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April Balls and Strikes: The Human Element

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John Jaso: The Rodney Dangerfield of Catcher
John Jaso: The Rodney Dangerfield of Catcher

We are almost to the end of the first month of the season so it's time to break out the data I've been collecting on called strike zones for the Rays games. Before we get started a few basics and caveats:

  • I broke down the two types of missed calls: pitches within the normalized zone that were called balls, and pitches outside the normalized zone that were called strikes. If the outer-fourth of a pitch grazed the zone, I let the umpire off the hook.
  • I will use a +/- metric where + is an indicator of the Rays holding an advantage. A + for our out-of-zone strikes means the Rays pitchers received more. A + for in-zone balls indicates the Rays pitchers received fewer of these calls.
  • There are several issues with the data, some of which I will try to correct going forwards. I credited the starting pitcher for the Rays with the entire game's worth of data, so Randy Choate's called balls and strikes would count for the day's starter.In the future I will just consider the starter.
  • I used the raw totals for missed calls. I should have corrected for percentage of pitches thrown. The Rays are a good offensive team and see a lot of pitches so we might assume they will have more missed calls both ways when they are batting. If I had used percentage of out-of-zone blown calls and in-zone blown calls, it would have made for a more fair comparison. 
  • Not all blown calls are equal. A ball called in the middle of the plate penalizes an umpire as much as a pitch where half the ball hit the corner. Such is life, as our robot friends would have made the correct call.  

First the Raw Totals Year-to-Date:

Raw Totals YTD

Rays Pitchers

Opposition

In-Zone Balls

124

126

Out-of-Zone Called Strikes

41

55

In total, there hasn't been much difference with balls called inside the zone. The Rays have thrown 2741 pitches, with a swing % against of 44.8%. This leaves 1513 pitches taken  by opposing hitters with 165 called erroneously  for an umpire error rate of 10.9% for the Rays pitchers.

How about a net breakdown by series? Remember a positive number means it was in the Rays' favor, so either more out-of-zone strike calls for Rays pitchers or fewer in-zone balls.

Rays +/-

IZB

OZCS

Orioles

-12

0

Yankees

6

7

Orioles

7

2

Red Sox

-9

-1

White Sox

5

-4

Blue Jay

5

-18

Total

2

-14

The Yankees series is the only lost series of the year to date, yet it's also the series with the largest net difference favoring the Rays.Onto home/road splits to see if there is any potential evidence of home cooking:

Rays +/-

IZB

OZCS

Home

-1

-11

Away

3

-3

Well then, it seems the umpires have come into the Trop and tried to claim it as their own. This is particularly striking given that the Rays dominated the calls in the Yankee series. Now let's look at how each starter has fared versus his opposition on the days of their starts:

IZB

OZCS

Shields

-9

1

Garza

7

1

Niemann

-3

-11

Price

8

-8

Davis

-1

3

Jeff Niemann can't seem to catch a break this year while Matt Garza has been in tight with Big Blue relative to the competition. One final note, in the last four starts of this study John Jaso played  3.5 games. The Rays did not receive one favorable strike call with him behind the plate while opposing pitchers received eighteen. Could Jaso be a poor framer or just not getting veteran respect? I leave you with these images from texasleaguers.com of David Price's called zone versus Brandon Morrow's from Sunday. I hope you enjoyed this, but please remember this all means very little except that umps miss a lot of call:

David Price:

Price_medium
Brandon Morrow:

Morrow_medium