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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Four Strikes And You’re Out

Ahead in the count with one ball and two strikes, Thornton froze Peralta with a slider on the outside half of the plate, a couple inches below the belt. For a pitch like that, the umpire, Bruce Dreckman, would normally call a strike — 80 percent of the time, the data shows. But in two-strike counts like Peralta’s, he calls a strike less than half the time.

This article goes on to give a quantification of the count dependent strike zone.

TL;DR version: On two strike counts, boarder line pitches are called balls at a rate of twenty percentage points lower than normal. On three ball counts they’re called strikes at a rate 10 percentage points higher. He did not look at the 3-0 in particular which by my observation results in enormous strike zones.

Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: April 03, 2014 at 08:21 PM | 92 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nate silver

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   1. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 03, 2014 at 10:54 PM (#4678954)
That's based on the same study that the NYT article I posted earlier today was about. It's all true, but baseball only cares about the tiny fraction of bad calls on the bases or on the foul lines. It doesn't give a #### about the infinitely greater number of missed balls and strikes.
   2. Bhaakon Posted: April 03, 2014 at 11:27 PM (#4678967)
They clearly do give a ****, since they started using Ques Tec to evaluate umpires over a decade ago. They're just smart enough to realize that delaying ball/strikes calls by even as a little as a second or two would be a major annoyance. Look how much people ##### about Tim McClelland's tardy strike calls. They also know calling balls and strikes with perfect accuracy would result in more K's and BB's--as evidenced by this very article--another outcome that the majority of fans would find aesthetically displeasing.
   3. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: April 03, 2014 at 11:38 PM (#4678972)
They also know calling balls and strikes with perfect accuracy would result in more K's and BB's--as evidenced by this very article--another outcome that the majority of fans would find aesthetically displeasing.

Yup. My first thoughts on seeing this borderline pitch issue is that MLB is happy to live with it.
   4. Hank G. Posted: April 03, 2014 at 11:49 PM (#4678976)
They also know calling balls and strikes with perfect accuracy would result in more K's and BB's--as evidenced by this very article--another outcome that the majority of fans would find aesthetically displeasing.


Maybe. Hitters know that umpires call borderline strikes balls more often on a two-strike count, so it makes sense to take a pitch they can’t drive. I would think that a consistent strike zone would be a benefit to the better pitchers and hitters.

Of course, I could be completely full of it, but I don’t think anyone will know for sure until there is automatic ball/strike calling. If the results are esthetically displeasing, the strike zone could be tweaked. It’s not like the official strike zone is being called consistently now.
   5. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:14 AM (#4678982)
It’s not like the official strike zone is being called consistently now.


It's not like the official strike zone has been called consistently in any of our lifetimes. It's not like today's umps have broken from past tradition - the strike zone has always been defined by by the home plate ump.

Folks can dream about the robo umps calling balls and strikes, but be aware that will be a fundamentally different way than the game has ever been played (and, of course, a fundamentally different way than it will still be played at most levels of the sport other than MLB, the levels that tomorrow's big leaguers will come up playing in).

And that's the way I like it. As I say every time Andy screeches on this subject, adapting to how the home plate ump is calling the game has always been a part of baseball. And as long as he's consistent from one team to the other, and from the beginning of the game to the end, then the players have been OK with it.
   6. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:32 AM (#4678997)
On two strike counts, boarder line pitches are called balls at a rate of twenty percentage points lower than normal.


Bah, I made a typo in the intro. That should be higher than normal, but you guys know that.
   7. The Ghost's Tryin' to Reason with Hurricane Season Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:37 AM (#4678999)
I think that umps have had to change their game as technology has improved. On a steal of second, the saying used to be "ball beats runner, runner out" even if the tag wasn't applied properly and in time. With replays, they looked foolish if they called those guys out, so they had to improve. With replay they REALLY have to be on it.

But with balls and strikes, they aren't under quite as much pressure. Sure, the replay may show a missed call, but those are "allowed" as judgment calls.

I would not be surprised if those calls change in the next few years.
   8. smileyy Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:52 AM (#4679004)
And as long as he's consistent from one team to the other, and from the beginning of the game to the end, then the players have been OK with it.


Maybe the players should be more upset. A custom strike zone favors one pitcher over another.
   9. bjhanke Posted: April 04, 2014 at 04:32 AM (#4679021)
I wonder if replay will put a dent into the number of Phantom Double Play Pivots. And if that does happen, will 2Bs get hurt more often by sliding players, which is the main (not the only) reason that 2Bs get out of the baseline in the first place. - Brock Hanke
   10. Cooper Nielson Posted: April 04, 2014 at 05:16 AM (#4679022)
I know there have been some complaints about FiveThirtyEight since its recent launch, but I have to say, this was a very interesting, well-presented "technical" article.
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 06:57 AM (#4679035)
I wonder if replay will put a dent into the number of Phantom Double Play Pivots. And if that does happen, will 2Bs get hurt more often by sliding players, which is the main (not the only) reason that 2Bs get out of the baseline in the first place. - Brock Hanke


The neighborhood play supposedly isn't reviewable. Of course, we just had a de facto review of the neighborhood play in a Cubs-Pirates game, where the nominal challenge (upheld) was that the throw pulled the 2B off of the bag, so who knows how it's actually going to be applied?
   12. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 06:59 AM (#4679036)
(I hated the replays, BTW. Totally killed the momentum of the game. The poor pitcher had to throw like 30 warmup tosses to stay loose while the umps were screwing around.)
   13. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 07:20 AM (#4679038)
I wonder if replay will put a dent into the number of Phantom Double Play Pivots. And if that does happen, will 2Bs get hurt more often by sliding players, which is the main (not the only) reason that 2Bs get out of the baseline in the first place. - Brock Hanke


I don't want to see players get hurt more than anyone else but this argument is entirely beside the point. The point is that to force a runner out you must touch the base while holding the ball. There is no ambiguity here.

Again, I don't like seeing infielders get hurt, but there's no reason why they should have to. An infielder can take a throw, provided the throw is accurate, while standing off to the side of the base, and there is no reason why a runner should be allowed to go out of his way to slide into the fielder rather than into the base. Eject and suspend his ass if he does.

This makes it more difficult to turn double plays (the throw to second will need to be more accurate, and the receiving fielder will need an extra split second to take it and step toward first for the throw), and you'll get fewer double plays; so what?

(I hated the replays, BTW. Totally killed the momentum of the game. The poor pitcher had to throw like 30 warmup tosses to stay loose while the umps were screwing around.)


Would you rather have lost the game on a bad call? Serious question. I myself go back and forth on this. I like replay in concept but hate the NFL-esque way MLB is implementing it.
   14. bjhanke Posted: April 04, 2014 at 07:51 AM (#4679046)
PASTE - I know that the rule is very clear, but I also know that umpires have always used their discretion about the 2B having to actually touch the bag at the tie he catches the ball, or afterwards. Repay takes this discretion away from the umpires, if it is used to deal with this issue. More injuries to 2B would certainly be an unintended consequence, but that isn't going to make the injuries any less severe. What I'm wondering is whether that's going to happen. Another issue is that some 2B are worse about the Phantom than others, probably because they are worried about getting hurt. The example is my mind is the old Cardinal 2B Julian Javier, who was nationally famous for his Phantom pivots. The umpires let him get away with really egregious stuff for years. Part of the reason might have been that this was Javier's personality. He couldn't hit, because every pitcher in the league knew that he would bail out on any right-handed curve ball. He was just really scared of pitches or runners aiming at him, even if he knew that they didn't intend to actually hurt him. It's just a lot of possible unintended consequences. However, apparently, the replay rule, as of now, doesn't allow replays of double play pivots, so I guess it will be a while before we find out. - Brock
   15. Ron J2 Posted: April 04, 2014 at 07:55 AM (#4679048)
This incidentally goes back to something I've been wondering about WRT the pitch framing stuff. It's always seemed plausible to me that the effects are overstated because the studies use theoretical value of a strike stolen. It just may be that you can't steal strike 3 (or at least not as consistently)

And yes, I'm well aware that there are other benefits besides Ks and BBs to getting ahead in the count.
   16. frannyzoo Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:00 AM (#4679050)
To quote from Election, "we're not electing the fuc*ing pope here." Ultimately, sports is theater (or "theatre" if you're so inclined). In terms of catharsis, hamartia, pathos and all that Greek stuff, bad calls give us "more" from the game. Interrupting narrative to determine whether we are flawed is a complete waste of time. We're flawed. We know that. Now get on with the play people, so everyone can die in *Act V. Just as important, the mistakes give us something to complain about, which is the true catharsis of sport. Winning is always fleeting, but we all know losing last forever. Mistakes and losing are what's important here, and, I'd argue, the real reason we're all addicted to it. And now we're going to ruin it by "correcting" things. Ugh.

*Although it must be said I simply LOVE extra innings, in part because it's almost like the actors break character and we all get to realize it's really just a bunch of boys playing in a park.
   17. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:08 AM (#4679051)
They clearly do give a ****, since they started using Ques Tec to evaluate umpires over a decade ago. They're just smart enough to realize that delaying ball/strikes calls by even as a little as a second or two would be a major annoyance.

Except that there's no indication that the delay would be even noticeable. And again, IF your default position is that every call in a game has to be "correct", then it's rather stunningly inconsistent to resist the roboump for the vast majority of incorrect calls while delaying the game for minutes for a tiny handful of other such decisions.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Folks can dream about the robo umps calling balls and strikes, but be aware that will be a fundamentally different way than the game has ever been played (and, of course, a fundamentally different way than it will still be played at most levels of the sport other than MLB, the levels that tomorrow's big leaguers will come up playing in).

And that's the way I like it. As I say every time Andy screeches on this subject, adapting to how the home plate ump is calling the game has always been a part of baseball. And as long as he's consistent from one team to the other, and from the beginning of the game to the end, then the players have been OK with it.


Look, I respect and understand your position on this, but all I'm asking for is a bit of consistency. If "bad calls have always been a part of the game" is your bottom line, then why introduce any sort of replay at all? I'd be fine with eliminating replay AND keeping roboumps out of the game. It's only the ridiculous idea that we have to correct a tiny handful of "bad" calls while purposely ignoring the vast majority of them that strikes me as both inconsistent and willfully stupid. The way it is now, we're delaying the games while only dealing with the tip of the iceberg.
   18. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:56 AM (#4679071)
15. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 08:44 AM (#4679065)

I think the argument is that to the extent it changes the game, it will be for the better, that less focus on umpires and more focus on players would be a good thing.

I certainly could be wrong, but I really don't think it's zero-sum. Less attention to the umps does not mean more attention to the players. Taking away that human interest and argumentative part of baseball in regards to the umpires lessens interest the game, not increases it.
   19. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4679081)
Except that there's no indication that the delay would be even noticeable.


If there's a delay, it'll be noticeable.
   20. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:29 AM (#4679084)
Look, I respect and understand your position on this, but all I'm asking for is a bit of consistency. If "bad calls have always been a part of the game" is your bottom line, then why introduce any sort of replay at all? I'd be fine with eliminating replay AND keeping roboumps out of the game.


I never wanted any kind of replay, so I'm very consistent.

I just think it's important to recognize that what you want is a different game. The personalized zone you bemoan so much is the sport as you, and everyone else, knows it.

Maybe the players should be more upset. A custom strike zone favors one pitcher over another.


Mostly, it favors the attentive one (and the attentive hitter). I'm OK with that.

If the neighborhood play becomes backdoor reviewable, it will be solving an issue that no one within the game thought was a problem. Teams were perfectly fine with middle infielders not being required to stand on the bag during double play turns, as allowing some reasonable neighborhood was safer than forcing them to stand on a fixed object while the runner hurtled himself as their feet. That's why it wasn't supposed to be reviewable.

   21. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 04, 2014 at 09:42 AM (#4679087)
I hated the replays, BTW. Totally killed the momentum of the game. The poor pitcher had to throw like 30 warmup tosses to stay loose while the umps were screwing around.)

Gee, now there's a surprise. (sm)

A lot of these replays are taking the predicted 3 and 4 minutes. And I'm still predicting at least one replay-induced significant injury. And a playoff game that turns on a bad call where the affected manager had already used his challenge is way worse than no replay at all.

Another issue has cropped up that was eminently forseeable. When does a first baseman "catch" a ball? On the field, the ump typically listens for the sound of ball hitting palm/glove while he watches the foot hit. How do you replicate that on replay when the ball gets hidden once it passes into the glove? If they start saying the 1B catches the ball when it first passes into the glove, that's effectively a change in the rules and you aren't then really using "replay."
   22. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:22 AM (#4679119)
Except that there's no indication that the delay would be even noticeable.

If there's a delay, it'll be noticeable.


How many umpires already "delay" their calls to the point where they don't call a strike until a noticeable amount of time has passed? More than a few. On obvious calls the buzzer wouldn't be needed, and on the borderline pitches the delay would only be a split second. Meanwhile the existing replay delays are running several minutes.

-------------------------------------------------------

Look, I respect and understand your position on this, but all I'm asking for is a bit of consistency. If "bad calls have always been a part of the game" is your bottom line, then why introduce any sort of replay at all? I'd be fine with eliminating replay AND keeping roboumps out of the game.

I never wanted any kind of replay, so I'm very consistent.


And so am I. I just want baseball to either leave it the way it was before replay, with ALL bad calls being "part of the game"---which is your position---or be consistent in the other direction and correct the vast majority of bad calls, which the current replay system ignores.

I just think it's important to recognize that what you want is a different game. The personalized zone you bemoan so much is the sport as you, and everyone else, knows it.

But so were calls like Don Denkinger's, which affected the outcome of far fewer games than missed balls and strikes. To address the former missed calls while ignoring the latter category makes sense only if the primary fear is not offending the umpires' tender egos.

As for the "skill" of reading the umpires' personalized strike zone, that's just BS. What the study cited by the article shows is that reputations play a big part in those establishing those personalized strike zones, and what the hell is a rookie supposed to do about that? Why should a Greg Maddux get a different strike zone than a pitcher just up from the minors?



   23. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4679141)
There's literally nothing to be gained from umpires' "personalized" strike zones. A "personalized" strike zone isn't a strike zone at all. The strike zone is defined in the baseball rule book and a pitch is definitively either a strike or a ball. Human intervention in recording which one it is was a necessity born of technological shortcomings that no longer exist.

Putting up with abysmal ball/strike calls is akin to having to drive a 1928 Model T.

   24. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:36 AM (#4679142)
On obvious calls the buzzer wouldn't be needed


So now you're making hundreds of arbitrary determinations per game as to whether or not individual ball-and-strike calls are "obvious"? That sounds like a recipe for mass confusion.
   25. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4679146)
But so were calls like Don Denkinger's, which affected the outcome of far fewer games than missed balls and strikes. To address the former missed calls while ignoring the latter category makes sense only if the primary fear is not offending the umpires' tender egos.


Nah, that's not even close to being true. Reviewing a handful of calls, and changing even fewer, on the bases is bothersome, but it's not the same as changing the way the game is called on every pitch (and, of course, changing the way the game is played from all preceding levels until you get to the highest one).

   26. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:45 AM (#4679161)
But so were calls like Don Denkinger's, which affected the outcome of far fewer games than missed balls and strikes. To address the former missed calls while ignoring the latter category makes sense only if the primary fear is not offending the umpires' tender egos.

Nah, that's not even close to being true. Reviewing a handful of calls, and changing even fewer, on the bases is bothersome, but it's not the same as changing the way the game is called on every pitch (and, of course, changing the way the game is played from all preceding levels until you get to the highest one).


But "the way the game is called on every pitch" has changed many times over the years with various redefinitions of the strike zone, without affecting the overall quality of the game experience. Are you seriously saying that the game is somehow enhanced by having different strike zones for different umpires and different players? How would giving a star player the same strike zone as a rookie negatively impact the quality of the game?
   27. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4679174)
Are you seriously saying that the game is somehow enhanced by having different strike zones for different umpires and different players? How would giving a star player the same strike zone as a rookie negatively impact the quality of the game?


I think uniformity, in general, is something to avoid.

I think umpires that have consistent and reasonable strike zones, but ones that differ from the rulebook zone, make for a better product (that's a guess, because that's all we've known). I think adapting to the way the game is being called by the man behind the plate on a given day is an aspect of the game that shouldn't be discarded, as it rewards the alert and thinking ballplayer. I think that a uniform strike zone is more likely than not to lead to more TTO baseball, which is something I most definitely don't like. And I think the rules governing baseball at the highest levels should be as close as possible to the rules that govern the games below them. Obviously, there are always going to be some deviations from that, but the fewer there are the better for the sport as a whole.

I don't support different zones for different players. I don't know where you would get that idea.

   28. tshipman Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:02 AM (#4679188)
PASTE - I know that the rule is very clear, but I also know that umpires have always used their discretion about the 2B having to actually touch the bag at the tie he catches the ball, or afterwards. Repay takes this discretion away from the umpires, if it is used to deal with this issue. More injuries to 2B would certainly be an unintended consequence, but that isn't going to make the injuries any less severe. What I'm wondering is whether that's going to happen. Another issue is that some 2B are worse about the Phantom than others, probably because they are worried about getting hurt. The example is my mind is the old Cardinal 2B Julian Javier, who was nationally famous for his Phantom pivots. The umpires let him get away with really egregious stuff for years. Part of the reason might have been that this was Javier's personality. He couldn't hit, because every pitcher in the league knew that he would bail out on any right-handed curve ball. He was just really scared of pitches or runners aiming at him, even if he knew that they didn't intend to actually hurt him. It's just a lot of possible unintended consequences. However, apparently, the replay rule, as of now, doesn't allow replays of double play pivots, so I guess it will be a while before we find out. - Brock


The neighborhood play is specifically non-reviewable. They thought of that.
   29. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:30 AM (#4679219)
I don't support different zones for different players. I don't know where you would get that idea.

I'm not saying that you support it,, but that's part of what comes with personalized strike zones. You can't have one without the other.

And of course, as the study in this article shows, the strike zones don't just vary by umpire, they vary according to the pitch count. Is that another one of the colorful quirks of umpiring that you think adds to the game's appeal?

But since you're not in favor of any kind of replay, I'm not really arguing with you. I'm perfectly fine with umpiring the way it existed up through 2007, allowing for both Don Denkinger and Eric Gregg. But if baseball is going to demand that calls be made "right", it makes no sense to ignore the vast majority of calls that are wrong, because for every Don Denkinger-like blown call on the bases or foul lines or outfield walls, there are scores of blown calls on balls and strikes.
   30. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 04, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4679226)
The neighborhood play is specifically non-reviewable. They thought of that

And that bulwark has already collapsed, as a neighborhood play has been reviewed. It lasted all of two games.

It won't be the first time #### is made up on the fly. It's inherent in the nature of the endeavor.

   31. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4679258)
And that's the way I like it. As I say every time Andy screeches on this subject, adapting to how the home plate ump is calling the game has always been a part of baseball. And as long as he's consistent from one team to the other, and from the beginning of the game to the end, then the players have been OK with it.
Regardless of one's position on the underlying issue, why on earth would it matter whether players are OK with it? Games are played for the benefit of fans, not players.
   32. Ron J2 Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:45 PM (#4679292)
Welcome back David.
   33. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4679296)
Regardless of one's position on the underlying issue, why on earth would it matter whether players are OK with it? Games are played for the benefit of fans, not players.

Wellllllll this is a position, certainly, but unproductive, unhappy baseball players make for unhappy fans, you realize.
   34. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:21 PM (#4679320)
Human intervention in recording which one it is was a necessity born of technological shortcomings that no longer exist.

QFT. The strike zone is called by umpires because for 150 years we had nothing better. The rule book defines the strike zone. It's specifically in the rules how it should be called. The founders of baseball didn't intend for umpires to decide for themselves what's a strike. They hired people to do the best they could to determine whether the ball was in the strike zone.
   35. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:23 PM (#4679322)
Regardless of one's position on the underlying issue, why on earth would it matter whether players are OK with it? Games are played for the benefit of fans, not players.


Well, fans have been dealing with it for 100-plus years, so I think they can keep living with it. Moreover, I'm a fan, and if my opinion is informed by how the game's participants feel about it, then it's just as valid as Andy's. And if all stakeholders in the game were championing for change, it would carry more weight with me. And of course, I played ball, and have a son who plays ball, and consider it a part of the game from that vantagepoint. There are really a lot of reasons on earth it matters.

   36. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:27 PM (#4679327)
QFT. The strike zone is called by umpires because for 150 years we had nothing better. The rule book defines the strike zone. It's specifically in the rules how it should be called. The founders of baseball didn't intend for umpires to decide for themselves what's a strike. They hired people to do the best they could to determine whether the ball was in the strike zone.

My response to this, from the other thread:

Taking away that human interest and argumentative part of baseball in regards to the umpires lessens interest the game, not increases it.... Maybe I'm wrong, but I think far fewer people say "I can't watch baseball because the balls and strikes aren't perfect" than would say "I can't watch baseball because this robo-ump makes the game more boring to watch." I think that's notable and shouldn't be ignored, YMMV, I suppose.

   37. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:32 PM (#4679333)
Mistakes and losing are what's important here, and, I'd argue, the real reason we're all addicted to it.


Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.
   38. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:37 PM (#4679338)
Taking away that human interest and argumentative part of baseball in regards to the umpires lessens interest the game, not increases it.... Maybe I'm wrong, but I think far fewer people say "I can't watch baseball because the balls and strikes aren't perfect" than would say "I can't watch baseball because this robo-ump makes the game more boring to watch." I think that's notable and shouldn't be ignored, YMMV, I suppose.

I can't imagine that after about a week of roboumps, a single fan would be wanting to go back to personalized strike zones. Has anyone ever said that tennis should remove the baseline cameras?
   39. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4679351)
It boggles my feeble mind that people actually want officiating mistakes in the game and argue against removing them when it can easily be done.
   40. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4679355)
I can't imagine that after about a week of roboumps, a single fan would be wanting to go back to personalized strike zones. Has anyone ever said that tennis should remove the baseline cameras?

I don't think it's comparable, but disagree if you disagree. I think that casual fans, fence-sitting fans will find robo-umps less engaging. It's my opinion, of course. If the purpose of the sport is attraction and eyes, I think robo-umps attract no one at all.


It boggles my feeble mind that people actually want officiating mistakes in the game and argue against removing them when it can easily be done.

I'm offering reasons and descriptions, I'm not just saying WAAAH BECAUSE!
   41. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:53 PM (#4679363)
I think that's notable and shouldn't be ignored

I understand your point and obviously you have the right to your opinion. Mine is that the variation in the game should be due to the players and/or the field. Quirky parks are fine. Different pitching styles, great. But I think that the rules should be the same for everyone all the time. The pitcher's challenge should be to hit a rectangle with defined measurements.
   42. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4679366)
Lassus: Oh I know you're offering reasons and can appreciate where you're coming from. But fundamentally I can't wrap my mind around the concept that you think officiating mistakes are a good thing.
   43. ASmitty Posted: April 04, 2014 at 01:59 PM (#4679373)
I find personalized strike zones far less offensive than the actual subject of the article, which is context-dependent strike zones. Obviously Robo-Ump 5000 would solve both issues, but I would settle for umpires ceasing to hand out charity strikes on 3-0 and 3-1 pitches.
   44. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4679380)
I think that casual fans, fence-sitting fans will find robo-umps less engaging.

If the human umps were actually engaging, I might sympathize. But they aren't. They're annoying and pompous and officious d-bags almost to a man.
   45. nick swisher hygiene Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4679396)
yeah, I'm bewildered by the defenders of any non-robotic aspects to the strike zone.....but baseball is a game for those who like to live in the past. obvious failings in the game get justified by some weird cocktail of Ludditism, nostalgia, authenticity-fetishism, who the #### knows what. to be a baseball fan in 2014 is to buy in to this mindset, I think, at least to some extent.....

but how about this? one bonus to the robo-ump is, he can be programed! ####, you could simulate the "personal strike zone" while still eliminating pitch-to-pitch inconsistency--

program in N number of possible strike zones, each simulating a zone associated with a well-known ump or group of umps;
an X% chance of each one, but nobody knows which you'll get for any given game.

it'd be great: opening night of the playoffs....announcer: "Don't get too comfortable: It looks like we've got the Gregg™ in effect this evening, folks!"
   46. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 02:14 PM (#4679400)
But fundamentally I can't wrap my mind around the concept that you think officiating mistakes are a good thing.

That's certainly not my argument. My argument is that officiating mistakes (within reason) can be accepted, especially if the alternative solutions - even unconsciously - disengage the audience.


If the human umps were actually engaging, I might sympathize. But they aren't. They're annoying and pompous and officious d-bags almost to a man.

Your opinion of the character of umpires notwithstanding, annoying and pompous is infinitely more engaging than robotic. That's the point.
   47. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:03 PM (#4679460)
Lassus: Oh I know you're offering reasons and can appreciate where you're coming from. But fundamentally I can't wrap my mind around the concept that you think officiating mistakes are a good thing.
Piers Anthony's Adept series revolves in part around a worldwide contest that can involve many different types of competitions. One of them is football, and in that particular competition, the computer that does the officiating is programmed to make one error per game to make it more like the original sport.
   48. The Good Face Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:14 PM (#4679472)
I don't think it's comparable, but disagree if you disagree. I think that casual fans, fence-sitting fans will find robo-umps less engaging. It's my opinion, of course. If the purpose of the sport is attraction and eyes, I think robo-umps attract no one at all.


Who the heck is attracted by the umpires as they are now? If your concern is the visuals, there's no reason MLB can't hire fat guys to play the role of umpires and simply relay the calls made by the robo-ump with appropriately dramatic gesticulations.
   49. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4679478)
If your concern is the visuals, there's no reason MLB can't hire fat guys to play the role of umpires and simply relay the calls made by the robo-ump with appropriately dramatic gesticulations.

You obviously don't watch much baseball, because out of 60+ umpires, very few at all are fat guys any more.


Who the heck is attracted by the umpires as they are now?

Logic fail. Not the argument.
   50. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:39 PM (#4679489)
My selfish half says it's too late, unless there's a retroactive penalty for bad calls that have destroyed important games and even entire series, then heck with it. Because I was a certain age, my entire baseball weltangshauung is formed by Don Denkinger being a ####### stubbornly incompetent cheating POS. Last year, for good measure, the entire WS umpiring crew decided to sympathize with "Boston Strong" and call the most double standardy strike zone I've ever seen since Eric Gregg's infamous 1997 gift to the Marlins. My generous half says I don't want fans of other teams, even the subhumans of Cubs nation (assuming the Cubs are ever in an important game HAHAHAHA), have to endure watching a great season undone by incompetence, stupidity, or favoritism. So I'm with Andy: fix all the ####-ups or none at all.
   51. The Good Face Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:39 PM (#4679490)
You obviously don't watch much baseball, because out of 60+ umpires, very few at all are fat guys any more.


Yes, but I'd enjoy it more if they were fat guys.

Who the heck is attracted by the umpires as they are now?

Logic fail. Not the argument.


Dude, you're the guy who said that casual fans would find robo-umps "less engaging" and that robo-umps would "attract no one at all". How is that not the argument?
   52. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:48 PM (#4679495)
I can't imagine that after about a week of roboumps, a single fan would be wanting to go back to personalized strike zones. Has anyone ever said that tennis should remove the baseline cameras?

I don't think it's comparable, but disagree if you disagree. I think that casual fans, fence-sitting fans will find robo-umps less engaging. It's my opinion, of course. If the purpose of the sport is attraction and eyes, I think robo-umps attract no one at all.


But if robo-umps are the same umps as they were before, with the only difference being that they're reacting to a hidden signal from a pitch tracker that causes them to call borderline pitches correctly, why would anyone who doesn't consciously long for bad calls complain about a difference that would barely be visible to the naked eye?

Again, I'm fine with the idea that all bad calls are part of the game, but I'm not seeing the logic of going to ridiculous lengths to correct the occasional bad call on the bases, foul lines and outfield fences, while not using much less intrusive technology to correct the other 95% of bad calls that take place in the course of a normal game. Someone might explain what makes only the bad calls of personalized strike zones such a privileged category of misjudgement.
   53. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:48 PM (#4679496)
for good measure, the entire WS umpiring crew decided to sympathize with "Boston Strong" and call the most double standardy strike zone I've ever seen since Eric Gregg's infamous 1997 gift to the Marlins.


And yet, on the single most controversial call* of the series, the only call that could argued was the difference between a win and a loss, the boys in blue ruled in favor of the Cards. I'm sure that was just to throw the average dupe off the scent of their real motivations.

* A call I happened to think they got right.

   54. Esmailyn Gonzalez Sr. Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:48 PM (#4679497)
Yes, but I'd enjoy it more if they were fat guys.

Solution: Fat robots programmed to be annoying and pompous...
   55. Lassus Posted: April 04, 2014 at 03:52 PM (#4679501)
Dude, you're the guy who said that casual fans would find robo-umps "less engaging" and that robo-umps would "attract no one at all". How is that not the argument?

Again - no average fan is abandoning baseball due to whatever balls and strikes are not called properly. If you think non-fans are going to say "Hmmm... computers calling balls and strikes... baseball might be the game for me" then I disagree. That is why I said robo-umps would attract no one.

That is not equal to saying the current umps are attracting people to the game.

I suppose I do believe that baseball attracts a number of fans do to an overall culture that must by default includes the umps in some minor percentage, but that ALSO isn't saying that people are specifically attracted by the umps by the game.
   56. rr Posted: April 04, 2014 at 04:12 PM (#4679513)
Andy,

The idea behind the whole challenge thing is pretty obvious: it gives teams a chance to challenge a limited number of calls a game that they think are particularly egregious and/or crucial. The number is limited so it doesn't disrupt the flow of the game too often, and the idea would be that it would reduce the number of games "decided" on a bad call (scare quotes because even close games in any sport are decided by many things, as we all know). You can disagree with that of course, but I am not seeing this "somebody please explain to me" line of rhetoric.

__

As to the other argument,ISTM that the arguments in favor of human officials are basically aesthetic and for a lack of a better word, humanistic. It is not, as Lassus says, that people are "attracted" by umps, but rather that they are a small part of the fabric/spectacle of the game, like outfield fences and vendors and scoreboards, and of course part of the game's lore is Durocher or Weaver or Martin jawing at Bill Klem or Doug Harvey or whoever. Now of course, if MLB switched to robo-umps tomorrow, eventually people would get used to it, but baseball trades very heavily on its history and continuity in terms of how the game actually looks on the field.

Finally, of course, I am pretty sure that even with robo-umps, there would be calls that fans thought the robo-umps got wrong, in part, of course, because the robo-umps would be man-made.

As to the other element, I recall back in 1984 Bill James was writing about the Oakland A's new computer stuff, and said as part of the piece to BAN (caps his) computers from the dugout, in part because it took a human element that was part of the game's theater, the human manager making decisions--out of the game.

James may feel differently today, of course, and I am sure data is coming through during games in many ways. But automating processes and taking people out of them isn't always the best idea for improving them.
   57. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: April 04, 2014 at 04:16 PM (#4679515)
And yet, on the single most controversial call* of the series, the only call that could argued was the difference between a win and a loss, the boys in blue ruled in favor of the Cards. I'm sure that was just to throw the average dupe off the scent of their real motivations.


The only bad call they reversed was at my team's expense, and it changed the game. Too bad they couldn't reverse all the BS called strikes that Lester was getting (but Cards pitchers were NOT getting on opposite hand analog location), which completely changed the Cardinals' batting tactics, but then that would've required consistency, something sympathy with the poor terrorist victim team couldn't quite bring the umps to embrace.

On this site in 2004, before the series started, I stated my concession to Boston winning the WS. Because I'm a parity guy. Also, less nobly, because I knew if the Red Sox and White Sox (already then looking good) got titles then it would make the Cubs look even that much more like the pariahs they are. But last year's WS was a total rip off.
   58. Moeball Posted: April 04, 2014 at 04:19 PM (#4679518)
They clearly do give a ****, since they started using Ques Tec to evaluate umpires over a decade ago. They're just smart enough to realize that delaying ball/strikes calls by even as a little as a second or two would be a major annoyance. Look how much people ##### about Tim McClelland's tardy strike calls. They also know calling balls and strikes with perfect accuracy would result in more K's and BB's--as evidenced by this very article--another outcome that the majority of fans would find aesthetically displeasing.


As some here have commented on previous threads covering "patient" vs. "aggressive" hitters - the real surprise to me is that it took at least a century of playing this game in professional leagues before people started figuring out that it was worthwhile for batters to work the counts. As long as it takes only 4 balls to get a walk, and hitters' numbers jump dramatically on counts such as 2-0 or 3-1, the rules of the game favor hitters doing this. In addition, recent years have also shown that hitters have figured out there's no big stigma in striking out like there used to be. As such, there are a lot of 3-2 counts during a game, and a lot of hitters now take that next pitch unless it looks really juicy to swing at, knowing that they've basically got a 50-50 chance of getting on base by doing so and, if they get called for a strike 3, no real shame in it.

Point being, if calling the balls and strikes properly by the umps results in higher amounts of both walks and strikeouts - but fans don't want to see this - then the rules themselves need to change, because the players are only going down an evolutionary path the rules have encouraged.

I think uniformity, in general, is something to avoid.

I think umpires that have consistent and reasonable strike zones, but ones that differ from the rulebook zone, make for a better product (that's a guess, because that's all we've known). I think adapting to the way the game is being called by the man behind the plate on a given day is an aspect of the game that shouldn't be discarded, as it rewards the alert and thinking ballplayer. I think that a uniform strike zone is more likely than not to lead to more TTO baseball, which is something I most definitely don't like.


I once saw a game BITD (20 or more years ago?) when - I think it was Tony Phillips, who had some pretty decent walk ratios, particularly against lefties - struck out looking two or three times in the game, and every time he got rung up on that called strike three, the pitch he took was clearly well off the plate outside and should have been called a ball. Yes, he was right (normally) to take the pitch, yes the ump blew the call, but SOSH has a point that players need to adjust to the umps, too. Greg Maddux would say that most umpires' strike zone limits were usually pretty well established by the third inning of a game and, after that, Maddux would pitch accordingly based on those limits - and he had the pinpoint control to take advantage of that. But batters need to adjust, too. I know that it's goofy that the Eric Greggs of the world call pitches a foot off the plate strikes - but if the ump has established he's really doing that, it doesn't help a batter any to ##### about it and keep taking pitches he knows are going to get called strikes anyways. It's not like the ump is going to suddenly come to his senses and call the zone correctly.

Having sat in Section 300 at Petco Park for the last decade, I'm high above the game in the nosebleed seats - but I am at least directly behind home plate. I may not be able to tell if a pitch is too high or too low, but I can for damned sure tell if it ever crossed the plate or not. I have been stunned at just how bad the umpires are - I originally thought it was maybe just a few of them who were kind of out there in terms of strike zone, but, in reality, it's all of them. Every single umpire I have seen working home plate at Petco has consistently called strikes several times a game on pitches that never remotely came close to crossing the plate. It's far worse than I thought it would be.

Now, maybe I'm being too harsh on the umps - a whole lot of pitchers these days can throw it in the upper 90s and maybe it really is difficult to tell where those pitches are going. Ron Luciano used to talk about what a nightmare it was to call a Nolan Ryan game. The pitches over the heart of the plate or way off the plate were easier to call but he said it was next to impossible to call the corners. When Nolan had the 101 mph Express coming, it was near impossible to see pitch location in fine detail; it was just on top of you too quickly.

The weird thing is - yes, I suppose robo-umps might take some of the charm out of the game - and this might turn off some casual fans - but if there were fewer casual fans at the game I'm not so sure that would be a bad thing...



   59. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 04, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4679519)
I certainly agree with the spirit of what rr said, but the human strike zones are *so* bad, and the umpires are *so* showy and forceful about even their shitty calls, and the umpires are *so* defensive and in your face whenever someone deigns to question their shitty calls, that I'm not sure that's the kind of humanism we want.

The home plate umpires do a #### job and they're almost all inner circle ######## about it.

Yes, he was right (normally) to take the pitch, yes the ump blew the call, but SOSH has a point that players need to adjust to the umps, too.

Why? Why does Tony Phillips have to "adjust" to a #### ump and swing at balls?

Does. Not. Compute.

   60. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: April 04, 2014 at 04:28 PM (#4679521)


The only bad call they reversed was at my team's expense, and it changed the game. Too bad they couldn't reverse all the BS called strikes that Lester was getting (but Cards pitchers were NOT getting on opposite hand analog location), which completely changed the Cardinals' batting tactics, but then that would've required consistency, something sympathy with the poor terrorist victim team couldn't quite bring the umps to embrace.


And if any of this were real, rather than a figment of your fevered imagination, there would not have been an obstruction call at the end of Game 3, a call which ended the game in favor of the Cards.

   61. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: April 04, 2014 at 04:42 PM (#4679532)
Sure. Cards won one close call so everything else must have been totally fair.
   62. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 04, 2014 at 05:23 PM (#4679562)
Andy,

The idea behind the whole challenge thing is pretty obvious: it gives teams a chance to challenge a limited number of calls a game that they think are particularly egregious and/or crucial. The number is limited so it doesn't disrupt the flow of the game too often, and the idea would be that it would reduce the number of games "decided" on a bad call (scare quotes because even close games in any sport are decided by many things, as we all know). You can disagree with that of course, but I am not seeing this "somebody please explain to me" line of rhetoric.


But many more games are "decided" by bad ball and strike calls than by the sort of calls they use instant replay for. The only reason that it isn't more obvious is that we more or less take these bad calls for granted. What I need to have "explained" is what makes one relatively tiny set of game changing calls so horrible that they need robotic intervention, while the much larger set of game changing calls are exempt from any scrutiny.

As to the other argument,ISTM that the arguments in favor of human officials are basically aesthetic and for a lack of a better word, humanistic. It is not, as Lassus says, that people are "attracted" by umps, but rather that they are a small part of the fabric/spectacle of the game, like outfield fences and vendors and scoreboards, and of course part of the game's lore is Durocher or Weaver or Martin jawing at Bill Klem or Doug Harvey or whoever. Now of course, if MLB switched to robo-umps tomorrow, eventually people would get used to it, but baseball trades very heavily on its history and continuity in terms of how the game actually looks on the field.

No argument, but as I've said repeatedly, I'm fine with doing away with all forms of replay and reverting to the umpiring days of Leo Durocher and Earl Weaver.

If you want to respect tradition, get rid of all instant replay. I'd cheer that wholeheartedly.

And if you want to correct 95% of bad calls, wire the existing home plate umps with a buzzer connected to a strike zone monitor, and let them get the marginal calls right. I fail to see how within a week a single fan would ever have cause to complain.

If you want to just imitate the NFL for PR reasons, and ignore 95% of existing blown calls, then go ahead and create a big techno-melodrama that delays the game unnecessarily over a handful of plays while turning a blind eye at calls that change the game in many more ways than Don Denkinger ever dreamed of. That's what we've got today.

And if you want to adopt a utilitarian POV of reducing the greatest number of bad calls with the least disruption, go with the robo-umps for balls and strikes, and get rid of the existing replays. What you'd then have is the possibility of the human drama of Whitey and Don on calls on the bases, combined with the Platonic efficiency of Bill Klem on balls and strikes. You'd eliminate 95% of the bad calls while respecting the history of the rednecks popping their veins over a trapped ball or a ruined perfect game.
   63. rr Posted: April 04, 2014 at 06:30 PM (#4679611)
The James buzzer thing is a separate issue from robo-umps.
   64. Moeball Posted: April 04, 2014 at 06:46 PM (#4679621)
Why? Why does Tony Phillips have to "adjust" to a #### ump and swing at balls?


In a better world, he wouldn't need to. But we don't live in a better world right now, and if today's umpire is calling pitches a foot off the plate for strikes, the batter has to swing at them or he's going to get called out anyways.

I think one other bad unintended side effect of this is the following: when the umps call outside pitches for strikes, and the batters know they have to swing at these pitches anyways - then the batters have to start crowding the plate just to have any chance to reach those outside pitches. Crowding the plate means pitchers have to start getting more aggressive inside to back the hitters away from the plate, which leads to beanball wars.

There are far more hit batters in the game today than there were back in the days of Drysdale and Gibson - as Casey Stengel would have said, you could look it up. I won't say the umps are necessarily the main reason for this, but I certainly believe they have helped cause at least part of the problem.
   65. Sunday silence Posted: April 04, 2014 at 06:56 PM (#4679626)
I am in favor of robot umps but just for discussion purposes would it be somewhat better if MLB used a rating system to determine home plate umpires for the playoffs? It could be rather fair number of umps, say 40%.

If say the best 40% ball/strike umpires were behind the plate would this take care of this particular issue?

****

On the vicinity play at second base. What if MLB were to draw, say a semi circle of approx 12-15 Inches in the back of second base and allow the second basemen to get the put out there on doubleplays only? They dont even have to draw it, it can be like a plastic insert implanted into the ground so it is flat.

There is a serious issue with respect to injury at that position and I can totally understand not wanting them to stand there and get there leg broken a 100x a year.

****


Again - no average fan is abandoning baseball due to whatever balls and strikes are not called properly. If you think non-fans are going to say "Hmmm... computers calling balls and strikes... baseball might be the game for me" then I disagree. That is why I said robo-umps would attract no one.


I dont understand this at all. Are you saying robotumps should be there to bring new adherents to the game of baseball? That is not the purpose of robot umps; we have bobble head nites and 10 cent beer nites and all that #### to bring people to the game.

Otherwise I dont understand your pt. it seems convuluted argument.
   66. Bourbon Samurai Posted: April 04, 2014 at 06:58 PM (#4679627)
27 sums up my feelings pretty well
   67. Sunday silence Posted: April 04, 2014 at 07:02 PM (#4679631)
They also know calling balls and strikes with perfect accuracy would result in more K's and BB's--as evidenced by this very article--another outcome that the majority of fans would find aesthetically displeasing.


you have no way to know if walks and/or Ks would go up. If walks start to go up then pitchers might have to start throwing more balls over the plate. If Ks go up then presumably hitters would swing more.

I dont know what would happen, but obviously it is a complex dynamic that would take time to play itself out. there is no way to be sure of what would happen.

Also it seems implausible that both BB and Ks would go up. I dont think it would work that way, just because of the dynamics I mentioned one result would tend to be favored over the other and then the players would adjust.
   68. Morty Causa Posted: April 04, 2014 at 07:15 PM (#4679633)
I think greater accuracy and consistency is in the main hard to object to. Truth, not the illusion of truth, is the premium. The objections on the grounds of some greater humanistic concerns taking precedent over greater accuracy reeks of old fartism. The reasons given here that technology in removing the human element rains on the wonder and beatury of the human parade is too much like Keats complaining about Newton having unweaved the rainbow. Too much like being an anti-vaxxers.
   69. Sunday silence Posted: April 05, 2014 at 02:13 AM (#4679789)
that's well stated.
   70. Sunday silence Posted: April 05, 2014 at 02:35 AM (#4679796)
Did you see the call they reversed in the Yankee game? It was a bang bang play at first, of the sort that SBB was concerned about upthread. Girardi got the call, Suzuki was safe and they went onto score 2 runs that inning.

There was another strange play in another game where the manager didnt call for the appeal because it was after 6th inn. or something. And the announcer on SportsCenter repeated this nonsense. Cant remember what team this was.

Seems like when to call for the replay is now becoming a big part of a manager's tools.
   71. Lassus Posted: April 05, 2014 at 07:41 AM (#4679817)
I dont understand this at all. Are you saying robotumps should be there to bring new adherents to the game of baseball?

Jesus, no, again. I am saying that in my opinion computerized umpires will will make the game of baseball less engaging by lessening one of the traditional human aspects of the game, and a less engaging game engages fewer fannies in the seats and on the couches watching baseball. I think it will be a gradual process, but I imagine that's the eventual upshot. I concede as I'm predicting the future, shockingly, I may actually be wrong.

To be clear - I am not saying that the purpose of any umpire - robotic or not - is to attract fans. But this is not the same thing as saying that human umpires will be more likely to keep fans.


The objections on the grounds of some greater humanistic concerns taking precedent over greater accuracy reeks of old fartism.

I'm concerned with the health of the realm, er, the game, not tradition.

And to be clear, it isn't a GREAT concern OMG WE'RE DOOMED. I just think, as I wrote elsewhere, it is notable.
   72. Sunday silence Posted: April 05, 2014 at 09:36 AM (#4679841)
OK but I still dont see the function of umps to keep fans coming back or whatever. I think they function best when they are not noticeable.

But I agree things would be a bit different with an automatic strike zone.
   73. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 05, 2014 at 10:08 AM (#4679849)
I dont understand this at all. Are you saying robotumps should be there to bring new adherents to the game of baseball?


Jesus, no, again. I am saying that in my opinion computerized umpires will will make the game of baseball less engaging by lessening one of the traditional human aspects of the game, and a less engaging game engages fewer fannies in the seats and on the couches watching baseball. I think it will be a gradual process, but I imagine that's the eventual upshot. I concede as I'm predicting the future, shockingly, I may actually be wrong.

Just to be clear, what do you mean by "computerized umpires"? If a home plate umpire is the same guy as before, if he signals balls and strikes with the same motion, and the only difference is that his calls are always rule book strike zone correct instead of being wrong a fair percentage of the time, do you think that this alone would diminish the appeal of the game?

Or to put it another way: Is the best ball and strike umpire in baseball, whoever he is, any less human than the late Eric Gregg? Does his non-personalized strike zone diminish the appeal of the game?
   74. Bhaakon Posted: April 07, 2014 at 02:51 AM (#4680731)
you have no way to know if walks and/or Ks would go up. If walks start to go up then pitchers might have to start throwing more balls over the plate. If Ks go up then presumably hitters would swing more.

I dont know what would happen, but obviously it is a complex dynamic that would take time to play itself out. there is no way to be sure of what would happen.


All the evidence we have shows that the umpires are doing their level best to force PAs to end with balls in play, and removing that influence is almost certain to result in fewer PAs ending with balls in play. Yeah, it could play out otherwise, eventually, but it seems unlikely, and extremely unlikely in the short term. Remember that the roboump isn't coming to a little league field near you any time soon, so adjustment to a post-human strikezone could be painstakingly slow.

Point being, if calling the balls and strikes properly by the umps results in higher amounts of both walks and strikeouts - but fans don't want to see this - then the rules themselves need to change, because the players are only going down an evolutionary path the rules have encouraged.


They're miles and miles down that evolutionary path now, and well adapted to present conditions. Conditions that will continue to persist at lower levels of play no matter what MLB decrees. Changing how balls and strike are called now might affect quality of play like, say, artificially raising the earth's temperature to Cretaceous levels would affect biodiversity.
   75. Lassus Posted: April 07, 2014 at 07:01 AM (#4680745)
Just to be clear, what do you mean by "computerized umpires"?

Umpires who are actual, literal computers. The rest of your post does not deal with things I'm talking about, so I can't answer those questions.
   76. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 07, 2014 at 07:35 AM (#4680750)
Just to be clear, what do you mean by "computerized umpires"?

Umpires who are actual, literal computers. The rest of your post does not deal with things I'm talking about, so I can't answer those questions.


Okay, but who's ever talked about replacing umpires on the field with actual, literal computers? What's been mentioned is having the home plate umps connected to a buzzer system which tells them which way to call borderline strikes. Since as it is now, most umpires pause for a split second or more before giving a call, you'd hardly notice the difference, other than the fact that you wouldn't see any more personalized strike zones, and you wouldn't see a player's reputation affect the call. Is that really such a horrible thing?
   77. FrankM Posted: April 07, 2014 at 10:01 AM (#4680802)
How do you decide who the best 40% ball-strike umps are? If you use technology, why not just use the technology in the first place?
   78. Bhaakon Posted: April 07, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4681035)
Okay, but who's ever talked about replacing umpires on the field with actual, literal computers? What's been mentioned is having the home plate umps connected to a buzzer system which tells them which way to call borderline strikes. Since as it is now, most umpires pause for a split second or more before giving a call, you'd hardly notice the difference, other than the fact that you wouldn't see any more personalized strike zones, and you wouldn't see a player's reputation affect the call. Is that really such a horrible thing?


Not intrinsically, no. But there would be a lot of unintended consequences that might not be worth the tradeoff. Baseball has developed a rather delicate balance between hitting, pitching, defense, K's, BB, hits, etc., which has evolved under the condition of umpires systematically fudging the strike zone. A perfectly accurate strike zone might (I would argue would probably) upset that balance enormously, in the same way that shortening the basepaths by 10 feet would have huge consequences for the running game.

Throwing a wrench into a chaotic system always carries the potential for disaster.
   79. Sunday silence Posted: April 07, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4681094)
How do you decide who the best 40% ball-strike umps are? If you use technology, why not just use the technology in the first place?


I would do it by using whatever system it is that superimposes the strikezone over video, questec or pitch f/x or whatever it is.

The reason you cant go to technology in the first place is because of the umpires union that is extremely protective of jobs. Of course that is what unions are for, so cant blame them on that score.

I thought I made this clear by stating at the outset that this is a sort of a stop gap measure. But I also wanted to see if the problem is really just those goofy outlier umpires who everyone knows before the game they will have a goofy strike zone.
   80. Sunday silence Posted: April 07, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4681100)

All the evidence we have shows that the umpires are doing their level best to force PAs to end with balls in play,


Would it be too much to ask for some reference or something for "all the evidence.?" I find this hard to believe. For one thing strikeouts are continuing to rise. I get that the reasons for this are probably not entirely the umpires fault. HOwever, these rates have been climbing for whate 15 years?

It is hard to imagine umpires consciously trying to get balls in play and having K rates increase for 15 years. Maybe I am missing something and you can explain.
   81. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 07, 2014 at 01:50 PM (#4681103)
If you like the fact that umpires calls are biased by habit and tradition, than you also need to accept the fact that they can be biased by bias.
   82. Bhaakon Posted: April 07, 2014 at 11:59 PM (#4681615)
Would it be too much to ask for some reference or something for "all the evidence.?" I find this hard to believe. For one thing strikeouts are continuing to rise. I get that the reasons for this are probably not entirely the umpires fault. HOwever, these rates have been climbing for whate 15 years?


I didn't think it was necessary, given that we're discussing this in the comments section of an article presenting that very evidence.

It is hard to imagine umpires consciously trying to get balls in play and having K rates increase for 15 years. Maybe I am missing something and you can explain.


Whether they're doing it consciously or not is an interesting question, but ultimately irrelevant. They ARE doing it, and we know they are because they're so reticent to call strike 3 and ball 4 on close pitches.
   83. Sunday silence Posted: April 08, 2014 at 03:08 AM (#4681641)
Yeah you're right I didnt make the connection with situational dependent ball/strikes and putting the ball in play.

OK but how does this prove your pt that balls in play would go down with some sort of strictly delineated strike zone?

In the immediate short term: yes. But if walks went up, pitchers might pitch more to contact, eventually after the cost/benefits became more clear. And at the same time, strike outs are going up (again taking the article at face value) then batters might be forced to put the ball in play, again after they assess the cost benefit.


At some pt. both pitcher and batter would be working towards the same goal of putting balls into play. At least that's what the basic logic tells me. So we take the umpires subjective strike zone out of the equation, K and BBs go up for awhile but then the pitcher/batters themselves re assess this and both Ks and BBs go down.

But somewhere along the line, the increase or decrease must favor offense or defense; so both pitcher/batter wont work toward the same goal. For example it turns out that K and BBs go up in a 1:1 ratio initially and it turns out that favors defense. So what happens then...? Either more changes are made to baseball to get more runs/game, or batters start trying to make contact but pitchers start nibbling more. I dunno where it's going to lead but its got to be a complex dynamic.

You yourself said just upthread that there are complex dynamics involved in all this. That sort of thing has been going on for a long time in baseball.
   84. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 08, 2014 at 06:50 AM (#4681650)
Okay, but who's ever talked about replacing umpires on the field with actual, literal computers? What's been mentioned is having the home plate umps connected to a buzzer system which tells them which way to call borderline strikes. Since as it is now, most umpires pause for a split second or more before giving a call, you'd hardly notice the difference, other than the fact that you wouldn't see any more personalized strike zones, and you wouldn't see a player's reputation affect the call. Is that really such a horrible thing?

Not intrinsically, no. But there would be a lot of unintended consequences that might not be worth the tradeoff. Baseball has developed a rather delicate balance between hitting, pitching, defense, K's, BB, hits, etc., which has evolved under the condition of umpires systematically fudging the strike zone. A perfectly accurate strike zone might (I would argue would probably) upset that balance enormously, in the same way that shortening the basepaths by 10 feet would have huge consequences for the running game.

Throwing a wrench into a chaotic system always carries the potential for disaster.


Leaving aside the silly comparison to 80 ft. baselines, which would completely change the game in innumerable ways, it's true that some players would have to make adjustment to some umpires, and it's also true that some previously favored veterans might find themselves at a temporary relative disadvantage when those friendly umpires were behind the plate, but unable to "personalize" their strike zones.

But once that initial transition period passed, the new norm would be established and there'd be little or no disruption. A better comparison would be to a rule that forced batters to stay in the box between pitches, and/or outlawed between-pitches batting glove adjustments. These would also be temporarily unsettling to some players' rhythms, but for the first 100+ years of the game these "new" conditions would have been the norm.
   85. FrankM Posted: April 08, 2014 at 08:15 AM (#4681664)
A perfectly accurate strike zone might (I would argue would probably) upset that balance enormously, in the same way that shortening the basepaths by 10 feet would have huge consequences for the running game.

This is a fair point. Before implementation, some thought will have to go into it.
   86. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 08, 2014 at 09:01 AM (#4681681)
This is a fair point. Before implementation, some thought will have to go into it.

Maybe they can just put some signs up in the clubhouse.

"WARNING: IF YOU HAVE AN 0-2 COUNT, THE NEXT PITCH MAY ALSO BE CALLED A STRIKE"

"WARNING: IF YOU HAVE AN 3-0 COUNT, THE NEXT PITCH MAY ALSO BE CALLED A BALL"

"WARNING: ALL UMPIRES WILL CALL BALLS AND STRIKES ACCORDING TO THE RULE BOOK STRIKE ZONE"

"WARNING: BALLS AND STRIKES WILL BE CALLED ACCORDING TO THEIR LOCATION, NOT YOUR REPUTATION"


I realize that all this might be too much for some players to handle, but for the severely traumatized they could also hand out pacifiers and crying towels.
   87. DL from MN Posted: April 08, 2014 at 10:23 AM (#4681753)
I am imagining Questec's Hall of Fame induction speech now.
   88. Bhaakon Posted: April 08, 2014 at 08:10 PM (#4682385)
Leaving aside the silly comparison to 80 ft. baselines, which would completely change the game in innumerable ways, it's true that some players would have to make adjustment to some umpires, and it's also true that some previously favored veterans might find themselves at a temporary relative disadvantage when those friendly umpires were behind the plate, but unable to "personalize" their strike zones.


As far as I can tell, the veteran/rookie strike zone is a canard, or at least a much lesser effect than the overall reticence for umpire to kill a strikeout or a walk. So, as far as that goes, I agree.

The real issue, like I said, is that the umpires seem to be a major influence against BB/K's, and eliminating that influence would probably lead to some aesthetically displeasing baseball as few PA will end with balls in play.
   89. Sunday silence Posted: April 08, 2014 at 09:41 PM (#4682476)
I'd still like to add weights to the ankles of fielders..
   90. Dan Posted: April 08, 2014 at 11:56 PM (#4682577)
The only bad call they reversed was at my team's expense, and it changed the game. Too bad they couldn't reverse all the BS called strikes that Lester was getting (but Cards pitchers were NOT getting on opposite hand analog location), which completely changed the Cardinals' batting tactics, but then that would've required consistency, something sympathy with the poor terrorist victim team couldn't quite bring the umps to embrace.


Here are the charts for the two games Lester pitcher in the World Series: 10/23 10/28

There is a one pitch in each game that is called a strike despite being significantly out of the strike zone, along with one or two borderline calls in each that aren't even noteworthy. You might want to look at the actual facts before going on fevered rants about umpires on the take.
   91. Sunday silence Posted: April 09, 2014 at 06:22 AM (#4682627)
The Lester strike zone looks fair but to be complete you should probably show what the Cardinal pitchers were getting as well.
   92. Baldrick Posted: April 09, 2014 at 02:28 PM (#4683053)
Want to increase the value of balls in play?

Distribute 30 squares, maybe two feet wide on each side, throughout the outfield. If you hit the spot on the fly, it counts as a homerun.

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