In his second appearance with the Red Sox since coming over from the Seattle Mariners, Erik Bedard turned in a classic Siskel and Ebert start (one thumb up, one thumb down…I know, shitty metaphor…I owe you a full refund on this column). After a first inning that saw him issue four walks to the team with the 3rd fewest walks in all of baseball, Bedard settled down to shut the Twins out for the next four innings before exiting because of a limited pitch count. However, were it not for some questionable calls from Tim “The Giant” McClelland (follow the link for video of one of the weirdest and worst calls in baseball history), Bedard’s start could have been two thumbs up, four out of five stars and a certified fresh rating (that’s right, I stuck with it).
The above plot from BrooksBaseball.net shows all of Bedard’s pitches from last night in relation to the strike zone. The green squares show all the pitches that McClelland called a ball. For those who can’t see the colors (sorry X Dad and Jim Erickson), there are 8 green squares firmly planted within the strike zone that McClelland seemed to have got wrong (4 in the bottom left corner, 1 in the middle of the bottom quarter and 3 across the top of the zone). If you don’t want to trust some computer plot of pitches that is fine, but I watched all of Bedard’s pitches and he was definitely getting squoze all night and it seemed like there were more than 8 that were missed.
Now, often times an umpire can miss a call and it is no big deal. If the count is 1-1 and he calls the next pitch a ball when it should be a strike but the batter grounds out on the fourth pitch, no harm no foul (although I’ve spoken to players who say that the worst pitch to call wrong is the first pitch because it completely changes the approach of the at bat for the hitter and the pitcher). But look at this next plot below that shows the final pitch of each of the at bats in Bedard’s start:
In this plot, all the green squares show plate appearances that ended in a walk. The ones to look at are in the bottom left hand corner with a “6” (6th pitch of the at bat), middle of the left side with a “6” and top middle with a “5”. These are 3 of the 4 walks that Bedard issued in the first inning when he gave up his only runs of the game.
The pitch at the top of the zone marked “5” was the final pitch in Ben Revere’s first at bat of the game. It came on a 3-1 count so Bedard may not have gotten him anyway, but the first pitch of the at bat was right on the corner and could have easily been called a strike that would have changed the entire at bat. Revere went on to score on a sacrifice fly two batters later.
The pitch in the bottom left corner marked “6” was the final pitch of cleanup hitter Jason Kubel’s at bat. This one came on a 3-2 count so had McClelland called it properly this would have been the second out of the inning. Also, just like the Revere at bat, McClelland missed another pitch in the at bat, the third pitch, when Bedard was ahead 0-2 that would have struck Kubel out on three pitches.
After a Jim Thome walk, the bases were now loaded even though Bedard could have been out of the inning. He struck out the next batter for the second official out of the inning and Delmon “I once walked 26 times in 162 games” Young came to the plate. The pitch at the left of the zone marked “6” indicates the final pitch of his at bat on a 3-2 count. Again, McClelland also missed another strike in this at bat that would have sent Young packing. Instead, he called the 2 ball-4 strike walk and a run was forced in.
Had Tim McClelland called even one of the 4 pitches to Kubel or Young correctly, Bedard would have escaped the inning allowing only one run. This could have potentially extended his outing and kept him in line to earn that almighty win everyone seems to go so crazy about. Luckily, even with McClelland taking a dump on the strike zone, Bedard was able to stay calm and keep the Red Sox in the game. His 6 strike outs (should have been 7 or 8) were very impressive and for the second straight game he didn’t yield an extra base hit. His final line for both his starts may not look wicked impressive, but if you look a little deeper you will see that Bedard has been exactly what the Red Sox need. It’ll be interesting to see how he throws against an offense like New York or Texas, but I am feeling very encouraged that the Sox picked up a pitcher that could limit Wilbur the Albatross’s (John Lackey) involvement in the post season this year.