's bat and called a foul ball. Pena eventually struck out, as did Rocco Baldelli, and the Rays did not score. They lost the game 6-1. (Some replays indicated the pitch may have not hit anything.)

I have no idea what has to happen to make MLB adopt the technology that it already uses to make sure that calls are made correctly and umpires are held accountable. Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan wrote about the wonders of pitchf/x, which provides data on every pitch thrown in the major leagues:
Pitchf/x is the enemy of umpires because it holds them accountable and highlights their mistakes. And Thursday night, Hunter Wendelstedt made an unconscionable number of errors for a playoff umpire. ...

The Berkman pitch was one of 31 wrong calls by Wendelstedt. Thirteen other times he called a ball on a pitch inside the strike zone, one of them on a cutter to Derek Jeter that literally was in the center of the strike zone, at the belt, halving the plate. And 17 times -– most of them actually benefitting Pavano -– Wendelstedt called a strike on a pitch outside the zone.
Red are called strikes, green are balls. Luuuuuv that Jeter pitch!


tim said...

its been undeniably brutal thus far.

one that hasn't received any attention as far as i can see is halladay's walk. go check out the pitch fx data at brooks baseball- pitch 2 was called a ball but clearly in the strike zone, would've made it an 0-2 count but instead it was 1-1. if it was called a strike, he may have gone perfecto! or given up a hit. but still.

Crito said...

Hi there.
I thought the Posey steal and the Golson catch were both rather ordinary blown calls -- those are difficult calls and I can't really get mad at an umpire for missing them. (Although I might feel differently if Thome had homered off Mo!) The Wendelstedt strike zone was different. That Jeter ball (smack in the center of the zone) was jaw-dropping, but Wendelstedt didn't come close to the actual strike zone, as that nice Brooks Baseball plot shows. (Notice that the second pitch to Berkman was not in the strike zone, but called a strike.)

I haven't seen the Michael Young swing, but I rarely have a clear idea of what counts as swinging, so it's likely to be all Greek to me anyway.

Hey, Bronson Arroyo is pitching a terrific game. The two runs are the direct result of two errors in the inning.

Rob said...

Then tonight Chase Utley may or may not have been hit by a pitch by Chapman, then rounding third it's questionable as to whether he actually touched third base.

Yet, Dusty Baker, in his infinite wisdom (nor anyone else on the Reds), decided not to appeal to third.

Then tonight a play at first base in SF where the foot may or may not have ever touched the bag, then Bobby Cox got ejected.


Dr. Jeff said...

Do teams have access to these data during the game? Can they tell if the ump is calling the outside strike regularly? Or are the graphs released after the game is over?

allan said...

The Brooks stuff is up by the next half inning, usually. But teams can (and do) go to the clubhouse and check out TV replays.

Maybe if the MFY lose a WS title on a blown call, then we'll finally get proper officiating.

allan said...


Baseball is facing a serious legitimacy issue. ... People have to believe in the fairness and authenticity of the sport. ... We SEE the missed calls now. And those missed calls are embarrassing the game. More, they are making the results of these games questionable. Why was gambling an issue? Because it made the results questionable. ...

The more bad calls, the more people are going to turn off to baseball. ... You just can't have these missed calls and maintain your authenticity. You just can't."


FenFan said...

I saw a post on Yahoo! news the other day that bowling is now employing replay. I can't think of why they need it, but... c'mon, bowling has more insight than baseball?

What's unfortunate is that it is putting a bad light more on the umpires than baseball. Having called balls and strikes behind the plate for a few years -- granted, it was for Little League -- I know the challenge of making every call the right call. It's expected that you have only a second or less to make the right call. So you go with what you believe you saw in that instance, even if everyone else saw it differently (and perhaps correctly).

Would I be okay with changing a call? Why wouldn't I be? Again, set some simple rules, limits, etc., and bring baseball into the 21st century... like bowling! :-)

allan said...

What do they need bowling replays for? If someone's toe went over the scratch line? I am drawing a blank.

(Braggin': I once bowled a 212. FY!)