Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Holliday’s ejections and the strike zone

As Cardinal fans know, Matt Holliday can sometimes whine after a borderline strike call. On three occasions in his career, according to Chris Tunno, he has been ejected, all for arguing called third strikes, including last night in the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 3-2 win over the Red Sox. But is it possible that the Cardinal left fielder is justified in his complaining?

Thankfully, MLB Gameday has pitch data to prove it. Let’s visually review the calls that precipitated those ejections:

9/9/10: Cristhian Martinez

6/25/11: Jon Rauch

8/5/2014:  Burke Badenhop

In the 2010 and 2011 ejections, it appears that Holliday had a legitimate beef: Both called third strikes were clearly outside the zone and missed calls by the umpire. In last night’s game, though, the pitch appeared to be on the black. In fact, all three of the strikes in that plate appearance were called, and all three were virtually in the same place. So Holliday may have been expressing his cumulative displeasure with all three of the calls, though, given that all three were close enough to the zone, that hardly excuses him.

Actually, Holliday may have simply not seen any of Burke Badenhop’s pitches well. For a pitcher with a rather nondescript major-league career, Badenhop may be the most effective pitcher in baseball against Holliday. Holliday has struck out in six of his eight plate appearances against the Boston righty, which may help explain Holliday’s irritation. For a player who seemingly has a good command of the strike zone, Holliday appears to be disoriented when it comes to locating Badenhop’s pitches in the strike zone.

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