The Mockingbird

The Blair Pitch Project (zzzzzzing!)

with 9 comments

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).


Written by halejon

June 9, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Seriousness

9 Responses

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  1. Great work. I was wondering if Blair was on point or not.

    Richard Pollock

    June 9, 2008 at 9:45 pm

  2. This is one of the many reason why I believe that a series of sensors built into home plate should be calling balls and strikes and not a human.


    June 10, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  3. What? Using technology to make sure they get the call right?



    June 10, 2008 at 5:46 pm

  4. I’m not sure why, but I’m really not a fan of the electronically perfect strike zone…for one, as I pointed on Blairs blog (which has vanished into the void of moderation), Umpires call the zone in human ways that everyone is used to- a little wider at the belt because hitters can reach those pitches, and not at the corners because they’re unhittable. I don’t think a perfect rulebook box makes for the best baseball, and it would totally change the game. Not to mention eliminate what I think are some legitimate skills like framing pitches, hitting your spots a la Glavine, etc.

    Not to mention the aesthetics of having some light flash for every pitch or whatever…ughhhh…is the current situation with balls ans strikes really that much of a problem?


    June 10, 2008 at 6:03 pm

  5. I would love to see charts on Paplebon, rivera, joba(as a reliever) and BJ. It would also be kind of interesting to see the Yankees, Redsox and Jays overall.


    June 10, 2008 at 10:48 pm

  6. Can yah trim that down a little?

    With the teams I think it gets to be a big mess that you can’t really tell a lot from. I crunched the numbers on teams last year and there was nothing glaring. The Jays actually got the 2nd best calls in the majors and NY was below average.


    June 10, 2008 at 11:40 pm

  7. Maybe just the closers?


    June 11, 2008 at 12:31 pm

  8. i must admit, that is one dope title…well done…

    Navin Vaswani

    June 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm

  9. […] as I’ve mentioned before, ruthlessly fair is probably not what the Doc or any other Cy Young winner would expect, but even […]

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