Was Vic Carapazza As Bad As He Looked In Game 2?

Players often complain about the ball and strike calls made by umpires, but umpires actually do a pretty good job most of the time. However, in Game 2 of the ALDS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, this was not the case. Ian York takes a look at the calls made by Vic Carapazza and finds that the players had a reason to gripe.

In Game 2 of the Texas Rangers/Toronto Blue Jays ALDS on October 9, several batters on both teams showed their frustration with ball and strike calls made by umpire Vic CarapazzaOn TV, it seemed that they might have a point, but the TV strike zone graphics are not very reliable as the zone they show is not the zone that any umpire actually calls. Umpires call balls and strikes based on their own conception of a strike zone, and that zone changes year to year.

The size of the strike zone has changed considerably since PITCHf/x tracking was introduced. The 2015 de facto strike zone, the one batters and pitchers expect to see, is very similar to that in 2014, but quite different from the official zone. Was Carapazza calling this de facto zone accurately?

Unfortunately, Carapazza’s calls still look pretty bad when mapped onto the 2015 strike zone. Here, balls are blue, called strike are red; open symbols are Texas batters, closed are Toronto. I count 10 incorrectly-called strikes, all at the bottom of the zone, and probably 12 incorrect balls:

The grey polygon marks the point where pitches have about a 50% chance of being called a ball or a strike, so those exactly on the line are coin tosses. To be fair, these data are based on PITCHf/x, which has a significant error rate, and even at best may be an inch or two off in its location. Also, PITCHf/x identifies location of a pitch as it crosses the front of the plate; conceivably, some pitches could have moved into the strike zone as they crossed the back of the plate. However, since that would mean the pitches would have to move upward which balls pitched overhand never do that’s not a free pass for the umpire here.

That’s about 10% of all called pitches, which is terrible. Typically, umpires are correct (based on de facto strike zones) between 95-98% of the time.

Texas was disproportionately hurt by the mistaken calls. Seven of the ten incorrect strikes were called on Texas batters, while 9 of the incorrect balls were awarded to Toronto. After 14 innings, Texas won despite the bad calls, but hopefully umpires will do a better job in the rest of the post-season.

Ian York has written about Xander Bogaerts, Rich Hill, Joe Kelly’s approach in certain counts, the effect of better bullpens on offensive strategy, Rick Porcello’s resurgenceMatt Barnes’ first start, Mark Buehrle, and Wade Davis.

Follow Ian on Twitter @iayork.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Many years ago, I was having lunch with a couple of former MLB players and we were discussing umpires and their decisions.

    They both agreed that umpires were and could be bought and the main reason was TV ratings in the playoffs between larger market teams brought in more viewership and larger sponsorship dollars between larger market teams.

    This was before hugely accurate replay systems that we have today and reviews on on non review able plays (read strikes and balls) are unfortunately still fair game.

    The human element in calla should be left in the game in my virw . There is too much digital analysis 8n the world today.

    The bad calls get weeded out. It is a difficult job as I have been saddled with calling a game if the ump can’t make it. Not an enviable task but I do call the opposing coaches over at the start and tell them how I am viewing the strike zone. Seems to help.

  2. Did an umpire ever make a bad call on Ted Williams?
    Once. And Ted told the ump that he would tell him when the next strike crossed the plate.

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