October 13, 2006

Did Welke dictate the series?

Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus, writes about home plate umpire Tim Welke and how his huge strike zone may very well have dictated the outcome of the series:

Just after last night’s game ended, Fox’s Kevin Kennedy said, “Welke called a perfect game, actually, for both guys.”

Well, he certainly tried.

Home-plate umpire Tim Welke’s strike zone affected and defined last night’s game more than any player. Tom Glavine, Carlos Beltran, Albert Pujols…none of these stars had the impact on the contest that Welke did. The strike zone in last night’s game was huge extending 2-3 inches outside, an inch or two inside and—this is the most unusual part—both high and low. We’ve become used to seeing a wide zone, but seeing a tall one is still a bit disconcerting.

The combination affected not just this game, which was turned into a pitchers’ duel between two mid-rotation starters, but the entire series. Remember that last night’s starting pitchers, Glavine and Jeff Weaver, will most likely have to come back and pitch on short rest in Game Five. Beyond that, the bullpens of both these teams will be tested by playing for five straight days. Had last night’s game featured a normal strike zone, it’s likely that both starters would have had to work harder, and both bullpens as well. Remember, Glavine and Weaver are both pitchers who need to stay out of the middle of the zone; giving them the edges is like turning the game into Christmas morning. Welke’s zone allowed the teams to get their starters out with relatively low pitch counts and without overly taxing their pens.

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