September 10, 2015

Joey Votto and the lefty strike

by Daniel Conmy

Joey Votto threw a tantrum yesterday. Not only did he get ejected, but the Reds superstar needed to be restrained by a good chunk of teammates and coaches so he didn't go after the umpire and take some swings. If you have not seen the call that made this tirade happen, feast your eyes on this.

Now, you can look at Votto and say that he overreacted to a call that has always been called a strike to lefties. Or you can challenge how umpires call the game.

There's the call in question if you want a freeze frame. That is Francisco Cervelli catching that ball on the outer half or into the right handed batter's box. He brings an interesting angle to this story that we will get to in a little bit, but back to Votto.

Joey Votto is known for his patience at the plate and his ability to take a walk. Votto knows the strike zone very well, but Bill Welke thought he knew it a little better last night. While Votto seemed upset about not be awarded time in the video, the pent up rage began because of this borderline call.

Alright, let's break down the other pieces of this picture. Bill Welke has his head over the middle of the plate. That changes his perception on the outer half for lefties. Umpire positioning is key to whether or not a pitch will be called a ball or strike. It has been documented that lefties have an unfair advantage at the plate and their counterparts do not need to even come close to the strike zone to get the batter out during lefty-lefty matchups. There is one other piece that we have not discussed in depth yet, and that is Francisco Cervelli.

Cervelli is one of the best pitch framers in the game. Don't take my word for it, look at this data taken from StatCorner.

I'll get to what all those sections mean in a second, but the focus should be on calls. Those are the extra calls that Cervelli is able to get based on his pitch framing ability, which is good for 1.86 per game. His oStr% is the percentage of calls his able to get called strikes that would be balls if a perfect zone was in place. That is the largest percentage with catchers who have a large sample size for the 2015 season.

Was Votto right to erupt? Probably based off of his perception of the strike zone. Bill Welke was not the only reason this pitch was called a strike. Welke's positioning in regards to the outside corner and the framing abilities of Francisco Cervelli were the most important factors.

No comments:

Post a Comment