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Red Sox lose on a walkoff walk with a borderline ball four call

Aug 21, 2013, 8:11 AM EDT

Walkoff walks are pretty rare. Walkoff walks on a ball four that are this close are rarer still:

If you look at the pitch plot of it, the ball was right on the corner. Like, RIGHT on the line:


Obviously, those calls can go either way and often do. But how often do you see an ump that unforgiving to the pitcher in a 3-0 count with the ballgame on the line, be it in a walkoff walk situation or just a high-leverage, runners-on-base situation?┬áNot saying it was the wrong call or egregiously bad or whatever. I just can’t remember seeing that.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are seeming sluggish, losers of six of ten and now find themselves tied for first with Tampa Bay, albeit two back in the loss column.

  1. uyf1950 - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    Craig, during any ballgame if people scrutinized ever pitch there would probably be 20 or 30 ball/strike calls that could have gone either way. This is getting ridiculous with everyone jumping on ever perceived miss or erroneous call. Fans aren’t going to be happy until the take all the fun out of watching a baseball game. Then when the human aspect of the game is all but eliminated they will regret it. That’s is my opinion.

    • blacksables - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:29 AM

      Exactly. For everyone who is going to complain about it being called a ball, there will be another person who would have complained about it being called a strike.

      And those F/X pitch zones are not exact. They are a ‘good’ approximation, but they are not proven to be 100% correct.

      If it was clearly on either side of the line, then it’s questionable. Calls like that are not.

    • skeleteeth - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:33 AM

      Agree. Shouldn’t have been in a 3-0 count with the bases loaded in the bottom of the motherfucking 9th anyway…

    • cktai - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      Yeah, umpire errors are crucial to give a human element to baseball. It is bad enough that they replaced the players with robots. Oh wait…

      • blacksables - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:59 AM

        Where was the human error? Ball/strike calls are judgement calls, as clearly stated in the rule book, which you don’t seem to be familiar with.

        And exactly why would you want the human element out a game played by humans?

      • paperlions - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:29 AM

        Balls and strikes are not judgement calls, a ball either is in the zone or it is not and an umpire either calls it correctly or he does not. Yes, the umpire makes the call based on his judgement, but that is not what a judgement call is…a judgement call is on in which there is room for interpretation, there is no room for interpretation of the strike zone, it is exactly defined.

        Of course all close calls will not be correct, that wasn’t the point. The point is that you often see umpires call pitches 6″ off the plate strikes in a 3-0 even early in the game…here there is a lot on the line and the pitch was a strike (the video shows it over the plate, pitch FX shows it over the plate…and pitch FX is accurate to withing a small fraction of the diameter of the baseball, and the black box is part of the strike zone).

        This wasn’t even a criticism of the umpire per se so much as an observation.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:38 AM

        Don’t even bother, sables. I had this fight last year. Give it up.

      • cktai - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:56 AM

        Noone wants the human element out. What I am contesting is why people feel that the human element should come anything other than the players on the field. Having a umpire making judgement calls is not any more desirable than having human bases who can jump around according to whether or not they feel the baserunners deserves to be safe.

      • nydemocrats - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:49 AM

        Balls and strikes are MOST certainly judgement calls. As in – In my judgement it was a strike. In my judgement it was a ball. Paperlions is completely misusing the word ‘judgement’.

      • blacksables - Aug 21, 2013 at 11:21 AM

        Thank you. Which is exactly why they can’t be argued. You can’t argue judgement calls. Only rule interpretations.

        If people would only read the rule book….

    • deadeyedesign23 - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:01 AM

      I don’t necessarily disagree with regards to this call, as to my knowledge there isn’t a machine that can accurately call balls and strikes and had this go ahead walk come in the 7th it would be a non inssue.

      What I’m curious about is why people lament the loss of the “human aspect”. In what other field do we prefer humans to do a job over a machine providing the machine can do it better? If a machine was better at performing open heart surgery we wouldn’t be saying they’re taking the human aspect out of medicine.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        But, even if you had a machine performing open heart surgery, there would have to be humans managing the machine. You wouldn’t be removing the human element completely anyway. What if there were tech issues, etc?

        Then again — it’s sports. What is it about some people that they need to chase perfection to enjoy it? That’s the larger question.

      • nydemocrats - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:50 AM


    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      No one was criticizing the call or the umpire. Just saying it’s weird to see a borderline call with the game on the line go for a ball. Most umpires call a strike in that situation as most people don’t want to make a game ending call like that, rather leave it up to the players. Again, no criticism, just saying “Huh, you don’t see that every day.”

      Isn’t that what we all love the most about baseball? That every day something new can surprise us?

      • raysfan1 - Aug 21, 2013 at 1:46 PM


  2. missthemexpos - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:18 AM

    The bigger question is, If the game is on Boston turf, Is it still Ball 4?

    • nydemocrats - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:51 AM

      There is NO home field advantage in baseball umpiring. Unless you are intimating that the Umpire is crooked – Which is a whole different matter.

  3. mybrunoblog - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    It was damn close but yes, it could have gone either way. No pity for the Red Sox because they shouldn’t have gotten themselves into that situation in the first place.

    • bfunk1978 - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:26 AM

      The voice of reason.

  4. proudlycanadian - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    If the first 3 pitches were clearly balls, why would the ump give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt on the 4th pitch?

    • proudlycanadian - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:36 AM

      The pitcher was Villarreal who had been traded to the Sox from Detroit. The reason why he had been banished to the minors and eventually traded by Detroit was wildness and lack of control. A pitcher with a reputation of being wild is is not going to get the benefit of the doubt.

      • indaburg - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:41 AM

        Very true. Everyone here with measured, reasonable takes on this, I agree.

        At the same time, looking at it from a pure baseball fan point of view, if I was a Sawx fan, I’d be bumming right now.

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:18 AM

        The comments were measured and reasonable until Harry started throwing poo.

      • indaburg - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:36 AM

        Ah, that rancid smell. I should have known that steaming pile of poo was here. See, I’m a gastrointestinal nurse. I’m a bit immune to the smell. Farts don’t even bother me. But harry has a unique bouquet.

      • 18thstreet - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:50 AM

        When you score two runs, you’re going to lose most of the time. That’s not the ump’s fault.

        I hate it when people blame the bullpen for an offense’s failures.

      • dirtyharry1971 - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:11 AM

        And a team with a reputation for losing year in and year out like the jays isn’t gong to attract the top free agents, not to mention the jays flat out wont spend anyway.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:48 AM

        You’re welcome, BloSox.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      The jays clearly have a bad team, why would anyone give them the benefit of the doubt going into this season and think they would actually make the postseason? See samething pc!!

      • cur68 - Aug 21, 2013 at 11:06 AM

        Ok. STOP eating whatever you are eating. Its gone off and you are RAVING. This is a REDSOX post. Or a Giants post. NOTHING TO DO WITH MY BOYS, ok?

        Someone dart dirtyharry, please. He needs to have his stomach pumped. While you’re at it de-worm him, clean his toof, and hose him down with an antiseptic shampoo, too. Damn, he stinks!

  5. oswegosteve - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    Why with a 3 – 0 count and the bases full – in a walk-off situation – is the pitcher trying to paint the corner? At that point you have to get more of the plate and take your chances – hoping the odds (even good hitters make outs 7 of 10 times) work in your favor.
    That pitch – as your chart shows – was a ball and the correct call was made by the umpire. It’s not the ump’s responsibility to take into account the situation when calling balls and strikes. It’s simply his job to correctly call balls and strikes – regardless of how many outs or who is on base or what inning it is….

    • Detroit Michael - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:46 AM

      Remember that the chart is from the catcher’s viewpoint. The Pitch F/X chart shows the pitch to be on the vertical line. (The video still shot seems to indicate that ‘ball’ was the correct call to my eye though.)

      • oswegosteve - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:52 AM

        Good point. Thanks…..I still think the pitcher shouldn’t have been painting the corner in that situation, and as many have already pointed out, the Red Sox shouldn’t have let the game get to that point anyway….. From what I remember seeing about the game, they had the bases full in the first with less than 2 outs and came away with just one run….

      • paperlions - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:30 AM

        The vertical line is part of the strike zone, not outside of it.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:50 AM

        I can’t wait until this blog is full of arguments about the calibration of the computer plot. Wheeee!

  6. myopinionisrighterthanyours - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    It was too close to be taking with two strikes for sure, but it was already 3-0. I’m sure the batter had the red light. Are we really going to bitch about a borderline call that looks correct. Sawx needed to get people out, simple as that.

  7. adantsa - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    I see this as another umpire making it about them. In almost any sport, the umpires/referees will “let the players play” in crunch time because that is the way it should be. When I watched the clip, I immediately thought that should be a strike. Nobody wants to see a game end on a call like that.

    • bravojawja - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:51 AM

      The game is going to end one way or another. This was the pitcher making it about him – he walked the guy, he threw four bad pitches. You’re going to blame the ump for the pitcher’s poor play? Giving the pitcher a mulligan would have been making it about the ump. Calling a ball a ball is making it about the players.

    • Jonny 5 - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      You are 100% wrong here adantsa. Where the ump is set up to call the location of the zone lends itself to making a borderline pitch on the outside of the plate, look outside. It also lends itself to making a just inside pitch look a bit in the strike zone. Also look at the catchers glove location and you can plainly see he’s reaching for the ball because the pitcher was supposed to put that ball in the center of the strike zone more. With that said, I believe the pitch appeared to be outside and that’s the only reason it was called a ball. Game over. The guy should have pitched better, that’s the narrative I see here.

  8. richarddansky - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:40 AM

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think Craig is saying “they shouldn’t have called it.” He’s saying that in this sort of situation, the ump generally seems to prefer a more clean-cut call, and that it’s rare for an ump to decide a game on a single pitch this close. Much easier to send in the winning run on a ball juuuust a bit outside.

    • blacksables - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:02 AM

      Philip Humber’s ‘im’perfect game disagrees with you.

      • richarddansky - Aug 21, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        Ah, yes, the “one randomly selected data point invalidates an entire body of evidence” argument.

        There’s a reason I used the word “generally”.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      But it’s more fun for everyone to ignore words Craig wrote and make up their own. That way they can scream at him with righteous indignation.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:51 AM

        Craig Apologist!

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:55 AM

        Where I come from, dem’s fightin’ werds!

      • richarddansky - Aug 21, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        What can I say? I like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and reading comprehension.

    • kopy - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      This is what surprised me because this is the one consistent bias in baseball umpiring. Research based on situations and pitch data suggests that an umpire is less likely to force the end of a plate appearance. Meaning they’re more likely to call a borderline 0-2 pitch a ball and more likely to call a 3-0 pitch a strike. They subconsciously want the batter to end the PA by swinging, whether the ball is in play or not.

  9. aceshigh11 - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    The game shouldn’t have even gotten to that point.

    The Red Sox are playing like a bunch of fuckin’ losers.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      I don’t know what happened to this board, but there is much too much swearing here now.

      Get a thesaurus.

      • aceshigh11 - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        Uh, oh…I do declare, Blanche DuBois here is getting lightheaded.

        Better grab the smelling salts and walk her over to the fainting couch.

        Should I run and fetch you a mint julep while I’m at it?

        What is this nonsense? This is a SPORTS blog. If you don’t like it, head over to the doily knitting blog.

        There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a bit of vulgarity, properly deployed, at a deserving target. If you don’t think so, then you must likewise have issues with some of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:44 AM

        @ aceshigh11

        Is it wrong I totally read that in a Micheal Scott murder mystery voice?

        I do declare!

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM

        Whoops. Skip to about 4:25

      • 18thstreet - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:13 AM

        I’m an elitist from the Boston suburbs. Get your stereotypes right, acehigh11.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Aug 21, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        How about I just skip to 4:20.

  10. unclemosesgreen - Aug 21, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    It’s Tom Glavine theory in reverse. When you have good control, you get borderline pitches. When you’re all over the place you get this.

  11. brentsalish - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    The video does not show it’s a strike, despite what a commenter suggested. First, the plot/graph is generic and not totally accurate. Second, on the video, the angle, about three or four degrees off center, slightly skews our view of the pitch, making balls appear an inch or so further to the (pitcher’s/our) right than they really are. Freezing the slo-mo replay, I do not see the pitch as a strike. Third, the catcher has his doubts as well. Look at him try and pull rather than frame the pitch. He knows not only that it’s not a no-brainer call but that it’s very dubious.

    That said, the announcer caught it best at the end of the clip: “If you’re looking for strikes, it’s a strike.” In that situation, a 3-0 count, most umps will give the strike, even though technically this pitch is outside. But why, why, why on a 3-0 count does the pitcher throw a ball with left-to-right movement on the far left-hand edge of the plate?

  12. ptfu - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Reminds me of the (apocryphal?) line from long-time umpire Bill Klem. A rookie pitcher was facing Rogers Hornsby, an absolute monster, and he was complaining about not getting close pitches called strikes. So the ump pulls off his mask and says “Son, when you pitch a strike, Mr. Hornsby will let you know it.”

    Now, Marco Scutaro is a looooong way from Rogers Hornsby. But Scutaro is a respected veteran player known for his bat control. Maybe that reputation “earned” him the call on a very close pitch.

    • unclemosesgreen - Aug 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      The umpire was Bill Klem, and the quote is in Baseball Almanac so it must be true.

  13. jfk69 - Aug 21, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Craig…Lets try to maintain focus and continuity. Back to the Arod beat and leave the balls and strikes to the umps.

  14. anxovies - Aug 21, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Over there, over there,
    Send the word, send the word over there
    That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming

  15. blabidibla - Aug 21, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    Ump should be calling balls and strikes based on his view of the strike zone. The game situation should have nothing to do with it.

  16. sawxalicious - Aug 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    The rarest walk of all: July 4th 2004: Cubs win the game, sweeping the White Sox when they get a walk-off walk from Todd Walker…

    • 18thstreet - Aug 21, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      Please tell me this really happened. The only thing that could make this better is if Grant Balfour was pitching.

  17. chunkala - Aug 21, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    There would never be a story if this didn’t involve the Red Sox. Umpires conveniently only make mistakes if Boston loses. Media bias towards a city that was last to integrate minorities and loves employing and covering up PED users.

    • 18thstreet - Aug 21, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      The Washington professional football team didn’t have an African-American player until 1962, three years after the Red Sox were — indefensibly — the last MLB team to integrate.

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