With runners on the corners and two outs, Melky Cabrera stepped to the plate with his team down 4-3 to the Baltimore Orioles. Pedro Strop fell behind early with two fastballs below the bottom of the strikezone, got a called strike on a slider, a foul ball on a two-seamer and then ball three on a changeup high and outside to the Blue Jays lefty.
The O’s hard throwing reliever was then gifted a strike three call on a slider that home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez thought crossed over the outside corner. Jim Palmer didn’t sound like he agreed with the call, neither did Blue Jays fans or noted national baseball writers on Twitter.
Strike 3 to Melky was a joke. #robotumpsnow
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 24, 2013
The PITCHf/x data shows that Strops pitch was indeed outside, though Marquez seemed to consistently call pitches in that location a strike throughout the game. R.A. Dickey benefitted from a strike called on a pitch thrown to almost that exact location. Miguel Gonzalez received three called strikes on pitches outside of the zone.
The scenario is what intensifies the umpire’s mistake. An educated baseball fan wouldn’t suggest that an umpire would knowingly called a ball a strike, but because the Jays were threatening the Orioles some choose to see it that way in this particular scenario.
Who knows what would have happened if Cabrera would have been granted the free pass? Brett Lawrie would have come up with the bases loaded, he finished the day 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and is hitless in three at-bats in his career against Strop. The numbers suggest he probably wouldn’t have driven in Mark DeRosa.