Yesterday, we looked at some data for Eric Cooper and suggested that the AL Wild Card game would likely see a taller-than-average strike zone. That’s pretty much what Cooper ended up calling, so today, let’s go ahead and give Jeff Nelson — who will be behind the plate for tonight’s Cubs/Pirates game — the same treatment.
With a left-handed batter up.
With a right-handed batter up.
Nelson has pretty different zones here, so it’s worth keeping in mind that the zone is likely going to change batter to batter tonight. With a lefty at the plate, Nelson is very generous on the inside corner, and has one of the widest zones inside to LH batters of any umpire in baseball. With a right-handed batter at the plate, he’s pretty much league average in and out, but a little more generous than average up in the zone, especially up-and-away.
Overall, though, it’s the inside strike to lefties that stands out as his most notable trait. Given that the Cubs are likely to start five left-handed hitters tonight, they’re the ones who will have to be more likely to make some adjustments; especially because the Pirates pitch inside more than almost any other team in MLB. Nelson’s generous inside corner is likely a potential benefit for Gerrit Cole in going after guys like Dexter Fowler and Chris Coghlan, who tend to take a lot of borderline pitches, and might need to be more aggressive on the inner-half tonight.
Like last night, expect the zone to favor pitchers a bit tonight, as Nelson is a bit pitcher-friendly with the size of his strike zone. But unlike with Cooper, who calls high and low strikes against everyone, Nelson’s tendencies likely hurt LH batters a bit more, and that might be a small advantage for a Pirates team that leans more to the right side of the plate.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.