ALDS Rotation vs. Joe West’s Crew: By the Numbers
If you were really quiet Monday afternoon, you would’ve been able to hear the collective groan from Rangers fans far and wide. What was the occasion for such groans?
If you’ve been following Major League Baseball for any length of time you’re well aware that Joe West and his crews are infamous for inserting themselves into games in ways that umpires should avoid.
The last time Joe West and one of his crews rolled through Globe Life Park, it went exactly as you would expect. Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley ejected Mitch Moreland for arguing a called third strike that ended the home half of the fourth inning. Rangers fans took exception to the ejection because the umpire appeared to be the instigator in this case — not the player.
In addition to the dismissal mentioned above, Rangers skipper Joe West ejected Jeff Banister for arguing a reversal of an out at third base.
The reversal defied logic as a ground rule double was called on account of a stuck ball that wasn’t stuck. Admittedly, the reversal wasn’t Joe West’s call but, who cares? It’s Joe West. Look at this guy.
I have good news, Rangers fans. Unless the ALDS goes five games, we won’t even see West behind the plate calling balls and strikes.
According to Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News, the plate umpires will be Chad Fairchild, Lance Barksdale, Sam Holbrook, Hunter Wendelstedt, and Joe West. In that order.
Are you wondering how each Rangers pitcher in the ALDS rotation has fared against their scheduled plate umpire counterpart? You’ve come to the right place.
The home plate umpire is the likeliest of the umpires to have an impact on the outcome of a game. As far as balls and strikes are concerned, they’re a sovereign nation independent of replay. An argument over a called third strike that ends an inning, or a game, falls on deaf ears. This is troublesome to most.
This in an attempt to ease your mind about the impending arrival of Joe West and his umpiring crew.
Disclaimer: The rotation has not been set as of writing this article. The rotation you see here is an assumption I’m working from, albeit, an educated assumption.
Note: “Strikes” for this article include both pitches in the strike zone, and pitches swung at outside of the strike zone.
Note: Each umpire’s name is linked to their Ump Tracker Profile page.
In his career, Hamels is 1-1 in three starts with Fairchild calling the balls and strikes. In those three starts, Hamels has posted a 1.27 ERA with 14 strikeouts and six walks in 21.1 innings.
Of the 309 pitches thrown in those 21.1 innings, 194 pitches have been strikes. With Fairchild behind the plate, Hamels is throwing strikes approximately 63 percent of the time. Also, of the 194 strikes thrown, 52 have been strikes looking.
Hamels’ career slash line with Fairchild: .137/.210/.247
According to Ump Tracker, since 2014 Fairchild has missed on 8.25 percent of balls and strikes. Good for 8th since that time. Fairchild is considered “Neutral” and tends to call balls and strikes correctly. He has given slightly more favorable calls to the visiting team so that could be something to watch for. Fairchild, since 2014, is considered to be the third best umpire in the game.
Below is a graph of his entire season balls and strikes heat map.
Photo credit: UmpTracker.com
In his career with Barksdale, Yu is 2-0 in two starts with 16 strikeouts and eight walks. Darvish sports a 4.61 ERA in those starts. He has thrown 230 pitches in 13.2 innings. 135 of those have been strikes. That equates to throwing a strike approximately 59 percent of the time. 42 of 135 strikes were strikes looking.
Yu’s career slash line with Barksdale: .273/.365/.455
According to Ump Tracker, since 2014 Barksdale has missed on 8.29 percent of balls and strikes. Good for 9th best since that time. Barksdale is “Neutral” and tends to call balls and strikes correctly. Since 2014, Barksdale is considered the best umpire in the game by Ump Tracker. Note his 1/90 rank in the chart below.
Between Barksdale and Fairchild, we shouldn’t have too many calls to complain about.
Photo credit: UmpTracker.com
When Mr. Postseason has pitched with Holbrook behind the plate over his career, Lewis is 2-1 in three starts with eight strikeouts and four walks. Those three starts lasted 19 innings which yielded a 3.32 ERA. Over those 19 innings, he threw 317 pitches while pumping 203 of those pitches for strikes. 64 percent of the time Colby is throwing strikes with Holbrook behind the plate. 58 of the 203 strikes were strikes looking.
Colby’s career slash line with Holbrook: .250/.286/.375
According to Ump Tracker, since 2014 Holbrook has missed on 9.43 percent of balls and strikes. Good for 51st since that time. Holbrook is considered “Batter Friendly” due to his tendency to call balls when they should be strikes. Since 2014, Holbrook is an average umpire ranking 42 out of the 90 umpires.
Photo credit: UmpTracker.com
Perez has never pitched with Wendelstedt calling the balls and strikes.
If Hamels needs to start Game 4 on short rest because of a 2-1 series deficit, here is the breakdown:
GAME 4*: Cole Hamels/Hunter Wendelstedt
Hamels and Wendelstedt have faced off twice in their careers. Hamels is 1-0 in 2 starts with a 0.60 ERA. In 15 innings pitched, he has 11 strikeouts against four walks. Hamels threw 197 pitches in those two starts with 133 strikes. This equates to throwing strikes roughly 68 percent of the time. 18 of those 133 strikes were strikes looking.
Hamels start that ended with a no decision looked like this: 8 IP, one hit, 0 runs, seven strikeouts, 0 walks.
Hamels career slashes line with Wendelstedt: .120/.185/.160
According to Ump Tracker, Wendelstedt has missed on 10.01 percent of balls and strikes since 2014. Good for 68th best in the league since that time. He is considered “Pitcher Friendly” even with this high rate of missed calls due to his tendency to call strikes when they should be called balls.
This bodes well with Hamels potentially being on the mound. The same can’t be said for the batters in the game. Below are two images, the first is Wendelstedt’s overall profile of balls and strikes. The second image shows why Wendelstedt is considered a pitcher-friendly umpire. Make note of all the called strikes that are outside the zone.”
Photo credit: UmpTracker.com
GAME 5*: Cole Hamels/Joe West
“In his career, Hamels is 1-1 in four starts with Joe West as the plate umpire. In those starts, he has posted a 3.58 ERA with 24 strikeouts and eight walks. The four starts spanned 27.2 innings with 432 pitches thrown. 280 of those pitches were strikes. That equates to Hamels throwing a strike approximately 65 percent of the time with West. 66 of the 280 strikes were strikes looking.
Hamels career slash line with West: .255/.309/.490
If Hamels has to start game 4, Yu will be starting a decisive game 5. Here is the break down on Darvish/West:
GAME 5*: Yu Darvish/Joe West:
In his career, Darvish is 1-0 in one start with West behind the plate. Yu went seven innings throwing 113 pitches. 76 of those pitches were strikes. Yu struck out 10 and walked just one batter.
It’s only one start, but Darvish’s slash line with West: .160/.192/.200
According to Ump Tracker, West misses on 9.92 percent of balls and strikes since 2014. This is good for 66th best in the league since that time. West is considered “Batter Friendly” due to his tendency to call balls that should be strikes. This information can be seen in the second image below.
Photo Credit: Ump Tracker
All of this information can be found at Umptracker.com. You can play with certain aspects of their umpiring tendencies in different graphs. A particular tool allows you to compare two umpires to see how they would call balls and strikes on a particular pitch.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how Martin Perez handles Hunter Wendelstedt as the plate umpire. On the other hand, it’s encouraging that Hamels, Darvish, and Lewis are throwing strikes at least 60 percent of the time over their careers with their plate umpire counterparts. Collectively, the rotation is averaging 2.7 strikeouts to every walk with these umps. That’s 83 strikeouts against 31 walks.
In this best of five series, Hamels, Darvish, and Lewis are guaranteed to pitch. Versus their scheduled plate umpires for the first three games, the Rangers hurlers are 5-2 in eight starts. Hamels had a no decision in one start with Fairchild. In that start, Hamels went eight innings allowing a hit, a run, four strikeouts, and three walks. He threw 98 pitches with 58 of them for strikes.
Should Hamels and Darvish need to go on short rest in games 4 and 5, they’re 2-0 in three starts with the plate umpires they would be slotted with. The no decision Hamels earned with Wendelstedt behind the plate was an absolute gem, too.
From the numbers, it shouldn’t worry Rangers fans that a Joe West crew is in town for a playoff series. Hamels, Darvish, and Lewis throw strikes when their respective ALDS plate umps are making the calls. This seems to indicate two things. One, these umpires are consistent with their strike zones–for better or worse. Nothing spells “bad umpire” like an inconsistent umpire. In turn, an inconsistent umpire can have an adverse effect on the outcome of a game. Two, the Rangers pitchers adjust to their strike zones accordingly.
The bottom line after digesting all this information, this ALDS rotation throws strikes and tends to win with their respective plate umpires calling the balls and strikes.
Fear not, Texas. This won’t be the Wild Wild West.