Thursday, April 21, 2016
In all our field work, three concepts were paramount: 1) Get into proper viewing position so you’re not “looking up the ass end of a play,” and then come to a stop before the play happens. You can’t see what’s going on when your angle is changing and your head is bouncing. 2) Take your time before making any ruling. Like Hickox said: Take a slow breath and get it straight in your head before you commit to a self-assured STRIKE ONE or SAFE or HE’S OUT. As the instructors reminded us: “It ain’t #### until you call it.” 3) Never, ever, ever convey doubt. Even if you’re wracked with doubt. Own the call, sell the call, and stand by the call.
There has to be an ultimate arbiter so the game can move along. That’s you. Until you’ve ruled, everything remains in dispute, and the proceedings come to a halt. It’s almost more important to issue a final ruling than it is for that ruling to comport with reality. (Unless you get to the big leagues and there’s video review, in which case your preliminary judgments will get overturned by an all-seeing eye. It sounds belittling.)
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
This would be an important amendment to Mike Fast’s “catcher target theory” of catcher framing. Fast suggested that umpires use the catcher’s glove location as a reference point, calling strikes more often when the catcher does not have to move his glove very far and calling balls when he does. No doubt there is truth to this, but by itself this theory is not consistent with the way the zone shifts by count. In my view, the amount of movement of the catcher’s glove is only part of the story—the pre-pitch location of the glove also matters. If true, then influencing umpires’ perception of how far inside the zone the catcher initially set his target may be an important element of catcher framing skill.
I can’t prove that umpires use catchers’ gloves as a signpost in this way, to help them evaluate the proximity of a pitch to the strike zone (though I invite other researchers to explore the issue). But if it were your job to judge whether a ball moving 95 mph had passed through an invisible box in the air—within one second, in front of 40,000 people—wouldn’t you take advantage of the only visible, relatively fixed marker in sight?
Regardless of how the shifting zone is achieved, umpires must face plenty of pressure to do it, without anyone even needing to explicitly acknowledge it. A young umpire who called a consistent neutral zone would find himself frequently criticized by hitters, and perhaps the league, for calling too many strikes in pitchers’ counts. The opposite would happen in hitters’ counts. Importantly, both sets of criticisms would be entirely correct, and backed by video evidence. The “changing size of the zone” is an abstraction, while calling pitches outside the zone as strikes is very concrete, with real consequences. To survive, any umpire would have to adopt the shifting zone.
Posted: March 01, 2016 at 11:06 AM | 0 comment(s)
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