playoffs 2015: Strike zone controversies take center stage

ST. LOUIS — The strike zones caused plenty of heated moments during Friday’s four-game playoff marathon. More accurately, the interpretations of the strike zone caused the heated moments. The players, coaches and managers weren’t too happy. That much was obvious by watching the games on TV, from the looks batters flashed before walking back to the bench, or the chirping from the dugout or some of the comments after the game.  MORE: Blue Jays, Rangers players that must step up | Overcoming an 0-2 holeBlue Jays fans were incensed at home-plate ump Vic Carapazza. Cubs fans wondered which game Phil Cuzzi was watching. And neither the Mets fans nor the Dodgers fans knew quite what Alan Porter was thinking back there.  And the TBS strike zone graphic, which only dabbled in accuracy, didn’t help much. That’s not really a new phenomenon, though. “Even these stupid pitch trackers that they put on the TV, those aren’t right,” Cardinals first baseman Brandon Moss said before Saturday’s game. “A lot of times it will show a pitch that’s off on those pitch trackers, and that’s actually a strike, and some that it shows as strikes weren’t.”But we talked about that yesterday. This is about the actual calls themselves, the folks who make those calls and the relationships between the folks who make the calls and the ones who are on the receiving end. It was a topic of conversation in the pregame press conferences before Game 2 of the Cubs-Cardinals series. Not necessarily because the participants wanted to talk about it, but they didn’t really shy away from it when it was brought up. “There are definitely umpires that are better than others, just like there are pitchers that are bett

er than others and hitters that are better than others, but every umpire, like I said, goes out there, and they do the best job they can; and they are the best at their job,” Moss said. “Nobody's perfect.”Let’s take a look, with data from, starting with the Rangers-Blue Jays game. The Rangers-Blue Jays game ...— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 10, 2015Quick count: 21 pitches called balls that at least touched the strike zone (the solid black line; the dashed line is the “generally called” zone but we’re not dealing with that now), and 10 called strikes that were fully outside the strike zone. Keep in mind, this game went 14 innings and featured a ton of pitches. And the Cubs-Cardinals game.The Cubs-Cardinals game ...— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 10, 2015Quick count: Three pitches called balls that at least touched the strike zone, and eight called strikes that were outside the zone (and another seven on the line). “Even though it’s a structured strike zone, it’s always interpreted differently by whomever is behind the plate,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We will just react accordingly. The beautiful thing about our game is you get a chance to turn the page and move on to the next day.”And now the Mets-Dodgers contest. The Mets-Dodgers game ...— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) October 10, 2015Quick count: 12 pitches called balls that at least touched the strike zone, three called strikes that were outside of the zone. The problem is, perfection can be strived for, but it cannot be reasonably expected. The umps are humans, and the players understand that. "I don’t think it can be said enough that every umpire goes out there and does the very best job that they can," Moss said. "Usually if the zone is big or if the zone is small, it’s pretty consistent, and once you know where the zone is, you can battle with that."At this point, Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, who was sitting next to Moss in the pregame press conference, chimed in: "I would second that and just say that umpires are awesome!"Wainwright's a smart guy, eh?