Human error is a part of baseball, but sometimes error becomes inaccuracy, or worse–flat out wrong. Notorious Major League umpire Angel Hernandez struck again in the top of the ninth inning i a 1-0 game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Milwaukee Brewers last Tuesday.
Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel came in to closeout the Diamondbacks with a 1-0 lead in Milwaukee. Diamondbacks batter Jake Lamb led off the frame and worked to a full count on six pitches, then Hernandez called ball four on the seventh. You can see the final pitch of the at-bat in the tweet below from WEAU sports director Justus Cleveland.
There are a couple of things we can look at with this pitch to find out why Hernandez is squeezing Knebel. First, catcher Manny Pina was set up low on the outside corner, but the pitch came clear across the plate to the inside corner. With a left-handed batter like Lamb, Pina was forced to reach all the way across his body to make the catch.
Next, while reaching across his body, the momentum of Pina’s glove carried past the inside corner nearly into the left-handed batter’s box. With his glove hovering over the chalk line of the box, Pina made a slight movement back toward the middle of the plate to frame the pitch. Hernandez called ball four.
Hernandez could be slightly justified in calling ball four on a pitch that clearly crossed the plate in the strike zone for two reasons: Knebel missed his spot and Pina framed the pitch.
There’s no reason for Pina to set up on the outside corner without a runner on second base. (Note: For anyone not sure, catchers will sometimes set up on the opposite side of the dish from where the pitch is meant to be to prevent runners from giving away location.) He did try to help his pitcher with a subtle frame of the pitch, but Hernandez may have seen this movement and treated it as though the pitch came in off the plate.
In reality, Hernandez missed the call. A veteran umpire, Hernandez has been at the major league level since 1991. There’s no reason for him to miss such a call. No, the ball didn’t finish in Pina’s glove in the strike zone, but a blue with Hernandez’s experience should have the ability–and eye–to call a 99-mph fastball on the inside corner.
Fortunately for the Brewers, the ball don’t lie. After Lamb walked, Nick Ahmed was sent in to pinch run. He was caught stealing on a 1-2 count to Paul Goldschmidt and Knebel completed the save by retiring the next two D-Backs.
Umpires are generally very good, especially at the big league level. Unfortunately, until robots are calling balls and strikes, Hernandez and other umpires will continue to make unacceptable mistakes like this atrocity.