May 19, 2010

Balls And Strikes

Before the nail-biting drama of the last two innings, one big story of last night's game for me was a few questionable ball/strike calls in the fifth inning and reactions to them from the field and benches.

With two outs in the fifth inning, Dustin Pedroia took a 3-1 pitch from CC Sabathia and made a move towards first base, assuming it would be called Ball 4. It was not. Pedroia then took the 3-2 pitch, and again was on his way to first base when home plate umpire Angel Campos rang him up. I'm not much of a lipreader but as Pedroia expressed his annoyance at Campos, CC was walking off the mound, barking at him: "That's a fucking strike, you fuckin' ..."

And according to pitch f/x data at Brooks Baseball, both pitches to Pedroia were in the strike zone.In the bottom of the fifth, with New York up 3-0 and a man on second and one out, Beckett's 3-2 pitch to Mark Teixeira was called low for Ball 4. On the Red Sox bench, Terry Francona and John Farrell were both livid. "That's the same pitch!" Tito was yelling at Campos, presumably meaning the same strike that was called on Pedroia.Francona was right. Beckett had indeed thrown Strike 3 to Teixeira, but the inning continued and eventually Beckett allowed two more runs.

In the ninth, I was convinced that Mariano Rivera's 1-2 pitch to Jeremy Hermida was a strike, which, if called, would have been the third out of the ninth inning and the game would have remained tied 5-5.The pitch in question (#4) is clearly outside. Good call by Campos. You can see that on his second pitch to Hermida, Rivera received a gift strike call. It has been a long-standing complaint among Sox fans (and fans of other Yankee opponents?) that Rivera is given an extraordinary number of strike calls on pitches just wide of the zone. Besides the error of the call (though it is pretty close to the edge of the zone), Fruitbat doesn't require any extra assistance beyond his own enormous talent to get hitters out. I wonder if the last three or four seasons of f/x data would confirm the existence of the Rivera Zone™?

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