September 26, 2010

Umpire Phil Cuzzi: Wrong On 42% Of Papelbon's Pitches

After the Red Sox scored two runs off Mariano Rivera in the top of the ninth -- stealing four bases in the span of 11 pitches! -- and took a 3-2 lead, Jonathan Papelbon got the ball for the bottom of the ninth. And got royally fucked by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.

(Charts are from the amazing Brooks Baseball site.)

Derek Jeter fouled off a fastball and flew out to right. One out.

Nick Swisher got ahead 3-0 (ball one should have been called a strike). Papelbon battled back to 3-2 before Swisher lined a single to right field. Marco Scutaro dove to his left, but it was just out of his reach.According to f/x, Papelbon struck out Alex Rodriguez on three pitches. However, Cuzzi called two of those pitches balls -- and Slappy eventually walked on strike 5, loading the bases.
Papelbon threw strike one to Robinson Cano, but Cuzzi called it a ball. After a pitch in the dirt, Cano singled to right to tie the game at 3-3.Cuzzi blew two pitches in Jorge Posada's at-bat, calling a ball on strike 1 and not ringing up Dumbo on pitch #4. Posada ended up swinging and missing on the next pitch for the K.Papelbon's 1-0 pitch to Lance Berkman was well within the zone, but Cuzzi muffed that one, too. Berkman flew out to right field to end the inning.I counted eight pitches that Cuzzi botched. Of Papelbon's 30 pitches in that inning, the Yankees took 19 of them -- so Cuzzi made the wrong call 42% of the time.Going back to the top of the ninth, I was flat-out shocked that Cuzzi did not call a handful of pitches off the plate strikes, as umpires often do for Rivera. I went back and looked at the f/x data for the Red Sox at-bats.

First of all, Rivera came into the game with two outs in the eighth. Adrian Beltre was up with runners at first and second. It was the 2-2 pitch that I expected to be called a strike, but f/x does have it well outside. Beltre grounded out to second.Jed Lowrie began the ninth by belting a 0-1 pitch to deep right-center that Swisher caught with an ungainly effort on the warning track.

Ryan Kalish took a ball and a strike and singled to center.Cuzzi may have blown three of the four pitches Bill Hall took in his at-bat. Pitches 2, 4, and 5 should have been strikes 2 and 3 (and 4!) -- but they were called balls. Kalish stole second on the first pitch and stole third on the fourth. With a full count, Hall singled to left to tie the game. He should have been the second out.Mike Lowell batted for Lars Anderson. Hall stole second on the second pitch and stole third on the fourth pitch. It looks like Cuzzi got Rivera's 2-0 pitch wrong, calling it a ball when it should have been a strike. Would Hall have tried to steal third on 2-1? Maybe not. Lowell's sac fly to center gave Boston a 3-2.Rivera went right after Scutaro, with a called strike, three fouls, and a fly ball to right-center.It looks like Rivera was robbed on four pitches, three of them during the important Hall at-bat. All four were in the same lower corner of the strike zone.I looked at Okajima's pitches in the 10th, and Cuzzi got every call right.Cuzzi still fucked up, though. After Curtis Granderson singled, Brett Garnder bunted. Gardner ran to first on the inside of the baseline -- that is against the rules -- but Cuzzi failed to call it. Martinez's throw hit Gardner and the MFY had runners at first and third with no one out.

Every pitch that Rivera and Papelbon threw should have been judged according to the actual strike zone, but they were not. It sure looks like Hall and Rodriguez should have been called out on strikes rather than singling and walking, respectively. I do not recall Cuzzi's calls being so horrifically bad in the previous eight innings.

I know I'm a fucking broken record when it comes to this. Give me a process that gets the correct calls as close to 100% of the time as possible. It has been shown time and time again that humans cannot do it. So let's use technology. In track meets, we don't have guys muttering "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand ...", we have sophisticated machines that can tell us, with certainty, the winning time was 28.735 seconds.


FenFan said...

I thought a lot of calls from earlier in the game were missed, too, although it seemed like a lot of balls were being called strikes (the opposite of what happened in the ninth).

Out of curiosity's sake, what was his overall percentage of called pitches? Are those stats available? I didn't see a link from where you got these plots.

I don't know why but I was watching the US Open tennis tournament recently and noticed that they now use technology to show whether a ball landed in or out. I believe players have so many calls per game that they can challenge and it takes almost no time to do it; I didn't have a stopwatch but it seemed like the time between asking for the challenge and getting an answer was less than ten seconds.

I'm surprised to be asking this but why can't they use similar technology in baseball for balls and strikes?

wardo said...

I turned the game off when Papelbon came in. Luckily, VH1 Classic was showing the Behind The Music on the last days of John Lennon, and since I was already depressed...

No matter who the umpire is, Papelbon cannot be trusted to close a game. In a season when most of our regulars have been on the DL, it would be nice if we can count on those who are still here. With Papelbon, we can't. Therefore, his performance this year will be the number one reason for the team's failure to make the playoffs, should they get shut out. All his blown saves should have been wins; mathematically, how would those have helped in the standings?

Amy said...

Yay, someone else to bash Papelbon! Always nice to have company.

I have been told we can't blame the whole season on him, but I still say that his ONLY job is ordinarily to get three outs. He can't seem to do that without giving up hits, walks and often runs. If he was a starting pitcher, I would understand why after throwing a certain number of pitches it is reasonable to think that the pitcher will give up hits, walks and runs. But this guy's whole job is to pitch ONE inning and not all any base runners. How many times has he done that this season? How many times has he given up a run, even if it wasn't a blown save? It's ONE inning! Arggh.

I know no one else is Rivera, and I don't expect perfection. But I do expect a closer to be able to CLOSE the damn game more effectively than Papelbon has done these past two seasons.

Call me unrealistic, tell me there are very few closers who are better, etc., etc. I still hope we find someone better soon.

Thanks for letting me vent. Again.

BklynSoxFan said...

Cuzzi's one of baseball's worst home plate umps, and that was on display for the world to see last night.

I'm still proud of the way our boys went down fighting. Despite Papelbon, they didn't bag the season, and made the MFY and their fans sweat this past weekend.

allan said...

But this guy's whole job is to pitch ONE inning and not all any base runners. How many times has he done that this season?

From a quick check of his game log, I count 42 times he has begun the 9th inning with the Red Sox ahead, usually in a save situation, but not always. He has allowed a run in 11 of those 42 games. (I have nothing to compare that to.)

He has begun an inning with the score tied 9 times and allowed a run 2 times.

He has come into a game with runners on base 9 times. He has allowed 6 of 15 inherited runners to score. In addition to that, he has also allowed 7 of his own runs to score in those 9 games. (He has 5 saves in those 9 games and the Sox were 7-2.)

He has pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning 20 times this year. The Sox's lead in those games:

1 run: 6
2 runs: 10
3 runs: 2
4 runs: 1
-2 runs: 1

Tom DePlonty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy said...

Thanks for those stats, Allan. I am mulling them over. Allowing a run 25% of the time he comes in for a save does not sound terrible, though I also have nothing to compare it with. Can we tell how often he has allowed a baserunner? I realize that does not always translate into runs, but it sure creates the risk of runs (and much anxiety for some of us).

He also does seem less effective when he comes in with runners on base. Your stats suggest he has allowed 13 runs in the nine games he has come in with runners on base. That sounds like a lot to me.

OTOH, 20 OTT innings sounds better than my sense of things.

Like I said, I will mull it over some more. Got to go teach my class now!

allan said...

He has allowed a hit or a walk in 40 of his 63 appearances.

That does not sound good, but I checked his totally awesome 2006 and 2007 seasons and ...

2006: 32 of 59
2007: 30 of 59
2010: 40 of 63

(Obviously, if he is up by 3 runs and allows 1 single and gets the save, it is no big deal.)

allan said...

According to Win Probability Added, Papelbon is our 4th best pitcher, behind Bard, Lester, and Buchholz.

Fangraphs' WAR (Wins Above Replacement (player)) has him 8th, behind Beckett and Wakefield. (Lackey is #2! WTF?)

FenFan said...

FWIW, Peter Abraham is stealing your work!

laura k said...

PA is using Brooks Baseball's work without credit.

Kathryn said...

Amalie says that Pap has an 8.64 ERA in eight appearances against the Yankees this year. OUCH!!

(Sorry, no hyperlink because I'm at work and too busy to look up how to link it.)

allan said...

Well, a reliever's ERA can get all out of whack with one bad outing.

But make no mistake, he has done mega-shitty against the MFY:

8 games
8.1 innings
10 hits
7 walks
9 runs (8 earned)
8 strikeouts
2.040 WHIP
44 batters faced
1.104 OPS

allan said...

Oh, that 1.104 OPS?

It is far ahead of even the #1 batter in all of MLB. Hamilton is at 1.049.

So when he has faced the Yankees this year, the average hitter at the plate is better than the best hitter in baseball.

(Pujols was 1.101 last year.)

Philip said...

Goddammit, Blogger.

I wrote out a real nice long post essentially defending Pap/taking down Bard and then Blogger urped and I think it's gone.

I had wrist surgery on Friday and cannot be bothered to fight the pain any longer and re-type it. Suffice it to say, those of you contra-Pap and pro-Bard are being silly and illogical.

Amy said...

So maybe my impressions are based in large part on the Yankee games? At any rate, I think he is overrated. When I look at these stats,

2006: 32 of 59
2007: 30 of 59
2010: 40 of 63

it seems there is a huge difference. In the earlier years he only give up hits/walks in about half his appearances as compared to two-thirds of his appearances this year. To me that is a statistically significant difference.

Kathryn said...

Wow, just wow.

Kathryn said...

Oh shoot. I forget about the lag in posting time when mod is on. The wow comment was in response to the OPS.

wardo said...

I haven't switched to the pro-Bard camp, but I am anti-Pap. Amy put it best -- he has exactly one job to do, and he hasn't. Each of his blown saves has put the team where they are, fighting to stay afloat. In a year when the Red Sox are staffed by minor-leaguers and guys they found at Sullivan Tire, we need to count on the regulars.