KC Royals: Johnny Cueto Ruled WS Game 2 Despite Tight Strike Zone


KC Royals pitcher Johnny Cueto held the New York Mets to two hits and one run in his complete game victory in Game 2 of the 2015 World Series. Most of the baseball world already knew that. What you likely did not know was that Cueto dominated the Mets despite a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Mark Carlson.

Cueto pitched the Kansas City Royals to a momentum-shifting 7-1 victory October 28, in which he allowed only five base runners (due to three walks). Yet, Pitch F/X data shows that Johnny Cueto not only defeated the New York Mets, he also overcame unfavorable ball and strike calls.

Take a look at his chart on Brooks Baseball:

As the chart key explains, bright green dots are called balls and bright red dots are called strikes. Also, the box is only a guide since Pitch F/X doesn’t adjust for the changing strike zone which is based on a player’s knee height and chest. However, the edges of the box are based on the fixed width of home plate.

With these limitations in mind, take a look at Cueto’s chart.

Johnny Cueto appears to have lost six called strikes in Game 2, and did not get calls on two pitches on the top edge of the box.

For comparison, let’s look at Jacob deGrom‘s Pitch F/X data from the same game:

DeGrom also had two pitches called balls despite being well within the strike zone box, but made up for it with three called strikes well below the box.

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While Mark Carlson called a fairly tight strike zone for both pitchers in Game 2, Cueto seems to have gotten the worst of it.

However, the KC Royals grouped six singles and a walk in the fifth inning to score four runs on deGrom to chase him from the game. Until that fifth inning, deGrom had held the Kansas City Royals scoreless on three walks and a single.

New York Mets reliever Jon Niese also seemed to get a more favorable strike zone than Johnny Cueto, despite allowing three runs in the eighth inning by allowing a single and two doubles before getting relieved by Addison Reed. You can see Jon Niese’s Pitch F/X data from Brooks baseball below:

Notice that Jon Niese got six low strikes that neither Johnny Cueto or Jacob deGrom seemed to get from Mark Carlson.

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While I am not exactly certain what all of this means in the grand scheme of things, I do find it interesting that a tight strike zone did not doom Johnny Cueto to failure in Game 2. Apparently, his “stuff” and command were good enough to earn a convincing victory for the KC Royals in Game 2 despite losing some strike calls.