Pardon stating the obvious, but World Series games are important. Important enough that every plate appearance, every pitch is important. Championship-deciding.
Basically, they are not the time you want to see a pitch thrown straight down the middle of strike zone called a ball.
And yet, late in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series, home plate umpire Chris Guccione delivered one of the biggest endorsements for robot umpires you will ever see. It happened in the eighth inning, with two men on and two out with the Los Angeles Dodgers leading by one run.
Dodgers flamethrower Brusdar Graterol delivered a first-pitch slider right down the middle to Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Hunter Renfroe and ... ball one.
In Guccione’s defense, Dodgers catcher Will Smith was clearly crossed up on that pitch and had to jut his glove hard to his right to corral the bill. Guccione was also clearly set up to Smith’s left, setting him up for a perspective in which a ball down the middle might look outside.
Still, umpires are supposed to be able to account for those circumstances. Maybe it would be understandable if the pitch was on the outside quadrant of the zone, but this pitch was right down the middle.
It looks even worse when computerized:
The plate appearance at least ended up going to the Dodgers’ way, as Renfroe flew out to end the inning. The rest of the game did not go the Dodgers way, and we’ll leave it at that.
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