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Outside strikes to lefties are becoming a problem

May 22, 2013, 9:13 AM EDT

Our Blue Jays commenters are fit to be tied today due to the called strikes to Melky Cabrera in the ninth inning of last night’s Jays-Rays game. Strikes one and three to Melky were clearly outside. Here’s Brooks Baseball’s plot of the at bat:



Pitch one and three were called strikes, pitch two was fouled off. It’s not unlikely that Cabrera felt he had to swing at that due to the call on the first pitch.

Cliff Corcoran pointed this out at SI this morning. And noted that it’s not an isolated incident. There are a ton of outside-the-zone calls being made against left-handed hitters. What’s more, the increase in strikeouts this year is being driven largely by called third strikes, not swinging strikes.

Are the umps setting up poorly and missing the outside corner? Are they, as they have been wont to do over baseball history, just deciding to call certain things in new ways all of a sudden?  Do we have a bizarro Tom Glavine situation at work here?

  1. flamethrower101 - May 22, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    I’d like to think that it’s just the way umpires set themselves up. But then again I didn’t see the strike call so I can’t make a judgement call. All I can say is Craig that you better be careful with your posts about umpire calls. Bud Selig clearly is not interested in hearing us bitch about bad calls. Why else has he put off expanded replay like he’s put off the A’s stadium situation?

    • paperlions - May 22, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      I haven’t seen the video either. This issue was brought up somewhere recently (Law chat, fangraphs, can’t remember), and it was hypothesized that a big part of the problem is the set up. If a pitcher is trying to go off the plate, the catcher moves that way. The ump tends to move to the inside corner to get a better view past the catcher, and now his perspective of the outside corner is bad….and when the pitch hits the catcher’s glove without the catcher making any glove motion away from the plate, it makes the think look like a strike.

      • historiophiliac - May 22, 2013 at 10:25 AM

        Soooo, you’re doing multiple chats simultaneously? lol

    • stex52 - May 22, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      I was watching it while on line with a Rays supporter and a Jays supporter. We all three concurred. All were outside. The first looked high to us also, but there was no question about the outside part. And, depending on where you caught the break, I would say the third one looked even worse.

  2. Old Gator - May 22, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    There shouldn’t be any lefthanded hitters in the first place. They’re unnatural. Doesn’t Michelle Bachmann’s husband run camps to which you can send them to be “turned”?

    • paperlions - May 22, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      They (Bachmann et al.) are just trying to undo the damage done by the fathers that make their sons throw and hit left handed to increase their chances of being a pro ball player. This is what happens when you let left handed people have kids.

      • Old Gator - May 22, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        Children are horrible.

      • paperlions - May 22, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        Yes they are….especially left handed ones.

      • Francisco (FC) - May 22, 2013 at 1:46 PM

        They can’t all be horrible. Didn’t a couple form cocoons so you two could metamorphose and break out of your shells.

      • Old Gator - May 22, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        I was already eighteen when I was born, thank Buddha. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up unable to stand myself. I might as well have been born into a Tea Party family.

      • tc4306 - May 23, 2013 at 9:47 AM

        They must have started out as hockey players.

    • raysfan1 - May 22, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      It’s a sinister plot.

      • indaburg - May 22, 2013 at 8:07 PM

        Nice play on words, raysfan.

      • cur68 - May 22, 2013 at 11:50 PM

        How gauche.

      • raysfan1 - May 23, 2013 at 3:25 PM

        Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

    • shwoogy1 - May 22, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      I heard they are making a bio pic about you (Old Gator/). It’s just gonna be 3 hours of you sitting at your computer waiting for the next HBT blog post to come in so you can comment some obscure non sense. It seems you have no life.

  3. Kevin S. - May 22, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Robot umps now, please.

    • Old Gator - May 22, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      Too bad Karel Čapek wasn’t a baseball fan. How different history would have been.

  4. uberdepressedbrownsredsfan - May 22, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    This is nothing new….I’ve been watching Jay Bruce deal with this his whole career

    • proudlycanadian - May 22, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      That is the problem. It is nothing new. As Corcoran points out, the Rays have also been on the wrong side of similar bad calls. It is time to make changes.

      • Old Gator - May 22, 2013 at 10:50 AM

        Don’t cut the Rays any slack. You will awaken dirtyharry.

      • proudlycanadian - May 22, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        No such luck. There have been mouse droppings already.

      • paperlions - May 22, 2013 at 3:44 PM


        Thought you would enjoy this Q&A with Jay’s prospect Marcus Stroman…in case you didn’t see it.

      • paperlions - May 22, 2013 at 3:44 PM

        Crap, forgot the link:

      • proudlycanadian - May 22, 2013 at 4:32 PM

        Thank you. I was aware that his first start went very well. The Jays do have some pitching prospects including Stoman who might be called up this year. Two other names to watch are Stilson and the lefty Nolin.

    • andrewproughcfe - May 22, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      This is as old as dirt. You could write this story anytime from 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts to 2013.

      • Old Gator - May 22, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        Baseball in Pittsfield would have been conducted on a much smaller scale. Even the hot dogs are tiny up there.

  5. maxt75 - May 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Same thing last night in the Det/Cle game. Check out Fielders strikeouts.

    • historiophiliac - May 22, 2013 at 10:22 AM

      What struck me was the difference in calls about coming around in that game versus in Texas. It seemed like in Arlington no one ever checked their swing and last night they suddenly got good at it.

    • eightyraw - May 22, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      2nd inning: one pitch off the left side of the plate (catcher’s view), called a ball
      4th inning: no pitches off the left side of the plate
      6th inning: one pitch off the left side of the plate, called a ball; one pitch caught the edge of the K-zone, correctly called a strike

      Kluber didn’t get a single called strike outside the zone last night. So this did not happen last night. I also think you might be reading the above plot wrong. It is of the catcher’s view. Kluber mainly attacked Fielder inside.

  6. andreweac - May 22, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    Left-handed hitters don’t have the Willingness to Win

  7. rlj2170 - May 22, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    12 comments and not one slipping in a left-handed screwdriver remark

    • Old Gator - May 22, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      (Insert lefthanded screwdrive remark.)

  8. kopy - May 22, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Maybe it’s just society.

  9. Chris St. John - May 22, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    If you look at the Fastmaps on Brooks Baseball, you’ll notice that this is just how umpires call left handed hitters. For whatever reason, umpires league wide have always called a wide strike zone on lefties.

    • Chris St. John - May 22, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      Not sure if that link is working. Check out the page here:

      The shaded box represents what umpires generally call, the solid line is the rulebook strikezone

  10. jrillah10 - May 22, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    As a Rays fan, watching this game, I’ll have to admit, those calls were terrible. Both teams were getting odd pitches called strikes. But to end a game on that call, is ridiculous. I feel for the Jays. This has happened so many times to the Rays.

  11. hisgirlgotburrelled - May 22, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Why are umpires allowed to set up in different spots on every pitch? They move to where the catcher is to stay protected. You can’t tell me there’s anyone in the world that would call a consistent zone from different views of major league pitching… Bring back the big chest protectors and make the ump line up in the same spot behind the plate on all pitches.

    • djpostl - May 22, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      They are required to and go Google some stories about that big ass protector, it created a whole different zone. Pitchers and hitters used to bitch about how it affected umps when it was around too.

      • hisgirlgotburrelled - May 22, 2013 at 2:29 PM

        Use the balloon protector, wrap yourself in bubble wrap, I don’t care. Whatever gets the ump to not move around and skew his view of the plate.

      • djpostl - May 22, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        Well, we know that ain’t going to happen lol.

  12. moogro - May 22, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Of course it’s the setup, but it’s more than that. Everyone should try umpiring sometime. You will see setting up is impossible. The catcher is always moving around, so you are always having the low zone and half the plate off line or obscured. Try seing the lines of the plate when you are not possibly square to it. Home plate umpiring has ALWAYS been guess-work, refined over many repetitions. It does not fall into a “doable” category. It is just something we lived with forever, and now that we have technology, a ritual that will go away. Everyone accepts that homerun and fair/foul as consensus and would never want to go back. The ball/strike thing will be a long struggle, but once that is establish, no one will want to go back to this state of affairs. Getting things right will always trump ideology eventually.

    Besides, at-bats will get more fun, not less fun with a consistent zone. Bring on the robots!

  13. dowhatifeellike - May 22, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    The umps started setting up differently a few years ago in the name of protection. Over the inside corner is where they’re less likely to get tagged by a foul tip.

    But in the interest of actually getting the calls correct, umps should always have their eyes positioned right down the middle. Stand up straight if the catcher is in the way. I don’t care. Just get the best perspective possible.

    Of course, all of this could be avoided if the umps had work conferences where they were tested on balls and strikes. At least then they’d be able to see that they’re not getting it right and make adjustments.

    • moogro - May 22, 2013 at 12:20 PM

      This is all true and would help umpires call balls/strike a little bit better. But calling balls/strikes is not possible, even setting up down the middle you lose the lower half and some part of one of the corners because it is obscured by the catcher. Why would we want people to perform this task under these conditions? If baseball were invented today, no one would even think of asking an umpire to try and do that.

  14. sanzarq - May 22, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Is this a plot from behind home plate? That’s the only way it could be tracking pitches to a left handed hitter.

    Most Pitch tracks are from behind the pitcher? Do you know what the hell you’re doing?

    • eightyraw - May 22, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      Yes it is of the catcher’s view. And I can assure you that Brook’s Baseball definitely knows what they are doing. In fact, most pFX plots are from the catcher’s view. Do you know what the hell you are bitching about?

  15. ezthinking - May 22, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    Pretty sure that graph shows the center of the ball 4 inches outside, which makes the edge of the ball 2.5 inches outside or 2 inches off the black. Here’s an idea, fucking swing. It’s not tee ball.

    • djpostl - May 22, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      What graph are you looking at? The one I see shows those pitches between 1 and 1.5 feet off the plate.

      • ezthinking - May 22, 2013 at 3:49 PM

        0 point is the center of the plate. The plate is 17 inches wide. 1.0 would be about 3 inches off the edge.

        What graph are you looking at?

      • djpostl - May 22, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        The one at the bottom that clearly says “Location (in feet)” perhaps.

      • eightyraw - May 22, 2013 at 6:08 PM

        djpostl: Like ezthinking said, that is feet from the CENTER of the plate, not feet off the outside of the plate. It is a matter of inches.

  16. djpostl - May 22, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    I think it has more to do with positioning of umps and the outside pitch in general.

    Umps are now required to line up in the slot between the batter and the catcher to minimize chances they can eat a foul tip that came off the barrel of the bat.

    Every since then (it’s been a few years) you have seen more and more missed calls on the outer edge in my opinion.

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