Thursday, October 2, 2008

Managers Beware of Tight Strike Zones Caused by: Umpire Sphincteritis

Lou Piniella was a heckuva ballplayer. Clutch would be a good way to describe him. He came through when it mattered most.

In the regular season he batted 5867 times and had 1705 hits for a career average of .291.

But it was the post-season where Louis Victor Piniella shined.

In the post-season he had 104-AB, 15-R, 42-H, HR-3, RBI-18, AVG. -.300
Championship series: AB-59, R-9, H-18, 2-HR, 6-RBI, AVG. .305
World Series: AB-72, R-7, H-23, 0-HR, RBI-10, AVG.-.319.

Louis Victor Piniella's combined averages were all at .300, or better, in the post-season.

In 2001, he was the manager for the 2001 Seattle Mariners. That season the Mariners finished the regular season with a W-116 L-46 record for a .716 winning percentage. Hard to top that. But what made it so heartbreaking was that this was all there was as the post-season was short-lived.

In the first round, that year, the Mariners defeated the Cleveland Indians 3 games to 2 in the best-of-five series. While that was happening, the Oakland A's let go of a 2-game lead in their best-of-five series to lose to the Yankees 3-2.

So it was Yanks versus Mariners in a best-of-seven and the Yanks rolled over Seattle, 4 games to 1.

This was the year Arizona had the magnificent one-two punch of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson and it was enough to overtake the Yankees as the Diamondbacks took the World Series, 4-games to 3.

A team that wins 116 and has a winning percentage of over .700 should be the team that goes all the way. Only sports doesn't work that way.

Now, here we are, 7 years later. In a year when the Chicago Cubs, managed by Lou Piniella, did everything right. From game one of the regular season it's been all about the 100 year anniversary of the Cubs last winning the World Series and the current Cub ballclub has not missed a beat throughout the long season.

That is, until Game 1 of a best-of-five series versus the Dodgers that saw the Dodgers score 7 runs. It showcased the Cubs' best hurler at home, Ryan Dempster, who won 14 games at home this season and he had a most difficult time finding the plate, which led to James Loney's grand slam that blew the game wide open.

I'm watching the Brewers at Phillies in Game 2 of their best-of-five series. With Phillie pitcher Brett Myers at the plate the crowd suddenly gets the urge to cheer his ability to flail at balls as he somehow manages to make contact with enough of them for C.C. Sabathia to eventually walk him. The umpire was totally playing to the hometown crowd as the plate, through the magic of umpire sphincteritis, shrunk before our television-viewing eyes. Heck, there had to be some Phillie fans who had to be feeling the effects of their libations far sooner than they expected!

I've said it time and time again, the home plate umpire cannot be bothered with where a catcher is positioned or where he places his glove before receiving the pitch because his concern is the ball and where it is in proximity of home plate. Did the ball cross any portion of the plate? By allowing how a catcher receives the ball determine if the pitch is a strike or NOT changes the whole dynamics of the at-bat.

Much like a ball that sails down the line, did it go over the bag/base is what determines the ball being fair or foul, not where the fielder was when the ball passed the base.

No announcer will ever call out an umpire for stinking up the joint and until they do these attitudes-in-need-of-adjustment in blue will continue to defy all logic with their interpretations of the strike zone.

(thanks to Baseball-Reference for the numbers)

Kevin Marquez