Bobby Valentine went on the other day about how umpires can’t get ball and strike calls right and suggested that maybe it’s time for the robots to take over. He was particularly mad at Alan Porter, the ump from Sunday’s Nats-Red Sox game.
Today former MLB VP in charge of umpiring Mike Port blasted Valentine, saying that he was blaming the umps for his team’s poor performance:
Is Bobby Valentine whining too much about the umpires?
“Yes. Precisely. I would admit my bias only knowing what I do about umpiring. Bobby’s a good baseball man and he knows the game well and he’s a good manager, but I think we all at one time or another fall prey to looking for others. It’s almost a societal thing — who can we blame? I can promise you that those in the military who are successful in their endeavors don’t go that way. They go on a no excuses basis. When I saw Bobby’s comments about the game Sunday, June 10th and the umpiring, correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t that the game where the Red Sox surrendered a two run lead? Where one player misplayed a ball allowing a run to score? Where they had another player strike out four times and ultimately where they couldn’t score more runs than the opposition. Were all of those guys named Alan Porter?
Kind of a sick burn, I’ll give him that. But it doesn’t change the fact that umpiring could stand to be improved. And Port sounds both retrograde and crazy when he was asked about whether the technology exists that could get the calls correct.
In response to automated ball and strike calls he asks says “perhaps we could go to the robot hitter and the robot pitcher …” In response to a question about putting chips in balls to allow them to transmit whether they are fair or foul, he suggests that its possible for the home team to jam the freaking signals. Or for home team broadcast trucks to purposefully avoid getting shots of plays that could, on replay, disadvantage the home team.
So, sure, maybe Port is right about Valentine. But he also sounds like a guy who is predisposed to make whatever insane defense of human umpires he can think of if it means not changing the world with which he is familiar.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: