Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and catcher A.J. Ellis were ejected from last night’s game against the Cardinals for arguing about the strike zone with home plate umpire Mike Winters. According to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, Ellis said he was set off after Winters criticized his ability to frame pitches:
“Their job is to call balls and strikes,” Ellis said. “It’s not their job to be a catching coach behind the plate. It’s not their job to be critical of what I’m doing. It shouldn’t even matter if there’s a catcher there or not. The ball comes through a zone and they need to take a look at that.
“People on blogs and websites can critique my framing but I’m not going to take it from an umpire because it’s not their job to do that. It’s their job to call balls and strikes based on what comes through a strike zone.”
As Harry Pavlidis wrote at ESPN.com earlier this week, Ellis rates very highly as a game-caller, but advanced metrics have him among the lowest as far as pitch framing. Winters may or may not have known that, but his comments clearly struck a nerve with Ellis. Who knows if this sort of exchange between a catcher and an umpire is unusual or not, but it’s interesting to hear an umpire being so open about how framing influences his strike zone. The numbers show it, but you never hear much from umpires about it. Probably for good reason. Then again, maybe Winters was just making excuses for an inconsistent strike zone and knew that criticizing Ellis for his framing would get under his skin.
Winters declined to respond to Ellis’ comments through a pool reporter, but said through a Cardinals official that the issue was balls and strikes and “the rest of it stays private.”