There’s an article over at The Atlantic that makes a good observation: since the introduction of Pitch f/x and its attendant camera-aided Zone Evaluation (ZE) system which tracks missed calls after each game and judges umpires by their accuracy, strikeouts have gone way up and offense has gone down. Why?
Before cameras, it turned out, umpires had been ignoring strikes around the knees. Pitches between 18 and 30 inches above the plate, which are technically in the strike zone, had been called balls for years. But the presence of cameras encouraged umpires to lower the strike zone . . . a lower strike zone invited more low pitches, more low strikes, and more strike outs. These variables on their own explain a good chunk of baseball’s offensive drought.
The conclusion, in the form of the article’s headline:
That’s funny. Because the way I read it, what allegedly “ruined” baseball here is a more accurate enforcement of its strike zone as defined.
Which really means that nothing has been “ruined” at all. Because baseball can, if it wants to, change the strike zone. It has many, many times in its history and, if it deems that offense has been reduced to unacceptable extremes, it can simply raise or shrink the zone. But I guess a story entitled “The simple technology that improved umpiring but which led to an unintended consequence which can easily be remedied” doesn’t really grab the reader.
Personally, I want umpires to call an accurate zone. Whether that results in offense going up or down I don’t care, because that can be dealt with in many ways. But having umpires call balls balls and strikes strikes is pretty damn important. As far as that goes, Pitch f/x and Zone Evaluation have helped baseball, not ruined it.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.