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The Strike Zone

Bad third-strike call ends a Rays game ... AGAIN, pointing to league-wide epidemic

Fernando Rodney gets questionable third-strike call from umpire Dale ScottFernando Rodney celebrates getting the save after a questionable third-strike call. (Abelimages/Getty Images)

Remember back in April when the Rays lost a game on a blown third-strike call by home plate umpire Marty Foster?

Well, the Rays got to see the other side of that coin Tuesday in Toronto night when, in the bottom of the ninth, with the tying run on first base, two outs and the Blue Jays' Melky Caberera at the plate, home plate umpire Dale Scott called pitches 1 and 3 below strikes to give Fernando Rodney a three-pitch strikeout and the save in a 4-3 Rays win.

There's a pattern here. It's that both games ended on pitches that were outside to left-handed batters (the graphic above is from the umpire's perspective). I made a mistake in my post on the April game, linked above. I wrote then, Foster had a habit of calling strikes on pitches outside to lefties, but I misunderstood BrooksBaseball.net's graphics. It turns out this is a league-wide probem.

Here's a map of the pitches Scott called against lefty batters in Tuesday night's game (again, from the umpire's perspective), with strikes in red and balls in green:

The solid black box is the rule book strikezone. I erroneously identified the grey box as Foster's zone in April. It's actually the league-wide zone as applied by all umpires (in BrooksBaseball's words "the strikezones that Umpires generally call" [their emphasis]). As I wrote in April in regards to Foster, that should not be allowed to continue. Umpires should not be allowed to regularly call strikes on pitches a half-foot outside to lefties, but per the above, that's exactly what they are doing. And we've already seen two games (and likely more have gone unnoticed by this blog) end prematurely because of it, never mind how many mid-game rallies have been squashed by bad strike calls within that expanded zone.

Not long after the Foster game, FanGraphs's Dave Cameron dug into the increasing strikeout rates in baseball and found the increase is coming via called strikes, not swinging strikes per this graph:

StrikesPA

That's evidence the expanded zone shown above (as well as the extra inches given to righties off both sides of the plate) are changing the nature of the game. Major League Baseball must act to fix this problem.

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