Ichiro Suzuki was ejected in the fifth inning of today’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays after demonstratively arguing a called strike three. In addition to comments to the umpire, Suzuki drew a line on the ground with his bat to show Brian Runge where he thought the pitch had gone.
I grabbed some still shots of the pitch crossing the plate, but with camera angles, it’s impossible to tell whether a pitch so close to the edge of the plate was a strike or not. So what did the PITCHf/x tracking system say?
The path of the baseball as tracked by PITCHf/x is shown by the red lines. (The baseball is 2.9 inches in diameter.) PITCHf/x has been shown to be accurate within half an inch, so the gray lines outside the red lines indicate the possible location of the baseball given the margin of error inherent in PITCHf/x measurements near home plate.
It’s close enough that Ichiro Suzuki probably shouldn’t have taken the pitch. The umpire’s going to call that pitch a strike to a left-handed batter at least half the time. The cost of a strike in that situation was the second out of the inning with a runner on third base, costing the Mariners something like 0.6 runs on average. The gain from taking a ball, moving the count from 0-2 to 1-2, is miniscule by comparison, something like 0.025 runs on average.
In this case, he was bailed out by a wild pitch that scored Adam Moore from third during the next at bat, but it wasn’t a good bet on Ichiro’s part, nor did he have a particularly good case with the ump.