Taking a look at last night’s strike zone

During the second inning of last night’s game, Pirates catcher Rod Barajas took issue with a ball that was called with Carlos Beltran at the plate. In turn, home plate umpire Angel Campos took issue with whatever comment Barajas made and tossed him from the game. Barajas was visibly furious, and manager Clint Hurdle was also ejected moments later. This morning, Rob Biertempfel reported the Pirates are filing a formal complaint about Campos’ strike zone in the game. Let’s take a closer look at the calls. First of all, here is Biertempfel’s quick recap of the events.

An 0-2 pitch appeared to catch the bottom of the strike zone, but Campos called it a ball. That set off Barajas, who took a similar pitch for a called strike in the top of the inning. “If our guy throws the ball in the same spot. you expect a strike to be called,” Barajas said. “The pitch I got that I thought was down, he called a strike. The pitch that A.J. threw, I felt it was a strike and he called it a ball. It was a big spot in the game. We were trying to get back on track. To lose out on that (call), it makes it hard and frustrating for me.”

Here are the pitches to Barajas in the top of the second, courtesy of Brooks Baseball. Remember that these are from the catcher’s point of view. The black square is the estimated rule book strike zone. I also added the red square, which represents the typical strike zone for a right-handed batter of Barajas’ height, based on research by Mike Fast. (Note: Click on any image to enlarge.)

Pitch two was the one that angered Barajas. As you can see, it was well below the typically called strike zone. This was a bad call. Now let’s take a look at the pitch to Beltran that led to the ejections. Again, I added the typical strike zone for a lefty of Beltran’s height.

The pitch in question is number three. This call was far more defensible, as it appears to be a bit below the typical strike zone. It is understandable that Barajas would be frustrated, though. This pitch was pretty significantly higher than the one he took for a strike in the previous half inning.

Now let’s look at the strike zone over the course of the entire game. These are broken down by left-handed and right-handed batters, and already include Fast’s estimates of the strike zones. Keep in mind the bottom and top limits of the zones are only estimates, and would fluctuate in reality depending on the hitter’s height. The labels in the legend indicate the team that was pitching. Green points were called balls, while red points were called strikes.

Based on these images, I think the Pirates have the right to be upset by about four calls. There is the strike call against Barajas, which is the lowest red point on the right-handed hitter chart. On the left-handed hitter chart, there is another lone red point well below the strike zone, indicating a strike called against the Pirates. Also, on the outside corner of the left-handed zone, there were two pitches that were called balls to Cardinals hitters, despite being in an area that was being called a strike for most of the game. You could make an argument that some pitches on the outside corner against righties should have been strikes, but it does not seem that Campos was giving either team that corner. So, at least he was being consistent there. There is also a pitch on the inside corner against a left-handed Cardinal hitter that was probably improperly called a ball. However, there are no other pitches in the vicinity, so it is unclear whether that was any type of inconsistency.

All in all, the Pirates clearly were slighted on a few calls over the course of the game. Whether that demands a formal complaint is debatable, although Dejan Kovacevic makes a good point here. If the team quietly accepts any unfair treatment, that unfair treatment is likely to just continue.

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