I, like many people across the state last night, was unable to watch Friday night’s game between the Brewers and Cubs due to it being on WMLW. Those who were able to watch, though, complained quite a bit about the strikezone during the game, and apparently Bob Brenly even noted the “floating” nature of home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor’s strikezone.
Bucknor is generally regarded as one of the worst — or at least least-favorite — umpires in the game. In ESPN’s poll of MLB players last summer, Bucknor was rated the worst by both AL and NL players. Naturally, any time Bucknor steps behind the plate, people are going to complain.
After looking at the pitch f/x location plots from last night, though, I’m not sure how much of the complaining was warranted. Bucknor did miss a handful of calls with both starting pitchers, but nothing as bad as what Shaun Marcum experienced in his first start in Cincinnati. Take a look for yourself. Plots are from Brooks Baseball’s pitch f/x tool.
Judging from the reaction on Twitter last night, the biggest problem most Brewers fans had with Bucknor was in the 9th inning, with Carlos Marmol on the mound. Looking at the plot for Marmol, it looks like Bucknor was generous with a couple of strike calls.
Using Brooks Baseball’s tool, you can break down Marmol’s appearance at-bat by at-bat. The two called strikes to Mark Kotsay were pretty clearly in the strikezone. The pitch that Carlos Gomez struck out looking on to end the game (located roughly at 1.0, 3.0) was technically a ball as measured by pitch f/x, but it’s not an egregious error, especially when Marmol has a reputation of getting those breaks.
Bucknor’s strikezone wasn’t perfect, but as far as Bucknor appearances go, it’s probably not that bad, either. At the very least, the Brewers’ problem wasn’t an inconsistent strikezone from the umpire — it was poor defense extending a nightmare fourth inning for Randy Wolf, and Wolf getting burned by leaving pitches up in the zone.