Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times has a story about the evolution of the strike zone over the past 30 or 40 years and how monitoring of it by Major League Baseball via first the QuesTec system and then Pitch f/x has changed things and made it more uniform.
The overall story is good and is worth reading, but of course, you can’t have that conversation without talking about the 1990s Atlanta Braves and the wide strike zones Maddux and Glavine got. DiGiovanna talked to Maddux and here was his observation about it:
“We always heard in Atlanta how we got strikes called and other teams didn’t,” Maddux said by phone from his home in Las Vegas. “But if you go back and watch the tapes, the ball two or three inches off the plate that was a strike was being called both ways. The difference was our guys threw seven or eight a game out there, and they threw two or three. I charted Glavine off TV all the time. If he was getting the ball off the plate, so was the other guy. You could say we got more pitches, but we made more pitches.”
I watched practically all of those games back in the day and this rings true. No question the zone was wide. No question that Glavine and Maddux got a greater benefit out of it than anyone. But it was less about the star system, I believe, than it was about being able to take advantage of the umpiring flaw more frequently. Particularly in Glavine’s case, as Maddux was not all about living on the edges.
Yeah, I’m a fan, so take it all with a grain of salt. But the suggestion that you hear more and more as memories fade — that Maddux and Glavine were mere products of a bad strike zone — is ridiculous on its face. They could, you know, pitch a little too.