Buster Olney took umpire, Angel Hernandez, to task in Olney's ESPN column (subscription) today. The incident occurred in the game between the Washington Nationals and Astros. Olney quotes from an Adam Kilgore story that Bryce Harper was called out on strikes against Armando Galarraga and was not happy about it. Harper then was, according to Olney, schooled by Hernandez who called questionable strikes against him in his next at bat. According to Kilgore's story, Adam LaRoche asked Hernandez about the calls and if he had it in for Harper and Hernandez denied the claim.
What do the PitchF/X charts show? Well, first they show that Hernandez is a lousy umpire. Look at this chart for what he called for Galarraga (from Brooks Baseball):
Next we will look at Harper's first strikeout in his third at bat against Galarraga:
It certainly looks like Harper had a beef on that one strike. It was one of two strikes Hernandez called in that zone all day.
Next, we will look at the strikeout against Xavier Cedeno:
While Harper again had a beef, those pitchers were close enough to the zone to not seem like a Hernandez retribution as stated by Olney. They could have been since they were both balls and not calls he had made most of the game. But still, there is enough doubt to cloud the issue.
The funny part about all this is that after LaRoche talked to Hernandez, it appeared that Hernandez became a little cool to the trigger the next time Harper came up. Look at that at bat:
Here there was a clear strike called a ball. Coincidence? Perhaps. Umpires are human. Emotions have to get involved some times. But the question here is not if Hernandez did such a thing to Harper. The question is, why is he so bad at calling balls and strikes?