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Thread: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    I was just reading Jayson Stark's piece in The Athletic about the automated zone that will be used in the Atlantic league. One of the issues they'll be dealing with is updating the zone for each batter.

    While I appreciate that current strike zone definition is designed around the idea of a strike being a ball that is reasonable for that particular batter to hit well, I'm not convinced that produces the best result for the game. A few reasons come to mind:
    • Despite careful wording in definition, the top and bottom of the zone are systematically enforced differently by different umpires. This seems to have improved in a recent years, but differences remain.
    • It is simply more difficult for umpires to accurately call a zone that changes than one which is always in the same place. Batter movement during his stance set up complicates the matter.
    • While a variable-height zone theoretically account for differences in batters ability to hit balls at different heights, I'm not sure that's actually true. Subjectively speaking, it seems that a bigger zone simply punishes the hitter as bigger batters have more difficulty reaching the extremes of their strike zone with quality swings that smaller batters do. While larger batters have more reach, they also have a longer swing path due to longer arms which makes it more difficult for them to time pitches.


    The best argument in favor of the variable height zone I could think of is that it is necessary to ensure that the pitcher has a visible reference point to target his pitches. I'm sure there are other arguments for and against the variable height strike zone, but my current thinking is that a standard-height zone would be an improvement.

    Other than the "why are we changing something that works -- this is stupid" line of argumentation, what do you guys think?
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Jose Altuve would be screwed, strikes would be at eye level for that little guy. What I'm trying to get at is (depending on how the height of the zone is defined) shorter batters would face issues with high strikes and taller batters would face issues with low strikes. I think the way the strike zone is defined now is why the size of the athletes in this sport hasn't been an issue. with a standardized strike zone players like Altuve and Judge could be phased out because their body type doesn't line up well with the strike zone. Hopefully the new Hawkeye system that MLB is implementing is to take a step towards Robo Umps.
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    Member corkedbat's Avatar
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Make it fair. Chin to shoetops for anyone 5-10 or under.

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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    So you want to ban short and tall people from the game?
    Go Gators!

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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Good hitters would adjust to a standardized strike zone, so no problem. Crap hitters would continue hacking at whatever comes their way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KronoRed View Post
    So you want to ban short and tall people from the game?
    I don't know that umpires really adjust their strike zones for different hitters all that much. I would say they're more likely to adjust their strike zones to certain pitchers, but I don't have any empirical data to support that.
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    Member Ron Madden's Avatar
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    As reluctant as Major League Baseball was to embrace the use of technology to reduce the number of incorrect calls by umpires, the sport still did manage to implement a replay system eleven years ago, becoming the last major pro sports league in America to do so.

    And while the system has its flaws, it has cut down on the number of missed calls on the bases, on the foul lines, and at the fences.

    But behind the plate is a much different story.

    I know that baseball purists will argue that the umpires - like the players - represent the 'human element' of the game and that we can't expect perfection from either.

    But I would remind those purists that baseball fans pay to see players, not umpires, succeed and fail at their jobs.

    An umpire has one job - to get it right.

    Baseball needs to make sure they're doing everything they can to make sure that happens.
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    I’ve been in favor of an automated strike zone for a few years now. MLB Umpires do a terrible job calling balls and strikes
    Last edited by Ron Madden; 05-17-2019 at 12:54 AM.

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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Wait, Im confused, or more confused than normal.

    They have to adjust it hitter to hitter because of how the strike zone is defined in the rule book. I believe its from the hollow of the knees, to the midpoint between the hitters armpits and his belt. It is supposed to get taller for taller players and shorter for shorter players. There has never been a set strike zone that is the same height for every player. It has always changed from player to player, per the rule.

    That said, I dont see how a computer can calculate that for every hitter. Maybe the technology is there, but it seems like it would alway be imprecise.

    I have always argued the best way to do computer umps for strikes and balls is to have the computer just determine if it went over the plate, and then have the ump determine if it was the right height. The ump hears a beep in his earpiece if it does, and then he decides if it was the right height and makes the call.
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    You know.. I seem to favor the human error element in sports being that it is humans who actually play the game, not computers. For every ball called a strike there seems to be just as many strikes called balls.
    In years past I was always in favor of automated ways to do things in sports, but as I've gotten older I tend to like the screwups more than arbitrary automated systems. There are so many areas in our lives where computers automate too many things as is. This just feels like just another step toward replacing human beings with automation..

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    Viva la Rolen kaldaniels's Avatar
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by mamell View Post
    You know.. I seem to favor the human error element in sports being that it is humans who actually play the game, not computers. For every ball called a strike there seems to be just as many strikes called balls.
    In years past I was always in favor of automated ways to do things in sports, but as I've gotten older I tend to like the screwups more than arbitrary automated systems. There are so many areas in our lives where computers automate too many things as is. This just feels like just another step toward replacing human beings with automation..
    If that’s all you want I’d be for an automated strike zone with an umpire still standing behind the plate making the same salary/benefits.

    Anyone - feel free to show me I’m wrong, but given the amazing technology out there - I firmly believe a computer could call better balls/strikes than a human. It wouldn’t always be right...but it would more than a human.

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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by kaldaniels View Post
    If that’s all you want I’d be for an automated strike zone with an umpire still standing behind the plate making the same salary/benefits.

    Anyone - feel free to show me I’m wrong, but given the amazing technology out there - I firmly believe a computer could call better balls/strikes than a human. It wouldn’t always be right...but it would more than a human.
    I just don't see the advantage. After all, eliminating human error works great for mathematical things where human error can get people killed, but to my knowledge no human error has ever killed anyone in baseball other than perhaps a fastball to the head and no computer can eliminate that without eliminating human's in the game itself.
    To each their own I suppose, but you won't change my mind any faster than I'll change yours. If you want to watch computerized baseball go for it. I'll pass.

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    Viva la Rolen kaldaniels's Avatar
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by mamell View Post
    I just don't see the advantage. After all, eliminating human error works great for mathematical things where human error can get people killed, but to my knowledge no human error has ever killed anyone in baseball other than perhaps a fastball to the head and no computer can eliminate that without eliminating human's in the game itself.
    To each their own I suppose, but you won't change my mind any faster than I'll change yours. If you want to watch computerized baseball go for it. I'll pass.
    The advantage would be a more accurate strike zone.

    If you don’t think the technology can get there - just say so and I will disagree but not argue about it. But like 75 said, surely you can get a computer to tell you if a ball went over the plate. At minimum - wouldn’t that be a big win?

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by KronoRed View Post
    So you want to ban short and tall people from the game?
    I understand this is an argument that exists. It would be nice to see the actual argument. Just how much does the zone move for extreme tall/short players? And, importantly, how sure are we that the standard zone would be more challenging for them to handle?
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by 757690 View Post
    Wait, I’m confused, or more confused than normal.

    They have to adjust it hitter to hitter because of how the strike zone is defined in the rule book. I believe it’s from the hollow of the knees, to the midpoint between the hitters armpits and his belt. It is supposed to get taller for taller players and shorter for shorter players. There has never been a set strike zone that is the same height for every player. It has always changed from player to player, per the rule.

    That said, I don’t see how a computer can calculate that for every hitter. Maybe the technology is there, but it seems like it would alway be imprecise.

    I have always argued the best way to do computer umps for strikes and balls is to have the computer just determine if it went over the plate, and then have the ump determine if it was the right height. The ump hears a beep in his earpiece if it does, and then he decides if it was the right height and makes the call.
    I think the confusion is coming from there being two sources of zones changing. One is the standard rulebook adjustment based on the height and stance of the batter. The other is the small systemic differences in the way umpires call the game.

    There's a whole discussion about umpires vs. computerized systems -- that's what the article I posted is getting on about. Intrigued by the notion that the computer may have trouble adjusting for height/stance, I'm asking about the other question. Might the game be better if there was no adjustment. And that question could be answered in either the umpire or computerized zone context.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by mamell View Post
    You know.. I seem to favor the human error element in sports being that it is humans who actually play the game, not computers. For every ball called a strike there seems to be just as many strikes called balls.
    In years past I was always in favor of automated ways to do things in sports, but as I've gotten older I tend to like the screwups more than arbitrary automated systems. There are so many areas in our lives where computers automate too many things as is. This just feels like just another step toward replacing human beings with automation..
    I'm curious, are there other areas of the game where the rules are currently enforced in a black/white way where you think the game would be better if human error (from umpires) came into play more often?
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I think the confusion is coming from there being two sources of zones changing. One is the standard rulebook adjustment based on the height and stance of the batter. The other is the small systemic differences in the way umpires call the game.

    There's a whole discussion about umpires vs. computerized systems -- that's what the article I posted is getting on about. Intrigued by the notion that the computer may have trouble adjusting for height/stance, I'm asking about the other question. Might the game be better if there was no adjustment. And that question could be answered in either the umpire or computerized zone context.

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    I'm curious, are there other areas of the game where the rules are currently enforced in a black/white way where you think the game would be better if human error (from umpires) came into play more often?
    Thanks for the clarification.

    My guess is it would hurt short players and help taller players.

    Pitchers would exploit the fact that the strike zone is above the shorter players normal zone, forcing shorter player to either swing at pitches above their hitting zone, or take strikes that they can’t hit well. It would also make it harder for the short hitters to cover the bottom of the zone, since they have to be prepared to swing at pitches above their zone.

    Taller players wouldn’t have to swing at high pitches, as they would be called balls, so they can focus their swing at lower pitches. Pitchers would only be able to attack them at the bottom of the zone, giving them fewer options to pitch to them.

    Remember, the difference between the taller players and the shorter players is an entire foot, 12 inches. That should have a meaningful effect.
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    Re: Change My Mind: The Strike Zone Should be Identical for all Batters

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I think the confusion is coming from there being two sources of zones changing. One is the standard rulebook adjustment based on the height and stance of the batter. The other is the small systemic differences in the way umpires call the game.

    There's a whole discussion about umpires vs. computerized systems -- that's what the article I posted is getting on about. Intrigued by the notion that the computer may have trouble adjusting for height/stance, I'm asking about the other question. Might the game be better if there was no adjustment. And that question could be answered in either the umpire or computerized zone context.

    - - - Updated - - -



    I'm curious, are there other areas of the game where the rules are currently enforced in a black/white way where you think the game would be better if human error (from umpires) came into play more often?
    My brother and I have fantastic debates on this subject. He is very much in favor of automating the strike zone, for accuracy as well as possibly speeding up the game. I am very much on the other side of that fence. What I think still makes baseball unique to sports is human error, and human interaction (umpires with batters and pitchers). I'm ok with umpires being slightly different in how they handle pitches and strikes and all the game-to-game variables that come with that. Batters and pitchers learning umpires strike zones and adjusting. Why are we obsessed with strike zone equality? Do we want to just get closer to predictable outcomes in sports?


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