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?

Julio Teheran throws six no-hit innings in return from disabled list

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Braves starter Julio Teheran dazzled in his return from the 10-day disabled list on Sunday, tossing six no-hit inning against the Padres. He walked three and struck out 11 batters on 95 pitches. Unfortunately for Teheran and for the Braves, the no-hit bid ended quickly as reliever Shane Carle surrendered a one-out single to Cory Spangenberg in the seventh inning. Nevertheless, the Braves went on to win 4-1 over the Padres.

Teheran, 27, went on the disabled list on June 5 with a right thumb contusion. He apparently suffered the injury while batting during his June 4 start against the Padres. Following Sunday’s effort, Teheran now carries a 3.97 ERA with a 67/36 K/BB ratio in 77 innings this season.

Coincidentally, Teheran has a spotless ERA on Father’s Day across four starts. Here were the results from his previous three starts:

  • June 16, 2013 vs. Giants: 6 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K
  • June 21, 2015 vs. Mets: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K
  • June 19, 2016 at Mets: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K