I don’t usually love to play the whatif game – close calls happen every day and they don’t always go the other way – but because this is the playoffs, because this was a particularly impactful whatif at the time, and because we love to overanalyze everything, we’re gonna do it this one time. (And several hundred additional times in the years to come.)
In the top of the third inning of Game Four of the NLDS, Jake Arrieta started things off by getting a sickly Stephen Strasburg to groundout to shortstop Addison Russell (out No. 1). The next batter, Trea Turner, laced a double to left field and a wild pitch to Jayson Werth allowed him to advance to third.
Eventually, Werth struck out (out No. 2) and Bryce Harper was walked in a grueling seven-pitch at-bat (all things considered, walking Harper with two bases open wasn’t the worst outcome). That’s when Ryan Zimmerman stepped up to the plate and our whatif game begins.
After falling down 0-2 with two outs and two on against Arrieta, Ryan Zimmerman laid off the following pitch (#3):
… or did he?
There's no point of ever asking an umpire if there's a swing or not considering this call. They're just guessing. pic.twitter.com/cZZZPv4qmM
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) October 11, 2017
This sure looks like a swing-and-a-miss, inning-ending strike three to me, but the umpire appeal at first base came up no swing.
Apparently, somehow, someway *this* not considered a swing:
There’s not a rule about how far your hands have to go in a swing, and instead it’s just a matter of whether a batter attempted to strike a pitch (and if he stops mid-swing, did he go too far). Here, in an “I know it when I see it” way, Zimmerman went too far. His whole body moved to the pitch, his swing triggered, the bat got way out in front of the plate, his wrists broke a little, and it was only when he realized he had no chance to contact the pitch that he tried to slow up. Too late, in my #NotAnUmpire opinion.
Anyway, the at-bat continued and on the very next pitch, this happened (MLB.com):
Addison Russell booted a slow-bouncing grounder to short, and Turner was able to trot home easily. Now, to be fair, the Cubs made an error on what should’ve ended the inning (and Arrieta got the very next batter out anyway), but still, that run-scoring play should never have happened.
Yes, this is a huge whatif game we’re playing here, but who knows what would’ve happened had the inning ended a batter earlier and the game continued tied 0-0. Maybe the 8th inning grand slam still happens, and none of this matters. Maybe not. We’ll never know. All we can know for sure is that Ryan Zimmerman swung at that dang pitch.
It’s all in the past and we won’t dwell on it beyond this post, but that’s one clearly missed call by the umpires, and perhaps one that could plausibly have cost the Cubs the game, and thus a trip to the NLCS.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.