A Standardized Strike Zone? Urban Legend

Published on 14-Feb-2015 by Alan Adamsson
MLB / MLB Daily Opinion

Same as it ever was.

New MLB Commish Rob Manfred is knocking around every brainstorm in the book, apparently trying to put an early stamp on his reign.

The crazy stuff -- think banning defensive shifts -- will sort itself out amidst its own stupidity.

It's the ivory-tower proposals that are bemusing, as in coming down from the mountain holding stone tablets defining a fairer strike zone. There's just one nagging problem ...

Something always gets lost in the translation.

It's one thing to say what the strike zone's gotta be. Time immemorial has shown that what it really is rarely matches up. Every umpire has a different version.

Here's the current state of play:

MLB strike zone

Tell that to hitters.

Here's the real issue: Umpires anticipate too much. No strike zone changes are gonna fix that.

In the situations above, the blues' mental drift was appalling:

  • David Ortiz was looking at a 3-0 count. What do umpires expect? A taken cripple for the obligatory strike. Tim Timmons totally drifted here; the pitcher recovered and came back to get the strikeout. Not seen is an angered, frustrated Ortiz taking his bat to various items in the dugout.
  • Joe Nathan was looking at notching a landmark 300th save. Don't think Marty Foster wasn't aware of it. Nathan is a noted corner-painter, and Foster had his mind made up before the pitch even arrived.

Crucially, neither one of those blues was Ángel Hernández. And this is not to say that the pitchers don't get squeezed, either.

Unless everyone agrees to let pitch/fx call games, the best baseball can do is put more teeth into their evaluation of umpires. Until then, each one of them will continue to have his own zone, just like it's always been.

Good luck to the Commish for trying to change that.

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