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Thread: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

  1. #121
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by dabvu2498 View Post
    Like the wind or the rain? Or a pebble in the grass that causes a bad hop? Or a freak injury to a star player? Or a starting pitcher that had too much to drink the night before?

    Randomness and externalities can not be eliminated from baseball.
    And yet they still cut the grass to be uniform, rake the dirt to get rid of as many pebbles as possible, and try to keep all the pitching mounds the same height.

    Just because you can't ever reach perfect doesn't mean you shouldn't continue to improve -- especially when the "randomness" isn't really all that random. It's not just that umps miss calls sometimes. It's that Maddux gets strikes that Belisle doesn't. It's that righties have a lower strike zone called against them than do lefties.

    Here's an interesting table and commentary from Dan Fox at BP. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...articleid=6502 (subscription required). He's done a lot of work with the Pitch/fx data MLB is accumulating.

    Several years ago I took my older daughter on a fossil hunting trip in the Cretaceous Badlands of western Kansas, in what was then the Western Interior Seaway. After just a few minutes of struggling to see the bits of fossilized bone, shell, and teeth that our guide could see so well, the concept of "search image" had become crystal clear for both my daughter and myself. The basic idea is that we see what we're trained to see. Our minds interpret the data coming from our eyes using predefined patterns that have been influenced and built up from experience. So to our guide, what was clearly a shark tooth of the species Cretoxyrhina literally right in front of our noses, was for us simply another piece of jagged rock. I'm happy to report that we eventually caught on and made a contribution or two as the day wore on.

    I was reflecting on this experience as I examined the called ball and strike accuracy of umpires when broken down by count. To understand why this happened examine the following table, keeping in mind that the mean CSAgree% is 81.4 percent and the mean CBAgree% is 94.6 percent:

    Code:
    Count    Pitches      CS  CSAgree%     CB CBAgree% Agree%
    1-0         6653    2690     .803    3963    .945   .887
    2-0         2349    1078     .828    1271    .943   .891
    3-0         1155     710     .883     445    .948   .908
    1-1         5066    1199     .772    3867    .950   .908
    1-2         3871     400     .670    3471    .962   .932
    2-1         2359     616     .756    1743    .952   .901
    2-2         2637     336     .732    2301    .969   .939
    3-1         1048     388     .799     660    .952   .895
    3-2         1168     184     .788     984    .966   .938
    0-0        20415    8960     .837   11455    .928   .888
    0-1         6971    1450     .790    5521    .944   .912
    0-2         3078     233    .695   2845    .968   .947
    Now, take a look at the bolded numbers. They differ in a statistically significant way from the overall mean at the 95 percent confidence level. Notice how far they deviate from the means--at 3-0, over 88 percent of called strikes are actually strikes, while at 1-2 and 0-2 the percentages drop to 67 percent and 69.5 percent, respectively. In other words, at 3-0 (and 2-0 to a lesser extent), umpires are more likely to see the pitch as a ball, and with two strikes (likewise at 2-2), they're more likely to see the pitch as a strike.

    Note that in the cases where there are two strikes this is exactly the opposite of the intent of the pitcher, where experience tells us they typically try and get hitters to chase, and therefore should result in more thrown balls. One possible explanation is that umpires, even in the short span of several pitches, have their search image modified, and as a result tend to model their calls on the prevailing trend.

    What this indicates is that while umpires may, in the words of George Will, be "natural republicans–dead to human feelings," they are prone to at least some of the same biases and perceptions as the rest of us.
    Will machines magically fix everything? Of course not. But machines don't know who's pitching. They don't know who's hitting. They don't know they count. Thus, they can't have their perceptions influenced by these things.

    Umpires are amazing and I have all the respect in the world for what they do and their ability to do it. But the calling of balls and strikes is one of the few areas which should be very black and white. There should be no subjectivity involved. No amount of training informed by a computer tracking system will allow an ump to get outside of his human limitations: conditions (shadows, rain), positioning (hard to see low pitches), psychology, etc.

    There are aspects of an umpires job which simply cannot be replaced by an automated system.

    Given the analogies earlier, I would draw another. You are going to watch the symphony. The purpose of doing so is to enjoy a certain set of songs played live by the very best musicians. Do you want them to have music in front of them or not? Sure, they know the songs by heart and will get the right notes, the right inflections, etc. 95% of the time. It will be a wonderful concert I'm sure. But why not let them keep the music in front of them to confirm their perceptions, their memories? Does it detract from the performance in any meaningful way that they might not be playing 100% from memory? Not in my estimation.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 09-12-2007 at 01:25 PM.
    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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  3. #122
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by BCubb2003 View Post
    I've always been bothered by the idea that veterans get calls that rookies don't, and that pitchers like Glavine and Maddux have "earned" a big strike zone.
    Me too. It's a preposterous notion that different pitchers and hitters get different strike zones.

    One thing an electronic system would do is put an immediate stop to that nonsense.

    So you'd get uniformity no matter what and I've yet to hear anyone argue that human eyesight would be more accurate or even roughly comparable.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by dabvu2498 View Post
    I just don't see a way to make the umpiring of a game "perfect" in the eyes of players, management, coaches or fans.
    The idea isn't to make it "perfect", and no one has suggested that is the case. The idea is to make it *better*, and unquestionably a computerized system that could accurately determine balls and strikes would be an improvement.

    Who cares if people complain about a computerized system? People complain now--in heaps and bunches. MLB's sole goal should be to provide a playing situation that is as fair as possible. Not "perfect", not "beyond complaint"--but as fair and accurate as can be obtained. If a computerized ball-and-strike system would help accomplish that, I don't see how one could be opposed.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

  5. #124
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    So you'd get uniformity no matter what and I've yet to hear anyone argue that human eyesight would be more accurate or even roughly comparable.
    It worked for RoboCop, so it should work for MLB too.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by registerthis View Post
    The idea isn't to make it "perfect", and no one has suggested that is the case. The idea is to make it *better*, and unquestionably a computerized system that could accurately determine balls and strikes would be an improvement.

    Who cares if people complain about a computerized system? People complain now--in heaps and bunches. MLB's sole goal should be to provide a playing situation that is as fair as possible. Not "perfect", not "beyond complaint"--but as fair and accurate as can be obtained. If a computerized ball-and-strike system would help accomplish that, I don't see how one could be opposed.
    I don't disagree. But I would want proof that a new system actually would be better rather than just someone telling me it's better and automatically running it out there.

    Like I said in the rest of the post you quoted... Test it in the minors. If it actually is better, use it.
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by dabvu2498 View Post
    Like I said in the rest of the post you quoted... Test it in the minors. If it actually is better, use it.
    If/when such a system is implemented, I'm quite certain that's exactly what MLB will do. heck, they couldn't even implement a steroid policy at the major league level without running it through the minors first.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

  8. #127
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by registerthis View Post
    It worked for RoboCop, so it should work for MLB too.
    I'd buy that for a dollar!
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

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  9. #128
    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    ... and so?

    If I'm playing gin rummy I like to know there's the proper 52 cards in the deck. I wouldn't take kindly to it if someone swapped out the one-eyed jacks for two extra suicide kings.
    Who is swapping out cards? Baseball has been played with the same 52 cards since it's inception.

    Why is everybody acting like this is a new problem that *must* be solved?
    Last edited by Johnny Footstool; 09-12-2007 at 02:25 PM.
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    Why is everybody acting like this is a new problem that *must* be solved?
    Because, for the first time since the game's inception, we have been presented with a better alternative to umpires calling balls and strikes.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    Who is swapping out cards? Baseball has been played with the same 52 cards since it's inception.

    Why is everybody acting like this is a new problem that *must* be solved?
    No, it's played with a rotating deck dependent on the umpire. We accept it as a "good enough" system, but the point is that it *can* be done better. It doesn't have to be, but why wouldn't you do it better if you could?

    As has been mentioned, the sport already uses an electronic system to check how accurate the umps are. The reason the electronic system can be used in that way is because it's more accurate and more consistent.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

  12. #131
    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    No, it's played with a rotating deck dependent on the umpire. We accept it as a "good enough" system, but the point is that it *can* be done better. It doesn't have to be, but why wouldn't you do it better if you could?
    Quote Originally Posted by registerthis View Post
    Because, for the first time since the game's inception, we have been presented with a better alternative to umpires calling balls and strikes.
    "Better" is a subjective term. "More technologically precise" is a more accurate term.

    Personally, I kind of prefer having a human element to deal with.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

  13. #132
    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post

    Personally, I kind of prefer having a human element to deal with.
    Yep. Some people like buying stuff with a sales rep or over the phone. Others like placing those orders online and not dealing with people.

    Beer-drinking, however, is best done in the company of fellow REDS fans...

    Cheers..
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  14. #133
    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    "Better" is a subjective term. "More technologically precise" is a more accurate term.

    Personally, I kind of prefer having a human element to deal with.
    A ha. So there's the real point. I'm glad somebody finally stated it. You simply don't want greater accuracy at the expense of human judgment.

    I'm curious, what is your stance on instant replay in the NFL and the line judging system in tennis?
    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.

  15. #134
    Harry Chiti Fan registerthis's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    [QUOTE=Johnny Footstool;1463354Personally, I kind of prefer having a human element to deal with.[/QUOTE]

    I guess we just fundamentally disagree here, then. I'd prefer to lessen the "human element" in factors that affect the play of the game as much as possible. If that means taking the responsibility of making a ball/strike count away from the umpire, so be it.
    We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

  16. #135
    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool View Post
    "Better" is a subjective term. "More technologically precise" is a more accurate term.

    Personally, I kind of prefer having a human element to deal with.
    Seeing that the strike zone is supposed to be uniform, by definition the more precise way of monitoring it would be better.

    Personally I could give a hang about the human element when it comes to umpiring. They're paid to get the calls right and they don't add anything to my enjoyment of the game. In fact, they either get the calls right or they detract from my enjoyment of the game. Will he or won't he get the call right is anathema to the job umps are supposed to be doing.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.


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