Interesting story over at the Wall Street Journal: it seems Stephen Strasburg’s pitches have so much movement on them that they’re frequently deking umpires into calling pitches balls that really are strikes. There are lots of neat quotes from the umps and examples of previous pitchers who had this problem such as a young Dwight Gooden and Jeremy Bonderman.
And while I’m sure some of you will take issue with umpires calling pitches based on where they expect them to go based on where they actually go, the problem makes sense. People are conditioned to comprehend things based on what came before. If you’re seeing something unprecedented, your mind is going to try and fit into some old box before it can make sense of the new thing. A big curve that starts way the hell out of the zone? No way that comes back, your brain thinks. It’s understandable.
But it’s also a little terrifying. I mean, if the umps in the article are right and that they’ll eventually adjust and stop missing calls with Strasburg, it suggests that he will be even more dominant going forward, doesn’t it?
Major League Baseball has announced the umpiring crew for the World Series. John Hirschbeck is the crew chief. It’s his fifth World Series assignment, third as a crew chief.
A surprising name on the crew is Joe West. It’ll be his sixth World Series overall, but first since 2012. There had been chatter for several years that Major League Baseball was making a more concerted effort to get its best umpires into the World Series more often while minimizing the appearances of its weakest umpires. Most assumed West’s absence from the Fall Classic in recent years, despite his seniority, was a function of that. Maybe they’re still making merit a priority and maybe West has just improved? I’ll leave that for you to judge.
Anyway, here is the lineup of umps for Game 1. They will rotate after that, of course. If the series goes six games, Cowboy Joe will be calling the balls and strikes:
Home plate: Larry Vanover
1B: Chris Guccione
2B: John Hirschbeck
3B: Marvin Hudson
LF: Tony Randazzo
RF: Joe West
Replay Official for Games 1-2: Sam Holbrook (with assistance from Todd Tichenor)
Replay Official for Games 3-7: Larry Vanover (with assistance from Todd Tichenor)