Before we get into the controversy let’s give credit where credit is due. In a win or go home situation, at Yankee stadium, and on short rest, Houston Ace Dallas Keuchel in all of his bearded glory, pitched six innings of shutout baseball. And with that, the Yankees’ quest for 28 championships was cut short. Let’s talk about the strike zone from this wildcard showdown.
Home plate umpire Eric Cooper has been known to have a generous strike zone, usually calling a lot of close high pitches as strikes where others see those as a definite miss. But on Tuesday night, it wasn’t the high pitches being called. It was those that were seen by most as off the plate, sometimes as much as three inches off. Let’s look at the heat map of his strike zone from Fangraphs.
Right Handed Batters
Now it’s a given that even the good umpires miss around the 10% mark, and Cooper definitely fell in that range. However, of the 10%, 8% were in Houston’s favor with only 2% favoring New York. As we watched the game my husband and I both noticed the pitches we thought were misses and in the 2nd inning just after Tanaka had loaded the bases, even Billy Crystal stood up from his seat behind home plate and made a motion to the umpire which looked like “hey what the heck dude???”
Though it seems the Astros benefitted from this wide strike zone, I don’t think it was intentional. Had Tanaka been able to consistently hit close to the zone, he would have benefitted from more of those borderline calls. But unlike Keuchel, he was all over the place. Then again, when he did put them right down the pipe he got taken yard by Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez. So it was one of those no win situations for Tanaka. When your offense is getting shut out, those little mistakes can be all it takes to win or lose a game. Could games like this one strengthen the case for a digital strike zone? Weigh in!
Postseason baseball folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!