Ángel Hernández’s strike zone belongs on a Little League field.
Anything close, and it’s a strike.
Hernández, long a thorn in the side of MLB players, displayed his expansive zone on national television during ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. It all came to a head with Philadelphia Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber losing it on Hernández in the ninth inning after another blown call, and the Milwaukee Brewers went on to win 1-0.
According to Umpire Auditor, a Twitter account dedicated to tracking strike-ball calls, Hernández was the lowest-rated umpire Sunday at 85.3% (19 missed calls).
Umpire Scorecards – another such social media account – ruled that Hernández called 113 of 129 pitches correctly. Missing 16 pitches might not seem like a lot, but Umpire Scorecards said 11 of 48 called strikes (77% – the average called strike accuracy is 88%) were actually true balls.
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Indeed, zone data from MLB-owned Baseball Savant shows how Hernández’s strike zone impacted the Phillies and Brewers. Hernández punched out six batters on pitches outside the zone (four Phillies, two Brewers), per Statcast. Brewers starter Eric Laurer recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts.
In a one-run game, every call carries weight – Umpire Scorecards determined that Hernández’s judgment resulted in +0.77 runs for Milwaukee. Some of his worst calls came in pivotal moments for Philadelphia.
With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning, Laurer threw a first-pitch slider to Phillies shortstop Jean Segura. The pitch missed inside by a season-high 6.47 inches, per Umpire Auditor. Instead of the count being 1-0, Hernández threw his right fist in the air to put Segura in a hole. He popped out and the Phillies’ rally ended one batter later.
That’s not to say Hernández didn’t have a hand in stalling the Brewers offense. With a runner on second and two outs in the third, Andrew McCutchen struck out looking at a fastball off the outside corner that was clearly a ball.
The call that led to Schwarber’s blow-up was low and would have resulted in a walk, putting the tying run on base. Brewers closer Josh Hader appears to smirk in disbelief himself after Hernández rung him up.
“I’m not here to bury anyone, but it wasn’t very good,” Schwarber said after the game, per NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I don’t know how to really say it. It just wasn’t very good. Guys were doing a really good job tonight of not saying much. It just got to me to where I was going to stick up for some other guys.”
With “robot umpires” being tested in the minor leagues, the case for them becomes stronger with each game Hernández is behind the plate.
“It’s got to be better than that, right?” Phillies manager Joe Girardi told reporters after the game. “It just does.”
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.