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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.

As usual, MLB addresses a trivial non-problem while ignoring a much bigger one.  This is a must-read article.

Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 03, 2014 at 02:59 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: general, umpiring

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   1. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 03, 2014 at 03:25 PM (#4678635)
As usual, MLB addresses a trivial non-problem while ignoring a much bigger one. This is a must-read article.


Needless to say, that closing sentence alone was mine, but there doesn't seem to be a way to indicate that in the box ever since for whatever reason they zapped the <b>, <i>, and <quote> tabs from the feature. Why did they do that, anyway?
   2. with Glavinesque control and Madduxian poise Posted: April 03, 2014 at 03:41 PM (#4678654)
I wonder what notion of incorrectness they were using, given the vagueness of (at least) the top and bottom of the strike zone.
   3. tfbg9 Posted: April 03, 2014 at 03:55 PM (#4678677)
about 14 percent of non-swinging pitches were called erroneously.


No sh*t Sherlock! Watch a few innings, and this becomes obvious.
   4. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: April 03, 2014 at 04:58 PM (#4678742)
Almost as fun as wondering what 'I would do against major league pitching', is 'how I would do calling balls and strikes.'
   5. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: April 03, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4678756)
Why did they do that, anyway?

They got repo'd when Burstnet quit paying for them.
   6. Karl from NY Posted: April 03, 2014 at 07:19 PM (#4678861)
Nick, markup tags do behave differently for article excerpts than in comments. Someone said <blockquote> is the preferred way to set out an article excerpt.
   7. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: April 03, 2014 at 08:34 PM (#4678899)
I compose my submission in the regular comment text box on any Newsstand article, then copy it and paste it into the submission text box. There are certain combinations of tags that cause it to barf <rows="100> or similar, I think when you have links inside the quoted text.

Then there was that weird situation with the post a month ago where all the comments were centered and set on a gray background. That was...different.
   8. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: April 03, 2014 at 08:49 PM (#4678908)
Needless to say, that closing sentence alone was mine, but there doesn't seem to be a way to indicate that in the box ever since for whatever reason they zapped the <b>, <i>, and <quote> tabs from the feature. Why did they do that, anyway?


Sigh. Just put blockquote tags around the material from the article.

We found that pitchers with a track record of not walking batters — like Greg Maddux — were much more likely to benefit from their All-Star status than similarly decorated but “wilder” pitchers like Randy Johnson.


The cause and effect must also at least partially go the other way.
   9. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 03, 2014 at 10:20 PM (#4678937)
Needless to say, that closing sentence alone was mine, but there doesn't seem to be a way to indicate that in the box ever since for whatever reason they zapped the <b>, <i>, and <quote> tabs from the feature. Why did they do that, anyway?

Sigh. Just put blockquote tags around the material from the article.


Yeah, obviously I should have thought of that, but it still doesn't address the point of why they'd remove those tabs from above the submission box, while having them on this page.

And of course on this page the <u> tab hasn't worked properly for years (it now duplicates the <i> tab), but that's another story. What's the point of putting it there if it's completely non-functional?

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