Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Not To Rain On The Pettitte Parade, But...

[Update: I need to work on my PitchFX interpretation a bit. Will from IIATM,S sets me straight and you should probably just read that]

It wasn't just the magic in the air and the abundance of Yankees fans at Camden Yards cheering him on last night that helped Andy Pettitte flirt with perfection:
[The red squares are called strikes and the green squares are balls]

According to the PitchFX tool on Brooks Baseball, Home Plate Umpire Marvin Hudson called 24 of the 104 pitches (23%) Pettitte threw last night as strikes when they should have been balls. Conversely, he called only two balls inside the zone strikes, both very close pitches at the knees. Not that the strike zone is perfect denoted by the black box in the chart above, but it is the width of home plate and gives you a pretty good idea of what is what.

Pettite threw 73 "strikes" last night, but only 8 of them were swinging. He threw 32 breaking pitches, 24 of them for strikes, no whiffs. None. Is ths because he has all of a sudden developed an incredibly deceptive curveball and slider, or because the pitches were not in the zone?

Below, I drew the red box to represent what Pettitte's actual strike zone looked like last night.
When you look at the red box as the strikezone instead, there are 13 "strikes" being called balls, which makes it twice as accurate as Hudson's zone, with which he incorrectly identified 26 pitches. The only problem is that the zone is roughly twice the size it should be. Home plate is 17" inches wide, but apparently to Hudson last night, it was nearly 36". The difference between the highest and lowest pitch he called for strikes, just for Pettitte, was more like 39".

Sure, Hudson was more or less consistent in calling pitches for both teams, mainly in terms of expanding the strikezone inside to right handed batters (which was more beneficial to Pettitte as a lefty), but in what other profession does being consistently wrong make it okay? The strikezone has to be a little subjective since it varies with each hitter, but not to the point where it can be doubled in size, right?

At certain point, Hudson had to know that he was calling pitches that were well off the plate for strikes. Andy Pettitte sure did, because he took advantage of it again and again. He also changed speeds beautifully, but some of the credit has to go to the extra-large target he was throwing to.

So while some might be tempted to blame Jerry Hairston, Jr. for his error in the 7th inning which broke up Pettitte's perfect game, they should be thanking Marvin Hudson for his ridiculous strikezone which made Pettitte's dominant performance possible in the first place.


  1. Wow. I heard the strike zone was huge, but when you put it that way, DAMN!

    Is Baltimore a Questech stadium? I couldn't find a list online, but that may be because I'm spelling it wrong. If Baltimore is, hopefully the ump gets a really crappy score. I'm all for Pettite getting calls in his favor, but you gotta get the job done right. In this economy, I'm sure you could find someone who knows the strike zone better than Hudson.

  2. Camden is/was not a QuesTec park, but I believe MLB abandoned the technology after last season.


    However, I believe David Cone mentioned on a recent telecast that there is now a standardized system in each park and that the home plate ump gets graded after each game. Hudson probably didn't fare too well last night.

  3. Yanks=Cheaters9/1/09, 11:46 AM

    Yeah just another Tim Donaghy ump getting paid by the Steinbrenners to make sure the games come out in the Skanks favor. Andy Petitte throwing a perfect game? Laughable. The only thing perfect about that game was the perfectly placed bribes and coercion placed on that shit for soul umpire. I don't know how you fans live with yourself. Bunch of cheating losers.

  4. Why couldn't Adam Jones sign with the CFL team yesterday instead of today?

  5. Yanks=Cheaters: That was fun, thanks. Come back often, please!

  6. Yanks=Cheaters--Objection; evidence, please?

  7. Jay, my PitchF/x guru noted an error...


  8. Damn, he threw 73 strikes last night. I guess he got some help.