This really shouldn’t be about the umpiring. I don’t really want to make it about the umpiring, and yet… here I am, about to write the word umpiring for the third time in this post, and I’m doing so underneath a giant image of umpire Jordan Baker’s strike zone against left-handed hitters. So I guess I’m pretty much full of shit.


The thing is, Masahiro Tanaka is pretty fucking fantastic. He pitched a terrific game, and unlike Jays pitchers, he used the somewhat fucked up strike zone we see above — there are also a couple fairly egregious examples of balls being turned into strikes against right-handed hitters, as well (including one that, amazingly, went in the Jays’ favour!) — to his advantage. Maybe it was simply an issue of Brian McCann framing excellently. Or maybe Jays pitchers — who certainly had at least a couple of balls called on pitches that were fairly close to all those low strikes the Yankees got — didn’t feel they were getting those calls and tried other things. Maybe Marcus Stroman just couldn’t get the kind of plane needed on his pitches to work that part of the zone the way that Tanaka could.

I don’t fucking know! But however a zone map that looks like that comes about, when the calls in the low part of the zone are at least somewhat consistent, uh… what’s there to complain about? Well, I suppose the fact that those appear to be bad calls (though as far as I know, Brooks uses a fixed height for its strike zone, not one that’s relative to each batter, meaning they could be more borderline than they appear — though if you head to Brooks and flip through a few other strike zone plots, the boundaries appear generally correct… sort of).

Anyway, sure, Jays pitchers theoretically should have been able to use that part of the zone too, but what kills me is that, all things considered — especially given the way that the Yankees managed to grind Marcus Stroman to dust — the Jays pitched very well. They didn’t need that part of the zone! Three runs should be plenty for this offence to win a game with, even given the trough they’ve been in of late, and yet we kept seeing the Jays’ pitchers somehow skate their way out of trouble, only to see the offence thwarted by those fucking calls. Those fucking Yankee Stadium calls. And not just that, but the way that Jays’, feeling the need to expand their zone low, ended up flailing away too easily at pitches they may otherwise have taken.

The Yankees’ pitchers certainly didn’t need a helping hand, but… OK, this surely reads like a petty little frustrated fan rant. I know. And I shouldn’t let the pissing and moaning about the calls overshadow the whole story, of course. Especially since, truth be told, there really are a lot of pitches in those same spots that will get called strikes on a regular basis (C.B. Bucknor umpired Padres-Mariners tonight, if you want to see some even worse low strike calls, frankly). The zone was consistent enough, and ultimately, Tanaka was great, and Betances was great, and the Jays’ hitters didn’t do enough with what they were given. But damn. After not feeling overly optimistic heading in, that one felt winnable. To see the club’s hitters baffled by both Tanaka (and Betances and Robertson) and the umpire? Not a whole lot of fun. Kiiiiiinda bullshit, really.

But I digress…

The main thing is, I think, let’s try to remember where we were at before the game began: just don’t get swept. A win tomorrow and the Jays’ lead over the Yankees is right back to 4.5 games, with a chance to make it even bigger when Drew Hutchison (on extra rest!) takes on David Phelps on Thursday night.

I can live with that.

Comments (114)

  1. Tanaka was good, dont get me wrong, but down 0-2, 1-2, even 2-2 in the count, the jays hitters had to know the splitter was coming and it was always out of the strike zone. They couldve tried laying off once or twice regardless of the stupid umpire. Anyways, give tanaka props and move on. The jays are facing two shitbags the next two games and the offense has ZERO excuse not to perform. They definitely have the starting pitching edge as well.

    • Yeah, they should have totally just laid off it. STUPID JAYS! IT WAS SO SIMPLE!

      • Im far from a pro ball player but do you think if tanaka was on the jays and facing the yankees tonight he would he have had 10 k’s on his splittter? Just sayin

        • Yes.

          • yankee hitters are really smart so im not sure. we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

            • The Yankees have struck out in 19.1% of their plate appearances this year. The Blue Jays have struck out in 18.1% of theirs.

              The Yankees have walked in 7.8% of their plate appearances this year. The Blue Jays have walked in 8.8% of theirs.

              • Would have never though that watching tonight. No doubt the jays strikeout #’s are inflated by a few players (juan f) and so are the walks (jbats and ee probably have the most by far). Yankees lineup seems more balanced even though they dont have the power this year.

              • The one thing that you can say for sure is that the Yanks were better at working counts. Though it has to be asked how much of this has to do with Jays batters getting behind in count or getting strike 3, via this inconsistent strike zone.

            • Inane comment, smart, why? Cause jeter? If theyre so fucking smart why do they score so many fewer runs than the jays, sounds pretty stupid to me….
              Joeys .440 obp is the classic sign of a stupid hitter I suppose…?

    • The thing is, especially when the umpire is calling the low strike, when they had 2 strikes, they had to swing at the splitter.

      It happened in Juan Fran’s first at bat, and once or twice to Bautista. The low strike and the splitter is a deadly combination.

      The low strike is pretty bullshit in general

      • this is my issue…the “low strike” (a concept that shouldn’t exist with half competent umpiring) works perfectly into Tanaka’s natural strengths as a pitcher. So even if the ump was consistent in his crapulence, it’s still a bs situation.

        • Also the whole situation becomes a game within a game where the ump sets himself up as the ultimate arbiter on – in this case – any low ball which may or may not be a strike depending on how he feels at the moment.

    • Not that easy. But you can bet they’ll watch video for next time and adjust.

    • I was thinking the same thing. It seems like so many of Tanaka’s K’s come from that splitter. Who knows what the hitters’ gameplan was, but that’s what makes a pitch so good is that you know it’s coming and still can’t lay off.

  2. I think a low strike zone generally hurts the Jays because of how lazy Navarro is as a receiver, particularly on low strikes. Speaking of frustrating, the Gose AB to end the game was awful. All three strike calls were outside the zone.

    • I generally don’t go for such negative things, but I almost did suggest Navarro’s receiving as a possibility for why the Jays had fewer borderline low pitches (balls or strikes). I don’t know, though…

    • After all the calls he saw throughout, Gose has to be aware that in a 3-2 situation like that taking a pitch that close not only ends the game but undoubtedly hastened his return to AAA.

      He has to offer at a 9th inning, 2 out, 3-2 pitch in Yankee stadium.

      If its close he has no excuse.

      • It had zero to do with his return to AAA.

      • Colby is good to go and so we need him up that at bat has nothing to do with the move, and really was not that bad, he got screwed, yeah it would be great to see him fighting that off but hitting is tough dude and he only got one strike to work with and got rung up on a boarderline call yeah he sucks at hitting but thats a bad example

    • I have noticed that Navarro is really bad at framing low pitches. At least based on my eyes.

      Really think Kratzup should be catching Stro and Happ.

  3. Tanaka is arguably the best starter in the game right now. I won’t lose sleep over this one.
    Take the positive that the Jays pitchers kept it close and even on a night that Stroman struggled he still fooled some great hitters.

    Beuhrle and Hutch FTW.

    • I agree! Let the Yankee have one.
      Baseball is not a fascist game and even the dreaded Yankees get to win some.
      Tanaka is there ace!

      *If not he, then who?

      *If not now, then when?

    • Agreed…who called this one as a win, really? Stroman was okay, but mediocre, and Tanaka was Tanaka. You didn’t cry when you lost to Pedro, you went out and tried to beat Pat Rapp or whoever was pitching the next day.

  4. I was gonna go into a big motha fucking rave then Realized sugar walks on water bitches….

  5. The strike zone was a issue; it seemed to start extremely low and then migrate up. It sucks because Tanaka uses that particular part of the zone more frequently than Stroman.

  6. Tanaka is obviously awesome and can shut down even the hottest of lineups….but I’m getting really goddamn sick of the Jays’ inexplicable offensive slump. Score some damn runs, team.

  7. I have to say, Buck and Tabler are totally in the right to speak highly of the opposing teams’ players.

    We live in a city full of people that lack basic knowledge of sports. I’ll use the dated term of ‘the Blackberry crowd’. Even the Leafs get reamed by morons that regurgitate angry, irrational radio callers’ opinions.

    Tabs and Buck have to entertain and educate an audience that may not follow other teams. An audience that reads hometown newspapers and rarely watch an out of town game. So when they are pumping the tires of a Tanaka or Texeira, let us just support what they’re doing. Sure, it’s often just elevator small talk, but what’s an elevator without small talk?

  8. jerry lane’s zone last thursday… (

    was similarly horseshit.

    i thought it was thole/kratz behind the dish, but upon looking it up it was navarro. so i’m not sure this is a great contribution, but it certainly seems as though the jays have been getting squeezed. isn’t there some site that tracks the # of blown ball/strike calls for each team for the year?

  9. The best part of the game last night was when the ump got balled.

  10. The 1st and 2nd strikes to Gose in the 9th were crap compared to his zone for the previous 8 innings, not that it necessarily would have mattered. Gose should have never been down 0-2. Stroman was living in that area and got 1 call the entire game off the outside edge. Robertson inexplicably gets 2 in 1 at-bat.

    That said, I think you just have to tip your cap to McCann and Tanaka for pounding the bottom of the zone and untip (?) your cap to Navarro.

  11. Whining about umping sucks – but I don’t think its whining if there is evidence to suggest that the umpire struggled to make the correct calls. Especially if those calls come in moments that have a more significant impact on the game. For example, when there are a couple runners on with 2 outs and the pitcher gets two generous strike calls to start an at bat – that has a pretty big effect compared to a random strike two call with nobody on and 1 out. It seemed as though the Jays got jobbed in a few key situations but the low strike zone was a thing all night – and when you have a guy who can confidently throw a splitter to the same spot every time you’re going to be in trouble. Tanaka only had to plunk it in for a strike a few times before he could just bury time and time again to get swinging strikes. He’s pretty good.

  12. I was watching early on and Stroman was totally getting pitches called balls to fall behind early on some great pitches. I thought he pitched well, al things considered ( pressure and distractions of first start near home).

    Stroman will bounce back in Cincy.

  13. In the area between 1.5 vertical feet and the bottom of the strike zone, on the outer 2/3 of the plate, I see 11 pitches thrown all night, by both teams. 10 of those pitches were thrown by the home team.

    Go ahead and gripe about the home team benefiting from a goofy strike zone, but the fact is that Toronto wasn’t locating their pitches in that area, and thus not even getting an opportunity to even out the advantage gained. The strike zone looks consistent to me based on this chart, the only difference is that only one team threw to that spot.

    Suck it up.

    • so just because we failed to take advantage of a BS strike zone somehow makes the umpiring right?

    • I am really starting to hate the over hummered people of stupidity!

      • Seriously….I have been a baseball fan for fucking ever aaaaaand that does not make me smarter but mother fucking cock sucking idiots have to get the fuck out of my lane. I have backed out of DJF for one reason, and that was to make room for the bandwagoners….fuckem!…they are all tools and (I am gonna ride this bitch out!

  14. You’ve been putting your whole ass into these post-gamers here lately Stoeten… Might be time for a title change.

  15. Holy fuck Stoeten if THAT IS……SORRY CAPS FUCKIN OFF…Sorry forgot my point…Oh yeah, trade the hippy kid and Sanchezeez for not the shark. Yo!

  16. I don’t normally quibble with the ump too much — I don’t even want replay of any kind, but between the usually Yankee grinding at bats and some of what I thought was an inconsistent and egregious strike zone, that game was really hard to watch. Fuck, I hate the Yankees so much!

  17. Zero problem with the low strike… Ump called it all game…

    What is funny is I thought Stroman was being squeezed on the right corner of the plate early in the game, then once Yankees took the lead – the ump started calling anything within a foot of the plate a strike.

    But this is nothing new in Yankee stadium

    • I love baseball but this, your thought process, is one of the giant problems with the game.
      can you imagine if an nba official wasn’t calling three pointers that game?
      or hockey ref’s were allowing cross checks that game?
      or a tennis official giving 3″ on the outside of the line to a left handed shot?

      its dumb.
      the zone is the zone,
      you dont get up your zone at the start of the game.

      • Why is it so bloody taboo to suggest doing away with the home plate umpire? [Insert gasps, hisses and boos]. In an era of advanced technology and statistics there’s an absolute way to call balls and strikes. Why then leave it to human judgement?. Standardize the zone, employ the technology, improve the game. [Insert more gasps, hisses and boos]

        • in cricket, tennis, any other sport that depends on close calls, they have a hawkeye system.
          you wouldn’t even have to embarrass the umpires, you could put a small device in their pocket that buzzes on a strike for close calls, there has to be a better way.

      • That happens in hockey ALL THE TIME.

    • The pitch plot shows that he actually wasn’t calling it all game, and certainly wasn’t giving Stroman that part of the zone as frequently as he was Tanaka.

  18. Rosenthal tweeting that a whole bunch of people are now scouting Samardzija. Royals, Angels, Giants and Reds. I do think we need to change our focus to someone less popular. Bidding wars seldom work out well.

    • I don’t think we’ll land Samardizja, he’ll cost too much in prospects honestly.

      I do think we may land Hammel or even Kennedy, and if we deal with the diamondbacks, maybe even deal for a certain infielder we havent seen in a while.

      • my bad I forgot Kennedy is with the padres now.

      • Is Kennedy that much of an upgrade on Happ or Stroman that we need to give up prospects for him? I guess more dependability in the starting 5 can’t be a bad thing but I’d rather Stroman go .500 with some ups and downs than send him back. It could be good for his growth curve and basically give us the same results without chucking prospects.

        Give up the prospects if you’re gonna get a 1, 2 or 3. Not a 4 or worse.

        • Not that Kennedy would be an absolutely terrible pick-up, but you’d be moving him from Petco, the Denver of pitching, to the SkyDome bandbox. I’m looking at his splits and they are sort of even, though FIP absolutely shows he’s better at home…to me he’s a Petco Park creation right now, and you have to play that in when you’re making a deal for him.

        • He’s turned it around this season, his K/9 is a full K and half higher whereas his bb/9 is near his careeer lows which is very good. the HR/9 is ridiculously low, but probabably cause of petco park being a cavern, but his road splits are very similar to his home splits. Hi GB rate has gone up too and his FIP and xFIP suggests he may be due for an even more positive regression. his fastball velocity ahs gone up a full tick copared to previous years so that probably exmplains alot of the positive regression.

          He could easily be our number 3 pitcher, even with an NL to AL shift

    • Royals ?

      First place royals are going to trade shields ??

      Ok. .. Yeah

    • I believe another blog suggested Colby Lewis as a rental target. I can see it.

  19. No shame in losing to the best pitcher in baseball right now, strike zone or not (and yes Stoeten I agree, the zone was consistent most of the night). You just tip your cap and move on to the next one. That’s baseball.

    But my god, Tanaka aside that Yankees rotation is a joke. What a mish-mash of a scotch-tape roster too. And yet they somehow keep hanging around, just like 2013 into the final week. One of these years we’ll all say they’re too old and we’ll actually be right, right? Right?

  20. Tanaka was excellent. I hoped we might be getting to him in the first after the hr and a couple of hits but he pitched out of it.

    AA at his last presser, talking about trades:

    ““I was just on the phone with someone that, if they have a player available [and] we have a good player at that spot but that player’s an upgrade, we’d look to do it.” At this point, said the GM, “we’re just basically canvassing the clubs to see who’s available. In some of the conversations, players we didn’t think were available are, and we’ll see where the dialogue goes.””

    I wonder if that first sentence was a hypothetical. And if so I can only think it would be 2nd base. They are pretty solid at every other position. Of course it’s AA so this is all likely smoke and more smoke.

    • Actually, catching has been kinda useless with navarro behind the plate. I mean league average is miles better than the hole that was last year but near 0 WAR? yeesh.

      • I thought Navarro was working out OK. But I’m so used to Mr Useless behind the plate and in the batter’s box that my standards are undoubtedly low…

        • I feel ya, Navarro feels like a revelation, but in reality he is playing at the level of a backup catcher, which is what he was always.

    • Lawrie maybe?

      • In three years, we’ll just have Lawrie play every position simultaneously. He’s going to need a redbull IV drip, but I think he can pull it off.

  21. *I meant ‘if not I can only think it would be 2nd base’…*

  22. 3-2 count, 2outs in the 9th with a runner on 3rd. Gose needs to be protecting the plate on that last pitch.
    At least Rasmus would have tried, probably same result but in my world, always go down swinging.

    • I think most people agree with that. What people are more pissed about is that Robertson threw five balls to get it to a 3-2 count.

      • Agreed, the 3rd strike was really close. There a lots of umpires that would have called that a strike especially with a full count. Down 0-2 maybe they call it a ball but that was way too close to take.

    • I don’t blame Gose honestly, the pitch wasnt a strike so he didnt swing at it, protection of the plate be damned. Not to mention he got 2 other pitches that were called strikes but were actually outside, not to mention the strike 2 call was not even borderline.

      He had good patience, but unfortunately the ump made him pay for that patience with 3 wrong calls.

      • Wrong sir. The strike zone was well established by that point. After the first 2 strikes, he has to know the ump has a flight to catch.
        Regardless, you never leave your fate in the hands of the arbiter. That’s baseball 101. Anything near the plate, fight it off and make the pitcher throw again.
        That’s the difference between losers and winners (figuratively) btw. Winners own their shit, loses hope for a bailout from a 3rd party.

  23. On the last home stand I went with my father-in-law to a game in one of the luxury suites at the dome. His company had tix and even though he doesn’t really watch sports regularly he was game to watch. At some point I bitched about a Jays player striking out with no pitches in the at bat finding the strike zone (according to the Pitchtracker on the tv broadcast also playing in the suite). He asked me innocently enough: “If they can tell where the pitch was with technology – why do they even have the ump? Wouldn’t it be better if it was the same for everyone and not subjective to the umpire?”

    It was a little bit of a “why didn’t he just tag him?” moment. I played and umpired in my teen years so I’ve always been against the idea of robot umpires (at least for the strikezone) but I have to say I’m coming around to the idea.

  24. It makes so much sense that Stoeten would be a Netherlands fan, what with NED being the team of bros and d-bags.

    • You’re right he should look in the mirror and realize he should be cheering for Iran.

    • The Netherlands being the team of bros and d-bags? I find it’s usually England, Spain, or Brazil that the bros and d-bags like.

      • You seriously left out Italy?

        My god, I have nothing against people who are actually Italian but the amount of “ginos” out there, who’s great, great, grandparent on their mothers side came from Italy who completely miss the point of the culture and wind up acting like giant ass hats are a stain on our society, are fucking everywhere and far “broier” and douchier than any of the others you listed.

        Fuck those greasy motherfuckers.

        • So all of Europe and South America? What about Korea or japan, there’s a lot of bleached emo hair on those teams.

  25. First of all it is she and second she is a member of the ‘Dutch mafia”…I think RADAR is too but he doeskin know it yet….yo!

  26. gibby should have gone out there after the 2 crazy low “fastball” strikes and gotten thrown out. if tanaka gets fastballs well below the knees called strikes you cant then just lay off the splitter at the knees which is unhittable. it was possibly the worst strike zone i’ve ever seen in the majors. fuck that pissed me off that gibby didn’t try and protect the team against that.

  27. the at bat referred to above was fat juan in the 2nd.

  28. Have the ump wear a headset and some guy with PITCHF/x instantly tells him “strike” or “ball”.

    He gets to continue doing his “STEEE-RIKE!” schtick and no one’s the wiser.

  29. McCann is one of the best pitch-framers in the league catching the most dominant starter in the AL in his home park.

    This really shouldn’t have been a surprise.

  30. Doesn’t the top and bottom of the strike zone change depending on the hitter and their stance? Last I remember, isn’t the true strike zone supposed to go from the knees up to the belt? Or is it the letters? Regardless, its not always the same, it varies from hitter to hitter. So, the whole idea of pitch F/X is just a guideline anyways.

    Never forget this guy:

  31. Can someone who’s opposed to the idea please tell me what they have against “robot umpires” calling strikes? Wouldn’t we able to avoid all of this stuff with the technology we have nowadays?

    • Some people think that getting things right takes “the human element” out of the game or some BS.

      It’s like they think you are proposing to replace the players with robots. Officials are there to make sure the rules are followed, not to be “a part of the game”. If the official is “a part of the game” it’s because they are failing at their job.

    • I was in favour of the robot umpires business but I have also seen situations where a broadcasts pitch FX and the pitch FX don’t exactly line up. Maybe it’s just the size of the dots for pitches or something but until they can assure players, teams and fans that the robots get it right much more often than the humans it can’t replace them.

      BTW studies have shown that people get much angrier at technology when it fucks up than when a human errs in the exact same way.

    • Maybe we should watch software simulations of baseball. That would be exciting.

  32. Didn’t bother to read all the comments so forgive me if someone already covered this and double forgive me if their comment was written better. Given that Tanaka’s best pitch is his splitter and it moves a LOT at the end making lots of professional hitters look silly couldn’t it also be fooling the umpire? For example Strasburg’s 2 seamer inside to lefties didn’t get called a strike for a while until, so the story goes, umpires realized just how much it moves back to his arm side i.e. back over the plate.

    Also, the Jays faced the 3 best pitchers that the New York Yankees employ (and that are healthy though even if CC and the rest were at 100% maybe Tanaka, Betances and Robertson are still the 3 best) while the Yanks faced our rookie and some middle relief; we still only lost by 3 runs. That’s not so bad. In fact, I can live with that.

    • I’d have to say no…a lot of the close calls Tanaka got were on fastballs. I don’t really remember any of them on splitters.

      Also, I can’t imagine an umpire is getting fooled by a pitch…maybe like, once, for some weird reason.

  33. I thought the boys played well last night. A key hit early would have gone a long way. Stroman handled a difficult night pretty well. The bullpen really impressed. Tonight is really important for Burhle and the Jays. Mark is going in with some pretty ugly numbers in NY and the Jays just neeed to win

    • I agree. I thought Stroman pitched much better than the newspapers suggested. The batters just wore him down. The fact they hit a lot of fouls shouldn’t mean he didn’t pitch very well.

  34. In the “where are they now” file.

    Brad Mills aquired by the A’s for $1.

  35. Would have liked to see Kratz or Thole instead of Gose in the 9th

    • Thats funny u beat me too it…why wouldnt they? Kratz could tie it with one swing…

      • I don’t think Gibby was asleep at the wheel but it makes you wonder. Even Thole has hit pretty well and would have been a more appealing choice.

        • maybe he knew gose was getting sent down after the game and didn’t want to pinch hit for him in his last mlb at bat of the season

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