When umpiring is good, no one notices. When umpiring is iffy, you get a comment or two, but so long as it's not horribly biased towards one team, we tend to skate past it as a regular, if unpleasant part, of the sport we all love. But when umpiring is awful, even when it's during a West Coast trip for an East Coast team and most people are safely asleep by the third or fourth inning, well, I think it deserver a special callout.
Paul Nauert was thrillingly, head-scratchingly, rage-inducingly off the mark last night. I guess everyone has off days in their chosen profession now and then, and it's not like his off day cost someone a life or anything of the sort. But man, was it a terror to behold.
The below is Fangraphs' plot of Nauert's strike zone from last night.
Two things should jump out at you: first, that's a lot of pitches that are being called strikes when they're off the plate. Second, and what's weirder for Nauert, is that there are a lot of pitches around knee-level that aren't actually low, but are being called balls anyway.
Here are the specific should-have-been-balls-but-were-strikes, of the off-the-plate variety:
- Alex Wood to Joc Pederson, strike on a 1-1 pitch
- Zack Greinke to AJ Pierzynski, strikeout on a 2-2 pitch
- Greinke to Freddie Freeman, strike on the first pitch of the at-bat
- Greinke to Nick Markakis, strikeout on a 2-2 pitch
- Wood to Pederson, strike on a 1-0 pitch
- Greinke to Juan Uribe, strike on a 1-1 pitch
The scale on those charts is percentage relative to league average: basically, the brownish tan stuff towards the bottom of the zone indicates that Nauert calls low strikes 20ish percent more often than league average. And there's one very clear location against lefties down and away that he loves to call a strike, even though it isn't.
So then, how to explain:
- Adam Liberatore to Freeman, 1-0 pitch called a ball
- Wood to Adrian Gonzalez, first pitch called a ball
- Wood to Howie Kendrick, first pitch called a ball
- Greinke to Wood, 1-2 pitch called a ball (should've been a strikeout)
- Wood to Greinke, 1-2 pitch called a ball (should've been a strikeout)
- Jason Grilli to Alberto Callaspo, 2-2 pitch called a ball (should've been a game-ending strikeout)
- Wood to Chris Heisey, 0-1 pitch called a ball