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Thread: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

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    Member paulrichjr's Avatar
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    Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Now this would be really odd. Would everyone look at the scoreboard to see what the call was after every pitch? Would the hitter shout at the outfield after a pitch that he considered boderline? I don't see this happening at all.


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    Umpiring system needs to improveposted: Monday, September 10, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry

    Umpires are in the news again lately, thanks mostly to Chipper Jones, spurring Dayn Perry to raise a popular notion among my young, tech-friendly colleagues: taking the umpires out of the ball-strike equation. Perry:

    For several seasons, the QuesTec system has been tracking ball-strike calls and keeping record of how often umpires correctly identify those balls and strikes. QuesTec is now in use in half of all major-league parks, and MLB badly needs to take this a step further. That means giving the job of calling balls and strikes, part and parcel, to the computers.

    Such a drastic move will require time and R&D on the part of MLB and QuesTec and concessions on the part of the umpire's union, but it's all plainly worth it. When you take into account all the human errors, the (patently silly) practice of giving veteran pitchers and hitters all the borderline calls and the recent suggestion that umpires tend to accommodate pitchers of the same race, there's no reason not to make the switch. To put a finer point on it, watch any major-league game and ask yourself whether, say, 25 percent of the ball-strike calls look incorrect after replay or imaging. Over the course of an entire game, it adds up, and that level of inaccuracy makes a mockery of the game.

    Well, let's start right here: 25 percent. I don't think anything close to 25 percent of the ball-strike calls are incorrect. A significant percentage might look incorrect, due to the deception that comes with center-field cameras that are higher than the pitcher and off to one side. One thing I've noticed over the years is that many pitches that look like balls from center field look like strikes when seen from a camera that's directly above or directly behind the plate. So, 25 percent? I believe the true figure is much closer to five percent than 25 percent.

    Of course, five percent is too high. The umpires know which ballparks are equipped with QuesTec, and human nature suggests that the umpires will perform more conscientiously when they know they're being systematically evaluated. Human nature also suggests that it's natural for them to resent this process, and that goes double for the veteran umpires who spent so many seasons with little meaningful evaluation at all. But those guys won't last forever, the younger umpires will make the necessary adjustments, and eventually every ballpark will host QuesTec (or something even better).

    Is that good enough? No, not unless MLB is willing to fire umpires who don't eventually meet the standards of their profession. Should MLB consider automating the balls and strikes completely? I wouldn't take anything off the table. I feel a strong connection with the game's history, and I think something would be lost if umpires weren't behind the plate using their best judgement. The equation is simple: would we gain more with automation than we would lose? I don't have any idea, but I think the first step is to make the current system as good as it can be. And we're not there yet.
    Tim McCarver: Baseball Quotes
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    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    The "history" of the game excuse was made moot when the DH was introduced almost 35 years ago.

    RoboUMP is a necessity. TOO much of the game rides on strike and ball counts. I hate seeing those 6 inch out of strike zone strikes when the ump has to go pee or thinks he left the oven on. Too many umps 'strike zones" expand and contract according to the situation.
    (Bobby Cox's constant complaining and ejections probably buy him a better strike zone from umps who wish to avoid conflict).


    Questec, however, from what I've read, is NOT an accurate measurement of the strike zone as defined in the rules. You would need some sort of "force field" type of set up, which takes into account the geometry of the plate and which can be ajusted for each
    batter. Perhaps each ball could require a microchip (I'm just speculating here), to correctly track its trajectory vs. the strike zone.
    In any case, if we can launch a missile to within inches of a target thousands of miles away, I don't see why we can't design a strike zone system.

    For those who like the "human" element, I've got these large green sheets of ruled paper you can use instead of MS Excel (or your favorite spreadsheet program).

    It's the 21st century, folks...we have the tecnology, let's use it.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    The DH is one thing, but balls and strikes are the absolute heart of the game.

    According to Perry, "Over the course of an entire game, it adds up, and that level of inaccuracy makes a mockery of the game." Well, then the entire game has been a "mockery" since its inception.

    It's as if Perry believes the subjectivity of balls and strikes is a new thing that will ruin baseball. Nonsense. Yes, the game is subjective. That's part of its appeal.

    And the thing is, that subjectivity won't go away with a computer behind the plate. People will still insist that the last pitch caught the outside corner, and the computer's sensors are out of calibration. Kind of like how people dispute their radar- or laser-measured speed when they get pulled over on the highway.

    Having a computer call balls and strikes won't *fix* anything. And I don't believe anything is broken, anyway.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    I agree with JFS. There will always be a subjective aspect to the game. Elimiante the "problem" calling balls and strikes and what about being safe at 2nd on a close throw? What about whether the ball was fair or foul on those wierd plays where it's hard to tell? What about when the outfielder makes a catch at a weird angle and you can't tell if it was trapped or took a very short hop? The game will never be perfectly called all the time. To expect that it would be, no matter how many robots, computers and antenas are mounted on the field is silly.

    It's not about excell vs. green sheets of paper. As much as I moan and complain about bad umping thowing a machine out there woln't do anything. People will say the machine sucks. Or the antenna is bent. Or the home team's machine fudges.

    Keep the umps. Review more of their plays to make sure they aren't blowing *too* many calls.
    Last edited by Ltlabner; 09-11-2007 at 10:22 AM.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by oneupper View Post
    The "history" of the game excuse was made moot when the DH was introduced almost 35 years ago.
    First suggested in the mid 1890's by Pirates manager Connie Mack, it took a reemergence of deadball era numbers from the 1960's (ummm that's "context" to some out there. ) to stir that stone to the top of the pot again.

    If all works out the same expect to see computers in the batters box as the only judge in about 80 years.

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

    While I respect the above opinions, there is something I don't get..

    Why isn't it like excel vs. green sheets or
    Cars vs. Horse drawn buggies or
    Calculators vs slide rules or
    whatever technical advance has been made..

    There is a task at hand:. To determine if a sphere, traveling at high speeds has traversed a certain physical space.

    Humans have performed this task, since basically they were best and only alternative.
    They were trained and selected (eyesight)...

    Lets face it...its not easy. Given the task, umps do a pretty decent job.

    We now have the option of machines that could perform this task with a much higher degree of accuracy.

    I have a hard time thinking why we shouldn't consider it.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

    http://dalmady.blogspot.com

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

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with replacing a human function with something that can be more reliably done through an automated system. Bottom line is that the only reason umps/refs exist is to enforce the rules of the game. They are not the game itself. If you can improve the accuracy and consistency with which the rules are enforced, without otherwise negatively affecting the game, then by all means do it.

    I'm sorry, but I do not see umpiring as a core part of the game that should not be changed, particularly for the sake of improvement. If we can prove that a computer can call balls & strikes more accurately than a person, then why wouldn't we want that? I refuse to believe that the game is better for having inconsistent strike zones and incorrect calls.

    However, this doesn't mean that the umpire is gone. The umpire is still there to make the calls that a computer cannot. This includes plays at the bases, catches vs. traps, and behavioral issues. Heck, you can still have the ump announce the ball/strike calls -- just have the quest-tec send him a signal on his counter. Maintaining the flow of the game is important. There is a legitimate argument about not moving to computer when it cannot make decisions at the same speed as an ump. But bottom line, the umps exist to enforce rules. The goal should be to do so as well as possible and they should have whatever tools at their disposal allow them to do so.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 09-11-2007 at 10:54 AM.
    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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    Be the ball Roy Tucker's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    I like Questec as a training and evaluation tool. A proper strike zone needs to be precisely defined and measured and held accountable for. But I want to keep the human element of umps.

    For that matter, doesnt Questec have to be adjusted for each batter (knees, belt, armpits). Who does that, a human or a machine?

    Pay attention to the open sky

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    2009: Fail Ltlabner's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by oneupper View Post
    We now have the option of machines that could perform this task with a much higher degree of accuracy.
    Because we have technology at hand, does not mean it required for use.

    We have the means for artifical insemination, should that completley replace the traditional method ?

    We have the means to use cameras, video, satalites, etc for policing the steets, should they replace police officers?

    We have pocket PC's and palms...should they totally replace all paper calenders? (I use a pocket PC, but also use a giant wall calender for some planning tasks).

    Because we have the technology, it doesn't follow that we should use it. The game has gotten along fine since the late 1800's with mk 1 eyeballs and humans behind the plate. There are a lot bigger issues jeprodizing the "integrity of the game" than ball's and strikes.
    a super volcano of ridonkulous suckitude.

    I simply don't have access to a "cares about RBI" place in my psyche. There is a "mildly curious about OBI%" alcove just before the acid filled lake guarded by robot snipers with lasers which leads to the "cares about RBI" antechamber though. - Nate

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    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Sign me up for robo-ump. Get tired of watching games decided in part by bogus 3-2 called strikes.

    GL

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    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    Bottom line is that the only reason umps/refs exist is to enforce the rules of the game. They are not the game itself. If you can improve the accuracy and consistency with which the rules are enforced, without otherwise negatively affecting the game, then by all means do it.
    Amen.

    I don't go to the game for the sake of the pagentry of watching slightly overweight middle-aged men in black/blue suits and black hats. Maybe it's a nice, cute peripheral detail. But it's not essential to the game.

    Certainly the league will need to have its ducks in a row before instituting this. The technology has to be significantly more accurate than the human eye, or this will get roundly criticized. But if this is done correctly, it will be a great thing. The better team will win more often if umpires screw things up less often.
    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

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    High five! nate's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Or why not have the RoboUmp be a backup that the manager can ask to arbitrate, say, 2 times per game?
    "Bring on Rod Stupid!"

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Ltlabner View Post
    Because we have technology at hand, does not mean it required for use.

    We have the means for artifical insemination, should that completley replace the traditional method ?

    We have the means to use cameras, video, satalites, etc for policing the steets, should they replace police officers?

    We have pocket PC's and palms...should they totally replace all paper calenders? (I use a pocket PC, but also use a giant wall calender for some planning tasks).

    Because we have the technology, it doesn't follow that we should use it. The game has gotten along fine since the late 1800's with mk 1 eyeballs and humans behind the plate. There are a lot bigger issues jeprodizing the "integrity of the game" than ball's and strikes.
    So what exactly is the case for not using the technology? I don't think anybody advocates the forced retirement of all umps. They do advocate utilizing technology to replace a specific function which umps perform. When you can use the technology to do something better, you do. Where you can't, or when the side effect is undesirable, you don't.

    We don't use artificial insemination instead of sex, because sex is enjoyable. However, insemination is available to those who wish to become pregnant and cannot otherwise.

    We don't replace police officers with cameras because cameras cannot perform all of the functions of police officers, such as putting handcuffs on people, making decisions, and interviewing people. However, cameras have freed up to focus on things other than watching people run red lights.

    We use pocket pc's because we cannot carry around a giant wall calendar in our wallet for reference and the squares on the paper aren't big enough for all our information. However, that doesn't mean we cannot also use a wall/desk calendar for other functions.

    The game has gotten along fine is quite possibly the lamest argument I've heard. People got along fine before penicillin, cars, email, or dishwashers. They get along better now. I'm not going to not use a dishwasher simply because I'm capable of washing dishes by hand. Maybe you just consider washing the dishes by hand an irreplaceable part of the cooking & eating experience. I, for one, don't.

    The "a lot bigger issues" argument also makes no sense. We now have to choose which things we'd like to improve? Better strike zone enforcement or get rid of steroids? Is that our choice? We can only do one or the other? Says who? Absolutely ridiculous. It's a completely irrational reactionary position.

    If you want to make the case that human determination of balls & strikes is a fundamental defining aspect of the game and that you are against changing the nature of the game in that manner, then fine. I'd disagree with you, but you'd have a reasonable case. However, the argument above is laughable. We haven't completely replaced police officers, sex, or paper calendars. However, we have developed better ways to accomplish the thing which they accomplish. Police officers and paper calendars in particular have very little intrinsic value beyond the purpose for which they were created. If you can find a better way to achieve said purpose, then why not do it?

    If you want to make the argument that a computer strike zone management system would be inferior at calling balls & strikes or would adversely affect the game in some other manner, well then you have an argument. Nothing personal at all Ltlabner, I just don't understand the logic of your position.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 09-11-2007 at 11:35 AM.
    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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    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    People, people, did we learn nothing from "War Games"?

    Install a computer behind the plate, and the next thing you know, it'll start playing Global Thermonuclear War, but for *real*.
    "I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful

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    Matt's Dad RANDY IN INDY's Avatar
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    Re: Neyer: Computers calling Balls and Strikes!

    Heck, let's just build a bunch of robots to play the game and get rid of the players.
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    Fame is man given: be thankful.
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