2012 Reds

What a blown call looks like

Anatomy of a Blown Call: Brooks Baseball

Brooks Baseball collects real-time data on pitches, all data, including balls and strikes. Their PitchFX Tool is pretty much the gold standard for this stuff. It’s accuracy is ridiculous. Every pitch thrown in every game. Every speed, rotation, release spot. You name it, they graph it. You can’t think of a name, they graph it. To say this site is awesome doesn’t do it justice. It’s way beyond awesome.

The above chart shows the four pitches thrown by Sean Marshall to Angel Pagan in the ninth inning of today’s game in relation to the strike zone. The strike zone is represented by the black box inside the graph. You see all four pitches are helpfully numbered. Note that pitch #3 is well inside the box. The box is the strike zone. Pitch #3 was a strike.

Pitch One: 84-mph slider, called a strike (the little red square, right next to the little green square)

Pitch Two: 75-mph curveball, fouled (the maroon square in the bottom left corner of the strike box)

Pitch Three: 90-mph fastball (the little green square). Called a ball. Clearly strike three.

Pitch Four: There shouldn’t have been a pitch four. There should have been “Have a seat, Angel” and one out to go. Instead, umpire Tim Welke gave us “In play (runs).” No kidding.

30 thoughts on “What a blown call looks like

  1. Borderline calls all through a game. Can’t whine. We get a ground ball DP and the game is over.

  2. mentioned this in the other thread but realized it should have gone here. the ump blew the call because meso was set up very high and marshall missed his spot by more than a foot.

    the pitch ended up being a perfect low strike, but umps often miss calls when pitchers miss their spots.

  3. @al: This is exactly what the SF broadcasters had to say. Number 1 that the pitch was a strike and called a strike all day.

    Number 2 that it was probably called a ball because Mesoraco gave a high target and had to move his glove so far to catch it.

    It’s not a matter of whining, the Reds lost. I just wonder why Mesoraco set the high target, was he looking for a fastball up ?

  4. @pinson343: yeah, i think so. it was 0-2, probably trying to strike him out on a high heater out of the zone. marshall missed by a lot, but it just ended up being a perfect strike.

    the ump should have called it a strike, no doubt about it. but i think pitchers have less room to complain on those blown calls than when they just get squeezed while hitting their spots.

    it’s a tough job to call balls and strikes, so i think most umps cheat a little by looking at the catcher’s target.

  5. I have to hope that one day in the near future that home plate impact will be replaced by machines.

  6. Didn’t see the game, nor call. KNOW that it was a strike, though (w/out seeing it). But Marshall HAS to suck it up & close it out. The WLBs just had more than one (ridiculous) calls that went against them (diehard REDS fan here, but they were awful calls). They lost one/won one. Good teams overcome little things like bad calls at the plate. Series = won. Keep it up. GO REDS!

  7. It was a tough outcome. I like that Marshall seems to be a stand up guy in talking about what went wrong and that the key was the walk and not “the call”.

    My concern going forward is that days like this are more likely to happen when your closer can’t at least at times throw the ball past hitters or come close enough to have them unable to square up.

    That’s something that even the diminished version of CoCo we saw last year was for the most part able to do when he really had to. It is something Madson had learned to do with his combination of fastball and killer change. Hopefully Marshall will work it out because it seems a change to lose a game in the 9th on a hung curve ball.

  8. In his remarks, Marshall mentioned wanting to make sure he threw a strike at 1-2 because he wanted Pagan to put the ball in play was hopeful of getting a DP.

    It seems to me that in the 9th with 1 out, two on and a two run lead, you take your outs one at a time and as easily as you can get them. If you can go low or elsewhere out of the zone and get a swinging strike for an out, go for it. (and is Pagan likely to take anything withing a foot of being a strike after escaping the previous call?) Getting the 26th out in turn just increases the pressure all the more on the next hitter and makes him more like to expand his strike zone. Or so it seems to me.

  9. @OhioJim: Marshall’s a good pitcher, I’m not worried about him going forward. If you look at his stats as a reliever, you’ll see he gets a lot of Ks, not many BBs, and only allowed 1 HR last season.

    You’ll also see that he has bad outings and loses games, like everyone else.

    PS I agree with you that on 1-2 he should have gone for the K against Pagan.

  10. @wildwestLV: Good comment. I was looking for Marshall to suck up that call and strike out Pagan (again). It’s a good sign that he’s not using the call as an alibi – he knows the call wouldn’t have mattered, if he made the next pitch a good one.

  11. @al: In an interview on mlb.com, Marshall confirmed that Mesoraco had set up for a high fastball on the 0-2 pitch.

  12. There’s also the “close 3-0 pitches are always called strikes and close 0-2 pitches are always called balls” thing. Umpires are programmed a certain way and it sucks.

  13. Kind of reminds me of the Ludwick Slam when a clear strike 3 was called a ball and Ludwick slammed the next pitch. The reason this bothers me is because if it continues (because of pitchFX) eventually Umps will no longer continue to call balls and strikes.

  14. I think the sport itself is designed to frustrate us. Bailey bunting into a DP didn’t seem like a big deal. Stubbs thrown out at third, no big deal. The other night, BP gets a break on a foul tip, homers the next pitch. Games are not won or lost on one play and we all know it. It’s when somebody decides to isolate one call that we react as we do.

  15. Gameday showed the pitch right down the middle that couldn’t be missed. This shows a pitch low in the zone that is much easier to believe could be called as a ball, especially considering Mesoraco was set up so much higher. So, really, nothing to see here.

  16. @Jared: Well, no, I don’t agree with “nothing to see here.” What I see here is, it was a strike. Those light gray lines are 6 inches, if I’m reading the scale correctly, so this graphic shows it was a strike by 3, maybe 4 inches.

    I mean, it happens. Calls get missed. They just mostly don’t get followed up by a HR on the next pitch.

    So yeah, in today’s game (w/ human umps), it happens. But still, there is most definitely something to see here – it should’ve been strike 3, and it wasn’t.

  17. @Dan: That ball was WELL within a reasonable margin of error. I bet a call “that bad” happens at least a dozen times a game. What happens next is irrelevant since including that human error is a conscious decision by the baseball gods.

    So like I said, IMO, nothing to see here.

  18. I think it’s interesting as a point of discussion and says more about Marshall’s willingness to not take the easy way out and put the onus on himself for his failure. Umps miss calls all the time, this was a big one, but wouldn’t mean anything if Marshall hadn’t hung the next pitch.

  19. @Jared: Wow, you think a ball/strike call that’s missed by 3-4 inches is “well within the margin of error”? I disagree on that, but it’s an interesting point. I wonder what percent of calls are missed at that range? Seems like an answerable question now that we have Pitch f/x data!

    To me, though, that’s a pretty bad miss. I would hope there aren’t more than 2 or 3 per game missed that badly (but I actually have no idea if that’s the case or not).

    As for what I’d think if I saw similar complaining on a Cardinals blog, I’d probably think, “they have a point.” Honestly, I think I would.

    (For example, I hear we got away with one just like this just before the Ludwick grand slam in Washington, didn’t we? If that’s the case, then I’d say, OK, we got lucky there. I’ll take it, and it happens to all teams at one time or another, but he should’ve been out.)

  20. @Bill Lack: I agree that Marshall handled it very well – level-headed and mature. Makes me like him and trust him more. I don’t think I would’ve handled it nearly as well, and I’m 40!

  21. Here’s a general question regarding the pitch tracker:

    Sure, the width of the strike zone, theoretically, never changes. But the upper and lower limits of the zone vary based on the batter. And you can see that the height of the strike box varies between batters. But who determines how high and low the zone should be for each batter? That’s something that a computer probably can’t figure out by itself.

  22. Here’s a general question regarding the pitch tracker:

    Sure, the width of the strike zone, theoretically, never changes. But the upper and lower limits of the zone vary based on the batter. And you can see that the height of the strike box varies between batters. But who determines how high and low the zone should be for each batter? That’s something that a computer probably can’t figure out by itself.

    I don’t think you can say that…there is a database of players and it is a relatively simple process to cross reference..perhaps theater is some small error for guys that have strange proportions or extreme batting stances (thinking of Pete Rose versus Craig Counsel here).

  23. @renbutler: @CP: I agree with ren on this one. Here’s the official strike zone from the MLB rules:

    The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

    I would say the strike zone for Brandon Phillips (6’0″ with a crouch) and Drew Stubbs (6’4″ upright stance) is probably at least 6″ different from top to bottom.

    All of the pitch location data I’ve ever seen presents a strikezone that is the same 2′ as the one above from top to bottom. So there’s a pretty large margin of error there.

  24. Marshall via Sheldon’s blog: “I didn’t hit my spot on the pitch,” said Marshall, now 4- for-5 in save chances. “I was looking for a fastball up the letters. Devin was setting up for that. The ball was borderline. It was close. But the next pitch was the one that mattered.”

    “One of the biggest mistakes was walking the leadoff hitter. When a guy gets on base, it kind of throws you out of your rhythm. You’ve got to pitch out of the stretch and I didn’t make the pitches that I wanted to. It cost me a three-run home run and a loss.”

  25. @CP: Well, that’s not the computer figuring it out. I’m wondering if every player has different upper and lower limits entered manually, and if it’s ever updated. And what about a new call-up: does he get a default zone until he has some sort of measurement?

    @al: I’ve definitely seen the box grow or shrink top to bottom from player to player. Somebody is measuring; it’s very doubtful that it’s automated.

  26. CP: Well, that’s not the computer figuring it out. I’m wondering if every player has different upper and lower limits entered manually, and if it’s ever updated. And what about a new call-up: does he get a default zone until he has some sort of measurement?

    @al: I’ve definitely seen the box grow or shrink top to bottom from player to player. Somebody is measuring; it’s very doubtful that it’s automated.

    It depends on which system we are talking about. Brooks Baseball uses a fixed lower/upper limit. Other pitchFx systems have a operator that actually measures hollow of the knee to the belt line.

  27. @CP: why do they go to the belt line if the rule states it’s halfway from belt to shoulders?

    i guess i’ve seen the brooks ones, because i’ve always thought they were fixed.

    this seems like the thorniest issue with automated strike calls. i don’t think they should ever have computerized strike calls though, i just think there should be instant replay based on managers challenges.

    i think if dusty had a red flag to toss yesterday (and hadn’t used it earlier in the game) that would have been a pretty easy overturn. probably would have taken about a minute.

  28. also, theoretically, if you wore your pants really low, you should get a smaller strike zone. something for the reds to think about🙂

  29. CP: why do they go to the belt line if the rule states it’s halfway from belt to shoulders?

    i guess i’ve seen the brooks ones, because i’ve always thought they were fixed.

    this seems like the thorniest issue with automated strike calls.i don’t think they should ever have computerized strike calls though, i just think there should be instant replay based on managers challenges.

    i think if dusty had a red flag to toss yesterday (and hadn’t used it earlier in the game) that would have been a pretty easy overturn.probably would have taken about a minute.

    Probably just reading or memory fail on my part…on my phone and cold not double check the article. Baseball.prospectus has an article about it that shows up on first page of google.

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