Don’t kill the umpire!
The big story Tuesday night, by a long shot, was Dallas Keuchel pitching six shutout innings. In the Bronx. On short rest.
But the second-biggest story, at least in the minds of Yankees fans, might be the questionable work of home-plate umpire Eric Cooper, whose performance might forever be symbolized — again, in New York anyway — by the image of Yankees aficionado Billy Crystal in the top of the second inning, shortly after Masahiro Tanaka had walked the bases loaded. Here, see for yourself at the 0:53 mark …
And no, it wasn’t just the co-star of The Princess Bride and Running Scared; when Joe Girardi was asked what he thought about "the umpire," he responded, "Hey, that’s for another day."
Well, given another day, maybe Girardi will have time to take a closer look at where all those close pitches were. And it’s not likely that he’ll change his mind about Cooper’s strike zone.
Before the game, there was some talk about Cooper’s zone during the season being "tall" … but it wasn’t tall at all. If Cooper erred during the season, it was more often horizontally than vertically.
And in this game? It wasn’t tall, at all … but it might have been short. And the Astros did seem to benefit. According to Brooks Baseball, Tanaka got only two "extra" called strikes during his five innings, while Keuchel got eight strikes on pitches outside the zone, include two that seem to have been five or six inches low.
We know that good umpires will "miss" maybe 10 percent of them, and Cooper was in that range. You just hope the misses will even out, and in this game it doesn’t seem that they did.
Caveat! We’re looking at two-dimensional representations of the strike zone, which is more dimensional. Which is why I always recommend caution before getting too upset.