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Blown Call Costs Astros Big

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Umpire’s blown call has a huge impact on the Astros’ chance of winning, and changed everything.

MLB: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

By now, you should have heard about the farcical handling of a blown foul ball call in the third inning of today’s Astros versus Indians tilt.

In these days of allowable replay, events that are so obviously botched by the umpire that are so costly to one team are rare. But as today shows, anything can happen in baseball, and fate, well, she is a fickle B.

Truly, the two runs* that the umpiring crew gifted to the Indians shouldn’t matter, because the Astros lost by three, right? It’s not that simple.

*Or was it three? Or one? The strangest part of the whole mess was Umpire Jim Joyce calling the play dead after one runner crossed the plate, then somehow allowing the Indians to score two runs, and yet the third runner who was on his way to third at the time didn’t get a chance to score because the umpire called time despite that he had already determined that it wasn’t a dead play because it was a wild pitch and not a foul ball because the catcher didn’t go after the pitch, so the ball was live, but he called time anyway, halting the play, even though by the rules he shouldn’t and the Indians should have scored three while Jason was arguing, or one because only one crossed the plate before time was called, or anything except for two, which was the number of runs the Indians actually got. Are you with me here?

For some reason, Fangraphs’ game graph of the game is screwed up (because what about the game WASN’T screwed up?) and it appears to be because Astros starter David Paulino wasn’t in their tracking database or something.

However, we can infer how much Joycegate II affected the Astros’ chances of winning.


Source: FanGraphs

The last recorded event before the debacle was Jose Altuve reaching third on a fielder’s choice, when the score was 1-0 in favor of the Astros.

At this point, they had a 42% chance to lose the game.

The next data point is Yulieski Gurriel’s home run in the 4th inning, after the Indians scored two earned runs and two fake runs.

After Gurriel’s homer, the Astros’ chance of losing the game was 76%.

Given that Gurriel’s homer actually improved the Astros’ chances of winning by an undetermined amount, it leaves us to infer what the actual penalty was.

Assuming that when the score was legitimately 2 to 1 in the 3rd inning, the game would swing in the Indians’ favor, probably by the same amount as the Astros’ favor prior to the inning beginning, when the score was 0 to 1.

So at 2-1, let’s give the Astros a 58% chance of losing.

Gurriel’s home run gives the Astros a boost, as well, so when the score was 4-1, the Astros odds had to be worse than the 76% they were after. Let’s call it 80%, since the game was still pretty early. A 3-run deficit is still pretty large though, even in the 4th inning.

So assuming that the Astros odds of losing went from 58% to 80% based on the inattentiveness of Jim Joyce and the Blue Clown Show, the Astros’ odds of winning the game dropped by anywhere between 20% to 25% through absolutely no fault of their own.

Did the umpires cost the Astros the game?

Maybe. It’s impossible to say for sure. An imaginary game during which the mistake was not made is a universe of parallel space time. Every pitch, every batted ball, every fart by a spectator, could change the outcome at any moment. Lonnie Chisenhall might have hit a grand slam. Or he might have lined out.

All we know for sure is that the Astros still had a great chance to win the game before the blown call. After the mistake, they did not.