15 November 2013

2013 Strikezone Analysis: Season Overview

Thoughts on Analyzing the Strikezone

Expanded instant replay is coming to baseball. The umpires will now be able to use video replay to determine home runs, fair or foul balls, and whether catches are clean or trapped. However, balls and strikes will still be the exclusive purview of the human eye.

There are times when it feels as if the very soul of the game is the right of the fans to question the umpire's judgment of the strikezone, whether it's too lenient, too tight, or just completely inconsistent. Fortunately, PITCH f/x provides a means for answering some simple questions (see a little bit about how this got started here).
  • Are the Orioles having more pitches called in their favor or against them over the course of a game, a series, and the season?
  • What are the sum effects of incorrectly called pitches on the Orioles?
  • Is there a significant difference in called borderline pitches for the Orioles and their opponents?
  • Why are any differences in called pitches occurring?
  • Which games and umpires had the most correctly called strikezone?
As more data filtered in over the course of the 2013 season, it became apparent that PITCH f/x provides far more than simple ball or strike data. Do certain pitch types result in umpire "confusion"? Are some catchers better at others at turning borderline pitches into strikes? The number of rabbit holes to chase down became quite numerous.

Now that the data is accumulated, some of these questions can start to be answered, not just from a series point of view as earlier in the year, but from a much larger point of view for the 2013 Orioles season. However, it is important to recognize the following caveats.

  • While all 162 games for the Orioles are included in this data, 29 other teams are either tangentially included or not included at all. Thus, the sample size for other teams, especially teams outside of the AL East, is extremely small and subject to variation.
  • Umpires have bad days and good days, just like any baseball player. The most games the Orioles saw an umpire for in 2013 was 4. As such, the sample size caveat applies again.
  • Ideally, PITCH f/x data for the strikezone could be run for every game since its inception in the 2006 playoffs. Certain limitations currently prevent that from being done. However, PITCH f/x data will be run for the 2014 Orioles, which will allow better analysis to be conducted.
Check out some season overview details after the jump.

How did the umpires call the strikezone in 2013?

The answer to this question is: extremely consistent over the length of a season. While individual games and even series saw high variability, by the end of the season, the Real Strikezone correct call rates for overall, Orioles, and opponent pitchers were extremely close at 89.17%, 89.14%, and 89.20%, respectively. In terms of real numbers, there were 24,605 called pitches on the season, of which 21,940 were called correctly and 2,665 were called incorrectly. Orioles pitchers saw 12,423 pitches called, with 11,074 called correctly and 1,349 called incorrectly. Opponent pitchers had 12,182 pitches called, with 10,866 called correctly and 1,316 called incorrectly. 

The same consistency holds true for the Typical Strikezone. 24,605 pitches were called, with 21,358 correct and 3,247 wrong, good for a 86.80% rate. For the Orioles, the numbers were 12,423 pitches called, with 10,798 called correctly and 1,625 called incorrectly, good for a 86.92% rate. Opponents saw 12,182 pitches called, 10,560 called correctly, and 1,622 called incorrectly for a 86.69% rate. Again, the numbers were extremely close, although slightly favoring the Orioles.

This means that over the course of the season for the Rzone, umpires "gave" opponents less than 5 runs compared to the Orioles. Therefore, even with the ever popular "robot umpires", the Orioles would have maybe gained a game or two in the standings and still finished in 3rd place in the AL East and a few games out of the Wild Card. For the Tzone, the Orioles actually benefited, albeit negligibly.

Did umpires cost the Orioles a playoff spot in 2013? The short answer is no.

A Quick Overview

Top 3 Best Called Games
  1. 95.92%... Monday, May 27... Orioles - 6, Nationals - 2...  by Phil Cuzzi
  2. 95.06%... Wednesday, July 10... Orioles - 6, Rangers - 1...  by Bill Welke
  3. 94.78%... Tuesday, May 21... Orioles 3, Yankees - 2...  by Eric Cooper
Bottom 3 Worst Called Games
  1. 79.53%... Friday, April 12... Orioles - 2, Yankees - 5... by Dan Bellino
  2. 79.75%... Friday, April 5... Orioles - 9, Twins - 5... by Chris Guccione
  3. 81.33%... Wednesday, April 3... Orioles - 7, Rays - 8... by Bob Davidson
Top 3 Umpires Deserving a Raise
  1. 95.92%... Phil Cuzzi (1 game)
  2. 94.07%... Eric Cooper (2 games)
  3. 92.86%... Tim McClelland (2 games)
Bottom 3 Umpires Needing Glasses
  1. 84.32%... Chris Guccione (2 games)
  2. 85.65%... Tim Welke (3 games)
  3. 85.71%... Angel Hernandez (2 games)
Top 3 Umpires Baltimore Fans Should Cheer
  1. +21... Guccione, Chris
  2. +21... Marquez, Alfonso
  3. +15... Bucknor, CB
*Calls in favor of the Orioles.

Bottom 3 Umpires Baltimore Fans Should Boo
  1. -13... Carlson, Mark
  2. -12... Davis, Jerry
  3. -8... Hirschbeck, John
*Calls against the Orioles.

Coming Attractions

Over the next few months, we'll examine the called strikezone for specific opponents, for individual pitchers, and for catchers. We will take a look at which umpires had generous or tight strikezones. We will attempt to determine if the count, the type of pitch, or other criteria factor into an umpire making a correct call or not. And, we'll do our best to answer any questions posted in the comments about the strikezone as it was called in 2013.

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