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Finding a silver lining about Joe West being behind the dish tonight

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Joe West has been doing this for quite some time.

The 64-year-old from Greenville, North Carolina made his major league debut back in 1976 and joined the National League staff full time just two years later. He’s currently finishing up his MLB-record 39th season, making him the most tenured umpire in the game today.

Tonight, for Game 6 of the 2016 World Series, he’ll toss his cup on, strap up his shinguards and squat behind home plate for what will surely be upwards of 4 hours.

It’s probably going to suck.

West has a pretty well earned reputation for being a “look at me” umpire. You know, one of the guys in blue that thinks the fans in the stands came to the game that night in hopes of being filled with wonder and astonishment at their ability to interpret and execute the rules of Major League Baseball. Like little boys in their back yard have their dads throw fastball after fastball on the outisde corner so they can practice their punch out in their youth medium light blue polos and dark gray slacks.

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One would assume that, on the biggest stage possible, with one of the most storied matchups in recent memory, this reputation will be on full display.

All we can do is hope that it’ll suck just a little less for the Indians than it does for the Cubs. Here’s a few reasons why that could happen.


Josh Tomlin & Jake Arrieta career numbers with West

While neither pitcher has an enormous sample size, here’s their career numbers when Joe West is behind the dish:

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Not great to the naked eye. While Tomlin has surrendered two less hits than Arrieta and has a better WHIP, he’s given up a whopping 5 home runs in just over 13 innings on the mound.

Because I’m incredibly nervous for tonight and also I hate myself, I went a little deeper and looked at the game logs from each pitcher’s two starts. Tomlin’s start in September 2010 saw him surrender 3 runs in 6 IP. The good news is that he didn’t give up his first run in that game until Mike Napoli, of all people, took him yard in the bottom of the 5th inning. His other start with West behind the plate was in 2011. 4 earned in 6.2 innings. But again, he didn’t give up a run in that one until the bottom of the 6th.

Shorter version for Arrieta:

2010 – 1 ER in 6.1 IP,  run scored on a single in the 2nd inning

2015 – 3 R 2 ER in 6.2 IP, first run scored on a ground out in the 2nd inning.

What does this mean? Probably nothing. But as we’ve seen in these playoffs, if we get a lead early, our bullpen arms can come in and turn a 9 inning game into a 4 or 5 inning game. Tomlin has been able to last that long without giving up a run with Joe West as his umpire in the past. Jake Arrieta hasn’t.

Recent history between Joe Maddon and West

Back on September 12th, Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks lost a no-hit bid when he gave up a solo dinger to Cardinals outfielderJeremy Hazelbaker to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning. When the Cubs infielders huddled up to console him/buy time for Aroldis Chapman to get loose in the pen, Joe West promptly broke it up. Maddon did not like that.

Turns out Cubs legend Kerry Wood did not like that either.

Now all this isn’t to say Tito hasn’t had a spat or two with West himself. In fact, just over a month before the video above, Joe gave Terry the heave-ho after voicing his displeasure about a check swing call.

Let’s just hope that Maddon tiff is fresh in Joe’s mind tonight and that he forgets everything negative that Tito has ever said about him and remembers how great of a story it would be if the Indians won and that he could be the guy that denied the mighty Cubs their first World Series title since 1908.

Cubs arguing balls & strikes vs cool temparment of Tomlin

Look, if Tomlin didn’t bat an eye at John Hirschbeck’s “strikezone” during his Game 3 start last Friday, there’s absolutely nothing West can do to get under his skin. The entire Indians team is pretty good about keeping their wits about them when calls don’t go their way.

The Cubs hitters aren’t nearly as bad as the Blue Jays, who incredibly have never had three strikes thrown to them in the same at bat in any of their careers, or the Red Sox of the previous two rounds. But Lester and Lackey are both pretty bad on the mound, so maybe that’s worn on the boys in blue a bit, and another frustrating game at the dish for the Cubbies might turn some of those stares into words.

That one…might be grasping at straws.

West calls less strikes than almost every other umpire

This hurts Josh Tomlin, but it hurts Jake Arrieta more.

Tomlin is known for his control, as evidenced by his league-leading 1.03 walks per 9 innings and 2.8 BB%. He gets squeezed and maybe walks 2 or 3 guys.

Arrieta had the 7th worst BB% among qualified pitchers at 9.6%, and the 10th worst BB/9 at 3.47. You’re talking about maybe walking 4 or 5 guys now if he struggles with the strike zone, opening things up for the Tribe to get those couple runs they need for the pen to take it home.

Not that he needs it, but this also favors Andrew Miller over Aroldis Chapman

For the same reasons above, just not as extreme. Miller’s 3.3 BB% was second best among relievers, while Chapman’s 8.1% is slightly below average, but a vast improvement over his career mark of 11.6%.

Cowboy Joe is a musician, musicians live rock-and-roll lifestyles, would enjoy a certain kind of party

Bottom of the 8th, Chapman on the mound, tie game, Mike Napoli walks to the dish, whispers into Joe West’s ear, works the count to 3-0, Chapman grooves a fastball, World Series.

Extend the invite, Mike.

BONUS – Country music star (blech) Hunter Hayes is singing the national anthem tonight. Joe West makes country music. I’ll polish all the apples in the land if it gets us a ring.

NOT SO BONUS – In a September 2012 review, music blog Long After Dark said, “Blue Cowboy (West’s first album) easily ranks with Ron Artest and Carl Lewis as one of the worst albums that a sports figure has cut … ever. I can say that I managed to make it through the record, although it was not easy.”

 

That last part may or may not have been copied and pasted directly from Wikipedia but I just wrote 1100 words about Joe West. We need to win this damn thing already.

 

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Tribe takes Game 3 despite John Hirschbeck’s best efforts, other WS thoughts

Well that was harder than it should have been.

Despite home plate umpire John Hirschbeck’s best efforts, the Indians won Game 3 of the World Series last night 1-0 to take a 2-1 series lead. The last Tribe team to go up 2-1 in the World Series?  The fellas of 1948. Maybe you’ve heard of them.

Per @IndiansUmp, Hirschbeck blew 7 ball/strike calls last night. All seven went against the Indians. Here’s a few highlights:

I’m not entirely sure what I would have done if we didn’t win that game, but it wouldn’t have been good. Thank god it was Tomlin out there, Trevor Bauer might have spontaneously combusted right in front of our eyes if he got consistently hosed like that. Our boys beat the Cubs and John Hirschbeck last night.

Some other thoughts:

  • Example number 12,983 in these playoffs of Tito being smarter than me? Pulling Tomlin at 58 pitches before the Cubs got a third crack at him. I didn’t agree with it at the time, at all. He was rolling. But of course, not only did it obviously work out for the game last night, he’ll have plenty in the tank for his potential game 6 start and Chicago didn’t have the chance to get any sort of momentum against him going forward.
  • Speaking of Tomlin, great piece from Anthony Castrovince on his start and his parents being there for it here. Must read if you enjoy happiness and trying to hide the fact that you’re crying from everyone around you.
  • I don’t want to hear shit from ANYONE when Bryan Shaw gives up 4 runs in the 7th inning on a Tuesday in June next year. He defeated the mighty Kyle Schwarber.
  • Jason Kipnis would be on the DL if this was the regular season. You can see him laboring whenever he has to run the bases.
  • I’m honest to god stunned when a hitter puts the ball in play against Miller or Allen.
  • Tito confirmed Trevor Bauer will throw tomorrow in Game 5. I thought a combination of Salazar and Merritt might work out nicely given how different they are as pitchers, but hopefully Bauer will reward Tito’s confidence in him. See first bullet point.
  • Two more wins and we win the World Series. Corey Kluber has two starts left.

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The 25th of October

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Cleveland will be the center of attention tonight for sports fans all across the country. It’s an obvious statement, we’ve been hearing about it for weeks now. That phrase, “center of attention,” is usually a subjective distinction. This time it isn’t. This time it’s a fact.

The Indians are one of two Major League Baseball teams still standing and the Cavaliers are one of two teams getting the new NBA season started, and they’re doing so 30 minutes and a couple hundred yards away from each other. So just by the numbers, out of all the people out there that have an interest in sports, a vast majority of them will be watching what happens in the Gateway District tonight.

But it’s a lot more than that.

The Cavaliers were step 1. They famously ended our city’s 52 year championship drought in June, and did so in historic fashion. Just in case any of the rest of the country had forgotten that Cleveland is an NBA Champion or that the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, there’s going to be a ceremony with a shitload of television cameras everywhere tonight to remind them.

The Indians though, they weren’t supposed to be here. A talented team, sure. But to do what they’ve done, the way they’ve done it, and the players they’ve done it without? If we win the World Series that would be like the Cavs winning it all in 2015 without Kyrie and Kevin. And LeBron. And Joe Harris putting up 20 with a buzzer beater to win the Eastern Conference Finals.

And that makes tonight even sweeter. The Cavs run was absolutely incredible and tonight will be absolutely incredible at the Q. The folks next door will be experiencing something incredible, too. But for reasons a little different.

There’s nothing more satisfying than doing something other people don’t think you can do. The Indians did it all season long, they did it by sweeping the Red Sox in the ALDS, they did it by beating the Blue Jays in the ALCS and they’ve done it by advancing to their first World Series since 1997. They’ve done it without some of their best players, and they’ve done it against some of the best teams. They’ve done it. And now they only have to do it four more times.

Tito said it best. “I just think if you look too far back, or you look too far forward, you miss what’s right in front of you.”

So whether you’re at the game or at a bar or on your couch tonight…try not to be on your phone that much. Give too many high fives. Cheers your Bud Lights with strangers. Scoot over to make more than enough room for your fellow feather heads at The Corner or in the bleachers. Just take some time to look around you and take everything in.

Conventional baseball knowledge tells you the Cubs will win this World Series. Conventional baseball knowledge also told you the Blue Jays would win the Championship series, and that the Red Sox would win the Division Series. Conventional baseball knowledge can go to hell.

We’re playing with house money. A lot of it. And our seat is on fire.

 

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