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Expanded replay won’t handle most missed calls

Sep 18, 2013, 5:30 PM EDT

Joe Nathan strike 1

That’s because most missed calls are balls and strikes, which will decidedly not be in instant replay’s bailiwick. Brian Costa of the WSJ:

When assessing whether a pitch is a ball or a strike, umpires get the call wrong around 8% of the time, according to a review of every call this season (through Sept. 10) by Inside Edge, a professional scouting service used by 15 major-league teams.  That translates to an average of 8.8 incorrect calls per game behind the plate … Excluding balls and strikes, MLB research found that umpires miss only one call every five games, according to Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, who helped devise the new replay system. Yet the massive expansion leaves balls and strikes outside the scope of replay.

Yet we’re going to get challenges to a lot of calls anyway simply because giving a challenge system to a manager will demand its use.

I’m prepared to be surprised, but if I were a betting man, I bet games get longer due to expanded replay, not shorter. The system MLB is proposing basically demands it.

  1. nothanksimdriving123 - Sep 18, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    I’d like to see something along the lines of a silent buzzer system in the HP ump’s pocket that he feels but no one can hear. When he gets a S/B call wrong it buzzes him. If he gets 10 in a game he loses half his pay from that game. Perhaps even let him change his call if his buzzer alerts him.

    • larrytsg - Sep 18, 2013 at 7:22 PM

      Have you ever tried to call balls and strikes? It’s not as easy and clear cut as you think. Try umpiring a youth baseball game or two where the stakes are just a cone of ice cream and see how often you feel certain of your call and how iffy you feel on others.

      I know there are some awful umpires out there, but for the most part these guys are calling a consistent game. Their strike zone may not be the exact same as PITCHf/x, but any umpire that calls a consistent game will be respected by the players and managers. It’s the inconsistency that is the problem, and I have seen it where 3 pitches in a row show in the same position but 2 are strikes and one is a ball.

      Look at Little League World Series for how well video challenges are handled. It didn’t seem awful, didn’t seem to slow down the game too much.

      • moogro - Sep 18, 2013 at 7:29 PM

        Everyone should ump a game, it is eye-opening. You quickly realize it is impossible to do with your eyes and it is mostly a lot of guesswork. The first thing you’ll notice is that there is a catcher moving around, blocking your view. You’ll come away with two things: a lot of respect for umpires, and a complete disbelief that we are still having humans call balls and strikes.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:04 PM

        Larry and Moo, no, I have not umpired and I have not performed open-heart surgery nor flown a 747. I leave those things for those with years of training in those fields. I do ask though that those who are trained get it right really close to 100% of the time, and to make use of all available tools to assist them when needed.

      • skids003 - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        92% is pretty damn good on a sphere traveling 95 miles an hour and moving, isn’t it? I would think so.

        On the other hand , I wonder what CB Bucknor graded at last night. He’s brutal.

  2. natsattack - Sep 18, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    Must click link:

    • patsandsox - Sep 19, 2013 at 10:05 AM

      Thank you for posting that. I loved it and had to laugh that Selig (clueless as usual) still believed in Abner Doubleday inventing the game.

  3. pauleee - Sep 18, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Ok, I might be in the minority, but:

    I don’t want balls and strikes contested, at least in this first go around with expanded replay. What I wish for is consistancy during a game, all the way to the end. I really get tweaked when the strike zone changes throughout the game, especially towards the end when it seems the zone suddenly becomes much bigger, like the umpire seems to have more important business and he wants the game to end so he can get the hell out of there. However, we can address this at a later date.

    I don’t necessarily want the bang-bang play at first overruled by a frame-by-frame analysis at 1/60 second or 1/120 of a second or whatever speed we can break it down to. If you can’t tell at full speed replay or even half-speed, I’m ok with the call on the field.

    What I DO have a problem with is the egregiously missed call that you know is wrong immediately. The guy who is off the bag at first (or second, F the neighborhood play) or he doesn’t even have the ball in his glove. Also, fair/foul balls, that don’t happen too often, but still, let’s get those right. Also, plays at the plate, which seem to get called wrong more regularly than others, although this might not really be the case but because it’s a matter of a run scored, seems more important.

    I’m not a supporter of the challenge system as proposed, but I am willing to sit back and see how it is implemented during the playoffs. My fear is that I (and many of us all) will have issues with it, but if they start to tweak it right away, we might get something that we all can live with.

  4. forsch31 - Sep 18, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Pitchf/x data isn’t failsafe either. This article from Baseball Prospectus is from 2010, but the reality is still true: (scroll down to “What did PITCHf/x know?”).

    From the piece: ” This is why it is expressly unhelpful to go to your favorite PITCHf/x website, pull up a scatterplot from a single game, and use it as evidence the umpire did a bad job. The responsible thing to do (and this is what MLB does when using PITCHf/x to grade umpires) is to correct for these calibration errors and to look at a larger sample of data.

    This is also one reason it’s infeasible right now to use PITCHf/x to call balls and strikes in a live game. (There are others—timeliness is one, of course. Another is operator error—game scorers are just as human as umpires, and they sometimes make mistakes in associating the PITCHf/x data with the right pitch in the game, for instance.)”

    • moogro - Sep 18, 2013 at 7:24 PM

      This is obfuscation. It can be made to be instantaneous and completely accurate right now.

      • forsch31 - Sep 18, 2013 at 8:55 PM

        Actually, it’s not.

  5. righthereisay - Sep 18, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    Missed calls are huge. It should take about 10 seconds for someone at headquarters to decide if it should be reversed or not. Much less time than it takes a coach to jog out and yell at the ump for 5 minutes.

    As for balls/strikes, I believe they need reviewed. They are just as big. 3 balls and no strikes, they call a strike when it is a ball, that’s a man on 1st. That could decide the season in a close playoff scenario. 2 balls and no strikes and they call a strike? Totally different way the batter has to prepare for the next pitch.

    Until this year, I always wanted the ump calling balls and strikes. But over and over it changes the game too much. I’d rather the right call be made. If that means the ump just does what the machine says, I’m fine with that. I’d rather that than my team being out of the playoffs because an ump was wrong.

  6. mnwildfan15 - Sep 18, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Ok I get balls and strikes won’t be valid for replay but what about check swings? Could they be reviewed?

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:09 PM

      Wild, it’s my understanding that there is actually no rulebook definition of a checked swing, so this is one of the only cases in which it really is a matter of an ump’s judgment. If I’m right, I’m not sure how reviewing that would work.

  7. Gamera the Brave - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    “…umpires get the call wrong around 8% of the time,…”

    Hey, 92% right is, like, an A or A-.
    That’s pretty good, right? An A-? I was pretty happy with an A- in school.
    (taps mic)
    Anyone? Is this thing on?…

  8. joestemme - Sep 19, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    In most ways, I’m a baseball purist.


    I think it’s time that ALL balls and strikes go automatic via K-Zone, Pitchf/x or whatever technology. Umps would only have to call check swings. The ball or strike would be relayed to the ump via headset and that’s that.

    Radical, yes. But, it would certainly be more accurate than the current system with umps getting about 92% correct.

    It would eliminate all those arguments and nasty back and forths with batters, catchers, pitchers and managers: “Hey, the K-Zone/PitchFx has ruled. PERIOD.”

    Games would be faster. There would be no second-guessing on the part of players about high/low strikes, painting corners or being “consistent”. Tough to judge breaking balls, curves and knucklers? No problem, the K-Zone has spoken.

    Oh, and it would prevent a historic baseball atrocity like the Livan Hernandez playoff strikeout record game:

    etc. etc.

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