The Season’s Ball-iest Called Strikes, So Far

Just the other day, we went through the first half of the season’s strike-iest called balls, which were more or less called balls on pitches taken right down the middle. Those are always interesting to observe and analyze, but that idea also has a natural follow-up, which is what we’ll review here. Below, the first half of the season’s ball-iest called strikes, which are called strikes on pitches absolutely not taken right down the middle. Umpire mistakes are always frustrating for about half of the observers, and on the larger scale umpire mistakes are frustrating for everybody, but the purpose of these posts isn’t to lead you to your individual boiling points; rather, this is just about identifying and reflecting on curiosities. What you see below is weird! Never a bad time to look at weird.

I’m changing things up just a little bit. Instead of calculating distance from the center of the strike zone, I’ve calculated distance from the nearest point of the strike zone. I’ve also gone with Brooks Baseball’s corrected PITCHf/x pitch locations, instead of the raw PITCHf/x pitch locations, because I am taking this way too seriously. The top five? Four left-handed batters, as you’d expect. But one righty. One most unfortunate righty. Here now are the ball-iest called strikes of 2014.

5

Pitcher: Neal Cotts
Batter: Kyle Seager
Catcher: Chris Gimenez
Umpire: Jeff Kellogg
Date: May 21
Location: 9.1 inches to strike zone

5cottsseager

5cottsseager

It’s not surprising to see something like this on the first pitch to a left-handed batter. Gimenez isn’t well-known for his framing skills, mostly because he doesn’t possess consistently outstanding framing skills, but just as mediocre hitters can run into a dinger from time to time, mediocre receivers can run into an elite-level reception. Sometimes Jonathan Lucroy handcuffs himself, and sometimes Chris Gimenez squeezes and sells a slider a foot and a half from the heart of the plate. After the strike call, Seager stepped away and asked about the pitch, but he didn’t complain, despite the leverage of the circumstances. This is today’s reminder that Texas has an absolutely dreadful and unhelpful camera angle.

4

Pitcher: Jake Buchanan
Batter: James Loney
Catcher: Carlos Corporan
Umpire: Manny Gonzalez
Date: June 21
Location: 9.4 inches to strike zone

4buchananloney

4buchananloney

That’s one that you don’t see very often. This wasn’t so much a lefty strike as it was simply a low strike to a hitter with a taller zone. Loney understands his own zone pretty well, which is why he was so surprised to hear the call that he did. Someone in the last post remarked that his favorite thing about these sorts of calls is looking at the players’ responses, and you can see Loney pause in the batter’s box as soon as he hears that he’s behind in the count. It’s an un-aggressive protest on his part, and this makes me wonder if we can read into personality traits by observing how players respond to bad breaks. Loney doesn’t seem to have anger issues boiling right below the surface. A pitch later, in fact, he was joking around with Corporan, perhaps because Loney understand that his own team’s catchers do this to other teams’ batters a few times a game.

3

Pitcher: David Phelps
Batter: Mike Napoli
Catcher: Brian McCann
Umpire: Bob Davidson
Date: April 10
Location: 10.9 inches to strike zone

3phelpsnapoli

3phelpsnapoli

Napoli couldn’t believe it, mostly because Phelps’ slider crossed the front plane of home plate within his own batter’s box. I wouldn’t say the pitch was necessarily close to hitting Napoli, but I’m not sure it was any closer to the inner edge of the zone, so this is a hell of a way to be called out on strikes in the ninth inning of a rivalry game. McCann did a perfect job of catching the pitch, like usual. Phelps did a just about perfect job of hitting his spot. It was a good pitch executed properly, so you can understand why Bob Davidson was tempted to go in this direction, but we’re still talking about a pitch almost a foot inside. Calls like this are one of the reasons a lot of people can’t stand Davidson as an umpire. About that-

2

Pitcher: Jason Grilli
Batter: Emilio Bonifacio
Catcher: Russell Martin
Umpire: Bob Davidson
Date: April 2
Location: 11.4 inches to strike zone

2grillibonifacio

2grillibonifacio

There’s our man again. You could try to defend this by saying it’s a lefty strike, and lefty strikes aren’t unique to Bob Davidson, but this is an extreme lefty strike, and consider what’s going on. It’s a righty pitching to a lefty, and the pitch Grilli threw was a fastball, so it was even tailing away from Bonifacio as it approached the area of the plate. The pitch was caught on the border of the right-handed batter’s box, and not that this should necessarily matter, but the count when the call was made was 0-and-1, a count in which the average strike zone is somewhat smaller than usual. Yeah, Martin sold the pitch like he usually sells pitches, but it’s probably not a coincidence that we’ve seen Davidson here twice in a row. Bonifacio was visibly upset by being pushed a strike closer to the end of the game. Within moments, he’d single, and the next guy would single, and the game stretched to 16 innings before the Pirates walked off. In retrospect maybe Davidson was just trying to spare Bonifacio that misery. It was late on a cool Wednesday night. Who’d want to play six hours?

1

Pitcher: Lucas Harrell
Batter: Raul Ibanez
Catcher: Carlos Corporan
Umpire: Tom Hallion
Date: April 4
Location: 11.8 inches to strike zone

1harrellibanez

1harrellibanez

Seager stepped away and asked about the pitch. Loney froze in the batter’s box. Napoli turned around and argued. Bonifacio jerked his body around and stepped out in a huff. Ibanez did nothing. There was no sort of visible protest or disagreement, with Ibanez just taking the call and sweeping the line of the box with his foot. It’s cool, calm, professional behavior, like what’s always been expected out of Raul Ibanez, and there are reasons Ibanez is so widely, universally respected. Ibanez is always shown respect because Ibanez is always showing respect, even when circumstances aren’t breaking his way. This is an example of why Ibanez is considered such a positive role model, even though for all I know on the inside he was feeling kind of murder-y. That’s the thing about people — some people have better control of their emotions, and all we see is what happens on the outside. But I have to believe everyone’s some kind of crazy on the inside. Raul Ibanez is widely respected because he’s able to bottle up the crazy.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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David Ross
8 years ago

Incomplete.