Another way to look at the strike zone
By Shannon Drayer
After reading the comments following Tuesday’s post I thought I should share some insight on two issues.
Obviously a lot of you were upset with the umpiring in the Mariners’ 4-3 loss to the Yankees. There is no doubt there were bad calls. Did they cost the Mariners the game? Ultimately, no. When a team is 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position I think the offense has more to do with the loss than the umpiring.
Before that game I interviewed Kelly Shoppach for the Mariners Insider segment of the pregame show. The interview ran a little long and I ended up editing out a portion that would have been very relevant to the topic at hand.
When talking to Kelly about pitch framing he told me that his main goal was to make things easier for the umpire. To give him a good look so it would be easier for him to make a good call.
“Those guys are graded but at the end of the day if you get out of there without getting yelled at by either team it is a good day,” he told me.
He then went on to say that he believed the umpires in general were actually pretty good and that they miss one or two calls a game.
“One or two calls a game?” I asked skeptically.
He wasn’t having any of that. His tone immediately changed. Serious. Dead serious.
“I actually do think that is right,” he said.
Of course I had to revisit this in the clubhouse this afternoon.
“So … nice call on the umps only getting one or two calls wrong a game,” I teased Shoppach when he walked by Brendan Ryan, who was talking with a reporter about the 3-2 pitch to Brett Gardner.
I didn’t have the recorder on but Shoppach stood by what he said. He said there were only a couple of bad calls in that game. How could that be?
He basically said that when you are in the game, behind the plate or at the plate, you have to go not with the strike zone, but the umpire’s strike zone. He said what he saw that night was not surprising and consistent with what he knew of the home-plate umpire that night.
It is about consistency. I am not going to go back and look at how consistent Jerry Layne has been with his strike zone this year. I simply don’t have the time and I am not interested in proving Kelly Shoppach wrong. If that’s what he saw, that’s what he saw.
In other words, the pitch tracker shows what the strike zone should be, but the umpire establishes what the strike zone is. Some guys have big strike zones, some tight. Players know which way an umpire is likely to go and they get a feel early for what he is calling that night and it’s up to them to adjust to the umpire rather than to sit back and try to play the pitch tracker zone.
So yes, there were bad calls but not every missed strike was a strike in the zone that the umpire established in Shoppach’s mind.
The other topic I wanted to address was Wedge not going to Oliver Perez in the seventh inning Tuesday night. I find it strange that I need to address it (because there were commenters asking why he didn’t) seeing that I gave his explanation in that post. If you missed it, go back and read the post again.
I do want to talk a little bit more about the bullpen, however. While the bullpen has done well, particularly of late, it still has some shortcomings which most likely is one of the reasons why Wedge held Perez back.
First and foremost, keep in mind that the manager has information you do not have, and he may choose not to share, when he is making these decisions. The pitcher may have some ailment that day, he may have pitched too much recently. Maybe he was simply “off” earlier in the day. I don’t know if there were other circumstances we didn’t know about Tuesday. Just keep that in mind.
You can’t go to Perez in every must-get situation. Outside of Perez and the closer right now the pen does not have a go-to-guy. The pen has been good but in my opinion it is short either a righty or another versatile lefty.
There’s Tom Wilhelmsen and Perez and then working backwards you have Carter Capps, against whom lefties are hitting .391. Lucas Luetge’s numbers against righties are even worse. Yoervis Medina is young and they are picking their spots for him and it is paying off. Hector Noesi is Hector Noesi. Charlie Furbush is not a bad option as he can get both lefties and righties out and pitch multiple innings if needed, but has had command issues at times.
With Wilhelmsen the closer and only available for the ninth – and in some situations an out in the eighth – you can’t go to Perez every single time a fire needs to be put out. Tuesday night the team was up two in the seventh when Furbush was put in. That is not even a fire situation.
A healthy Stephen Pryor would help but he is still a ways away from a return. Closer to a return is Josh Kinney, who could be sent out on a rehab assignment in the next couple of days. I think there is a good chance we see him back with the club May 30, the day he is eligible to return.
Wednesday postgame notes
What a night for the Mariners. On the heels of a game that they couldn’t quite put away, they put this one away in the first inning. The Mariners scored seven in the first en route to a 12-2 win .
Another big night for Raul Ibanez, who hit a grand slam and a two-run home run. The six RBIs were a career best for a road game.
Ibanez has been on some kind of a hot streak in New York, homering in nine of his last 11 games at Yankee Stadium.
Hisashi Iwakuma surrendered two runs and saw his ERA increase to a whopping 1.84.