Swisher’s sixth inning at bat

Swisher took the first pitch for a ball. For some reason, Brooks Baseball missed the pitch as it is not on that site’s at bat statistics. The ESPN announcers had been stating all night that home plate umpire, Gerry Davis, had a small strike zone. As this was mentioned several times during the game, Davis’ zone kept getting wider as the game moved along. As the chart shows below, pitches Pavano wasn’t getting early in the game off the plate and at the top of the strike zone, Davis started to give him later in the game.

Pavano’s second pitch to Nick Swisher was one of the beneficiaries of that enhanced strike zone. It was a change up that started high and then plopped down at the top of the strike zone. Davis called it a strike. Swisher, who had strolled to the plate with energy and purpose before the at bat, was annoyed. But it was a strike. Earlier in the game, it would have been a ball and Swisher would be in control with a 2-0 count. Instead it was 1-1.

If Swisher was annoyed on the second pitch, he would be even more distressed at the third. Pavano’s pitch sailed outside, yet Davis called it a strike. As Aaron Boone mentioned correctly, a 2-1 count is a hitter’s count and a 1-2 count is a pitcher’s count and it makes all the difference in the world. At 2-1, Swisher would have been in a better frame of mind. He would have probably been more patient. But now annoyed with two calls and behind in the count, Swisher would become a more defensive batter. And it showed.

Swisher swung at a fastball down below the zone and fouled it meekly. Pavano threw his next pitch, a change up, that started on the same plane as the previous pitch and then it tilted downward and Swisher swung and missed it for strike three. Swisher missed the ball by at least a foot. That gave Pavano new life and he got Ibanez to ground out to second to end the threat and any chance the Yankees had at winning the game.

Of course, we cannot know what Pavano would have done if the count was 2-0 or 2-1 to Swisher. And we cannot reverse history and state with any kind of purpose that Swisher might have walked with such a count to load the bases or gotten a better pitch to hit to drive in a run or two. But it was clear that at least one of Davis’ calls changed the at bat and became a “what if” moment in the game.

About William Tasker

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

5 thoughts on “Swisher’s sixth inning at bat

  1. Thought the 2nd pitch was ok; but the third one – that was so far off the plate, even an umpire should have noticed.

    Oh well – if a victory or loss to the Twins comes down to A missed call, there was a whole lot else that wasn't working, either.

  2. Thanks for this, I was incredibly annoyed at this at bat, stopping a conversation with my wife mid-stream to voice my frustration (bad idea, btw). I don't mind a human calling the game, I think a machine doing it would turn the game into a sideshow, but I would feel a whole lot better about it if we knew the umpires were held accountable for there sucktitude.

  3. Well, at least it wasn't an obvious foul ball ruled a double in a playoff game between these two teams. Something like that would be outrageous. ;-)