SweetSpot: Tom Hallion
April, 29, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
1. I am not a liar 2. I would not make that stuff up 3. My own dad doesn't speak to me that way 4. Again I am not a liar #accountability
— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 28, 2013
Think our entire dugout would ERUPT cause an ump told me to throw the ball over the plate? No, I'm sorry that wouldnt happen #accountability
— David Price (@DAVIDprice14) April 28, 2013
Here's the most important takeaway from the David Price-Tom Hallion incident on Sunday: Hallion missed the call.
Price thought he had struck out Dewayne Wise to end the seventh inning on a pitch on the outside of the corner. He even took a step to the dugout, but Hallion didn't ring up Wise. Price got Wise on the next pitch but after the game said Hallion swore at him.
"I'm walking off the mound, I'm just mad at myself," Price said. "I didn't say a single word or look at him. He [Hallion] yells at me." Hallion told a pool reporter, "I'll come right out bluntly and say he's a liar. I said, 'Just throw the ball.' That's all I said to him."
Something is fishy, but let's start here. Don't call the player a liar if you got the call wrong. Below is the location of the five pitches to Wise; the fourth one is the one in question.
ESPN Stats & InformationDavid Price's fourth pitch was a strike on the outside edge of the plate.According to ESPN Stats & Info data, Hallion didn't have a good game on Sunday, with a correct call percentage of 83 percent: Out of 199 pitches that were taken in the game, he missed on 33 ball-strike calls. (Price benefited from some bad calls as well.) The league average is 87 percent, so while 83 percent doesn't appear drastically worse than average, it is -- that would be in the bottom-10th percentile of the league. Out of 200 pitches, we're talking a difference of eight pitches, which is certainly enough to potentially help swing the game's outcome.
Is Hallion a bad umpire? We can't go off one game, so let's check the season numbers: He ranks 64th of the 74 umpires who have umped at least one game behind home plate, with a correct percentage of 85.3. But that's only seven games. What about last year? Hallion ranked 66th of 82 umpires at 86.3 percent. In 2011, Hallion ranked 65th of 83 umpires. I think the trend is pretty clear: Hallion isn't very good at calling balls and strikes. He's not the worst, but he's a long way from the best.
He's a crew chief who began his major league career in 1985; he should know better than to offer a comment when asked about Price, let alone call the player a liar. Even if there was a misunderstanding, he should keep his mouth shut; umpires should always remain in the shadow.
In the end, the missed call to Wise didn't matter. Wise grounded out, and the Rays broke open a 3-3 game with three runs in the eighth and two in the ninth to give Price his first win of the season. But this little incident is a reminder: It's never good news when you're reading about umpires. We're stuck with them -- and the job is tough -- but we shouldn't be stuck with umpires who publicly call out pitchers they have to call balls and strikes on.
REST OF THE WEEKEND
1. Anibal Sanchez, Tigers. Sanchez did something Justin Verlander hasn't done, something Jack Morris or Jim Bunning or Hal Newhouser never did in a Tigers uniform: He struck out 17 batters in beating the Braves 1-0 on Friday night, the first win of an impressive sweep for the Tigers as they outscored the Braves 25-7. Sanchez set the Tigers' franchise record for strikeouts -- Mickey Lolich twice fanned 16 in 1969 -- and did it in eight innings. Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman each fanned four times, as Atlanta K'd 18 times altogether. Sanchez also became just the fifth AL pitcher since 1920 to fan at least 17 with one walk or fewer, joining Roger Clemens (twice), Johan Santana, Vida Blue and Luis Tiant.
2. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals. Zimmermann tossed a one-hit shutout over the Reds on Friday -- a night after Gio Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano had one-hit the Reds. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Zimmermann didn't allow a single hard-hit ball and was especially dominant with his slider, throwing it a season-high 20 times as the Reds went 0-for-8 against it. Amazingly, the Reds became the fourth team since 1920 to have one or fewer in back-to-back games, joining the 2008 Astros, 1996 Tigers and 1965 Mets.
3. Russell Martin, Pirates. The Pirates took two out of three from the Cardinals, with Martin hitting a big home run in Saturday's 5-3 win and two more in Sunday's 9-0 shutout. The Pirates are 8-2 in their past 10 games, winning series against the Cardinals, Phillies and Braves.
Clutch performance of the weekend
Yoenis Cespedes, A's. With Cespedes on the DL, the A's had lost eight of nine. They were staring at an 8-6 deficit when Cespedes stepped in with one out and one on in the bottom of the ninth in his first game since April 12. With Orioles closer Jim Johnson having pitched in four of the team's previous five games, Buck Showalter had lefty Brian Matusz face Cespedes, but Cespedes ripped a low slider out to left-center and tied the game with a long home run, and the A's won in the 10th on a throwing error by third baseman Manny Machado (who tried to throw out a runner at third on a sac bunt).
Padres 8, Giants 7 (Saturday). The Giants jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings, but the Padres rallied for six off Barry Zito in the bottom of the fourth (including a great move by Bud Black to hit for pitcher Eric Stults with Jesus Guzman, who delivered a two-run single). The Giants retook the lead, but the Padres tied it up in the bottom of the seventh. Both bullpens were stellar into the 12th, with the Padres finally beating Giants closer Sergio Romo when Marco Scutaro booted what could have been an inning-ending double-play ball. OK, the Zimmermann game was pretty good as well -- he outdueled Homer Bailey and threw just 91 pitches while Bailey threw just 89 in seven innings. Good luck seeing another game this year that features just 194 pitches.
Hitter on the rise: Brandon Crawford, Giants
Is the light-hitting defensive whiz really hitting .291/.361/.547? He hit his fifth home run on Saturday -- one more than he hit last season.
Pitcher on the rise: Lance Lynn, Cardinals
After a sluggish start, some fans wondered whether Lynn -- who dropped 40 pounds in the offseason -- had dropped too much weight. But he's allowed just three hits and one run over 14 innings in his past two starts.
Team on the rise: Yankees
Wait a minute, they've made the playoffs every year except one since 1995! What are they rising from? What about preseason predictions of their demise? The Yankees swept the Blue Jays over the weekend, the bats are hitting home runs, the rotation is solid, David Phelps and David Robertson have pitched some key innings in the pen and Mariano Rivera looks like he only has another seven or eight years in him. The Yankees have some overachievers early on (Vernon Wells, the now-injured Francisco Cervelli), but as long as CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte continue to pitch well, they should hang in the AL East hunt.
Team on the fall: Angels
The Giants have lost five straight, including a sweep to the Padres, but the Angels lost three of four in Seattle and are staring at the same lousy April they had a year ago. Will Mike Scioscia still be managing the club this time next week?