Good morning, baseball fans
Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic had a really good piece on Friday that covered the entire range of emotions and circumstances involving the San Francisco Giants’ Game 5 NLDS loss on Thursday. Something that stood out to me was this section, in a section where Baggarly discusses the team’s reaction to discovering who their umpire crew for the series would be.
The Giants, who built so much of their offensive success on zone discipline, and who would be facing the best pitching staff in the National League, felt that they would get just one better than average plate umpire, Pat Hoberg, in the series. They knew the umpiring crew would make a critical impact on the series one way or another. There was vigorous discussion over why umpires who rated so poorly, both in terms of metrics and reputation, would be assigned not only to a postseason series, but to one involving two highly successful, highly disciplined teams that featured the two lowest chase rates in the major leagues. This was a series and a matchup that by its nature would make a bad umpire uncomfortably stick out.
“I don’t know if you noticed how often we swung at early-count fastballs,” one Giants player said. “We had to change our approach. We knew it as soon as we saw who the umpires would be. You can’t leave it up to them.”
Baggarly goes on to clarify that the team does not say this as an excuse, more of a lament. And it makes you wonder if that change in their approach at the plate was the reason for their offensive woes. It makes you wonder if, by trying to make adjustments to a deck that seemingly was stacked against them, that they ended up stacking that deck even higher by going against their own instincts at the plate.
Ultimately, to me, it seems like a travesty that a team should have to do that in the first place. The best umpire crew should be manning the biggest games. It should be an incentive in both directions. Win the most games, you get the best crew. But also, call the best games and you get to umpire for the best teams.