Back in the early days of baseball, fans used to be able to intimidate umpires into making calls go their way. And by intimidate I mean there were issues with fans crossing some literal and figurative lines. The umpires in yesterday's game did not seem amused with Padres fans' reactions to their officiating, but were not intimidated. Some frustration even boiled over when a water bottle was thrown onto the field perhaps in the direction of the 3rd base umpire. That sort of behavior is more inexcusable than any number of bad calls an umpire can make. However, I'm not here to talk about fan behavior and instead I'm interested in the source of the frustration. Specifically the ball and strike calls made by the umpiring crew that has been charged with calling them for all the Padres games this season. And yes, I said "crew" not "crews". The same 4 guys that did the Padres-Dodgers series in LA is doing this Padres-Giants series in San Diego.
Thanks to Brooks Baseball we see what a strike zone looks like. The site plots only the pitches that were called either a ball or strike by the umpire to try to show a strike zone for the game. The plots are divided into two graphs: one for LH hitters and one for RH hitters. Here are the graphs from the Padres home opener:
There are few mistakes here and there. You can see a green plot point (ball) inside what should be the strike zone and red ones (strikes) outside. The part that makes it difficult for hitters are the areas where the green and red plot points intermingle. It seems that Tripp Gibson III had some issues with the outside corners. Also, if you look at the bottom of the strike zone on both graphs, it looks like the low strike was called different depending on the handedness of the batter. That is easy to see in hindsight, but can be tricky to figure out in real time. Especially if you are one of the many relievers that entered yesterday's ball game.
Now that we have an idea about what kind of issue the strike zone can, let's start going back to the previous games in L.A. I warn parents that young children should avert their eyes.
This is ugly. Those green plot points in the middle of the strike zone are outrageous. Against LHH it seems the Dodgers pitchers were victimized by these errors in judgment. Against right handed hitters, the Padres seemed to have had a few strikes taken away from their pitchers. There are again some issues with the outside corners being unclear. Mike DiMuro also seemed to be more generous on the inside corner to righty hitters, but not so to lefties.
On to the graphs from 4/7:
Low and away pitching to both types of hitters could also be picked a random as to whether they are balls or strikes. But overall, not as bad as the 4/8 game and maybe a little worse than the 4/9 game. This was the Zach Greinke-Tyson Ross game and I don't remember too many calls that seemed bad, although the plots clearly show some more strikes should have been called and all of which went against Padres pitchers.
Last one, Opening Day 4/6:
Another ugly one. Looking at the took graphs, you have to wonder if Brian Gorman has trouble seeing to his right. The outside corner to right handed hitters and the inside corner to left handed hitters is filled with lots of calls for balls. To the lefty hitters it's like the plate moved a few inches away. To the righty batters the outside corner was a guessing game.
With the same crew serving for tonight's game, one would assume that the four man rotation should be coming back around to Brian Gorman today. When Brandon Morrow takes the hill he might not want to go inside too much to lefties or risk walking them, but it might be the best place to get a called strike versus a righty.