Saturday’s MLB action featured a doubleheader between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, the two top teams in the National League East. Game 1 of that doubleheader did not go well for one man on the field, home plate umpire Jeff Nelson.
Nelson struggled with his strike zone all day. In the first inning, New York starter David Peterson walked Matt Olson after falling behind 2-0 — with two pitches that were in the strike zone.
— Richie Barriga (@trojanrich09) August 6, 2022
But if there was one positive to take from Nelson’s struggles it’s that he made both teams equally annoyed. In the seventh inning, Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson struck out looking on a pitch from Seth Lugo that was well outside of the strike zone.
Jeff Nelson's umpire scorecard is going to look absolutely abhorrent. pic.twitter.com/V2b3CLJx2K
— Baseball GIFs (@gifs_baseball) August 6, 2022
In fact, the best thing you can say about Nelson’s performance on Saturday was that he was consistently inconsistent.
As has so often been the case with MLB umpires this season, Nelson’s struggles to make correct calls did not go unnoticed by baseball fans.
Jeff Nelson’s strike zone today pic.twitter.com/Ph1Jnf2xxJ
— Ray Butler (@RayButler365) August 6, 2022
Jeff Nelson has no business working in the big leagues.
— Max Able (@ableM_16) August 6, 2022
Jeff Nelson has absolutely no idea where his strike zone is this afternoon. Embarrassing for #MLB.
— Andrew Phillips (@APhil125) August 6, 2022
like 75% of my timeline today has been both Braves and Mets fans posting screenshots of Jeff Nelson’s missed calls
— Robert Orr (@NotTheBobbyOrr) August 6, 2022
Have we seen worse calls this year? Yeah. But the inconsistency here is perhaps more frustrating than the actual missed calls.
If an umpire establishes a wide strike zone and consistently calls pitches off both corners as strikes, that’s something that both hitters and pitchers can adjust to. So, even if the calls are missed, they know what the situation is going in. But if a pitch on the outside corner is called a ball, then a later pitch even further outside is called as a strike, that’s where the players and managers get especially frustrated.
Performances like this aren’t going to go unnoticed, especially in a game between two of the better teams in the league. As they happen, the calls for automated strike zones will only get louder.