Is there a strike zone advantage in the NLCS?

I typically am never the kind of fan to complain about an outcome of a game and blame an ump for it, and this piece is not doing that.  The intent here is to show why the Cubs are losing and why the Mets are winning.  It is plain and simple, the Mets are finding that particular umps strike zone and using that zone to their advantage, as a great pitching staff ought to do.

Below is Jacob Degrom’s game 3 Strike Zone plot.  As you can see there are about 12 or so pitches (compared to Hendricks 7, which makes sense Degrom threw more pitches) that were balls that were called as strikes, and 10 of those were on the low end of the zone, creating a reset of the zone for Cub hitters, forcing them to adjust and swing at lower pitches.  This game particularly exemplified how off this strike zone was as Hendricks also had a few go in his favor that were fairly low.   Of Degroms low pitches above the 1.0 vertical mark, seven were called balls.  Of Hendricks low pitches five were called strikes and one was called a ball, all other pitches were contacted in some way.  The ratio for strikes to balls in this low zone is 10-7 for Degrom and 5-1 for Hendricks.  That difference can be attributed to the Mets hitters swinging and fouling off those pitches, Cubs hitters were swinging and missing more.

To avoid posting every pitchers strike zone plot you can manage seeing the Cubs side on your own and verify it here.


Below this is Syndergaards Strike Zone plot showing eight balls called as strikes (compared to Arrieta’s one), which reset the Cubs hitter zones to expand more outside and low.  Arrieta had eight low pitches in the 1.0 and above zone called as balls, while his counterpart had eight as well, so the ratio in game 2 favored the Mets.   The ratio of strikes to balls here is 8-8 for the Mets and and 1-8 for Arrieta, so game 2 showed a much more biased zone favoring the Mets.


Below is Matt Harvey’s which had the fewest balls called as strikes, with a total of seven (Lester had five) and I admit this zone was called pretty well this game as the majority of them are right at the corner.  Game 1 was a pretty fairly called strike zone.


All in all you have Mets pitchers with the advantage of having 14 balls more called as strikes than the Cubs had.  This could just be chalked up to being a better pitcher and taking advantage of the expanded strike zones or it could be seen as pitchers given a distinct advantage in the 3 games played so far, which is going to favor the Mets in any series.

If you take into account the advantage being given here and also consider the chart below on how differing counts effect the outcome of an at bat, it shows the Cubs will have to adjust to this in game 4 and beyond to have a chance.  How do they do that?  They need to either expand their zones, creating more outs, or change their patient approach and jump on pitches earlier in the count.

Count break down

Overall there are some advantages that the Mets starters are receiving in getting more balls called as strikes.  But it is difficult to determine if this is because the Mets pitchers are better at taking advantage of that zone or if the Cubs swing and miss tendencies are not allowing them to foul off those out of zone pitches, which the Mets are doing more.


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