Strike Zone Technology: Make Up Your Mind, MLB

The debate about whether MLB should use the latest strike-zone technology for calling balls and strikes has been going on for quite some time and I’m not here to make an argument about that. What MLB absolutely needs to do, however, is to have it be the same for everyone: whether you’re sitting at the stadium, watching the game on your TV, or following the game on your latest release of iPhone. If they’re not going to use this technology on the field, that’s perfectly fine – baseball has been played that way for more than 100 years and it will survive, but then also don’t display the pitch location graphic on the TV screens, it only makes everyone look bad.

Exhibit A: I tune in for about 20 minutes of the Game 4 of World Series just in time to catch the announcers talk about how a big part of Holland’s success that night against the potent Cardinals line-up has been his approach of pitching inside to the right-handed hitters. This discussion was accompanied by a compilation of highlights with the location of every pitch relative to the strike zone mapped on the screen, and guess what?! HALF of the pitches that were called strikes (and I’m not counting swing-and-miss) were actually balls, and some were not even that close!

The way I see it, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone:

– The umps: I know some umps have tighter strike zones than others, and I know a pitcher might get some borderline calls go his way if he is on  a roll, but there has to be SOME level of consistency and competence among umps. When millions of people can see the evidence of your incompetence, I would not want to be those umps

– The announcers: I, for one, would be slightly uncomfortable as an announcer if I was making a point about a pitcher’s superb performance while televising something that does not necessarily speak to that. Even if the umps are blatantly bad, announcers have to be somewhat diplomatic about that. Having pitch trace on the TV screen makes it that much harder.

– The fans: It used to be a lot easier to dismiss fans whining about bad balls-strikes calls with “its part of the game.” When the evidence is right in front of your face and you can go back and pinpoint location of every pitch, it’s suddenly a lot harder to do so. Add to that the fact that these calls never get reversed, and it becomes only more nerve-wrecking for fans to watch, so as a fan I’m not sure if want to see strike zone on the screen.

Add all those factors up and I don’t see how the league wins from allowing the networks show the strike zone and pitch location on the screen during the broadcast, unless, of course, it is also implemented in the actual game. I just want to see some consistency.

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