The Blair Pitch Project (zzzzzzing!)
I love it. 45 minutes after Jeff Blair made what I’ve decided to interpret as a direct reference to me as a “stats dude” (Have I mentioned how stupid I think referring to tinkering with math and sports as being a SABRmetrician is?):
“I’m sure there’s some stats dude out there with some sort of graph or some such thing that can verify or shoot this down.”
And my email starts filling with gentle – rising to insistent- suggestions that I get on the job. Then a couple of people drop by and make comments about it on my last post, Ari going so far as to call a spade a spade, to name the craving that I know so well…the need for a pitch f/x fix. You’re all sick, sick, people. Ride on.
Anyway, the question is whether Roy Halladay gets better calls than the average pitcher (as Baltimore’s skipper Dave Trembley suggested), or whether Blairsy’s observations and anecdotal evidence that it might be the other way around hold. My first thought was that there’s no freaking way the Doc is getting squeezed, due to a couple of articles I’ve written in the past:
- Cy Young pitchers really do get measurably better calls. Of course it’s probably not just the Cy Young that does it, but he’s got one anyway. It could also just be the current best pitchers in the game, which he is as well.
- Last Season Roy Halladay got the BEST calls of any starter in the league. Which seems to be something that favours control-type pitchers who don’t strike out a lot of batters over guys with electric stuff. Now the Doc is striking out more this year, but he’s still primarily a control pitcher.
First, let’s see if Trembley had a case last night. From the Catcher’s perspective, here’s all the calls against the O’s:
In a word, yes. to the tune of 3-4.5 inches off the plate. In Comparison, Liz was being squeezed like an overripe cantaloupe on the inner (to righties) part of the strike zone- he even didn’t get a few pitches that were textbook strikes called his way. Colour me unsurprised…
Blair mentions that it didn’t look that way on TV- I think that’s because the camera angle we watch away games on skews pitches on that side of the plate so they always look a little better than they are (even if we eventually mentally adjust somewhat to the parallax). That’s why Frank Thomas will go bezerk and get ejected on a pitch that really doesn’t look that bad from the sofa.
Anyway, on to the bigger question about the entire season so far for the Doc. Here’s every umpire call against him this season:
I would say (via extremely unscientific eyeballing) that umpires have been giving the Doc the benefit of the doubt and then some. If you’ve been following the umpire reports I post occasionally, you know that umpires give a few inches on average and vary around the edges (although they usually call it both ways unlike last night), but the Doc this season has just as many pitches 4 inches off the inside of the plate being called strikes than balls (I would guess that’s his sinker biting in at the last moment- the fact that he tends to come inside at the belt helps as well due to the irregular shape of the real strike zone).
Of course to really pin this one down, you’d have to do some long and complicated analysis involving the entire league like I did last offseason (see this article for the Hardball Times) and compare how many “extra” strikes and balls he has gotten to the league average. I was much more up for this kind of number crunching when I was unemployed, but if this is really a burning question that people need to know…let me know (you evidently know how).