Say No to the Electronic Strike Zone

You tune into ESPN. It’s Sunday Night Baseball. Aaron Boone is talking about the batter’s stance and how he can recognize a changeup coming out of the pitcher’s hand. But all you see is that replay with the perfectly aligned rectangular box that goes from the batter’s knees to his jersey letters.

An outside pitch listed as a strike by the electronic strike zone
ESPN

That is the electronic strike zone, and soon it might just take over baseball games and force major league umpire’s into an early retirement.

This electronic zone tracks all of the pitches locations and shows how much the umpire messed up, making everyone consider a change in the MLB’s approach to home plate umps. This is something that’s been a part of the game of baseball since the game was invented back in the late 1800’s and now all of a sudden we need a newly computerized referee to make calls.

Well, I say no to this requested installation, as it would ruin many facets on the baseball diamond.

Picture yourself as a young catcher. You want to be the next Yadier Molina, Jorge Posada, or Ivan Rodriguez. You want to perfect your craft as a defensive catcher so you practice all the different parts of your game. You do drills to help block balls in the dirt, throw out runners at second base, fielding bunts along with other situational plays and you frame pitches to help get strike calls.

Now imagine becoming so good at that aspect of the game you make it to the major leagues.

Framing pitches on the inside, outside, high or low, you are one of the best at getting balls to look like strikes. Then all of that hard work and dedication was for naught as there is no home plate umpire behind you, but instead, the pitches are determined strikes or balls by a damn electronic strike zone.

Stealing strikes and framing pitches are a huge part of baseball, something that can’t be taken for granted when adding this new computerized system. Catchers make their money doing this and having their job minimized just for accurate calls is not the way MLB should handle this. As a former catcher, I know the importance of this and why I take this topic very seriously. I’ve seen games won by my hand and by other catchers in the big leagues who work the zone to their advantage.

If the MLB adds the electronic strike zone they might as well put a net behind the batter as well because what good would a catcher be at that point.

Now if this zone was put in place, it would help get one thing right. Complete accurate calls. It would be nice to be in a perfect world with every call made correctly, but this is baseball. Wrong calls are made all the time, even if with the existence of instant replay now. They are a part of the game and are also a part of every other sport as well.

So your team lost on a strike three call that was outside of the plate, boo-freakin-hoo it happens to every team and has benefitted yours in the past. Want a perfect sport? Go watch competitive chess or swimming because those events might suit you better.

If the job of the home plate umpire is to only call plays at the plate now, why not just get rid of his job altogether? Let’s have all the umpires taken off the field and we’ll have a computerized loudspeaker shout out the calls just as they happen on the field. Hell, let’s take the umpires and referees out of all sports since computer’s and instant replay exists.

I’m joking of course, but you get my point.

If my disapproval is not enough perhaps the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, and his objection to the new strike zone is adequate. As reported by MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, Manfred had this to say on the addition of the electronic strike zone.

Rob Manfred
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

“The fact of the matter is they get them right well over 90 percent of the time, Manfred reportedly said. “And there is a human aspect to that, a work aspect to it that’s always been an important part of our game. I don’t think you can just jump to the conclusion that if you have [the] technology to do it that’s the right thing for your product.”

The umpire is a needed condition for Major League Baseball. His job and calls have been the same as they’ve ever been yet he is getting called out and criticized more than ever in this day and age. He does his job the way most referees do, with honor, respect and a love for his sport. 

Hopefully, his job continues without being taken over by a computerized rectangle.

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