Juuuuuust a little outside
Complaining about officiating after a game is always annoying, but Yankees fans had a legitimate complaint after losing to the Rays on Thursday afternoon in the Bronx, 9-2.
The Rays beat Yankees ace Gerrit Cole with five runs in five innings. Tampa Bay starter Ryan Yarbrough, on the other hand, went the distance and allowed two runs and six hits, striking out six. (His complete game was the first by a Rays pitcher since 2016, breaking a record streak of 731 games in MLB.)
Yarbrough is a strange pitcher. His primary tone he’s a cutter averaging 82.6 mph and his hardest pitch, a sinker, is averaging 86.6 mph this season. His unorthodox repertoire (and his sidearm delivery) have made him one of the most trusted pitchers in the league since his debut in 2018, whether he’s deployed as the Rays starter or the “great player.”
So it should come as no surprise that a struggling Yankees lineup was blocked by Yarbrough in Thursday’s loss, but he also had some help. Plate umpire Chad Whitson really widened the zone when Yarbrough was on the mound. This graph from Baseball Savant (using data from MLB’s Statcast system) makes it crystal clear.
Whitson was near perfect with Cole on the mound, but Yarbrough received multiple calls on pitches that were clearly off the plate. And the graph only shows called strikes. It does not include pitches that Yankees hitters swung and missed or hit weakly after being forced to expand their strike zone to match Whitson’s.
That takes nothing from Yarbrough. To be a good pitcher, you have to be able to fool people with your pitches. If your delivery is so difficult to understand that you end up misleading the referee, then you are doing a great job. Until the plate umpires are replaced by computers, there will be bad decisions.
And in the meantime, there will be managers who will throw tantrums over poor decisions and get kicked out. After taking the field to make a pitching change in the seventh inning, Aaron Boone said something to Whitson and he was ejected.
“I just expressed a few things and ran away.” Boone told reporters after the game.. “I just wanted to convey my point of view. I thought there were some close pitches, but the Rays outplayed us. [Thursday]. I had some disagreements throughout the day with them and they obviously ran me off when I got out on the mound. I probably said some things that I can’t get away with. That’s all. That is the essential. “
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A good song
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.