The strike zone is getting really, really big

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In the 90s there was a lot of talk about the strike zone expanding to the right and left, especially for pitchers like Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux who could consistently hit points outside of the zone and convince umpires to give them those calls as a result of that consistency.

But overall, the zone was a lot smaller then. The offensive numbers certainly bear that out as both the high strike and the low strike all but disappeared and hitters could crush anyone who couldn’t paint those corners (or just outside those corners) like Glavine and Maddux.

The wide zone doesn’t exist now like it used to. Most attribute that to Pitchf/x, which Major League Baseball has used to grade umpires over the years. They’ve been called out on that leniency and have called a more accurate zone, laterally speaking.

But boy howdy, it has grown vertically. As Jon Roegele demonstrates at The Hardball Times, the zone has grown and grown significantly, and it more than anything else is what has led to the low offensive environment and lack of contact we see in today’s game:

The average strike zone size increased by 16 square inches in 2014 over 2013, growing the zone to a robust 40 square inches larger than just five seasons prior. In the previous articles we discussed how the zone has actually been squeezing in at the sides slightly, but is stretching like crazy down from the knees as if it is under the clutches of gravity. (And like Radiohead said in Fake Plastic Trees, gravity always wins.)

This is the sort of thing that leads to the league, however silently, making adjustments. Formally redefining the zone or leaning on umpires to informally change things. Possibly, as definitely happened in the National League in the 1930s and many people suspect happened in 1987 and 1993, juicing the baseball.

Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name

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The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan report that Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name as recently as December. The fake name is Mason Saunders. Bumgarner explains that “Mason” is shortened from “Madison,” while “Saunders” is his wife’s maiden name.

Bumgarner — err, Saunders — and one of his rodeo partners, Jaxson Tucker, won $26,560 in a team-roping rodeo competition in December. The Rancho Rio Arena posted a picture of the pair on Facebook, highlighting that they roped four steers in 31.36 seconds.

As Baggarly and Buchanan point out, Bumgarner also pointed out in a rodeo competition last March, just a couple days before pitching in a Cactus League game versus the Athletics, back when he was still with the Giants.

Bumgarner suffered bruised ribs and a left shoulder AC sprain in 2017 when he got into a dirt bike accident. Given that, Bumgarner’s latest extracurricular activity does raise a concern for the Diamondbacks, who inked him to a five-year, $85 million contract two months ago. Baggarly and Buchanan asked Bumgarner about such a concern. Bumgarner referred them to the club’s managing partner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick directed them to GM Mike Hazen. Hazen declined speaking about “specific contract language.” For what it’s worth, Bumgarner says he primarily uses his right hand to rope.

The jig is up on Bumgarner’s hobby. He jokingly said to The Athletic’s pair, “I’m nervous about this interview right now.” He added, “I’m upset with both you two.”