Last night we witnessed one of the worst calls against the Jays so far this season. I think most of us could brush it off as just bad luck for the team if a similar poor call hadn't happened this past weekend during the series with the Phillies. I don't think I need to remind you about Jon Rauch and his audition to replace Edward Norton as the next Incredible Hulk, but both the bad calls at the plate caused the Jays to lose both games.
The worst part about both is that they aren't mistakes that can't be fixed. Modern technology has provided us with solutions to both mistakes, and furthermore the technology exists in a means that can be used in less than a minute for each review. Take for example the pitchfx technology that is in every ballpark in the MLB right now. The MLB uses it for their gameday service, which refreshes almost instantly following every pitch. Just about every TV network that covers the MLB has some version of a pitch track that shows viewers at home where the ball crossed the plate in reference to the squared off strike zone. Yet for some reason the MLB refuses to incorporate this technology into their in game repertoire.
Below is the pitchfx plot of the at bat between Rauch and Howard.
Now here is the pitchfx strikeout plot for Halladay's complete game.
Comparing the two you can quickly see that Halladay had been receiving called strikes on the left side of the plate all day, as well as in the same location Rauch had thrown his second ball to Howard. Rather than Howard striking out looking, he was walked which allowed Victorino to come to the plate with two runners on. Victorino subsequently singled home Utley increasing the Phillies Win Expectancy by 9.4%. One call by the umpire extended the inning an extra at bat and gave the Phillies the opportunity to increase their chance of winning by almost ten percent. A call that could have been corrected within 30 seconds of looking at an instant replay.
Now I personally don't like the idea of instant replay for balls and strikes, although my curiousity compels me to wonder whether or not the threat of replay would force umpires to make more accurate and consistent calls.
Where I do think replays are necessary however is on plays at the bases. Unlike balls and strikes, where the umpire must focus only one where the ball crosses his perceived strikezone, at the bases the umpire must focus on two completely separate visuals. One is when the ball either reaches a players glove/where the glove/ball tag a runner, and the other is when the runner touches the base/plate. Often these occurrences happen within feet of each in a matter of milliseconds, making it literally a split second judgement. In the game last night for instance , a simple replay would have shown the homeplate umpire that Jason Varitek did not in fact tag E-5, not when his left leg collided with him blocking the plate, nor by the time his right leg swung around and crossed homeplate. Yet once again a blown call significantly altered the outcome of the game. This time the blown call at the plate increased the Red Sox Win Expectancy from 85.3% to 100%.
The two blown calls amounted for a 25% swing in Win Expectancy in the two games. For reference, the two run HR Jose hit in last nights game only contributed a change of approximately ten percent.
GIF via Getting Blanked