October 17, 2016

ALCS: Circumstances 2, Blue Jays 0

Toronto's Jose Bautista says there are "circumstances" working against the Blue Jays in the ALCS. What he's implying is that the home plate umpires are calling pitches against Toronto and in favout of Cleveland.
I'm having great at-bats. It's just sometimes the elements and the circumstances that we have to deal with as hitters sometimes doesn't necessarily go our way. But I'm not trying to really get into that. All you have to do is go look at video and try to count the number of pitches they have thrown over the heart of the plate. It hasn't been many. But they've been able to do that because of the circumstances.
In the two ALCS games, the Blue Jays have scored only one run (on 10 hits and two walks).

So, could Bautista be right? Are the umpires secret Cleveland fans or have they received orders from the Commissioner's office to make sure the Blue Jays lose the series because having a team from Canada in the World Series might mean lower TV ratings?

Fortunately, we do not have to guess. Data exists that can tell us how accurate - or not - the home plate umpires have been in the two games. (It is that data that should be used in the actual games, rather than relying on the imperfect eyes and sometimes questionable judgment of the umpires.)

CBS Sports looked at the ball-strike calls (as plotted by Brooks Baseball) and determined:
Home plate umpires Laz Diaz and Jim Wolf called big strike zones in Games 1 and 2. That's true. The PitchFX data confirms it. The Indians got more called [strikes] on pitches off the plate because they threw more pitches there. They took advantage of the big zone. The Blue Jays did not.
Another writer reported that the missed calls were almost exactly even for both sides. A third article looked at the pitches from a number of key Blue Jays at-bats - and found absolutely nothing suspicious. And, of course, Bautista's mention of "circumstances" doesn't explain the swings and misses by Toronto batters - Bautista, among them - at pitches out of the strike zone.

As you might expect, Cleveland is having fun with Bautista's comments. The team's Twitter page now reads:
"Official Twitter of the 2016 AL Central champions. We control all of the circumstances. #RallyTogether"
This is one of the actual circumstances working against the Blue Jays (12 batters faced, 10 strikeouts):

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