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 seventh 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. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected following the double.
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 after looking 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.
Gardenhire should have seen both sides getting the same calls at this point.
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.