Last night, we witnessed something that has only happened one other time in the history of Major League Baseball: a post-season no-hitter. Roy “Doc” Halladay was as dominant as I have ever seen a pitcher be; he was throwing 5 or 6 “plus” pitches, and he was throwing them whenever and wherever he wanted. Only four balls left the infield all night. He threw 104 pitches, and only 25 of them were balls. The Reds didn’t have a chance — especially Scott Rolen. He was completely lost.
After the game, Orlando Cabrera, who had some of the evening’s better at-bats against Halladay, expressed his opinion that the Phillies ace had been greatly assisted in his extraordinary feat by by an overly-generous Hirschbeck strike-zone.
“He was basically getting every pitch,” said Cabrera, who flied out to center, struck out swinging and grounded to second in his three at-bats. “We had no chance.”
Not a surprising comment from a fellow that had just been dominated in the most important gave of the Reds’ season, but how much “sour grapes” were mixed in with Cabrera’s opinion?
As an inveterate baseball geek, I headed on over to FanGraphs to hunt up the Doc’s “Normalized Strikezone Plot.” I see one called strike on there that looks to be a bit out of the strike zone. I also see at least two strikes in the upper part of the zone that were called balls. So,I think Cabrera needs to just “grin and bear it.” Halladay was amazing.
That wasn’t the most interesting part of the evening to my geeky self, though — not even close. That honor was reserved for the final play of the game, which was much, much messier than it looked on paper.
Check out the image on the right. Notice the bat lying in fair territory as Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz prepares to make a play? Notice how close it is to the ball? In “real time,” it looked for a moment or two like the bat was going to make Ruiz’s attempt to field the ball impossible; there’s a strange hesitation as he reaches for it. If Phillips had been safe at first base as a result, that bat would have unleashed a firestorm of controversy that would have made the Galarraga Incident look like a mild brush fire.
Adding to the confusion, the rule covering such plays is as vague and difficult to interpret as only MLB rules can be. Luckily, it was all moot, and Philly fans have something to cheer about once again — at least until Kevin Kolb takes the field on Sunday.