With the Cubs leading 2-1 and the Phillies down to their last strike in the 4th inning Friday afternoon, Jon Lester delivered a cutter that he felt had caught the outside corner for strike three. He was so confident, in fact, that he began to walk back to the dugout. After a bit of a delay, home plate umpire Tony Randazzo determined that the pitch was outside and he called it a ball.
Lester was visibly upset by the call and got a little fired up, as he’s been wont to do. On the ensuing pitch, Cody Asche doubled off the top of the wall to drive home Darin Ruf and Freddy Galvis and give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Maybe it’s just my perception, but Lester does seem to get rattled and make mistakes when an ump makes a call that doesn’t go his way.
It’s not easy to look such instances up though, as stats don’t really exist to track it. Perhaps Baseball Prospectus or FanGraphs could look into developing a metric called the Show-Up Effect (SUE?) that measures how often a batter or pitcher assuming either a third strike or fourth ball prior to a delayed call results in an ump making a contradictory call.
Then, of course, you’d have SUEPR, which adds Pitcher Response to the mix. As such, we could see exactly how a pitcher performs following a call that doesn’t go his way. If such a metric really existed, I’d hazard a guess to say Carlos Zambrano would be among the worst in league history.
Absurdity aside, it aggravates me to no end to see both batters and pitchers assuming they know what the umpire is going to call. I mean, I hate ump shows too, but until they start employing robots full time they’re an intrinsic part of the game. And while it’s incumbent upon those men to make a timely call, a player has to realize that showing those guys up is no way to get the call to go your way.
I’ve often wondered whether an umpire will intentionally delay a close call just to induce such assumption from players, thus giving him the ability to show up the player. Or maybe we can dial back he vindictiveness a bit and say that the ump is allowing the player to make the call for him. Either way, the guys playing the game need to understand and respect the umpire’s role in the game, as difficult as that may sometimes be.
In the end, a Chris Coghlan two-run homer in the bottom of the 4th meant that Lester’s mini tantrum and ensuing mistake pitch didn’t factor in the game’s result. It helped that Lester settled back in and allowed only one hit over the subsequent 3 innings, padding his ace credentials a bit more and earning the salary Gordon Wittenmyer likes to remind us of.
Thus this little tiff becomes but a footnote that will surely never be reviewed after five or six people read this. But still, I got a little honked and felt like writing about it Heck, in the time since I started writing this, any anger I had felt has since faded into bolivion with Mike Tyson and the residual vitriol is contained only in the words on the page and not in my mind.
But therein lies the beauty of the catharsis writing affords. And…Motte goes and gives up a triple to Freddy Galvis and another near-homer to Cody Flipping Asche and I’m mad all over again. Oh, hey, Soriano just gave up a bomb to Frenchy and the game is over.
So much for catharsis, where’s the beer?