Evidence of bizarre strike zone disappears

by billfer on May 17, 2008 · 28 comments

in 2008 Season

In last night’s Detroit-Arizona game there were several moments where I was completely befuddled by CB Bucknor’s strike zone. But I was going to just consider my bias as a frustrated fan and let it go. Then I saw Tom Gage’s game story and a ball-strike call was the lead for his story. So I thought I would go back to the pitch f/x data and post a couple of the at-bats in question. Except for one thing. The pitch f/x data that had been there throughout the game had disappeared this morning.

One of the moments in question was in the top of the 7th inning when Jeremy Bonderman appeared to freeze Justin Upton with a called third strike on a 2-2 count. Except it was called a ball and Upton would later go on to walk. I was IM’ing with Ian and couldn’t believe the pitch, but I chalked it up to being the frustrated fan of a floundering team.

The other egregious call was in the top of the 8th inning when Curtis Granderson was called out an a fastball that was borderline low, and at least 6 inches off the plate. The frustration of the one call combined with the crappy play of my team had me furious at this latest call. But I thought I would give it some time before posting. I try not to blog angry.

But when I went to post the at-bats in question this morning, the pitch f/x data is gone. There are still plots of the pitches, but not as tracked by pitch f/x and not where the actual pitches were. The system was working last night. It worked the night before at Chase Ballpark and the data still persists. It worked in other ballparks last night where the data still exists.

Perhaps it is some kind of data glitch where things were broken only at Chase only after that game. And in fairness I checked the other games that Bucknor has done this year, and all the data is there. So maybe I’m just irrational frustrated fan guy right now who is pissed because his team isn’t playing better, but I did want to graphically show how bad the calls were. Plus I have a long running disdain for Bucknor for other reasons.

C.B. Bucknor’s umpiring acumen has been well documented. In a 2003 Sports Illustrated survey of players he was voted worst umpire. In a 2006 Sports Illustrated survey of players he was voted worst umpire. So at least he’s consistent in his sucking.


 
 

{ 28 comments }

greg May 17, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Billfer – do you know where one can find stats for umpires? ie. % of pitches called balls, % strikes, etc. and also if and when the umpiring schedule is published anywhere(who is umpiring which games, where, and which role(behind the plate, etc.))?

Kyle J May 17, 2008 at 1:14 pm

I try not to blog angry.

That’s a tough rule to live by these days.

In the words of the Emporer:

I can feel your anger. It gives you focus. It makes you stronger.

More seriously, this definitely smells funny. In today’s day and age, data doesn’t usually just disappear from a website.

Greg May 17, 2008 at 1:28 pm

I’m a Tigers fan transplanted in Phoenix. You can see me tonight along the left-field line. But last night I was relegated to TV. Even the D-back announcers (Mark Grace and some other dork) were critial of the umpiring — particularly the “ball” to Upton. Unfortunately I missed the Granderson pitch, but Bilfer your post isn’t the mere complaints of an unhappy fan.

Tbone May 17, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I’m sorry, but I refuse to complain about ball and strike calls in a game where the the left side of the infield could have saved this game with simple, fundamental play.

Honestly, there were bad calls both ways. Lashing out may make us feel better but the reality is that we are own worst enemy in this skid.

Steve May 17, 2008 at 1:41 pm

In this case, we have to tell ourselves that a true quality ballclub would find the means to overcome the poor umpiring calls. This team has shown little resolve, or any of the other intangibles necessary to overcome their generally poor performance this season.

It will be interesting to see how the front office will continue to respond to the adversity it currently faces, after having things turn out so well the last couple of seasons (Neifi Perez-be-damned, of course).

Personally, I am of the opinion that Inge should play third base everyday, in order to help the starting pitchers out, and that Gary Sheffield, and potentially, Kenny Rogers should be cut loose. The makeup of this roster is not right, and suddenly looks very old and lethargic.

They currently have no tradeable commodities on the big league roster, outside of maybe Guillen or Verlander, and need an infusion of energy and vitality. Jettisoning Sheff and the Gambler would be painful, but would allow them to mix in some much needed youth, in my opinion.

Chris May 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Trade Guillen? Yea, I’d be all for it. I’m tired of his awful fielding losing games. And, BTW, he isn’t hitting for crap right now either. I think he, Rentarea & Sheffield are THE reason this team is mired in this horrible losing slump. Get rid of all of them and I feel that this team will at least have a chance to win a game or two.

Oh yea, It’s time to fire Jim Leyland and hire Kirk Gibson as the manager. I heard him interviewed in WDFN and I was very impressed by his mental approach to the game. The guy wasn’t the most talented player in the bigs, but he sure knew how to focus on the game in order to win. his 1988 Dodger stint was an example of such. He was so driven to successes that it rubbed off on his teammates. I wouldn’t mind seeing if he can’t do the same as manager.

David G. May 17, 2008 at 2:47 pm

The sad reality is that I now agree on Inge. They need to cut Sheff loose (or DL him), DH Guillen, and Inge goes back to being an everyday strikeout artist, but one that won’t lose games late due to inability to make routine plays. Plus might help plug the broken dam that seems to exist between short and third right now.

Jason R. May 17, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Regarding C. B. Bucknor- I recently heard John Feinstein pitching his book about pitching, “On the Black,” on the radio. If I recall correctly, he quoted Tom Glavine (it may have been Greg Maddux) as having said Bucknor was no better than a AAA umpire.

I wonder how common it is for pitch f/x data to be taken down like that. It certainly looks fishy.

Brian P May 17, 2008 at 3:30 pm

I remember watching Maddux pitch last year while Bucknor was behind the plate. His comeback fastballs were catching some of the plate, but they were being called balls. After the inning, ESPN’s on-field mic captured Maddux saying something to this effect to Bucknor: I’m pitching really bad right now. I’m wondering if you can help me, because I’m having a hard time getting strike four.

Maddux did it very calmly. It was hilarious.

billfer May 17, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Tbone – This is only partially about complaining about calls, but more wondering where the data went.

stephen May 17, 2008 at 4:26 pm
Mike R May 17, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Bill, I opened gameday when that pitch Granderson AB took place and saw that it was both low and outside. So there was definitely a gripe and it’s rather curious that gameday isn’t working.

Vince in MN May 17, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Things are getting bad when we start entertaining conspiracy theories. The bottom line is that the “1000 Run Tigers” should be able to overcome a few bad ball/strike calls – yes?

Mike R May 17, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Not when they sustain opponents rallies and kill your own rallies.

And I don’t think Bill is alleging a conspiracy. It’s just weird that the gameday data is gone for this game and this game only. I’m anxious to see if it’s working tonight as it very well could be the gameday data broke in the transfer to the MLB database or something along those lines.

Vince in MN May 17, 2008 at 6:06 pm

I just want to be cautious of clutching at straws, looking for some scapegoat, out of frustration. Let’s say Bucknor blew it and his bad umpiring really cost the Tigers a game – in other words they should be 17-25 instead of 16-26.

If we are talking about potential predjudice on the part of umpires in general, I may be inclined to agree, in that it is possible that calls go against bad teams more often than against good teams, and this can on occasion affect the outcome of a game.

The best way to negate such disadvantages (real or imagined) is to play ball (and manage) at a level above Class A. The real culprit is that they stink, and everybody, including the umpires, know they stink. The expectation by many (admit it, how many of us were surprised by last night’s choke?) is that they will stink again. My worry is that because this has been going on for so long now, the team believes this as well. I am not making a pronouncement, because I don’t know, and I don’t want to psychoanlayze them, but I do wonder.

greg May 17, 2008 at 6:17 pm

‘Conspiracy theory’ – man, I hear this popular buzz phrase dropped all the time now as a convenient trump card to shoot down a view point, quite often one that has merit.

Is Billfer really entertaining conspiracy theories? Or is he merely stating facts/observations?

Hopefully we haven’t reached the point where we have to omit facts/observations, simply because they might lead one to the conclusion that 2 or more people took action toward a common goal(conspiracy).

billfer May 17, 2008 at 6:21 pm

I’m not blaming Bucknor for the loss, or saying that the umpires are conspiring against the Tigers.

I guess the only “conspiracy” I was alluding to is that Bucknor is awful and I was entertaining the notion that MLB may not want us to know how awful.

I cited “against-Tigers” examples because those were most germane to me.

This post was more about: umpire makes bad calls, I want to show the bad calls, oops-the bad calls are gone.

Jeff May 17, 2008 at 6:25 pm

I just want to be cautious of clutching at straws, looking for some scapegoat, out of frustration.

Heck, we’re all looking for scapegoats on the Tigers roster, why not expand the search?

Jeff Molby May 17, 2008 at 6:26 pm

billfer, can you call MLB and request an explanation?

Vince in MN May 17, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Jeff:

Good point. I am reluctant to bring religion into it, but as you know the gods can be quite fickle.

Chris May 17, 2008 at 6:44 pm

My scapegoat is Carlos Guillen. We’ve had this god-awful 2-11 stretch, and he has personally been the cause of two of those loses. And then on top of that, he can’t hit.

And his poor 1st base play has been the cause of the retarded infield switch between him and Caberra. This probably contributed to Caberra’s slump as it coincided the switch. And what is so frustrating is that the infield defense did not get any better because we just took a terrible 1st baseman and then made him into a terrible 3rd baseman.

He is now the player I most hate on this roster.

Phil May 17, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Dbacks fan here, and visitor from http://www.AZSnakepit.com. I only wanted to interject and point out that egregiously bad calls ROUTINELY AND MYSTERIOUSLY disappear from the published data after the game is over. I’ve had the same experience on a few rare occasions where awful ball/strike calls manifested themselves in real time, then later the evidence was edited out.

It would seem that MLB is trying to protect its own. For all I know, it might be a deal they have with the umpires’ union, who might be perturbed that everyone can now prove when they make a mistake. It’s like opening Questec to the public.

Mike R May 18, 2008 at 12:34 am

Phil dropping by made me remember when we played the Mets last year and the main Non-Mets Affiliated blogger emailed Billfer asking about the Tigers and basically had Billfer write up the Tigers “scouting report.” I really enjoyed that idea and it’d be a cool thing to do when the second string of interleague games take place.

Kevin in Austin May 18, 2008 at 2:23 am

Thanks for stopping by Phil. I appreciate your input.

Rick G May 18, 2008 at 9:48 am

I just emailed Jason Beck (reporter at MLB.com) requesting an explanation. I doubt he’s at liberty to be 100% honest, but I thought it was worth asking about.

I’ll post again if I hear anything back, or if Jason puts a reply on his blog.

T Smith May 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm

T Smith May 18, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Tbone:

I agree 100% with you. You can’t blame the umpire for losing the game. There will be bad calls and that’s just part of the game. However, the fact remains the Tigers lost this particular game due to a bad call. I’ll say it again: bad calls are a part of the game as much as home runs from an opponent (I’m obviously not drawing a proportional relationship, just pointing out the bad call is something you have to play around and still win).

This team disperately needs some kind of momentum to build on, and this team disperately needs breaks to start going their way to jump start the momentum, so every thrown opportunity compounds the frustration.

Umpires should also be held accountable when they develop a history of making horrible calls. What that barometer is, I don’t know.

Rick G May 18, 2008 at 7:24 pm

I received a reply from Jason Beck. He thought MLB.com might remove the data if they felt it was inaccurate, but he couldn’t rule out the possibility that they were covering up for a bad umpire.

He also doesn’t think the people who supervise umpires have anything to do with the pitch f/x data, and that he didn’t think there were any supervisory umpires in Arizona for this series. So it doesn’t seem like there was the close scrutiny that would probably be needed to quickly pull the data off line for nefarious reasons, but you never know.

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