My favorite thing that Deadspin has ever done is their "Better Know an Umpire" series. The fantastic Erik Malinowski looked at every umpire in baseball, and he did a nice profile on each one. I guess something that nerdy and wonky being my favorite Deadspin feature is like "Nebraska" being the only Springsteen album I like.
It's great because every time I have a question about the umpire for a big game, I can go to the Malinoswki repository and learn myself real good. And the thesis of any college essay on Darling would be about his strike zone. It's wide.
Behind the plate, Darling is consistently reluctant to call balls, as his BB/9 is below average every year and 13th lowest of the 77 umpires who worked 500 or more innings from 2007 through 2010.
First reaction: Good. This is Matt Cain, and he's already fantastic with a normal strike zone. His game is command, not power.
Second reaction: Dang it, if Cain's game is command, what's Kyle Lohse's game? The guy was wild in Game 3, but that was a fluke. Lohse had the fifth-lowest walks-per-nine-innings rate in the majors this year. He walked 38 batters in 211 innings. He lives on the corners. There couldn't be a better umpire for him.
Third reaction: Well, hold on. If the umpire is going to necessitate going out of the strike zone, which team is better equipped to do that?
Hensley Meulens: Pablo, I'm afraid you're going to have to swing at some corner pitches in this game.
Pablo Sandoval: ...
Sandoval: /swings at Meulens's coffee mug
Hunter Pence: /swings at light bulb
Sandoval: /swings at moth flying around light bulb
Pence: PABLO, NO, STOP! REGINALD, GET OUT OF HERE, HE'S CRAZY!
Fourth reaction: Aw, man, it's a long time before the game starts. I'm going to need diapers, some horse tranquilizers, and a nap.
It looks like Gary Darling has a wide zone, especially against left-handers. I don't know what that means! Sorry I brought it up.
Of note is that it was Darling who made the ridiculous balk call against Tim Lincecum in 2008 to cost the Giants a win. We were all so upset, but it turns out the 2008 Giants were awful! Who cares? Actually, if the Giants win that game, the Braves move up a slot in the draft. Maybe the Giants draft Mike Leake instead of Zach Wheeler. Maybe that means the Reds start someone different in Game 4 of the NLDS. Maybe that means the Giants draft Drew Storen, and the Nationals' collapse doesn't happen because they have a different closer, and maybe the Nationals won the NLCS in five games.
Gary Darling is why the Giants are in the NLCS, right? Maybe he can help the Giants get in the World Series, too. Pound that outside strike, Matty. And hack away, Gian ... oh, cool, you were already on that part.