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Umpiring Newsbeat

Thursday, April 03, 2014

NYT: Brayden King: What Umpires Get Wrong

THIS season Major League Baseball is allowing its officiating crews to use instant replay to review certain critical calls, including home runs, force plays and foul balls. But the calling of the strike zone — determining whether a pitch that is not swung at is a ball or a strike — will still be left completely to the discretion of the officials. This might seem an odd exception, since calling the strike zone may be the type of officiating decision most subject to human foible.

In research soon to be published in the journal Management Science, we studied umpires’ strike-zone calls using pitch-location data compiled by the high-speed cameras introduced by Major League Baseball several years ago in an effort to measure, monitor and reward umpires’ accuracy. After analyzing more than 700,000 pitches thrown during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, we found that umpires frequently made errors behind the plate — about 14 percent of non-swinging pitches were called erroneously.

Some of those errors occurred in fairly predictable ways. We found, for example, that umpires tended to favor the home team by expanding the strike zone, calling a strike when the pitch was actually a ball 13.3 percent of the time for home team pitchers versus 12.7 percent of the time for visitors….

Baseball insiders have long suspected what our research confirms: that umpires tend to make errors in ways that favor players who have established themselves at the top of the game’s status hierarchy. But our findings are also suggestive of the way that people in any sort of evaluative role — not just umpires — are unconsciously biased by simple “status characteristics.” Even constant monitoring and incentives can fail to train such biases out of us.

Technologically, Major League Baseball is in a position, thanks to its high-speed camera system, to enforce a completely accurate, uniform strike zone. The question is whether we, as fans, want our games to be fair and just, or whether we are compelled to watch the game because it mimics the real world, warts and all.

Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: April 03, 2014 at 02:59 PM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: general, umpiring

Thursday, January 16, 2014

MLB unanimously approves expansion of instant replay

Managers will start each game with one challenge. If correct on the first challenge, they would receive a second. Additionally, umpire crew chiefs can invoke replay starting in the seventh inning if challenges run out.

The replay command center will be at MLB headquarters in New York and won’t be handled by individual stadiums. The on-site umpires will not have video access to replays and will not leave the playing field to seek replay footage.

I personally do not object to instant replay. But it’s my understanding that some people feel differently about it.

Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: January 16, 2014 at 10:30 PM | 48 comment(s)
  Beats: replay, umpiring

Friday, November 08, 2013

Rise of the Machines?

Very good, thorough piece on the pros and cons of automated ball/strike calls.

The goal, of course, is no error, or as close to that ideal as we can possibly come. And so the best solution might be a hybrid approach that combines tradition with technology. Not robot umps, but regular umps with input from robot brains.

Umpires are already more closely acquainted with pitch-tracking technology than is often assumed. “We currently use technology for both evaluation purposes and training purposes,” says MLB spokesman Mike Teevan. “All umpires receive a computerized breakdown of their plate performances, including calls they got right and calls they missed.”

 

Perry Posted: November 08, 2013 at 08:35 PM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: umpiring

 

 

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