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Monday, May 02, 2022

ESPN Insider: How MLB umpire grades really work, and what it means for the future of balls and strikes

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Here’s how the league’s system works, according to sources: MLB employs a team of auditors to assist in its review of each game. The auditors set a unique strike zone for each player based on his setup in the batter’s box. The top of the strike zone is his beltline and the bottom the hollow of his back knee, both determined when he’s loading and preparing to swing. The margin of error is implemented off the corners—2 inches on each side of the plate.

The rationalization for the margin of error, which was collectively bargained between the league and the umpires’ union—the MLB Umpires Association declined comment—was ostensibly due to the limitations of previous tracking technology but also buys umpires leeway in their grading. MLB currently employs a camera-based system to track its games, and it provides a wide array of data now seen as standard across baseball. Pitch velocity and movement, batted-ball exit velocity and launch angle—each is measured by the 12-camera Hawk-Eye system installed in all 30 major league stadiums. While Hawk-Eye’s margin of error is measured to be .16 of an inch, previous systems’ was greater, and the umpires negotiated a so-called buffer zone of 2 inches on either side. Even with Hawk-Eye, that remains in place.

Furthermore, the umpires’ union created a Zone Enforcement committee to double-check incorrect calls and file appeals to have the scoring of pitches reviewed. In 2021, about 30% of the pitches appealed, including those in which a pitcher misses his spot but still lands a ball in the strike zone to a scrambling catcher, were overturned.

With those parameters in place, the league breaks down pitches into three categories: “correct” calls, “acceptable” calls within the so-called buffer zone and “incorrect” calls. By MLB’s calculations, the league-wide average for umpires on correct and acceptable calls—belt to knees, 21 inches across (the 17-inch-wide plate plus 2 inches either way)—was 97.4% in the 2021 season. The highest-ranked umpire, according to MLB, graded out at 98.5%. The lowest: 96%.

These numbers do not square with the metrics provided by independent evaluators. UmpScores said the best home-plate umpire in baseball last year, Tripp Gibson, graded out around 93.6% accurate. Four umpires last season, according to UmpScores, missed on more than 10% of pitches they called for balls and strikes.

TruMedia, an analytics company that provides data to ESPN, has metrics that measure correct-call percentage and adjusted correct-call percentage. Leaguewide this season, according to TruMedia, MLB umpires have called 92% of pitches correctly. With its adjusted metric, which penalizes particularly egregious calls in a similar fashion to MLB’s system, TruMedia bumps that number to 96.24%—close to in line with the league’s internal measurement.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 02, 2022 at 01:27 PM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: umpiring

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   1. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 02, 2022 at 04:30 PM (#6074826)
The rationalization for the margin of error, which was collectively bargained between the league and the umpires’ union—the MLB Umpires Association declined comment—was ostensibly due to the limitations of previous tracking technology but also buys umpires leeway in their grading. MLB currently employs a camera-based system to track its games, and it provides a wide array of data now seen as standard across baseball. Pitch velocity and movement, batted-ball exit velocity and launch angle—each is measured by the 12-camera Hawk-Eye system installed in all 30 major league stadiums. While Hawk-Eye’s margin of error is measured to be .16 of an inch, previous systems’ was greater, and the umpires negotiated a so-called buffer zone of 2 inches on either side. Even with Hawk-Eye, that remains in place.

Furthermore, the umpires’ union created a Zone Enforcement committee to double-check incorrect calls and file appeals to have the scoring of pitches reviewed. In 2021, about 30% of the pitches appealed, including those in which a pitcher misses his spot but still lands a ball in the strike zone to a scrambling catcher, were overturned.The rationalization for the margin of error, which was collectively bargained between the league and the umpires’ union—the MLB Umpires Association declined comment—was ostensibly due to the limitations of previous tracking technology but also buys umpires leeway in their grading. MLB currently employs a camera-based system to track its games, and it provides a wide array of data now seen as standard across baseball. Pitch velocity and movement, batted-ball exit velocity and launch angle—each is measured by the 12-camera Hawk-Eye system installed in all 30 major league stadiums. While Hawk-Eye’s margin of error is measured to be .16 of an inch, previous systems’ was greater, and the umpires negotiated a so-called buffer zone of 2 inches on either side. Even with Hawk-Eye, that remains in place.

Furthermore, the umpires’ union created a Zone Enforcement committee to double-check incorrect calls and file appeals to have the scoring of pitches reviewed. In 2021, about 30% of the pitches appealed, including those in which a pitcher misses his spot but still lands a ball in the strike zone to a scrambling catcher, were overturned.

The key word there is "rationalization". The less euphemistic word would be "chickenshit".
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 02, 2022 at 05:16 PM (#6074844)
The top of the strike zone is his beltline

What??
   3. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 02, 2022 at 05:41 PM (#6074849)
A two-inch buffer on each side of the plate is HUUUUUUUGE. The plate is 17 inches, but the error margin is 4 inches. 23.5%. WTF.

96% to 98% accuracy range is laughable on its face.


   4. Hombre Brotani Posted: May 02, 2022 at 06:30 PM (#6074863)
A two-inch buffer on each side of the plate is HUUUUUUUGE. The plate is 17 inches, but the error margin is 4 inches. 23.5%. WTF.
Mike Trout struck out four times today, and you could tell over the course of the game how frustrated and confused he was. He just had no idea what the ump was going to call a strike because Trout's strike zone was the strike zone, while the pitcher's strike zone included pitches Trout could barely reach.
   5. geonose Posted: May 02, 2022 at 06:36 PM (#6074864)
#2

That was where my jaw dropped too. From the official rulebook:

"The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap."

So they are not only granting an extra two inches left and right, they have subtracted part of the official strike zone at the top.
   6. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 02, 2022 at 09:09 PM (#6074890)
The top of the belt buckle has been the top of the zone forever. Or at least 40 years.


   7. Best Dressed Chicken in Town Posted: May 02, 2022 at 10:07 PM (#6074901)
It makes no sense for the buffer zones to be implemented for the width of the strike zone, which is fixed and absolute. It should be for the height of the zone, which differs from player to player, and cannot even be pinpointed with absolute accuracy for any particular player.

As mentioned, it also makes no sense to grade umpires on a zone different than the actual zone. (And I disagree the belt has been the top of the zone for 40 years. It’s been higher than that for about 20 years. I think the zone (as generally called) has gotten taller and narrower - you generally don’t see the strike 3-6 inches off the plate anymore.)
   8. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 02, 2022 at 10:20 PM (#6074905)

The top of the belt buckle has been the top of the zone forever. Or at least 40 years.


Like there was some major rule change in 1982.
   9. villageidiom Posted: May 03, 2022 at 10:48 AM (#6074946)
I'm the type of person who only wants replay to overturn the egregious calls instead of arbitrating millimeters, so I'm OK with a margin around the strike zone for the sake of evaluation. Whether it should be 2 inches I don't know, but let's for the moment accept it.

There are like 150 pitches per game that require a ball/strike call. The best umpires are incorrect on 1.5%; the worst, 4%. That's 2 incorrect calls per game for the best, and 6 for the worst. These are the most egregious calls. These should be at some level that rounds down to zero per game. Yeah, within the 2-inch margins they should be better as well, and it's good to strive for that. But, like, there should be effectively no egregiously wrong pitch calls. These are calls that the umpires themselves find indefensible!

We have replay for safe/out calls at 1B. Before replay there was maybe an egregious failure rate of 1 call every 400 games (around a month's slate of games for MLB). There are around 13 out calls on the batter at 1B per game. A 4% egregious failure rate - the worst rate on ball/strike calls) would mean one batter would be erroneously (and obviously so) called safe at 1B every other game. That's 200x worse than the level at which it was deemed unacceptable as a matter of practice for all umpires.

My point isn't that the 2-inch margin is OK. I'm saying that even if we accept the 2-inch margin it demonstrates that umpires are failing at ball/strike calls far more often than should be acceptable.
   10. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 03, 2022 at 11:04 AM (#6074948)
My point isn't that the 2-inch margin is OK. I'm saying that even if we accept the 2-inch margin it demonstrates that umpires are failing at ball/strike calls far more often than should be acceptable.

You're 100% correct, and of course there's no reason why we should accept any margin at all to begin with. I sure haven't seen many called balls that were two inches inside the rule book zone, certainly nowhere near as many as I've seen strikes called that were two inches (or more) outside.

During last night's Yankees-Toronto game, the home plate ump called one of the best games I've seen all year, consistently matching the rule book strike zone with his calls, even on those that were barely outside or inside the box. The announcer's reaction was to say that he was a "hitter's umpire", as if gift strikes were somehow a birthright of pitchers, and the rule book strike zone was too restrictive.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 03, 2022 at 11:33 AM (#6074950)
You're 100% correct, and of course there's no reason why we should accept any margin at all to begin with.

There has to be some margin. The video you see is looking at a two dimensional picture of a three dimensional thing. Also, the ball only has to clip the zone. So there are a lot of balls that look low, or outside, or inside, that actually clip the zone. Likewise a big curve ball could look 4 inches high, but clip the back of the zone.

You keep assuming simplicity where there is a whole lot of complexity.
   12. Lassus Posted: May 03, 2022 at 11:37 AM (#6074951)
96% to 98% accuracy range is laughable on its face.

Not really. Moving the average number of pitches per game up from 292 to 300 for easier math, that's 4 - 12 missed pitches per game. People howl like stuck pigs over one or two strike calls, so to me this percentage tracks pretty well.
   13. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 03, 2022 at 12:10 PM (#6074954)
There has to be some margin. The video you see is looking at a two dimensional picture of a three dimensional thing. Also, the ball only has to clip the zone. So there are a lot of balls that look low, or outside, or inside, that actually clip the zone. Likewise a big curve ball could look 4 inches high, but clip the back of the zone.

On close calls, the networks routinely reinforce the two dimensional box with a three dimensional zone, and invariably the box's call is validated.

Without robo-umps, I'm beginning to think the only solution is to shrink the width of the plate. But robo-umps who call the rule book zone would be far preferable to that.
   14. villageidiom Posted: May 03, 2022 at 04:51 PM (#6074992)
Not really. Moving the average number of pitches per game up from 292 to 300 for easier math, that's 4 - 12 missed pitches per game.
It's 2-6 missed pitches per game. Hitters swing at close to half of all pitches.

We also have secondary issues, like how many bad pitches do hitters swing at because they can't trust the umpire to call it right? Or how many pitches are within that 2" margin and unaddressed? But the more we talk about those issues, the more we miss out on the fact that there are 2-6 bad calls per game that even the umpire union won't defend, and that the total per game should be, effectively, 0.
   15. Lassus Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:06 PM (#6074997)
ZERO judgment call errors? Why even bother pretending you want humans involved at all? (I mean, maybe you don't, I have no idea.)

Ultimately, I like human umpires. It does not detract from the experience for me. OF COURSE I wish they were trained better, but I can't really support losing them. It would be incredibly lame for my subjective user experience.
   16. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:10 PM (#6074999)
With robo-umps you'd still have umpires on the bases, and home plate umpires who called everything but balls and strikes.** It wouldn't detract from the game one iota.

**And they'd still look like they're calling them, even if they really wouldn't be.
   17. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:26 PM (#6075001)
MLB is missing out on a huge market in baseball cards for umps.
   18. BDC Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:30 PM (#6075002)
Logically, shouldn’t they do away with base umpires too & make all calls from a video feed? Most calls are obvious, and they’re going to review the ultra-close ones anyway.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:43 PM (#6075003)
On close calls, the networks routinely reinforce the two dimensional box with a three dimensional zone, and invariably the box's call is validated.

It only validates vs itself. You have no idea if the network, working with camera angles, has the zone properly calibrated. No one can agree on the height of the strike zone as it is.
   20. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:47 PM (#6075005)
The top of the belt buckle has been the top of the zone forever. Or at least 40 years.


What? No.

"The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap."


Draw a line across the batter's shoulders
Draw a line across the top of the uniform pants
Now draw a line AT THE MIDPOINT of those two lines

That's the upper limit of the strike zone. Below the nips but well above the belt.
   21. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:49 PM (#6075006)
   22. John Northey Posted: May 03, 2022 at 05:50 PM (#6075007)
Looking at Umpire Scorecards you can see how rare a clean game is. Only 1 umpire has a 96%+ rating for accuracy on that site - Pat Hoberg in 3 games. Last year no one had 96%+, just 6 in the 95.0%-95.9% range (2 with under 10 games). John Libka with a 95.5% accuracy was as good as it got for guys who umpired 10+ games behind the plate (he did 32). This year Libka is between 91.6% and 95.1% in his 4 games.

For worst you get Andy Fletcher this year (88.7% accuracy) as the only guy sub 90%. Last year the worst was Ed Hickox (91.3%). I'm sure no one will be shocked that Joe West was among the worst at 92.2%, tied with Hunter Wendelstedt for 8th worst (better than expected).
   23. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 04, 2022 at 09:10 AM (#6075131)
Thanks for reading the rule book out loud. MLB umps don't follow it. You might want to read them the bit about forcing batters into the box and playing ball.

Show me clips of called strikes at the midpoint. There are surely plenty on youtube.
   24. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 09:33 AM (#6075132)
Thanks for reading the rule book out loud. MLB umps don't follow it. You might want to read them the bit about forcing batters into the box and playing ball.

Show me clips of called strikes at the midpoint. There are surely plenty on youtube.


That's true, but Andy, most prominently, but not exclusively, regularly refers to the need to enforce the rule book zone. But he's not really interested in the true rule book zone, just the portion of it that extends horizontally. He's OK with umps ignoring the rule book vertically.
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:12 AM (#6075135)
That's true, but Andy, most prominently, but not exclusively, regularly refers to the need to enforce the rule book zone. But he's not really interested in the true rule book zone, just the portion of it that extends horizontally. He's OK with umps ignoring the rule book vertically.

I dwell on the horizontal extension because it gift strikes negatively impact hitting. My bottom line wish is to reduce strikeouts, and eliminating gift strikes would go towards addressing that issue. The rule book strike zone should be observed 100% on all sides, but the actual dimensions of that rule book strike zone shouldn't be considered sacred. It's been adjusted several times before, and there's no reason it can't be adjusted again.

The article linked to in #21 above suggests moving the bottom of the strike zone from below the kneecap to above it, back to where it was before 1996. That'd at least be a start.

   26. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:23 AM (#6075138)
I dwell on the horizontal extension because it gift strikes negatively impact hitting. My bottom line wish is to reduce strikeouts,


That's not your bottom line.

   27. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:46 AM (#6075140)
I dwell on the horizontal extension because it gift strikes negatively impact hitting. My bottom line wish is to reduce strikeouts,


We can assume strike zones were far more idiosyncratic before monitoring technology became available, and there used to be a lot fewer strike outs.

I think the rise is strikeouts has nothing to do with the zone. It's all pitchers throwing harder because they have to throw far fewer innings, and batters swinging for the downs on every pitch.

If you want to reduce K's you increase drag on the ball, lower and push the mound back, and restrict the number of pitchers on the roster.
   28. BDC Posted: May 04, 2022 at 11:03 AM (#6075141)
Indeed, time was when belt to knees was the accepted, if quite extra-textual, strike zone.

But I realized that I haven't watched much baseball on TV in the past 13 years, since I stopped my cable subscription. Best Dressed Chicken may be right that the zone has since crept back upwards. From where I usually sit in the fifth deck of the BDC Dome, they could be calling strikes from ankles to cap button for all I can tell :-D
   29. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: May 04, 2022 at 11:06 AM (#6075142)
Show me clips of called strikes at the midpoint. There are surely plenty on youtube.


I am genuinely confused here.

Is your argument that the current strike zone, as called in MLB (regardless of the rulebook) extends vertically only from the batter's belt down to his knees?

Rather than hunt for clips, check out this article, particularly the plotted graph under the section Measuring Called Strike Probability.

Based on actual calls from actual games, the graph indicates that a ball at the top of the rulebook strikezone has a 45%-55% rate of being called a strike. And that's the very top of the notional zone, which is a helluva long way up from the top of the belt.

Not to mention that there is a 5%-15% chance that a ball pitched even higher than the top of the rulebook zone will be called a strike! Now we are up near nipple height.

There's my supporting data. Where's yours?
   30. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 04, 2022 at 12:15 PM (#6075152)
I dwell on the horizontal extension because it gift strikes negatively impact hitting. My bottom line wish is to reduce strikeouts,

That's not your bottom line.


Have you now added mindreading to your many talents? That is absolutely my bottom line. Today's strikeout rate is the worst aspect of the game. When strikeouts get to the point of outnumbering hits, as they have since 2018, baseball has a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

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

We can assume strike zones were far more idiosyncratic before monitoring technology became available, and there used to be a lot fewer strike outs.

I think the rise is strikeouts has nothing to do with the zone. It's all pitchers throwing harder because they have to throw far fewer innings, and batters swinging for the downs on every pitch.

If you want to reduce K's you increase drag on the ball, lower and push the mound back, and restrict the number of pitchers on the roster.


I've never said that gift strikes were the sole cause of increased strikeouts. That would be absurd. But it's one factor that could be eliminated by removing an umpire's discretion on balls and strikes.

I also have no problem with restricting the number of pitchers or lowering the mound, which has been done before, but moving the mound back is too fundamental a change for my taste. 60' 6" has been the standard since 1893, and there's no need to increase it if you enact those other measures.
   31. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 12:31 PM (#6075155)
Have you now added mindreading to your many talents?


No, just reading.

If a study showed that a change to robo umps would be 75 percent likely to increase strikeouts and only a 25 percent chance to decrease them, your history of posts on the subject suggest you wouldn't say, "Nevermind."

Rather, you would say something about "personalized zones" and it could be tweaked and otherwise justify that your bottom line is implementing robo zones.

I've never said that gift strikes were the sole cause of increased strikeouts. That would be absurd. But it's one factor that could be eliminated by removing an umpire's discretion on balls and strikes.


Or not.

Let's look at framing. As anyone who has really studied the subject knows, framing is not pulling the ball back over the plate and tricking the umpire. Rather, it's catching the ball quietly without much movement of the glove. And that's actually one-part catcher, one-part pitcher. The pitcher who is able to hit his the target is going to get better results from the human umpires than the guy who doesn't know where it's going.

Now, who is more likely to hit his spots? The Glavine-Maddux-Livan types, while the flamethrowing reliever is more likely to be all over the place. Robo umps would reward the flamethrower and penalize the finesse guy, and it's the former who is vastly more likely to pick up a K than the latter (which would lead to even more of the former). Just another way your solution may not work.
   32. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 04, 2022 at 01:31 PM (#6075162)
Based on actual calls from actual games, the graph indicates that a ball at the top of the rulebook strikezone has a 45%-55% rate of being called a strike. And that's the very top of the notional zone, which is a helluva long way up from the top of the belt.

Look at the chart you're referencing. The top of the zone in this article is 3.5 feet. Does the MLB rulebook say the strike zone ends at 3.5 feet? We were just talking about midpoint. Maybe 3.5 feet is an estimate of the average MLBer's midpoint while batting?

I'm 5'10", shorter than the average MLBer. My belly button is at 42 inches. Granted, I'm not in a hitting stance.

Where do you think 42 inches is on a MLBer while batting? It ain't the midpoint.

We're seeing 45-55% at their belly button. AKA top of the belt buckle.
   33. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 04, 2022 at 01:33 PM (#6075163)
From the 1987 SI Article What ever happened to the strike zone?

Today's strike zone basically runs vertically from the belt buckle to the bottom of the knees and horizontally maybe a shade or two outside of the plate. If some latter-day Rip van Winkle fell asleep in front of his TV set 20 years ago watching Nolan Ryan throw a high heater for a called strike past Pete Rose, he would be surprised upon waking up in front of the set today to find that the same pitch thrown by Ryan to Rose is now called a ball—without argument.
   34. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: May 04, 2022 at 03:22 PM (#6075184)
RE: Post 32

From the linked article:
The graph shows the strike zone for an average player, but I adjusted based on batter height in the model itself. There are possible further adjustments based on count and batter handedness which I didn’t include to keep the model simple.


RE: Post 33

A Sports Illustrated article from 35 years ago? Shall I start finding articles that reference the effects of all the cement and Astroturf or the rise of the "new" split-fingered pitch?
   35. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 04, 2022 at 06:05 PM (#6075202)
Let's look at framing. As anyone who has really studied the subject knows, framing is not pulling the ball back over the plate and tricking the umpire. Rather, it's catching the ball quietly without much movement of the glove. And that's actually one-part catcher, one-part pitcher. The pitcher who is able to hit his the target is going to get better results from the human umpires than the guy who doesn't know where it's going.

Now, who is more likely to hit his spots? The Glavine-Maddux-Livan types, while the flamethrowing reliever is more likely to be all over the place. Robo umps would reward the flamethrower and penalize the finesse guy, and it's the former who is vastly more likely to pick up a K than the latter (which would lead to even more of the former). Just another way your solution may not work.


That first point in your second paragraph suggests that the Glavine-Maddux-Livan types somehow deserve an extra few inches, which is ludicrous on its face.

The second sentence is pure conjecture, especially given that I've said that I'd also drop the upper border of the strike zone, a move that would force pitchers to pitch down in the zone more. And with robo-umps enforcing that lower zone, those wildish flamethrowers would just wind up issuing more walks and reducing their overall value if they couldn't adjust.
   36. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: May 04, 2022 at 06:05 PM (#6075203)
https://www.si.com/mlb/2021/10/20/strike-zone-five-tool-newsletter

Graphics halfway through this article showing the location of called strikes for Houston v Boston - 10/19/2021. Plenty of called strikes well above the belt.

   37. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 06:58 PM (#6075206)
That first point in your second paragraph suggests that the Glavine-Maddux-Livan types somehow deserve an extra few inches, which is ludicrous on its face.


It's not about deserving. It's simply acknowledging reality. Control pitchers benefit more from human umps calling pitches than guys who have less command. If you make things more difficult for those types of pitchers to succeed, which your stated preference would certainly do, it will lead to more of the types of pitchers who rely heavily on Ks. It's no different than bringing in the outfield fences is going to mitigate the need for speedy OFers who can cover a lot of ground.

The second sentence is pure conjecture,


And I'm the only one engaging in conjecture. I'm sure MLB will either enact the zone perfectly to your liking or will continue to tinker with it until it's suitably Andy Approved. Why would we believe any other outcome is possible?
   38. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 04, 2022 at 07:19 PM (#6075208)

It's not about deserving. It's simply acknowledging reality.


well OK, but then you admit they dont deserve a strike for one that's not in the zone?
   39. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 07:41 PM (#6075215)
well OK, but then you admit they dont deserve a strike for one that's not in the zone?


The personalized zones never bothered me. I think it's always been part of the game, and their existence requires each player to be attentive to the way the home plate umpire is calling the plate and respond. I think umps should be consistent from start to finish and batter to batter (which is, historically, what every player asked for), but I'm not upset if this guy favors the pitch away but not in and this one likes it low. That's just the way the game has been played since the start, and don't see why the superimposed box on my screen has suddenly rendered it problematic.

But even if I did think that, this particular line of argument is not about what's deserved, but about what may happen. One should be able to believe that the rule book zone should be strictly obeyed and any deviation from that is an affront to all that is good and holy while also recognizing that calling it that way may lead to outcomes that are less than ideal and a product that, in some ways, is less entertaining.
   40. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 04, 2022 at 08:01 PM (#6075224)
well I dont have much problem with a personalized zone either. As long as its consistent and doesnt vary too much from standard.

But that's not what you were arguing above. You were contrasting a control pitcher vs an erratic pitcher.

Assuming a consistent, personalized strike zone. Shouldnt both pitchers benefit the same?
   41. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 08:21 PM (#6075229)
Assuming a consistent, personalized strike zone. Shouldnt both pitchers benefit the same?


We're not assuming a consistent personalized strike zone, but a consistent robot zone. But even in your example, we wouldn't see the same results (I guess we would if the umpire was perfectly consistent, but that beast doesn't exist).

Pitchers who hit their spots more frequently get better results, both in and out of the strike zone. Limited movement by the catcher (what framing really is) will produce more strikes, while pitchers who are wild within the zone (the catcher sets up inside, the pitch throws it outside) will see those pitches called balls even if they're in the zone because the catcher had to chase it across the zone.

The guys with good control are better at hitting the target, and thus get more strikes now than the guys who are simply getting by on pure stuff (primarily velocity). If you replace humans with robots, devices that are unaffected by the movement of the catcher, it stands to reason that control pitchers will fare worse under the new system. And if you make life harder on the control pitchers, you're inviting more hard throwers into the game, which would likely lead to more Ks.
   42. Space Force fan Posted: May 04, 2022 at 08:33 PM (#6075232)
Look at the chart you're referencing. The top of the zone in this article is 3.5 feet. Does the MLB rulebook say the strike zone ends at 3.5 feet? We were just talking about midpoint. Maybe 3.5 feet is an estimate of the average MLBer's midpoint while batting?


Just watching the game, the little box that TV creates to show balls and strikes has a top edge at the belt buckle when a batter is standing upright. Since most players crouch, the top of the box usually encompasses about 1/3 of the player's number. For the few players who have a very minimal crouch, the top of the box remains just above the top of the belt.
   43. Space Force fan Posted: May 04, 2022 at 08:45 PM (#6075233)
The personalized zones never bothered me. I think it's always been part of the game, and their existence requires each player to be attentive to the way the home plate umpire is calling the plate and respond. I think umps should be consistent from start to finish and batter to batter (which is, historically, what every player asked for), but I'm not upset if this guy favors the pitch away but not in and this one likes it low. That's just the way the game has been played since the start, and don't see why the superimposed box on my screen has suddenly rendered it problematic.


Umpires need to call the rule book as completely and consistently as possible. If the rules produce an unwatchable result, then change the rules. Allowing umps/refs to impose their own rules on the game is bad policy.

I am not much of a traditionalist, so new rules and approaches don't bother me very much. Umps ignoring the rule books very much annoys me.

I wonder if there is a correlation between people who hate/love the universal DH, interleague play, expanded playoffs, the shift, openers etc and those who hate/love the possibility of roboumps.

My choice is roboumps and monkey with the rules to eliminate any unintended consequences. Others may prefer no roboumps because they hate new rules which might be needed.
   44. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 04, 2022 at 09:00 PM (#6075237)
Control pitchers benefit more from human umps calling pitches than guys who have less command. If you make things more difficult for those types of pitchers to succeed, which your stated preference would certainly do, it will lead to more of the types of pitchers who rely heavily on Ks


Look Im not disagreeing with your basic premise here: that introducing robo umps may lead to unintended consequences. And MLB has proven inept at adapting its rules to changing conditions.

Call that Sosh's Conjecture. Its perfectly reasonable and logical. I have not disputed that, at least not for the past six months or so because I believe you have a pt. here.

What I was questioning you about was: Andy says control pitchers dont deserve a larger K zone. And you said: deserve has nothing to do with it. (or something like that) But dont you think all pitchers should be judged by the same standard?

Fairness is an argument that remains regardless of whether there are robo umps or not. It's not chained to the Sosh Conjecture at all. So IM asking about fairness quite apart from robo umps.

Right? Isnt that what he's talking about? I.e. why even preface the part about "personalized zone" with the words: "Consistent.?" Because of course we all agree that human K zone works only if its fair/consistent.

A consistent, personalized strike zone, close to the rules, seems acceptable to me. Isnt that fair to all pitchers?

Putting aside all talk of robo umps. I get your conjecture on that issue. Andy is talking about what is fair. Isnt a consistent zone fair? robo ump or no robo ump.
   45. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 04, 2022 at 09:13 PM (#6075241)
The guys with good control are better at hitting the target, and thus get more strikes now than the guys who are simply getting by on pure stuff (primarily velocity). If you replace humans with robots, devices that are unaffected by the movement of the catcher, it stands to reason that control pitchers will fare worse under the new system



Okay now for the conjecture part of our show. ..

WARNING THIS PART IS NOT CONNECTED TO PREVIOUS ARGUMENT. DIFFERENT ARGUMENT.


"No Sosh." It doesnt stand to reason at all.

conjecture 1. Currently MLB umpires make more wrong calls on balls than strikes.

Agree or not? I think someone cited a study like this last year. It seems thats what happening to me.

conjecture 2. if the correct zone was called there would be more walks in the game.

WIth more walks there would be more runs. In a higher run environment OBP becomes a bit more important than .slug.

To cut down on walks you need to bring in more control pitchers. Presumably mitigating some of the effect of higher OBP.

So I think its just as possible, maybe more possible that: BB go up, K go down, OBP goes up some, runs go up. More control pitchers.
   46. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:23 PM (#6075252)
Tonight's Yankees-Toronto game was but the latest example of how a personalized strike zone can affect the game. First Vlad got rung up on a 3-2 pitch that was a full 3 or more inches inside. Then Judge first got called out on a pitch well below the bottom of the box, and a few innings later got to an 0-2 count on two pitches that were also obviously balls. Boone got thrown out after that last call, and even the Toronto announcers acknowledged that he had cause for complaint, especially after that previous time at bat. Those were only the most noticeable calls, but they were hardly the only ones. Baseball at this level deserves better than this.

On a better note, even though the Yankees lost (2 to 1) it's always a pleasure to watch Vlad. First he hits what turned out to be the GWRBI, and then with the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 9th he did a split that no man alive could possibly be capable of without popping a groin muscle, and somehow kept his toe on the base while rescuing a short hop throw from Chapman that most first basemen never would've come up with.

That ended the game, and then on his way to the dugout he stopped to sign autographs for a bunch of kids. Players like Vlad are why I'll always love baseball in spite of the goddam personalized strike zones.

   47. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:28 PM (#6075255)
Agree or not? I think someone cited a study like this last year. It seems thats what happening to me.


I don't know. I think it depends on how you define the rule book zone. I'd say there are more balls out of the horizontally boudaries that are called strike than vice versa, but I'm not sure that offsets the number of high strikes (by the established rule book) that are called balls.

conjecture 2. if the correct zone was called there would be more walks in the game.

Again, it depends on what they do vertically. If all MLB is bring in the sides to match the vertical plane of the plate, then yes, it would lead to more walks.

WIth more walks there would be more runs. In a higher run environment OBP becomes a bit more important than .slug.

To cut down on walks you need to bring in more control pitchers. Presumably mitigating some of the effect of higher OBP.


But if control pitchers are losing more strikes on a rate basis than flamethrowers, then no, I don't think that follows. And that discounts the harm that losing the sides would do on their effectiveness within the zone.
   48. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:29 PM (#6075256)
I wonder if there is a correlation between people who hate/love the universal DH, interleague play, expanded playoffs, the shift, openers etc and those who hate/love the possibility of roboumps.

Like the universal DH, love interleague play, can live with the newly expanded playoffs that eliminate the sudden death game, don't mind the shift because it penalizes one track hitters (tough titties), don't like openers but I'd deal with them by limiting rosters to 11 pitchers, and goddammit, bring on the robo-umps. Not sure how that all adds up.
   49. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:32 PM (#6075259)
I wonder if there is a correlation between people who hate/love the universal DH, interleague play, expanded playoffs, the shift, openers etc and those who hate/love the possibility of roboumps.

I can't speak for other people, but I tend toward the traditional. I don't like the universal DH (no issues with the DH itself, I just dislike homogeneity), loathe interleague play and the expanded playoffs.

I would hate to see the shift banned and think the openers are pointless but harmless.

On the other hand, I'm the guy leading the charge to nowhere for 87 feet between the bases, so I'm not a complete reactionary.

And for what it's worth, I'm much less opposed to robo umps on balls and strikes than I am to the replay system that exists now, which simply sucks. I just think there's a real possibility that while it solves the issue that eats at you guys (an imperfect strike zone), it does so by leading to more of the problem that bugs me (too many damn strikeouts).
   50. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 04, 2022 at 10:40 PM (#6075265)

But if control pitchers are losing more strikes on a rate basis than flamethrowers,


how would we know this? And how do we define control pitcher?
   51. SoSH U at work Posted: May 04, 2022 at 11:07 PM (#6075274)
how would we know this? And how do we define control pitcher?


As I said, pitchers who hit their target (which tend to be control pitchers) get the advantage of framing. Pitchers who aren't good at locating are going to not just fail to gain strikes on balls outside the zone, they'll lose pitches inside the zone that should have been called strikes. The robo ump won't be affected by catcher movement the way human beings are.

For some people, like Space Force, that's all that matters, and thus they welcome our robot overlords. I'm worried that while it will undoubtedly make things more fair*, it won't make the actual a better product, and may make it less enjoyable.

By the way, in relation to a previous point you raised, I'd say that a consistent zone is fair, whether that's the rule book one controlled by a robot or a personalized one done by humans. As long as the zone is called the same way for both teams, it's fair (I don't care if it favors the pitcher vs. the hitter any more than I care that a ballpark does. All that matters is it's called the same way regardless who's throwing the pitch or when).
   52. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 04, 2022 at 11:09 PM (#6075275)
I can't speak for other people, but I tend toward the traditional.

The "tradition" I miss the most is the general admission seat behind the plate. I much prefer the tradition of first come / first served at the ballpark itself to first come / first served on a Ticketmaster website. People who arrive early to a game should get preference in seating over late arrivals, at least in the upper deck and the last rows of the lower deck. That used to be the near-universal ballpark experience, but it died out long ago.

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