26 May 2010

Bad Behavior all around in Player-Umpire Dustup

For those of you who haven't already heard, the Rays' Carl Crawford and manager Joe Maddon were ejected last night for arguing balls and strikes. This isn't unusual in and of itself, but certain details regarding this confrontation are rather notable.

While I do not support the behavior of Crawford or Maddon here--arguing balls and strikes is strictly forbidden--the conduct of home plate umpire Bob Davidson was particularly egregious. Watch and listen here (h/t IIATMS).

Moreover, the Rays have a good case. Davidson's strike zone is one of the most inconsistent I've seen in some time. See below:

The diagram above, from Brooks Baseball's PitchFX Tool, depicts balls (green) and called strikes (red) for both teams in relation to the strike zone (normalized for each batter). Note that Davidson was calling strikes nearly 18" out of the zone, while he called one ball nearly dead-center (and a few others well inside the zone).

While players and managers need to keep their opinions in check during play, umpires must also bridle their emotions--and do their job better. If human beings like Davidson can't call a consistent, let alone accurate, zone, then it's time to let technology take some of the load off their backs.

(Photo credit: Wikimedia)


Sturgeon General said...

Another day, another set of ejections. In a shocking development, normally level headed White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was ejected today for arguing a balk call during the 2nd inning.

One inning later, following another balk call against him, Mark Buerhle threw his glove in frustration and was ejected as well.

JD Mathewson said...

I'm not sure how I feel about today's developments. I'm biased against Joe West (the 1B Ump who made the balk calls and tossed Buerhle), but only because of his ignorant remarks regarding playing time. But I haven't seen video yet.

What I do know is that the balk isn't called enough, and it seems to me that it's actually called more often on less egregious violations.

Either way, it's inconsistent, and when someone is called for two balks in one game, I'm prone to suspect over-officiating.

This is especially true now since the umpires are unified across the leagues. I remember Pettitte being called for a balk, maybe two, in the 1996 WS, by umpires who weren't used to his move.

Which is just as well, because his move is essentially a balk that isn't called anyway.

BMMillsy said...

"What I do know is that the balk isn't called enough, and it seems to me that it's actually called more often on less egregious violations."

I'm definitely in agreement with you here. I've argued this multiple times to a friend of mine currently umpiring at the AA level, but he seems to think a pitcher can do whatever he wants on the mound, "as long as he does the same thing every time." But there are plenty of pitchers that don't come to a full stop (a requirement with someone on base), come to a stop more than once, etc. The idea of the balk is to keep the pitcher from using these deceptive movements to their advantage, so whether or not it's a habit should be irrelevant.

With that said, I actually enjoy an argument or two every now and then. It's entertaining. And while I think using something Questec (consistently!) is a good way to monitor, I do enjoy the human element in calling balls and strikes...and that's coming from someone who pitched all their life.