PostHeaderIcon Robot Strike Zone

What’s the difference between a batter with a really good eye and a batter who just took a pitch that was too close to take?  One thing.  The judgment of the home plate umpire.  If he says it’s a ball, then you’re a batter with a really good eye.  If he says it’s a strike, then you’re a batter who just took a pitch that was too close to take.

Why should it be the way?  Why should the strike zone come down to the judgment of the umpire when we have the technology to definitively determine if a pitch is a ball or a strike.  We’ve decided we should use the technology to determine safe or out.  We’ve decided we should use it to determine fair or foul.  Why not use it to determine the most fundamental call of all, ball or strike.

The old-schoolers on the other side say you can’t take away the human element.  You can’t take away the arguments over balls and strikes.  To me, this point of view is flawed.  The only reason there are arguments is because umpires are imperfect.  They do a great job, but they can make mistakes.  Consequently, often times even when they are right, they get accused of making mistakes.  Since we have the capability to call balls and strikes 100% correct without slowing down the game at all, we should do it.  We didn’t mind taking away the human element on the bases for safe and out calls.  We realized the main priority was getting the call right.  The same should be true for balls and strikes.  The main priority should be getting the call right.

Let me lay out a scenario for you.  It’s the 7th game of the World Series.  The bases are loaded.  Two are out.  Full count.  You’re down by a run.  The pitcher throws a pitch that is outside of the strike zone.  You take the pitch.  You don’t swing.  The game is tied.  Except for one thing.  The umpire raises his hand and says, “Strike three!”  You did everything perfect.  You had a great eye and you just lost the World Series.  Millions of fans watching the game on TV all clearly saw that the ball was not in the strike zone, but the ump called it a strike.  Is this how we want a World Series to be decided?  Is this how we want any game to be decided?

This isn’t just about strike three in game 7 of the World Series.  This is about thousands of pitches that are missed by umpires all year long.  Every missed pitch has consequences.  For example, a typical batter’s average drops by about 50 points if an umpire mistakenly starts him out with a count of 0-1 instead of a count of 1-0.  Every pitch matters.  It’s important that every pitch be called correctly.

This change is coming.  They are already experimenting with the robot strike zone in the minor leagues.  It’s just a matter of time before it is being used in the Major Leagues as well.  And once we have it, we’re going to wonder why we waited so long to implement it.  This is not a subjective thing that is subject to opinion.  It’s very objective.  A strike is a strike and a ball is ball.  Why would we choose to opt for imperfection when perfection is available with essentially no negative consequences?

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