Joe West is not considered one of the more popular MLB umpires among fans. He has a way of inserting himself into the game that you don’t see from all other umpires, and it can certainly grow irritating, particularly when he makes a mistake.
I won’t speak for players or managers with respect to their feelings on the subject, but I will share this image of a recent Joe West-Joe Maddon chit-chat without comment:
West was the home plate umpire last night, and, although you would certainly notice some missed calls over the course of an 18-inning game regardless of the umpire, it sure seemed like West was missing a dizzying and frustrating number of calls last night for both teams. It wasn’t the singular reason the Cubs lost the crazy 18-inning affair, but it made the process all the more galling.
I figured why not peek at the strike zone maps over at Brooks Baseball – with over 500 pitches in the game, it’s fun to look at the in any case – and, as you can see, the strike zone was more of a “strike suggestion” last night:
To be sure, you’d expect missed calls in a game of that length. Lots of missed calls, in fact.
The problem, however, is that there were no discernible edges to the zone the entire night, and there were missed calls nearly in succession with correct calls in the exact same spot! Trace your eye along the edges of the zone in those maps, and see how often it flips from “yup that’s a strike right there” to “actually, nah, I think it’s a ball now.”
I don’t think calling a game is easy. If Joe West’s zone last night was a Jackson Pollock, then I bet my strike zone map would look like a Duchamp. But, then, I’m not a professional umpire judged to be in the upper tier of umpires by evidence of consistent postseason appointments. Last night looked like a poor effort to the naked eye, and the strike zone maps confirm.