The Lance Berkman Non-Strikeout

The Yankees beat the Twins 5-2 last night and the play that everyone seems to be talking about is the Lance Berkman at bat in the the 7th that ended up being an RBI double.

It’s become an infamous play because it looked like Carl Pavano had him struck out just the pitch before and it got Twins manager Ron Gardenhire ejected.

Let’s take a look at the Pitch Fx graph via Brooks Baseball:

Look at the sequence here. The first pitch was a ball low. The second pitch is a called strike, but is clearly out of the zone. The third pitch was a foul ball that put Berkman behind in the count 1-2 even though he only swung at one pitch and none were in the strike zone. The fourth pitch is the one that caused Gardenhire to get ejected. It is clearly in the zone, but called a ball. This brought the count to 2-2 and extended the at bat. The fifth pitch was smacked into center field for an RBI-double.

Now my first thought look at this chart was that it was a payback call, meaning that the umpire knew he messed up the second pitch so he gave another close one back to Berkman. However, based on further evidence, that’s just how home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt was consistently calling the pitches.

Take a look at this chart of all the pitches thrown to left handed batters last night:

As you can see, all night long and against for both teams Wendelstedt was calling pitches inside to lefties as balls and away as strikes. He’s wrong in doing this, but the old baseball saying is that as long as you are consistent with it then it’s OK.

“That’s a very borderline pitch,” Berkman said. “Sometimes it gets called, sometimes it doesn’t. I felt like Hunter was very consistent all night with not giving anything inside. He was giving probably four to six inches off the outside corner, wasn’t giving anything over the inside corner. So that was the strike zone.”

This all went down in the 7th inning so Gardenhire was already well into the game and should have seen both sides getting the same calls.

While that pitch to Berkman was definitely a strike, the pitch just two before it was a ball but it was called a strike. He shouldn’t even have had two strikes on him at that time.

Some may say that the Yankees got away with one here, but as far as bad calls go this was rather tame. The guys in Atlanta have a much bigger gripe about bad calls than the people in Minnesota…for now.

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5 Responses to The Lance Berkman Non-Strikeout

  1. seasoned observer says:

    I'm happy someone has pointed out that this was Hunters strike zone for the night. I spent the first 3 innings fuming over the fact that Pavano was getting 6 inches off the outside corner. Watching the graphic of the strike and it was ovious that Pavano stayed ahead all night without throwing a "strike". He recognized this and lived in the right hand batters box getting the calls. They had no beefed about that.

  2. You are exactly right about this, that's probably why after the game Pavano was really not upset about the call and blamed himself for the hit.

  3. Mike S. says:

    The thing is, champions overcome bad calls. Take the Golson non-out on his shoestring catch. Mo could have pouted over it. Thome, with 589 HR was at the plate as the tying run. If Mo pouts over what should have been the game-ending out, Thome could tie the game with a HR. Mo bore down and got Thome.

    Not so with the Rays and Twins. The check-swing by Young that should have been strike three became a three-run HR. The non-call on Berkman became an RBI double.

    You can't change what happened. You deal with that next pitch and make sure things don't get worse.

    Mo put it past him, as champions must do. The Rays and Twins didn't, and that is one reason why they are in the predicament they are in.

  4. That's a good point Mike. Things happen that are out of their control sometimes, but they didn't take care of what they needed to take care of after the fact.

  5. Diane says:

    Great info. I was telling my husband that a pitch Pettitte had thrown earlier in the game which was in the same location as Pavano's was called a ball. You confirmed what I had been thinking. Thanks.