Time to reevaluate the strike zone

I’ve complained about this many times in the past, as recently as the Detroit series, but one thing that never fails to draw my ire is an inconsistent strike zone.  The Yankees always seem to be on the wrong end of these discrepancies, though I realize that because I’m a Yankee fan that I am more apt to notice calls that don’t go the Yankee’s way.

That said, I refuse to buy into this idea that inconsistent umpiring is somehow a part of the game.  Some umpires are known as “pitcher’s umps” or “batter’s umps.”  This is an absurd notion.  The strike zone is not some malleable idea.  It is an area over the plate that has a definite definition in the rulebook.

When MLB tried to regulate it, by making the Questec (I’m not positive on the spelling) system, people actually complained about it to the point where it is no longer used.  Let me get this straight: MLB comes up with a way to use technology to determine the accuracy of umpires and that’s somehow a bad thing?

Don’t we have the technology now that we could have balls and strikes determined automatically?  If it crosses the zone, it gets recorded as a strike.  If not, it doesn’t.

The whole thing makes me think of playing wiffle ball with my friends.  We had the infallable chair system.  You put a lawn chair behind home plate.  If it hit any part of the chair that wasn’t the legs, it was a strike.  If you tried to call balls and strikes by watching, you would get endless arguments and bad calls.  Sure, sometimes balls that wouldn’t hit the chair were probably strikes and vice versa.  But it was consistent and you couldn’t argue: either it hit or it didn’t.

Sure, baseball is only a game, but it’s a billion dollar a year game.  Why are we allowing one umpire to completely control a game?  When I buy game tickets and merchandise and sit through commericials on YES, that revenue I am providing is for my team to put the best product on the field for my enjoyment.  I want that product to decide what happens.  I’m not interested in watching one man’s interpretation of the strike zone.

Obviously, this ties into last night’s game, which had some of the worst balls and strikes calls I’ve ever seen – and that’s saying something.  In the first four innings, Phil Hughes could not get a called strike to save his life.  At one point in an at-bat against JD Drew, he threw drew 5 strikes.  Three of them were not even close to being debatable.  YES showed us the angles on them.  They weren’t “on the black.”  They were right over the plate.

What’s really frustating is that these calls led to Hughes getting pulled relatively early and definitely had an impact on the game.  I was almost hoping the Yankees would get blown out, just so I could be assured that the bad calls didn’t really mean that much.  But the Yankees ended up one hit short, and let’s face it: they could have won that game with a consistent strike zone.  Would they have?  Who knows.  But there is a chance.

I don’t want Jerry Meals deciding how my favorite team’s season plays out.  Win or lose, succeed or fail, I want to know it’s the players that do it.

What’s funny is we all wring our hands and get upset over steroids, when that is only potentially affecting the competitive balance between players.  Bad umpiring affects the competitive balance of the game itself, and it consequently has a much greater impact on the average fan who watches the game to cheer for his or her team to win.

It’s very depressing to know that most fans would actually oppose the use of technology to regulate the strike zone, when they are the ones who stand to gain.  Anyways, I’ll end my rant there, and try to look at some positive from last night:

-Despite what ended up being a somewhat ugly box score line, Phil Hughes looked very strong.  His fastball had a ton of life and was consistently in the mid 90s.  Obviously he couldn’t get any called strikes, which hurt him, but he also would have benefited from varying his pitches more I think, particularly to Ortiz.  Why keep hammering Ortiz with cutters inside when he has a slow bat?  Give him the heat.

– Again, I am impressed with the Yankees ability to come back.  They fell one hit short last night, but even though things looked dire in the 4th inning, they made a game of it.  I think things like that will eventually start to pay dividends.

– Aceves also looked very strong and you have to be pleased, at least at the moment, with the Yankees’ starting pitching depth.

– Those were big homeruns for Teixiera; getting him on track is crucial for the offense, especially if Posada is going to have to spend a large amount of time on the DL.

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3 responses to “Time to reevaluate the strike zone

  1. I didn’t realize that they stopped using QuesTec. I looked up some info and it looks like they originally had a 5 year deal and then a series of 1 year deals.

    Are you sure they stopped using it because fans complained? It seems like you made that part up.

  2. I was under the impression that they had stopped using it – perhaps a bad assumption. When I say “people” complained, I am probably being too vague, but I mean more a combination of media, players, and fans. I think the fans were basically indifferent, which I still find kind of strange.

    I still remember Curt Schilling going ballistic and destroying the QuesTec machine (thanks for the spelling, btw).

  3. I couldn’t disagree with your statement about “pitchers vs hitters” umpires more. It is well known in the locker room that Tim McClelland makes pitchers throw the ball over the plate. Jim Wolff will reward a pitcher for hitting his spot regardless of the plate.

    QuesTec is far from perfect, but it has been implemented in hopes of unifying the strike zone.

    Here is some inside for you. Pitchers and hitters rarely argue “up and down” they argue “inside and outside”.

    Next time you are at a Yankees game see if you can sit anywhere behind the plate. You will notice that fans sitting down the lines will go crazy when the catcher frames a pitch, but the the people behind the plate aren’t as adamant because they can see that the ball was not a strike.

    I also think that the camera in center field is probably where you are basing your opinion. I don’t think that you would see as many arguments between players and umpires if there wasn’t inconsistencies in the strike zone.

    In the end, perception is reality and I may be way off.

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