Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista tends to act like the world is out to get him. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he complained to the media about “circumstances” working against the Blue Jays in the ALCS.
Bautista stated the he couldn’t further explain what he meant, but I think we all understand.
What’s he’s trying to say is: the umps are out to get him. And his teammates, I supposed.
It’s a lame excuse that’s easy for us, as Indians fans, to ignore. But does he have a point?
Bautista obviously wouldn’t be speaking out against the umpires if he didn’t feel like he was personally impacted by their poor judgement. And it’s not hard to identify the moment he lost faith in the umps’ abilities in this series.
In Game 1, Bautista was called out looking against Corey Kluber by home plate umpire Laz Diaz on a pitch that understandably sent him back to the dugout irate with the call. Pitches that far outside have only been called a strike 1.4 percent of the time in MLB this season.
Over the course of the season, Indians pitchers only received a called strike on seven pitches with a lower called-strike probability than that pitch versus Bautista.
Diaz’s call was indefensible and even as a Tribe fan, it’s impossible to look at that pitch and argue against Bautista.
So it’s easy to see why Bautista is angry. Despite his reputation for arguing, he legitimately has a case. But what about this “circumstances” comment? Is there more too it, or is he taking one bad call and blowing it out of proportion?
He’s not entirely wrong—the Indians have benefited from the larger strike zone slightly more than the Blue Jays. However, the margin is much too small to make a difference.
Including the terrible call against Bautista, Indians pitchers have benefited from four strikes with a 25 percent or lower probability of being called a strike. Blue Jays pitchers have benefited from just one such pitch.
It’s certainly possible for one pitch to make a difference, but it’s highly unlikely any of these pitches changed the outcome of the first two games. Bautista’s strike was the only one that resulted in a strikeout. Two of the others occurred in 0-0 counts, giving the hitter plenty of time to rebound.
Additionally, all four occurred in Game 1, giving Bautista no excuse to fall back on for the Blue Jays Game 2 loss.
Even if we expand the range of pitches, the Indians don’t have a significant advantage. Both teams have thrown 14 pitches with a called-strike probability between 25 and 50 percent. Five were called strikes for the Tribe, three for Toronto.
Further hurting Bautista’s case is the fact that other Blue Jays hitters have complained on some very questionable scenarios.
So are “circumstances” out to get the Blue Jays?
No. Definitely not. No one is out to get the Blue Jays.
But are circumstances affecting the Blue Jays?
If Bautista and the rest of the Jays think the umps are out to get them, that’s great! Toronto is the most patient team in MLB in terms of not swinging at pitches out of the zone. So if the umps are in their head (or at least Bautista’s) that could be a legitimate advantage for the Tribe heading into Game 3.