Yesterday's Dodgers-Cardinals game, which St. Louis won 3-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series, featured more of the same, with the Dodgers, particularly right fielder Matt Kemp, taking issue with the balls-and-strikes calls of home plate umpire Dale Scott. Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk doesn't see it, and I'm inclined to agree.
Here's the strike zone that Scott called against left-handed hitters. Red is called strikes, green is called balls. Squares are calls when St. Louis batters were at the plate, triangles are Los Angeles at bats.
The solid square is the regulation strike zone, and the dashed square is the typically called strike zone. The calls here aren't bad. Yes, Scott called outside pitches strikes, but that's typical. The Dodgers got strikes called on a couple pitches that were high, but the Cards had a couple bad calls too. No bias that I can see.
Now, against right-handed hitters, like Kemp:
This is from the catcher's perspective, so the batter's standing to the left. That's a pretty wide strike zone. I'm counting seven pitches called strikes that were outside the typical right handed batter's strike zone, and three more that were outside the rulebook strike zone. But biased? Three of those seven obviously outside strike calls went against the Dodgers, four against the Cards. Of the three that were outside the de jure strike zone but within the de facto zone, one was called against a Dodger and two against a Cardinal. (Note: My counts may be off, since there may be some pitches that are right on top of each other.) Scott had a wide strike zone, but it appears to have been equally wide for both teams.
All these charts come from Brooks Baseball, which totally rocks.
Today, Clayton Kershaw is going to start for the Dodgers. He's the obvious National League Cy Young Award winner and probably the MVP as well, and he's being called upon to stave off elimination for Los Angeles. There are two things about Kershaw that you'll hear:
- He has struggled against St. Louis. Friday he gave up eight runs in 6.2 innings, getting the lost. He also lost both his starts against the Cardinals in last year's NLCS, pitching well in Game 2 (six innings, three baserunners, one unearned run) and badly in Game 6 (seven runs in four innings). In between last year's NLCS and this year's DS, though, he faced the Cards twice and allowed just three runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA), striking out 21 and walking just three, and over his career he's got a 3.46 ERA and 1.27 WHIP against St. Louis, which is bad only from the perspective of Clayton Kershaw. Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus has a good takedown of the Cardinals-own-Kershaw meme.
- He's going to start on three days' rest. That's very unusual in these days of five-man rotations. The only time in his career he's done it, in fact, is in last year's Divisional Series against Atlanta. It worked out OK: six innings, three baserunners, six strikeouts, two unearned runs.