John Lackey was masterful and the L.A. bullpen couldn't hold the fort in last night's 3-1 Cardinals win, but afterward, all a number of Dodgers could talk about was home plate umpire Dale Scott. Matt Kemp went off:
"Terrible. Terrible strike zone," Kemp said. "I've never seen anything like it. That's disappointing because you've got guys out there battling. You know, this is two good teams going at it, and it's supposed to be the teams, not the umpire, and I just feel like the umpire took the bat out of our hands today. He had a very generous strike zone. It's hard to face good pitching when you've got a guy throwing a ball in the other batter's box, and it's called strikes."
Kemp was mad about a particular outside strike call early in his sixth-inning at-bat, and the third-strike call in his at-bat to lead off the ninth. Here's that strike-three:
More upsetting to Kemp than the borderline call was how it compared to the pitch before it. Here's the chart of that ninth-inning at-bat:
It's hard to see here, but the fourth pitch was called a ball, and the fifth pitch, strike three. They were in the exact same spot.
"You guys saw the game. I'm sure you all side with me. I've never reacted this way when it comes to the strike zone. This was by far the worst I've ever seen.
"You've got to be held accountable, man. When we mess up and we do bad things on the field, people talk about it. People get sent down when they play bad. I feel like when stuff like that happens, there should be some type of punishment because it's unacceptable."
Kemp was surely frustrated after feeling he had at-bats taken away from him on an 0-4 night, after raking at a .556 clip in the first two games of this series. But more than that, Kemp knows where his bread is buttered. Here's his career heat map while facing right-handed pitchers. If you give the likes of John Lackey and Trevor Rosenthal the outside, there's not a hell of a lot Kemp can do about it.
So maybe Kemp has his reasons to be upset. But he wasn't the only Dodger alluding to Dale Scott's swollen strike zone. (The cagey quote from manager Don Mattingly: "You can't go too far with [the criticism of Scott], but real generous." Do the Dodgers have reason to feel slighted? Here's the plot for all righty batters:
Aside from the two identical pitches to Kemp in the ninth, Scott was pretty firm in giving pitchers the outside strike against righties. (If anything, he was more generous to Los Angeles pitchers.)
No, this seems like the age-old story of an umpire with an iffy but mostly consistent strike zone, making pitchers happy and hitters mad, and it's only the losing team that complains. Bitching about balls and strikes isn't going to get the Dodgers very far; but it's a good indicator that a team is one loss from elimination and frustrated as all hell.