Does baseball need umpires?

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Or at least so many, especially in the postseason.  That’s the question Jonah Keri asks in today’s Wall Street Journal in the wake of some shaky officiating in the first round of the playoffs:

The idea, of course, is that more umpires means better play-calling.
But this isn’t necessarily true. After Friday’s game, Tim Tschida, the
umpire crew chief on duty that night, told reporters that while there
was no excuse for Mr. Cuzzi’s blown call, there was one contributing
factor. Umpires spend so little time working in the outfield during the
season that it can be a challenge in the postseason. “Getting into a
position is a little bit foreign,” Mr. Tschida said. “It’s a little bit
uncomfortable.”

In an interview with the Newark Star-Ledger, Mr. Cuzzi also said the
positioning was a challenge. “We’re not used to playing that far down
the line,” he said. “The instant the ball is hit, we usually start
running. I think I may have been looking too closely at it.”

Keri goes on to note the accuracy of the Pitch-f/x zone evaluation system, and the use of the Hawk-Eye cameras in tennis for line calls, and asks whether, rather than throwing six umpires out at a playoff game, we couldn’t limit that number and rely more on technology to get balls and strikes and line calls right more often.

The usual battle lines of this debate end up being those who want every call to be right with no excuses whatsoever vs. those who are wary of taking the “human element” out of the game.  I’m sympathetic towards the latter viewpoint, especially when it comes to calling balls and strikes — I get a lot of enjoyment out of the cat and mouse game pitchers, catchers and batters play with the strike zone — but I can’t help but think that we’re on an inevitable course towards technology playing a larger role in the game.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to have a digital camera system make accurate line calls, so what’s the argument against it?  And once you go there, how long can those of us who like to see a little human variance in the strike zone really hold off the advance of progress?

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Reds 10, Braves 4: The good news: the game went on despite the bad forecast I was worried about yesterday. The bad news: I still didn’t go because (a) I am still sick with the crap I had over the weekend; and (b) in light of that it didn’t seem like a great idea to take a 200-mile, drugged-up round trip with the possibility of sitting in rain delays and getting back home after midnight to see it. So, bad news: I missed my first big league game of the season. Good news: I took more NyQuil and went to bed at 9:30 and slept until after 6, so maybe I’m on the mend. Not that most of you care about that. What you do care about is that Atlanta jumped out to a 2-0 lead and then the wheels fell off with the Reds tying it up on a two-run Scott Schebler homer in the fifth and then scoring five in the sixth, with Jesse Winker‘s bases-loaded single putting them ahead for good. Schebler would later single in another run. Jim Riggleman gets his first win as Reds manager. The game was played in front of the smallest crowd at Great American Ball Park in nine years — 9,463 — so maybe everyone else was home taking NyQuil too.

Yankees 14, Twins 1: Miguel Andujar homered and doubled, Giancarlo Stanton went 4-for-4 with a homer and Didi Gregorius hit a grand slam. Gleyber Torres got his first big league hit. Paul Molitor brought in outfielder Ryan LaMarre to pitch in the eighth and Tyler Austin hit a two-run homer off of him on his four-RBI night. One of them nights, I guess. Andujar is 15-for-29 with eight doubles, a triple and three home runs in his last seven games. That’s hot, my friends.

Indians 2, Orioles 1: Kevin Gausman pitched well — allowing only two runs on four hits over eight innings, including one inning in which he struck out the side in nine pitches — but Carlos Carrasco pitched better, allowing one run on six hits in seven and a third. Yonder Alonso‘s two-run homer in the second was Gausman’s only mistake, but it was a big enough mistake to give the Indians the win.

Athletics 9. Rangers 4: Marcus Semien led off the ninth inning with the game tied at 3. His homer gave the A’s the lead and his teammates piled on five more runs, all with two outs, off of Ranger relievers Kevin Jepsen and Jesse Chavez. Oakland has won seven of eight games and is now 12-11. Not bad for the consensus last place team in the AL West.

White Sox 10, Mariners 4: The White Sox had been losing badly and losing big of late, so putting up seven runs in the first two innings had to make them feel better, at least for one day. They started the game with seven straight hits. Jose Abreu hit two homers and had four hits in all, and six other Pale Hose had an RBI each. Yoan Moncada went 3-for-5 and scored three times.

Angels 2, Astros 0Tyler Skaggs tossed seven shutout innings and Justin Anderson and Keynan Middleton each blanked Houston for a frame to complete the shutout. A Kole Calhoun RBI single and a Justin Upton RBI double was all the scoring the Halos needed. The loss snapped Houston’s six-game winning streak.

Padres 13, Rockies 5: San Diego jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first but it was 4-4 after the bottom half of the inning. The Rockies scored once in the third but the Padres put up nine in the seventh, and that is usually too much to overcome, even in Coors Field. Carlos Asuaje homered and drove in four, Wil Myers had four hits and drove in two and Franchy Cordero, Cory Spangenberg and Matt Szczur each drove in a couple as well.

Dodgers 2, Marlins 1: Welcome to the big leagues, Walker Buehler. The Dodgers prospect made his big league debut and shut out the Marlins for five innings, striking out five while struggling a bit with his command. He didn’t get the win because Jaime Garcia was pretty stingy, allowing only one run over six, but Enrique Hernandez homered in the fourth and Cody Bellinger hit a sac fly in the eighth to give the Dodgers the win. The Dodgers remain hot, moving to 11-10 with their seventh win in eight games.

Giants 4, Nationals 2: The Giants beat the Nats thanks in part to a Mac Williamson two-run homer that flew 464 feet and another run he knocked in via a fielder’s choice. Buster Posey also singled in a run. All the Nats could muster on offense was a pair of sac flies. They were supposed to run away with the NL East but they’re in fourth place, 5.5 games out. It’s early, but no, that’s not what you want.