Monday, October 6, 2014

About That Strike Zone, Mr. Carapazza

I watched the entire 18 innings of the Giants-Nationals game on Saturday. Now, I will make two confessions. One, as you could read, I picked the Nationals as the most likely team to win the World Series in my postseason primer. Second, I have seen games at 20 of the 30 current ballparks (and seen four other teams play in the stadium prior to their current one), and there is no place I'd rather see a ballgame than San Francisco's AT&T Park. (That's not the same thing as saying it's my favorite ballpark. Easy, PNC Park.) Games there are electric, as Giants games have become the summer place to be in the Bay Area. 

I'm saying this to say that I think I'm unbiased when it comes to the series between San Francisco and Washington.

That being said, I think the Nationals got hosed Saturday night.

In an outstanding piece of writing, August Fagerstrom of FanGraphs explains how home plate umpire Vic Carapazza's calls hurt the Nationals. Of course, Nats second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and manager Matt Williams were ejected in the tenth inning for arguing two called strikes that resulted in Cabrera being called out. Fagerstrom notes that one of those pitches was high, the second borderline, but that's not what really screwed Washington. The bigger problems were:

  1. Carapazza called strikes on a lot of pitches outside the strike zone (literally outside: not high or low or inside, but outside). However, those calls clearly favored the Giants. There were 15 pitches against right-handed hitters that were called strikes despite being outside the strike zone. Of them, 12 were called with a Giants pitcher on the mound. Against left-handed hitters, the Giants got more strike calls on outside pitches, 8-7, as almost all of their pitches slightly outside were called strikes while relatively few of the Nationals' were.
  2. In one of the game's two most important at bats--the ninth inning walk to second baseman Joe Panik with two outs, resulting in starting pitching Jordan Zimmermann getting pulled in favor of reliever Drew Storen, who gave up a game-tying single to Pablo Sandoval--Carapazza's ball one and ball four calls were on pitches that had been strikes, repeatedly, earlier in the game.
  3. In the other key at bat, Brandon Belt's game-winning homer in the 18th, Carapazza called a ball on a 2-2 count a pitch thrown by Washington reliever Tanner Roark that had been consistently called a ball earlier in the game.
It seems to me that if Carapazza had called the same strike zone for the Nationals pitchers that he called for the Giants pitchers, the game probably would've ended in the ninth with the Nationals winning and, if not, probably wouldn't have ended in the 18th with the Giants winning. 

Check Fagerstrom's article. It's really good.

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