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.
Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza blames the field conditions at the Oakland Coliseum for hurting his hip. He left Wednesday’s game after sliding into second base on a steal attempt and says the dirt was to blame:
“I went to slide, and it was extremely muddy around second base. My leg got stuck in the ground, and I just kind of felt a jump in my hip. That didn’t feel very great . . . “I don’t know how it got real muddy out there, but it was not OK. I’ve never actually slid into a major league base like that and stuck and felt like I was going deeper in the ground.”
He wouldn’t be the first person to find fault with the Coliseum, but he’s the first person I can remember lodging this particular complaint. At least before the Raiders start playing and mess up the field for football season. Souza had a hip injury last year, though, so it’s understandable if he’s a bit more sensitive to it all. At the moment he’s day-to-day.
In other news, the A’s are said to be closer than ever to getting a new stadium. Like, way closer than they have been for the past decade in which they’ve been looking to get a new stadium.
I love the trade deadline. Yeah, it’s cool that players get traded, influencing pennant races and all that jazz, but I also love it for the terminology.
So many “internal discussions” and so much tire-kicking. Just today I heard that a team has “gotten some feelers” for a player. That sounds kinda dirty, but in a good wholesome PG-13 sort of way. It’s two solid weeks of euphemism, really.
Sometimes, though, it gets scary. Like the way the Brewers are said to be talking about Justin Wilson of the Tigers:
I suppose if you’re “hanging on for dear life” that even the worst behavior can be excused, but I do hope that Brewers GM David Stearns is not threatening to rough up Tigers GM Al Avila or anything. Can a trade made under duress caused by threats of physical force be vetoed by the commissioner? An interesting analysis to be sure, even if it’s only speculative for now.
As for Wilson, I suppose the Brewers would have to be aggressive. He’s probably the most sought-after pitcher on the market at the moment. The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that 10-12 clubs were in on the left-handed reliever. He has a 2.75 ERA in 38 appearances and is striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings. He’s textbook trade deadline fodder, and the Tigers will likely get a nice return for him.
But please, Stearnsy, don’t hurt ’em.