Dustin Ackley vs. Umpires and Two-Strike Counts


The oldest baseball meme associated with the internets, at least to my knowledge, would be that of the classic robot umpire. Fire Joe Morgan maybe right there with it. But since the jump in technology of computers people have clamored that there must be a way to improve the current system in which we judge balls and strikes.

Sometimes this meme gets old and sometimes it just is flat out nesscary due to the archaic dark ages of which the league actively choses to live in. A choice in which would seem to be one that could improve the game but instead is ignored.

We’re not here necessarily rehash why it’s bad. Duh, robots can call strikes better than their human counter parts –whose zone that seemingly changes based upon the interpretation of the being behind the plate that night — it’s not really rocket since we judge it real time, both on tv and the internet, it makese sense, humans are suspectible to err.

No, this post is specifically about Dustin Ackley and how suprior his judgement of the strikezone is compared to not just the rest of the league, but the human elements which translate and rule the game.

Multiple times we saw Mr. Ackley obviously annoyed with a strike three call and I vivedly remember those specific times being caught on camera as bad calls. Then while taking a look at the teams increadible strike out ratios I noticed that Ackley’s number of strike outs looking (35%) is 10% above the league average (25%). This surprised me in a way because of his ability to inerupt the strike zone and his ability to get on base.

So I decided it would be an interesting experiment to determine if his ability to read the strike zone is infact suprior to those who are paid to call the balls and strikes themselves.

I wanted to use Gameday information as it has all sorts of goodie pitch f/x information. But, I ran into issues trying to access last years results and my bandwidth issues don’t really helping things. So I turned to Joe Lefkowitz pitch f/x database. It’s not really anything different and really it’s just as in depth.

So the first look I took was that of the strikes that were called against him.

Obviously you can tell that by looking at the picture below all of these calls are legit. All 19 strikeouts on called strikes were the correct call. Not sure what you can quite attribute all these pitches to that equates to 5% of all his plate appearances. Most of the time I would simply guess that it was him being caught off guard by the pitch. Not sure quiet how to analyze it as I didn’t expect this many pitches, especially in the middle out half of the zone.

You can see using the chart below that all the pitches are close to the zone. But the tracker has them as balls rather than strikes, despite what they were called by the umpires. This would account for 7 strike outs or 1% of his plate apperaences.

Finally, it just wouldn’t be enough to say well he got “cheated” out of 7 at bats. Rather it’s important to see how many difficult scenarios he escaped based upon  poor calls. Using the chart below you can see that there are 11 occurrences in which he had prolonged appearances in situations with two strikes.

Ackley didn’t show uncanny abilities with his pitch recognition at the major league level. But considering what he was able to display early in the year down in Tacoma, I think it’s fair to suspect that this is hardly an accurate projection of his future skills or talents. In fact according to StatCorner, Ackley’s strikeouts while looking nearly doubled at the major league level from what he produced while down in the minors.

This is part of why I don’t so much believe in Ackley being affected by the so called sophomore slump. Ackley as a hitter is someone whose strength comes from pitch recognition and contact. The by product of that is getting on base and putting the ball in play.

Dave Cameron talked about it last year as being one of the reasons why he believed Ackley wouldn’t have much of an issue adjusting to the big leagues compared to most prospects making the jump. This is also why I don’t believe he’ll have as big of an issue in his sophomore year.

That said, he saw his strike out ratio increase with playing time which does at least legitimize the concerns.