Picture the scene. It’s the top of the ninth inning in Game 6 of the ALCS. The Jays are down 4-3 with one out, but have runners on second and third. Any ground ball or fly ball will score the tying run. The batter, Ben Revere, works the count to 2-and-1, but then takes a called strike two and strikes out swinging. The cameras show Revere going down the dugout steps and smashing his bat in the clubhouse in frustration. At the time, I assumed that he was just angry at himself for failing in a key situation. But I later learned that he was angry because the umpire had called the 2-1 pitch a strike when he thought it was a ball.
Thanks to the wonderful Brooks Baseball web site, it seems that Revere had a point. Here is the at-bat where Revere was facing Royals closer Wade Davis:
The black rectangle is the strike zone, and the numbered tiny squares are the pitches thrown in the at-bat and where they were relative to the strike zone. Take a look at pitch #4. It’s clearly outside the strike zone – nearly half a foot outside – but was called a strike anyway. Instead of the count being 3-1, it was now 2-2, and Revere had to try to protect the plate. He struck out on a pitch that he might have been willing to let go if he had had an extra strike to play with.
And it turns out that Dioner Navarro, in the previous at-bat, had been unfairly treated in much the same way:
Here, take a look at pitch #3. Once again, it’s outside but is called a strike anyway. Davis threw the next pitch in the same place. Even though it was practically unhittable, Navarro had to swing at it, and couldn’t make contact.
So it’s reasonable to state that good luck, as well as ability, propelled the Royals into the World Series. Revere’s strikeout now sits next to Jim Sundberg’s windblown triple in 1985 in the box labelled “Unpleasant Things That Kansas City Has Done To Toronto In The Post-Season”, which we will put in the hall closet and promptly forget about.
Revere is a good player, but he couldn’t really use all of his skills in Toronto. The Jays don’t really need someone at the top of the order who can steal bases – you don’t want to risk caught stealing with all of that power in the lineup. Last year, in 388 plate appearances with the Phillies, Revere stole 24 bases; in 246 appearances as a Blue Jay, he stole only seven. The Jays figured out that they didn’t really need him, given that they have Pompey and Saunders, so they have dispatched him to Washington for relief pitcher Drew Storen.