• Have the Twins been screwed by umpires?

    Robot umpires now? You wouldn’t blame Kyle Gibson for wanting them.

    A recent Wall Street Journal article took an in-depth look at Major League Baseball’s strike zone and found that some teams have benefited from an expanded zone while others suffered from shrinkage.

    Brian Costa consulted with the locally-owned Inside Edge, a Minneapolis-based company that specializes in harvesting video data for teams to use, and IE’s evaluating system combined with the MLB Pitchf/x system showed that an average of nearly 9% of all pitches were called incorrectly.

    While the definition of the strike zone is quite clear, the human element influences the outcome of the calls during the game. Writes Costa:

    “But in practice, it varies from umpire to umpire, game to game and even depending on the count. The data collected by Inside Edge suggests umpires are far more hesitant to call a pitch a ball or a strike if doing so would result in either a walk or a strikeout.

    On 0-2 counts this year, 26% of pitches taken inside the strike zone are erroneously called balls, compared with 10.9% on all other counts. On 3-0 counts, 12% of pitches taken outside the strike zone are mistakenly called strikes, compared with 6.7% on all other counts.”
    Among all the teams, Inside Edge’s data shows that the Twins have been the most wrongly discriminated against when it came to pitches inside the zone that were called balls this season. Just 44.3% of botched pitch calls that were missed were deemed favorable to the Twins. Has this negatively impacted the Twins 2013 season? As Costa’s points out, the Milwaukee Brewers, who at 55.3% have the highest amount of wrongly called pitches go in their favor, have nearly as bad of a record as the Twins. So it appears that even if the Twins had all the calls go their way, it still would not have changed the overall record much.

    What is interesting is that the Twins pitchers have an overall decent amount of strike zone presence. According to Fangraphs.com’s Pitchf/x data, the Twins pitching staff has the second-highest amount of zone presence at 50.7%. Meanwhile, Inside Edge’s data suggests that Kyle Gibson has been one unlucky fellow – getting just 79.2% of in-zone pitches called a strike.

    Before you pick up your pitchforks remember Gibson’s in-zone percentage is one of the lowest in the game at 41.9%. Gibson’s chaotic nature combined with his rookie status may have made it difficult for umpires to side with him on his borderline pitches. However, there may have been another factor that influenced his poor strike percentage.

    While we all have seen the stories and data on Ryan Doumit’s framing issues, but Gibson was spared from having Doumit as his batterymate. Instead, Gibson has drawn Mauer for eight of his 10 starts. While Mauer has been proven to be an excellent receiver when it came to coaxing a call on the high strike, his ability to do the same with a pitch down in the zone was extremely poor. (As suggested in the WSJ piece, it may be due to his large stature which blocks out some umpires.) As a sinkerball pitcher, Gibson works down in the zone with that and a biting slider. With Mauer’s tendency of turning a low strike into a ball, it is no surprise to see a high amount of Gibson’s low pitches being called balls.



    Gibson, a ground ball pitcher by trade, had his problems further exacerbated, beyond the strike zone, by the percent of grounders turned into hits – his .333 batting average of grounders was nearly 40% higher than the league average. Armed with a solid repertoire, Gibson figures to play a substantial role in the rotation for the Twins in 2014.
    This article was originally published in blog: Have the Twins been screwed by umpires? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 43 Comments
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      We have a gold glove catcher who is one of the best I've seen at framing. But the umps make no effort to change their stance with a taller catcher. So they don't call the low strike when Joe is behind the plate. Doumit has the same problem, but he is also framing challenged in general.

      I think the catching position will revert to 5 foot 10 guys who can get really low, work with pitchers and manage the running game. The days of the Mauers and the Poseys are numbered, especially with the concussion issue.
      Good points, all. Also, when did MLB approve of home plate umpires setting up their line of sight a foot or more wide and off the plate (seemingly in order to better "see over" the bigger catchers)? When they set up that far away from the center of the plate, they of course inevitably, and frequently miss the low, outside strike.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Jose Molina is 6'2" and at least 250. It is time the Twins start seeing strike zone management as a skill that is developed and acquired.
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      MLB should UsE Robots Only To Evaluate Individual Umps Balls And Strikes Performance After Each Game ... With Umpire Compensation Based Partially On Their CompetAnce.

      There Should Not Be So Much Disparity In What Teams Receive From Umps.

      Certainly If The Twins Were Receiving The Same Breaks From UmP's As The Brewers, The W/L Record Would Be Better.

      (Sorry About The Capital Letters But I Have Not Found A Guru).
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      This made me think about all the times that Gardy & Andy have preached that thei pitchers need to keep the ball "down in the zone." Could it be that the value in doing so is negated by Mauer, or that it is difficult for pitchers to do that (and have it recognized as a strike) when Mauer is behind the plate?
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      I won't disagree with the possibility of using technology.

      It still does not excuse the failure of the Twins management. The data has been available to them since 2008. They make roster decisions knowing that humans are judging strikes and balls. Mike Fast's study about the impact on runs scored came prior to the offseason the Twins signed Doumit and the Rays signed Molina. The Pirates completely change their catching core from very poor in 2011 to very good with the inning of Martin in 2013.

      Humans will be calling the strike zone in 2014. Will the Twins make excuses or changes?
    1. notoriousgod71's Avatar
      notoriousgod71 -
      Ugh, I absolutely hate the idea of a stupid robot calling balls and strikes. I love the human element of the game, even if it does screw the Twins over from time to time. To me different strike zones are as much of the appeal of baseball as different stadiums. In no other sports are the dimensions of the playing field different and that's part of the reason I love baseball. I despise replay, I despise robotic strike zones, I despise the use of technology to "improve" the game.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Everyone should play by the same rules, human umpires destroy a chance at a fair competition.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      The competition is fair. All major league teams play under the same conditions. No one forced the Twins to roster and extend Doumit. No one is denying them the opportunity to develop the skill of their catchers in the minors. They have the same opportunity to acquire catchers with this skill.

      It isn't the umpires or the lack of technology that has damaged the Twins. They did it to themselves. Will they in 2014? Do they have any idea if Pinto it Herrmann are skilled in this area? Have they put resources into the pitch fx technology for their minor league teams? Do they have a team of people analyzing the data, reviewing the video and working with catchers on areas of the zone they are not getting strikes? Like almost everything else in baseball, managing the strike zone is a skill that can be acquired and developed. Some are very good. Some are not.

      How much does it impact the game in runs scored? Joe Maddon said on a radio show that they calculated Molina saved them 50 runs last year. That is an astounding amount of runs. So many runs that the data is discounted completely by some. Many others are showing by their roster decisions that they are paying attention.
    1. tmerrickkeller's Avatar
      tmerrickkeller -
      Arrrggh (in honor of national "Talk Like A Pirate" day tomorrow). I think ye need to allow for the humans to err. 'Tis the very error of the game what makes it feel so human.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      no, the competition is not fair. If Tom Glavine gets pitches called strikes the opponents don't, that is not fair. If certain hitters get more calls in their favor than others, that is not fair.

      Should a better chess player get to move his pieces differently? Should a great tennis player get balls called in that are out? Should a great basketball player get to push off (Jordan) and foul other players and not have a foul called? No, no, no. The rules should be enforced the same for everyone.
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      Honest Mistakes Or Differences In Judgement Can Be Accepted.

      But, The Percentage Of Discrepancy IS Too Great For This To Be Purely "Honest Mistakes".

      If Technology Was Used Immediately After Each Game To Evaluate The Calls, And Umps Were Then Penalized FinancialLy For Bad Balls&StrikeS, They Would Get It Right .... Or $Uffer.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The human element should be about the players and coaches....not the umpires, imo. I don't get why people like bad calls, can someone explain how having bad calls and calls favor one team is good for the game?
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      The human element should be about the players and coaches....not the umpires, imo. I don't get why people like bad calls, can someone explain how having bad calls and calls favor one team is good for the game?

      I agree with you. I find nothing good in an unfair judgement or call. I still hate that Jim Joyce made that call that ruined that pitchers no hitter. What is good about something like that when the result was not even true. The guy was out by a mile everyone could see that. it wasn't even close and the pitcher gets robbed of a major accomplishment.

      If Balls and strikes are called fairly you don't need finesse catchers to prop up the strike zone as the playing field would be level as it should be anyway. I don't think I can be convinced to see mistakes in judgement as good for the game. The outcome of any sport should be based on the rules being equally and fairly applied to all participants as it makes the result more palatable to all those involved including the fans.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      I'm probably in favor of robots calling balls and strikes. I'd be curious about the Technology though. How fast can it determine the call? I know Pitch f/x or whatever it is they show on TV is fairly quick, but there's a big difference between 1 and 3 seconds. How long does it take to calibrate itself for different batters (since the zone should vary depending on the size of the batter)? Regardless, get the Technology to work and I'm on-board with the robots.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      I'm probably in favor of robots calling balls and strikes. I'd be curious about the Technology though. How fast can it determine the call? I know Pitch f/x or whatever it is they show on TV is fairly quick, but there's a big difference between 1 and 3 seconds. How long does it take to calibrate itself for different batters (since the zone should vary depending on the size of the batter)? Regardless, get the Technology to work and I'm on-board with the robots.
      I would imagine you could get results virtually instantaneously - just like you do with radar guns.

      And none of this would make plate umpires unnecessary - they would still have to rule on whether a batter swung or not, whether it was a foul tip, whether a pitch hit the batter, etc. The technology would simply tell the plate umpire whether the pitch was in the strike zone or not, which is (as this article shows) more subjective now than is probably desirable.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      Automated ball and strike calling is already 3 to 5 years late. Get on with it already!
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      "Has this negatively impacted the Twins 2013 season? As Costa’s points out, the Milwaukee Brewers, who at 55.3% have the highest amount of wrongly called pitches go in their favor, have nearly as bad of a record as the Twins. So it appears that even if the Twins had all the calls go their way, it still would not have changed the overall record much."

      Good lord man, are you kidding?? With a staff composed of "pitch to contact" nibblers, those bad calls (strikes wrongly called balls) could have been absolutely deadly to pitchers that are hanging on by a thread, as most Twins starters have done all year.

      Does this seem familiar?
      Hitter with two outs gets a wrongly called walk. Next guy hits a bloop single. As a Minnesota fan, you know how this scenario plays out, because it happened dozens of times this season. What should have been the end of the inning turns into an undeserved disaster, because for some reason umpires don't call strikes on the edges...at least not for Twins pitchers.

      Effectively, these bad calls have given opposing teams four outs instead of three many times this season.

      This crappy umping probably didn't keep our boys out of the playoffs, but it's not hard to imagine it cost the team a dozen games.

      I, for one, welcome the arrival of our robot strike zone masters!
    1. BabyJesusBuxton's Avatar
      BabyJesusBuxton -
      If someone else already brought this up I apologize, I didn't read every post on here.

      Maybe the reason the Twins aren't getting the close calls is because the pitch before missed by 2 feet as apposed to 3 inches. I can think of very few outings this year where the Twins starter had excellent control and worked the edges effectively and consistently.

      Also, how many of those miscalled pitches were across the plate from where the catcher set up? It is common that if a catcher sets up on the inside corner and the pitch ends up outside on the edge of the zone it will get called a ball because the catcher has to reach for the pitch.

      Personally, I don't want to watch a game called by computers. The umpires calling balls and strikes is one of the great parts of baseball IMO.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      "Has this negatively impacted the Twins 2013 season? As Costa’s points out, the Milwaukee Brewers, who at 55.3% have the highest amount of wrongly called pitches go in their favor, have nearly as bad of a record as the Twins. So it appears that even if the Twins had all the calls go their way, it still would not have changed the overall record much."

      Good lord man, are you kidding?? With a staff composed of "pitch to contact" nibblers, those bad calls (strikes wrongly called balls) could have been absolutely deadly to pitchers that are hanging on by a thread, as most Twins starters have done all year. Hitter with two outs gets a wrongly called walk. Next guy hits a bloop single. As a Minnesota fan, you know how this scenario plays out, because it happened dozens of times this season. What should have been the end of the inning turns into an undeserved disaster, because for some reason umpires don't call strikes on the edges...at least not for Twins pitchers.

      This crappy umping probably didn't keep our boys out of the playoffs, but it's not hard to imagine it cost the team a dozen games.

      I, for one, welcome the arrival of our robot strike zone masters!
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      "Has this negatively impacted the Twins 2013 season? As Costa’s points out, the Milwaukee Brewers, who at 55.3% have the highest amount of wrongly called pitches go in their favor, have nearly as bad of a record as the Twins. So it appears that even if the Twins had all the calls go their way, it still would not have changed the overall record much."

      Good lord man, are you kidding?? With a staff composed of "pitch to contact" nibblers, those bad calls (strikes wrongly called balls) could have been absolutely deadly to pitchers that are hanging on by a thread, as most Twins starters have done all year. Hitter with two outs gets a wrongly called walk. Next guy hits a bloop single. As a Minnesota fan, you know how this scenario plays out, because it happened dozens of times this season. What should have been the end of the inning turns into an undeserved disaster, because for some reason umpires don't call strikes on the edges...at least not for Twins pitchers.

      This crappy umping probably didn't keep our boys out of the playoffs, but it's not hard to imagine it cost the team a dozen games.

      I, for one, welcome the arrival of our robot strike zone masters!

      A dozen games? You believe that a team that hits this poorly, fields this poorly, and pitches this poorly would have a winning record right now if not for the umpires?
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