The Continuing Failure of Baseball Umpires

Bases loaded, one out, top of the 7th, 1-0 game. Casey Kotchman, the worst .335 hitter in the history of baseball, hits a pop-fly to right. Magglio Ordonez camps under it, makes the catch, unleashes a looping throw to the plate. Alex Avila blocks the plate with his left leg. Running hard from third, Justin Ruggiano‘s left leg briefly collides with Avila’s, as the catcher makes a swipe tag that catches nothing but air.

Home plate umpire John Tumpane, wisely, withholds his signal. Having slid past home, Ruggiano swings his left leg back, taps home plate. Avila half-heartedly tags Ruggiano’s leg a couple beats later. Now, Tumpane’s ready to make the call.

Out.

Here’s a still shot of Ruggiano’s leg on the plate, with Avila leaning over to make the tag, his glove still touching nothing but air.

Here’s the video of the play, shown from multiple angles, at full speed and in slow motion.

You make the call.

Baseball has its share of problems. We’ve seen a major push to curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the game; it’s unlikely that PED use is down to zero, and there’s plenty of (often ugly) residual doubt left, even with players who’ve repeatedly tested clean. We’re waiting on a new playoff system and potential new divisional alignment, because the current system is unfair to several teams, especially those in the NL Central. R.A. Dickey Face hasn’t yet taken over the world.

But the one problem that would be easiest to fix, while still offering major benefits, is expanded use of technology in baseball. Use it to augment umpires’ decisions. Or override them. Or eliminate them. Just use it.

I’ve tackled this subject before. Phil Cuzzi’s call during the 2009 playoffs triggered the first piece, in which we wondered, “Does Baseball Need Umpires?” If Grand Slam tennis tournaments can use Hawk-Eye to track the lines with digital cameras, while still keeping officials on the court to make final decisions, why can’t baseball do the same with fair-foul calls? If Major League Baseball could use QuesTec as a way to track balls and strikes and help umpires improve their pitch-calling, why couldn’t that tool be used to make calls in lieu of umps? MLB has allowed Sportvision to install cameras in every stadium, giving us an incredibly robust tool called PITCHf/x, which measures everything from a pitcher’s arm angle to velocity to pitch break to precise location; why can’t we use this tool to call balls and strikes in a game?

The league, particularly during Bud Selig’s tenure, has often been reactionary in making changes, unwilling to break with tradition or take on the slightest risk for fear of… something or other, unless something truly extraordinary happens. When MLB finally instituted instant replay on home-run boundary calls, it did so only after a series of mistakes that gave umpires, and the game, a black eye.

But even the most traumatic baseball plays can fail to stir any action on Park Avenue. We’ve seen few worse miscarriages of justice (in baseball terms) than Jim Joyce’s flubbed call at the end of Armando Galarraga‘s would-be perfect game. There’s no known technology that would have been 100% reliable in getting the call right the first time. But replay could have nailed it the second time. Replay aside, you’d think a call that triggered thousands of death threats for a hard-working, veteran umpire, who did nothing wrong other than make a basic human error, might have triggered a move toward some sort of fix at first base. If they’re working on it, they’re keeping it pretty quiet.

A reasonable person can debate the extent to which technology should be introduced into a game. Go too far and you risk an ugly battle with the umpires’ union. Nitpick over too many plays and you risk making a random Yankees-Red Sox game into a four-hour affair…OK, a five-hour affair.

But something needs to done. The easiest fix would be to widen the scope for instant replay usage. Want to copy football by further watering down the playoffs with two more teams? Cool. Then why not adopt the NFL’s system of red-flag challenges. Let each manager contest X number of plays per game. Hell, one play per game. NFL refs have fine-tuned the process to where play can resume after one commercial break. Let a major league manager challenge once per game, and you reduce the risk that one colossally bad call in a big spot will change the outcome of a game and sour more fans on baseball and its arbiters — plus more ad revenue to boot! All for the cost of two-to-four extra minutes. Win-win.

That’s the least the league can do. Were it up to me, I’d experiment with having some combination of base sensors, line sensors, replay, and ball/strike-calling technology replace one or more umpires. Even the best umps are still human, and technology, properly applied, is going to fare better. But since that’s a pipe dream (for now), try rolling out incremental change and see what happens. Here’s an idea: If a Triple-A fill-in with little big league experience like John Tumpane gets assigned home plate duty during a major league game, use that game as a testing ground for enhanced technology.

Obviously, veteran umpires boast unimpeachable judgment, both in their play-calling and their remarkable restraint in dealing with players and managers. They get a pass.




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Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.


147 Responses to “The Continuing Failure of Baseball Umpires”

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  1. AK says:

    Hate to say it man (because I agree with you 100%), but you’re fighting a losing battle.

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  2. MinorLeagueUmp says:

    out of curiosity…how does PITCHf/x take into accoutn the size of the hitter & the hitting position. The strike zone is not the same for all hitters, & according to the MLB rule book is measured from point A to point B “when in the hitting position” not standing upright, do we know it can be used to accurately call strikes for all players?

    I really do not know the answer, not being sarcastic.

    Thx

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    • hateraid says:

      It doesn’t in and of itself. but its possible to take measurements of the batter before the game and since you know the list of 25 possible players its very easy to compare the 2 datasets if you wanted to.

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    • balagast says:

      I’ve always wondered this myself. I kinda assumed that Pitch f/x used a standard “average” strike zone.

      Being able to accurately determine the vertical boundaries would probably be the biggest limiting factor.

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      • czar says:

        Currently, PitchF/X can be tagged to a batter ID which is tagged to a top/bottom of the strikezone (sz_top and sz_bot in the raw data)

        This is why you can get “normalized” plots (taking this into account) or “non-normalized” plots (just raw height) from sites like Brooks Baseball.

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      • Mike Fast says:

        Right now, using the center field camera video, the PITCHf/x operator records each batter’s strike zone as he settles into his hitting stance for each pitch. As czar notes, these are available in the PITCHf/x data as the sz_top and sz_bot fields. However, those measurements are very inaccurate (average error of 2-3 inches). It is possible that a different camera placement and better attention to calibration would produce more accurate results.

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      • David K says:

        There may be some innacuracies like someone stated above (maybe 2-3″), but I’ll bet it would still be far more accurate than the HP umps are calling the zone right now. And I am sure they can improve on this calibration as stated above as well.

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      • philkid3 says:

        What David K said. It would still be imperfect, there would still be problems, but it would still be better than what we’ve got.

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      • Manny rodriguez says:

        It’s all about money the umps are feeling the pich that technology would bring. In reality baseball does not need umps. But it’s a union thing. The league does not want to get sued by the umps union. It’ sucks that getting it wrong is still accepted because it’s the way it’s being done . Eventually the fans will force a change. I just hope I am alive to see a ball game where the umps didn’t affect the outcome of the game. Just look it up umps errors affect the games outcome almost every time. No joke.

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  3. bartleby says:

    If not for bad umpiring, Tim Raines would have 3,459 hits and a massive HOF plaque!

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  4. Nick says:

    I will respectfully ignore your entire article, and instead focus on the play that inspired it.

    In the video it looks like Avila *may* have just barely tagged Ruggiano’s back foot (his right foot, the one tucked underneath him) before Ruggiano can get poke his left foot onto the plate.

    If you pause the video clip at about 1:31 you can see the possible tag.

    I dunno, it’s hard to see though.

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    • Jonah Keri says:

      I’ve watched the replay many times. He missed the tag.

      Moreover, the ump waited until after Ruggiano’s hoot popped over home, then touched home, then Avila applied the tag on his next try. Ruggiano was not called out for a phantom swipe that may (but really, did not) happen.

      I’d say that if the team were reversed too.

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      • Matt says:

        What was the ump trying to tell Ruggiano then, when he (the ump) lifted his leg into a position that Ruggiano kind of had it in when sliding up and pointed to his foot? I realize he waited to make the call, but that could have been due to him making sure the catcher had the ball, simply just a slightly delayed reaction (like a late called strike), or something else.

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      • Matt says:

        I thought he was safe at first, but the more I look at it the more I think it’s very possible that 1. he did tag his foot, and 2. that’s what the ump was calling. It looks like he’s explaining to the runner that the catcher tagged his foot while his other leg was still up in the air, before it came down to hit home.

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      • Andrew says:

        As a Tiger fan who watched that game, well, I guess I’ll take it. But that was a blown call. Even Mario and Rod in the booth knew it was a bad call. Oh well… the Tigers were going to win the game that this replaced anyway.

        Tennis and football technology need to be here. If this were in the playoffs, I’m pretty sure someone’s house would be burning down right now.

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    • Matt says:

      1.09 is also a good spot

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    • Mike Fast says:

      Now that I’ve finally had a chance to freeze frame the video, I agree with those who are saying it’s hard to tell. The ump may have been right. There’s at least a plausible tag on the bag of Ruggiano’s foot before he touches the plate (and before the still shot that Jonah linked above). That’s also clearly what the ump was indicating to Ruggiano.

      You can see the freeze frame here: http://twitpic.com/5bpi8p

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  5. Tasintango says:

    We must remember baseball is a game played by humans, umpired by humans and governed by humans and humans make mistakes. That said I have never been in favour of instant replay, in any sport. Especially one I watch for it entertain value.

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    • AK says:

      I hate this argument,…just because it’s a game played by humans does not mean steps cannot be taken to introduce technology into the game. Having an umpire miss a call does not add any entertainment value to any sport. I can’t say for sure if I’d be in favor of an automated ball/strike system, but the sheer number of missed calls by umpires in baseball is unacceptable. That said, the “human element” argument is just lazy. I want the player’s action to decide a baseball game, not an umpire’s missed call(s).

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      • Slick says:

        Baseball refuses to change. Instant replays are used in hockey and football very effectively and you don’t see the refs in those sports getting their hackles up if they made the wrong call. They should want to make the right call. Time for the umps to get off their high horse and accept that they make mistakes. Other officials already have and everyone would rather see the right call made. The question in that picture is, What the hell is that ump looking at??? You can’t ask for a better view of the play! He must have had hotdogs on the brain.

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    • Mcneildon says:

      Yeah, baseball is played by humans and I’d like it if those humans were solely responsible for determining the outcomes, not the humans that officiate it. I don’t watch baseball for the umpires and I’d prefer if their mistakes didn’t influence the final score when technology could easily prevent that from happening. If somebody screws up and causes one team to lose instead of win, I want him to be a player on that team, not an umpire.

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    • Heyward says:

      Aren’t the teams supposed to be rewarded (or punished) for what they do on the field and not by what the umpire “thinks” happened on the field? How about instead of actually playing the game they just stand out on the mound and the umpire will tell them how the game would have played out. I mean who cares what actually happened, right?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      while it is “just sports”, every action in our society is “performed by humans”. In some of the more important fields, we’ve turned over some responsibilities to technology because of an increase in accuracy.

      Again, while sports are not as important as medicine, military, etc. If the goal is to be accurate, why not use technology in areas where it can be more accurate than human vision/perception?

      ————————————–

      In terms of balls and strikes. A chip could easily be placed in the core of the ball and sensors on the plate (corners), and then either sensors placed to sides of the batter (mounted on the wall) or even “bands” placed just above the hitters knees and at the letters (similar to how triathlon/running races use ankle chips for timing), to get what might be “perfect” ball and strike calls.

      Just simple red/green lights could signify the ball/strike. The home plate ump would be in charge of notifying players of count, signaling results, plays at the plate, fair/foul down the lines.

      One might not even need to put chips in the balls, as the sensors could likely detect an object moving through a certain “space”. Sensors/cameras could be calibrated for a variety of batters/zones.

      Obviously, I don’t understand nor can explain all of the technological possibilities. I’m just saying we use similar technological advances in everyday life (motion sensors, etc), so to incorporate them in sports is probably much easier for the techies than it is for the common man to support.

      Tradition, many times, is a very poor example, of a reason to continue doing something.

      In the areas of life where it “really matters” to us, human error is not often an acceptable outcome. Not when there are more accurate alternatives.

      For the fans, it’s entertainment. The technological use is not for them. They’ll still be entertained.

      For the players/coaches/etc, baseball is their job/profession, and the accuracy affects the outcomes of their performance/success. That’s how I would look at it.

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      • Cidron says:

        quote ” One might not even need to put chips in the balls, as the sensors could likely detect an object moving through a certain “space”. Sensors/cameras could be calibrated for a variety of batters/zones.” That wouldnt work for Tim Wakefield, as the ball moves so slow that it wouldnt be picked up!! :p

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    • juan pierre's mustache says:

      i tend to somewhat agree…i’ve always found the process of hitters and pitchers working with a specific umpire’s strike zone interesting, although if its inconsistent it’s maddening. i think it’s fine that different umps have slightly different strike zones and as long as a given ump calls a consistent game, i don’t mind the human element there because i feel like the “real” strike zone across the league is not all that close to what’s in the rulebook in any case.

      however, there are calls that are more clearly right or wrong; i think there’s no reason to get a HR call or an out/safe call wrong–replay isn’t entertaining, but it’s a hell of a lot better than watching my team lose because the umps couldn’t go get a better view of the play. I don’t mind losing a game because of an error by a player or a great play by the other team–when these same outcomes are because of an umpire’s call, it’s being decided because of the wrong kind of human error.

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    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      I hope you feel this way the next time you need a major surgery performed

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  6. tigerdog1 says:

    INSTANT replay would speed up the game, not cause further delay. This nonsense with umpires having a confab, then going down a tunnel is just silly. Have a MLB official in the press box, equipped with the latest technology review any and all plays that can be reviewed and make a call, instantly. Scoring plays, safe or out at any base, catch or no catch, phantom tags, phantom double plays, all of it. You won’t be able to undo a ball that was ruled foul and then make it fair, because the players react to the call on the field, but no reason not to get the calls right, instantly.

    The red flag idea has merit, too. Give the managers one call per game, but if they’re upheld in their appeal, they don’t lose their one appeal. The technology is there. Use it!

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    • Aaron says:

      I believe this is essentially the way that Rugby does it. One official in a booth watching every play and overruling mistakes in, more or less, real time. The problem with baseball is what you mentioned, there are times when the call on the field will precipitate player actions, a trapped flyball being called an out for instance. If that gets overruled what happens to any runners on base who made decisions based on the call on the field? Still, the fact that there are potential difficulties or even problems with the fix does not mean that the status quo should be maintained.

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    • Nate says:

      One big problem with instant replay is the fact that players rely on umpires calls to determine their course of action. For instance, runners on base rely on umpires to determine whether a ball was caught or trapped. What do you do with the runners who chose to advance instead of tagging up because the umpire signaled “no catch” after the call is reversed?

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      • philkid3 says:

        That’s a problem with current umpiring, not replay. Fixing it perfectly is a limitation of replay, but not a reason not to have it.

        In your specific situation, I would probably say run scores, but there’s also an out. Things aren’t perfect, but you’ve done what you can. Replay won’t fix everything, and that’s unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fix as much as we can.

        I also don’t claim I just suggested the best solution to the play, just the first thing that came to mind.

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    • David K says:

      here’s another reason why instant replay could speed up the game, or at least break-even with the current game times: you reduce the time that a manager argues with an umpire. On the other hand, that would be one portion of the “entertainment” that would then be missing from the game. Admit it, we all like to see managers get out there and yell in the umps face, and then the crowd erupts when a manager gets ejected.

      But if the manager can simply challenge a call, and then if a guy in the booth calls it a certain way, that would pretty much eliminate (with some rare exceptions I’m sure) the several minute arguments that take place currently.

      I think they should do something like the NFL challenge rule. You get two challenges per game, but I think that if you get one of your two challenges right, you should get a third (rather than getting both right as the NFL does now). Maybe even get a 4th if you get the 3rd one right as well. This wouldn’t apply to balls and strikes though, but should apply to practically anything else.

      I agree that the catch/trap scenarios with multiple baserunners would be difficult to iron out. I think this could be a starting point and tweaks can be made from here:

      1) if a catch was ruled initially (in the outfield), but is later reversed on replay, either all batters get to advance one base, or the ump has the discretion of placing the runners where he thinks they would most likely have ended up. If there were two outs and a fast runner at 2nd, he would probably be awarded home, for example.

      2) if a trap was ruled initially (in the OF), but is later reversed, the out is recorded and the runners have to go back to the bases they originally occupied

      This may not be COMPLETELY fair to one team or the other when compared to what would have happened if the ump got the call right in the first place, but I think it makes the result CLOSER to fair than blowing the call completely.

      This gets much tricker for infield catch/trap cases (which i think are much rarer, but the 1980 Houston/Philly NLCS play involving JR Richard comes immediately to my mind, showing my age here) because double plays could theoretically be in order one way or the other. I haven’t thought through all thsoe possible scenarios to offer any recommendations.

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      • philkid3 says:

        “Admit it, we all like to see managers get out there and yell in the umps face, and then the crowd erupts when a manager gets ejected.”

        I won’t admit that, because I don’t. I appreciate when Ron Washington argues when the umpire was actually wrong, but, no, I don’t enjoy it for the sake of it, and wouldn’t miss it. I don’t watch baseball to watch old men stand around and argue.

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      • Jason B says:

        You obviously didn’t see the manager who crawled on his belly and lobbed the rosin bag like it was a hand grenade…

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  7. Agree 100%. Why should people invest millions of dollars in players when the results of their investments can be altered by the judgment of four men? It makes no sense, especially the home plate umpire thing. There is no reason why umpires should be able to make different strike zones based on what they “feel like” is a strike.

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  8. Scott says:

    I think it is my duty to add that Jonah mentioned to me on Twitter last night that MLB had better, “Fix this before I ditch baseball for squash.”

    Avila’s glove obviously did not make contact with Ruggiano until his foot had been on the plate in the open about two feet in front of the umpire. Many people enjoy sports for the “human element” or supposed gray area dividing a call one way or another for a variety of reasons. But everything is either right or wrong, and all too often now we are faced with horrific wrongs that can easily amended. Why wouldn’t we want that?

    I’m a Yankees fan, but that play in that situation in a compelling game just sucked. And is the sort of thing that drives people to squash, apparently.

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  9. JK says:

    What would be so difficult about putting a hand held buzzer in the hands of the home plate ump? If does nothing for a ball and vibrates on a strike, which he calls. People pay thousands of dollars on season tickets to watch athletes who are payed millions to compete, and the league CHOOSES to use a system with a high rate of error when technology has already produced a system that is superior. Brilliant.

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    • Slick says:

      The counter point to your arguement is, don’t pay thousands of dollars to support an inferior product. Don’t buy tickets, hats, jerseys, t-shirts, jackets, etc. and see how the league responds. The sad fact is, until there is a major drop in revenues that can be directly attributed to poor umping, the owners will see no reason to push a change to the system.

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  10. joeIQ says:

    No, I agree, looked like the catcher got the bottom of the foot that was underneith him.

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    • joeIQ says:

      The umpire says the left heel, and he may not have caught him but it’s not clear that he missed that heel.

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      • Matt says:

        But, but

        “[Jonah] watched the replay many times. He missed the tag.”

        Your argument is invalid joeIQ

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      • Jonah Keri says:

        Let’s say he made the tag then. GREAT! Then replay can confirm it.

        The Ruggiano bit is what you call a “news hook.” If you prefer Phil Cuzzi and ’09 as an example, knock yourself out.

        This is still a ridiculous problem that shouldn’t exist.

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  11. Matty JT says:

    I think technology could definitely be expanded a bit, especially in a case like this (and perhaps for all close plays at the place). When scoring a run is directly involved, they should get it right. They do reviews for home runs, which is basically the same deal. I’m also good with checking fair or foul balls down the line, if it can be done efficiently.

    What I hope to never see is technology interfering with ball and strike calls. I really could not disagree more than this should be implemented. I love that the strike zone varies with each umpire; sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, etc. Do I want them to be consistent? Sure. But I love that variance, and I get angry at a strike call against my team just as often as I smile at “getting away with one”. The strike zone is such a unique aspect of the game, and I would be crushed if they replaced it with technology.

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    • Matty JT says:

      *at the plate. I suck at typing. And for the record I think the one-challenge-per-game isn’t a half bad idea.

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    • Dave S says:

      I could not disagree more with your stance on balls and strikes. Baseball is, at it’s core, a battle between the batter and pitcher over control of home plate.

      To have this central battle vary from game to game, inning by inning, sometimes pitch by pitch is ridiculous to me… especially when there is a better, more accurate way to do it.

      When “perfect” is available, why would you accept less than that? Especially when it is the very HEART of your endeavor???

      Do you still use a mechanical watch to tell time? Do you use a quill and a bottle of ink to convey your messages?

      So why should we accept “expanding” and “contracting” strike zones?
      Why should we accept strike zones that change depending on which side of the plate the batter is standing?
      Why should we accept “high strikes” in one league, and “low strikes” in the other league?
      Why should we accept a great pitcher getting the “benefit of the doubt” on a borderline ball because he has had good command most of the day… while a rookie struggling with his command doesn’t get a borderline strike… even if it IS a strike?

      It’s a strike. Or its NOT.

      Getting it CORRECT is the most important part of this game.

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  12. lex logan says:

    It seems to me the number of blown safe/out calls has skyrocketed — didn’t this use to be something umpires got right 99.97% of the time? Or was that always hype? I just don’t remember so many controversial calls back in the 70′s, seems like instant replay almost always confirmed the ump’s call. Has the umpiring gotten worse or did the networks avoid showing bad calls in the past? Or has time clouded my memory?

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    • Jason T says:

      I blame 60″ HD TVs and uber slow-mo cameras. Seriously, it’s really amazing the level of detail you can get now on instant replay at home. If we’d had this stuff in the 70′s you wouldn’t seen just as many blown calls I’m sure.

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      • Matt says:

        But I don’t get worked up over calls that I need a 60 inch HD TV and uber slow-mo to tell that the ump blew the call. I get worked up by the ones that I immediately disagree with, and upon review can clearly see that the ump did a terrible job. And I get worked up over this far too often, but I still maintain no new technology until we have umpire accountability. I don’t want them having a crutch to support their lack of skill.

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      • Small Sample Goodness says:

        A 19″ SDTV was plenty good enough to see a Joe Mauer “foul” ball against the Yankees in the playoffs.

        You don’t need HD to identify a ball that lands 2 FEET into fair territory.

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  13. rezmanbrown says:

    I’m in favor of instant replay, but I’d like to know what everyone’s opinion is on fair/foul balls. If replay were instituted, and a hit that was originally ruled foul is found to be fair, what is the outcome? A ground-rule double? I could see it creating a potential mess, especially if there were runners on base.

    Even with runners on base, I still think a blanket ground rule double call is better than a completely blown call.

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    • balagast says:

      There would have to be ground rules established for game situations and different park configurations I would assume.

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    • David K says:

      “Even with runners on base, I still think a blanket ground rule double call is better than a completely blown call.”

      You hit the nail on the head with this comment

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    • philkid3 says:

      I’d say ground rule double, and I could even accept umpire discretion.

      Yes, it would be a mess. But it’s already a mess.

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  14. Matt says:

    Technology and instant replay is fine and dandy, but I don’t want to see more of it until we have umpire accountability. The players have to be good or they lose their jobs, why can’t the same be true for umpires?

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    • Small Sample Goodness says:

      You’re never going to get umpire accountability.

      Change what you can, when you can, no sense waiting around for something unlikely to happen.

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  15. Matt K says:

    every game should have a 5th umpire that has a seat with as many monitors as they need and an earpiece with the crew chief. if they make a call that’s bad, he can get the field umpires to conference, and get them to reverse the call.

    for balls and strikes, have pitch fx automatically call it for them. little speakers on the mask, and their own voice recorded to yell out ball or strike :)

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Watching the Indians-Yankees game last night, both pitchers (Carasco and Burnett) were throwing so many pitches with great movement that calling balls and strikes “from the couch” was even challenging. Seriously, the number of 91-94 mph 2-seamers that were “just on” or “just off” the corner was amazing (to LHB’s particularly). The curveballs that were “just at” the lower border of the strike zone were also amazing.

      Since analysis shows us the value of ball or strike in certain counts, these instances affect the game quite a bit.

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    • Splinter919 says:

      Haha i never heard this idea before. Very interesting. I will say this, if that were to be implemented, I wouldn’t want to know about it. I would like to pretend its still the same traditional game but all of a sudden the umpires got better!

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  16. James says:

    Should we start referring to .100 ISO as “the Kotchman Line”, or did Loney already claim that one?

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  17. hunterfan says:

    I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t want instant replay.

    I can’t make a reasoned or logical argument for it. My dislike for instant replay is an emotional one. This game, the way it is now, is the game I grew up with, and I like it to remain like that way. I don’t want it to be better, or more fair, or more right. I want it to remain flawed baseball with flawed umpires who try their best but ultimately sometimes make wrong calls. I want to howl at the indignity of Gallaraga’s muffed perfect game. I want to scream at Bob Davidson’s bizarre balk calls. I want to rehash endlessly with my friends, both online and in real life, the umpire that wasn’t calling the corner all game suddenly calls it to ring my hitter up.

    This is baseball, the way I like it. Imperfect. Human. Technology might make baeball’s calls more perfect. But in my world, and probably just in my world, since I’m obviously in the distinct minority, it will also make it more robotic, less personal, and yes, less interesting.

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    • Splinter919 says:

      I am with you 100% I have tried to make logical arguments to support my view (my desperate attempt is later on in this thread) but in all honestly it is a nearly impossible thing to do when at the end of the day technology = increased accuracy. However, I am also a traditionalist and I think you said it beautifully.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      The calls would just be right, that’s the only difference.

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  18. Bill says:

    The A’s Whitesox game on Sunday was ended by a blatantly bad call (I’m not a fan of either team). Coco Crisp hits a slow chopper to 3rd, beats it out by a step, the umpire pauses (thinks to himself, eh, let’s go home) and gives a punch out. It was a terrible call. Give the managers challenge flags like football, these umps are either a) getting much worse and are really bad, or more likely b) with more technology (camera angles, replays) were just seeing more of how bad they are.

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    • Splinter919 says:

      its hard to prove but I would not say umpires are getting worse, it is the technology along with the fact that with instant replay being implemented in other leagues and constantly debated in baseball, we are hearing about the mistakes more. There has been some research on bad calls as in how often they are made and such, unfortunately I don’t have the link so you will have to browse for it :/.

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  19. bartleby says:

    It’s impossible to have replay not add a lot of extra time to the game. It certainly kills the flow of an NFL game. If it’s introduced, it has to be on a *very limited basis.*

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    • Small Sample Goodness says:

      Unlike manager/umpire arguments, which don’t add a lot of extra time or kill the flow of the game.

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      • ausmax says:

        dude, manager/umpire arguments are awesome. Wanting to cut them would be like wanting to cut the fights out of hockey to speed up the game. They’re one of the best parts of baseball. Not having manger/umpire arguments is one of the best arguments against instant replay as far as I’m concerned

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      • philkid3 says:

        I’m not sure if ausmax is serious.

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    • Ian says:

      Would it add more time than is already taken by Joe Maddon (or whoever) storming out of the dugout, yelling at the ump and then kicking dirt around when he disagrees with a call?

      Allow the managers to challenge calls, but throw them out of the game if they leave the dugout to argue. You’d save time.

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    • pboerner says:

      Totally agree that replay would add a lot of time and kill the flow of the game. I don’t understand how it has become conventional wisdom that replay in the NFL is a great thing. It slows the game down, takes the excitement/immediacy out of every close play, and guarantees that you’ll spend 30 minutes of every telecast watching interminable replays of the same thing while the commentators argue and speculate. It’s also not nearly as conclusive as people always assume it is. And it is responsible for the fact that going to a live NFL game, which used to be awesome, is about as much fun as a meeting of the city zoning committee. And people want that to happen to baseball? Really? Why?

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    • Splinter919 says:

      I really don’t like the time issue not because it is not valid, just because there are so many other things that go into the timing of a baseball game that it is not really the strongest. For instance comparing it to arguments with umpires. My argument here is both are going to take time, but one provides entertainment (as in watching a manager or player argue with an umpire, watching an emphatic motion to throw the player out, or an animated call at the plate) whereas the other holds a lot of standing around and maybe a song being played through the stadium speakers. Baseball needs to keep fans. Although yes, at least the time it would take to view instant replay would at least get the call correct as opposed to arguing that accomplishes nothing in terms of the play that is being argued.

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    • philkid3 says:

      Who says it has to be done the same way as the NFL? Why do I keep hearing this? Where’s the imagination?

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  20. Oscar says:

    A Rays fan writing an impassioned plea for instant replay twelve hours after a borderline call costs them a game? Fascinating!

    I mean, is it not blatantly obvious how damaging this is to your argument’s credibility? The timing is awful, even if you aren’t being reactionary.

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  21. David says:

    wow that little bitch ump looked so scared the only reason he tossed maddon was so he didn’t get his ass kicked by an old man. the rays should have cleared the benches let maddon and ruggiano work that home plate ump while keeping back the other umps. maybe that would incite some change.

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  22. Jesse D says:

    Keep the umps.

    I’m so tired of seeing all areas of life being overtaken by technology. Losing the personal style of the umpires behind the plate, calling balls and strikes, regardless of whether those calls are 100% accurate, takes something significant away from the game. Count me in the ranks of those who see baseball as a human sport. I would feel as if baseball had lost some of its mystique if a machine were calling balls and strikes, even if they had a human ump out there “making” the calls.

    I don’t mind blown calls. I do, in the moment, hate it when a call gets blown. But I would miss it if I knew that there was no margin of error, and that technology had eliminated that element of human judgment that, I think, makes the game what I’ve come to love.

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    • Dave S says:

      So, you go to games based on who is umping that day?

      You keep a schedule of your favorite umpiring team?

      Can you name your ten favorite umpires?

      Do you have all-time favorite historical umps?

      Can you break them down by where they did their best umping? Like… who is your all-time favorite ump at 3rd base?

      I don’t know about you, but I pretty much watch baseball for the players and the game. And I enjoy umpires when I don’t know they exist, because they had no adverse affect on the game.

      Basically, I like umps when they behave like robots. When they get everything right, and they go unnoticed.

      So… uhhh… why not use “robots” where possible?

      I’m tired of people complaining about life being taken over by technology… on internet blogs!!! LMAO!

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      • David K says:

        I don’t have any favorite umps, but I can tell you who the WORST ones are: CB Bucknor and Joe West to name two.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      How can you make an argument that it’s better when things are wrong?

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    • philkid3 says:

      “I’m so tired of seeing all areas of life being overtaken by technology.”

      I couldn’t stop laughing at this.

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  23. Aaron says:

    I’d be happy to stay with the current system if umpires weren’t granted immunity from official public criticism. Make all of their post-game grades and mistakes public, publicly suspend them for acting like Joe West, and let them take public responsibility for their errors. The unaccountability built into the current system is really the part that completes the rotten system. People say that the umps are human and that’s true. But officially they aren’t treated that way, at least in public. Let the umps compete just like every other human in the system or get rid of them.

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    • jorgath says:

      I agree with this. Some expansion of the technology, maybe — I like the idea of foul-fair calls being checked by the same system that is used in tennis — but the real problem just isn’t the non-use of technology, it’s the fact that umpires don’t have any accountability. Or at least any accountability that’s at all visible to Joe Public and Jack Baseball Player, which amounts to the same thing.

      Heck, if I were a manager ejected by Joe West (f’ex) I might consider suing the umpire’s union for breach of contract on the grounds of whatever the line is that’s closest to “must do everything in their power to ensure that games are officiated fairly.”

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    • txdave says:

      Have the official scorer record umpire errors whenever they effect the action of the game. Perfect game 9th inning, umpire blows a call at 1st. Record it as EU. No hit awarded. Play is unaffected (the runner is safe) but it is scored accurately. This is essentially what the scorer does anyway. Decides if a play should be made and scores an error when it is not and a runner reaches/advances.

      Under the current system if the runner is clearly out and the ump calls him safe the scorer awards an error to somebody – the 1st baseman or the infielder throw, because the rules require it. Just allowing the scorer to charge the error to the umpire would make lots more sense and then we could judge umpires based on their performance.

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  24. Derek says:

    If there were replay the Atlanta Braves are the f’n 2010 World Champions! Well, maybe not, but San Francisco isn’t.

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  25. miffleball says:

    if ruggiano had just slammed into avila we wouldn’t be having this discussion….

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  26. Period Blood says:

    Hey, that “worst” .335 hitter Casey Kotchman has a 3.6 WAR.

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  27. Splinter919 says:

    I apologize if I repeat anything that was already said, I only read down about half the comments before feeling the need to respond. I will say right off – I am a baseball traditionalist, I love the history of the game and I am stubborn when it comes to ANY changes to it. That includes instant replay as well as adding playoff teams, etc. With that said, I understand the argument that it has been effective thus far with determining homes runs and stuff. I am okay with this addition for one reason, and that is that this was a reaction to a modern addition to the game. As more and more parks are being developed with confusing breaks in home run walls and walls behind walls, etc, this can be a call difficult if not impossible for an umpire to make. But now we are talking about plays at bases and the strike zone. These are calls umpires are closer to and more capable of making so lets talk about that…

    Let me start by saying umpires obviously make mistakes, and YES it is important to minimize these mistakes but its not as easy as placing chips in bats. Baseball has always been in danger of losing its fan-base which is why it is IMPERATIVE that every thread of entertainment value remains in the game. Part of that entertainment value are the umpires, it is the arguments you see with players, it is the emphatic ejections you see, the animated safe/out calls that decide games at the plate. You remove that, you remove part of the game.

    Now I know many people have already said that they don’t like this argument so I give you another. Most of the people pushing for technology point to science and medicine in the sense that if you want to be accurate, you must use technology. I absolutely agree. HOWEVER, look at other areas. Look at the United States court systems. Here we continue to place decisions in the hands of jury members and judges who may not always be consistent or accurate, but these measures are in place because the law is a constantly changing doctrine that operates by common law principles. This gives flexibility and control to the courts so they are not forced to go through changing the legislation every time something changes.

    Now before I get too off track I will get back to baseball. Over the years things have changed, the strike zone has changed (The high strike has disappeared), and there are some grey areas (such as a shortstop turning a double play gets some leniency with the foot dragging over second base). Even further, umpires have personalities, they have strike zones all their own, and that adds another dimension to the game. Also, there are certain calls a computer could never make such as interference as well as policing player actions on the field.

    I agree that having 4 umpires is not the most accurate way to do things but it is the best. I won’t even touch the argument with technology slowing down the game because i hate that argument, I just don’t want the game to turn into watching a play at the plate and looking up at the score board for a safe/out graphic. Keep the game traditional.

    I know this has gone on a long time but I want to close with the Joyce/Gallarraga call. This was a sad thing and many are using it as a leading argument for instant replay, but THANK GOODNESS for those of us who like the traditional view that the two men handled the situation beautifully. We have images of a tear filled Joyce accepting the line up card, a sentimental Joyce acknowledging his mistake, and forgiveness by Gallarraga.

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    • channelclemente says:

      I agree with the umpire being the final arbiter. I would suggest that the film and reviews be used without recourse to judge and evaluate umpire performance by the league. If some guys, like Cousins, have unusualy high error rates, their positioning and judgement be improved in a real, meaningful critique. I would also rate their pay to performance and dismiss those who fail to improve. Use the film and technology post hoc as a tool to improve and refine performance.

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    • tvetter says:

      Not to mention a potential Act of Congress to overturn the call and give Galarraga the perfect game: H.RES.1425
      Latest Title: Recognizing pitcher Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers for pitching a near-perfect game, declaring that Galarraga pitched a perfect game, and urging Major League Baseball to overturn the mistaken safe call by the umpire that spoiled the perfect game.
      Sponsor: Rep Dingell, John D. [MI-15] (introduced 6/8/2010) Cosponsors (14)
      Latest Major Action: 6/8/2010 Referred to House committee. Status: Referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

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    • David K says:

      “Look at the United States court systems. Here we continue to place decisions in the hands of jury members and judges who may not always be consistent or accurate, but these measures are in place because the law is a constantly changing doctrine that operates by common law principles. This gives flexibility and control to the courts so they are not forced to go through changing the legislation every time something changes.”

      I don’t like this argument, because court cases and baseball plays are far from analagous. Baseball plays are black and white — was the tag made in time or not? Was the ball fair or foul? It may be tough to tell in live action, or even on replay, but we are arbitrating a black and white situation nevertheless. However, legal cases are often far from black and white. There’s so much “evidence” on both sides of a case, and the weight and credibility of each piece of evidence has to be examined. This does not sound like an umpiring decision on a baseball play AT ALL.

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      • David K says:

        I want to add one more thing since you brought up the “grey area” with the “neighborhood play”. The simple solution is to do away with it completely. As for the elimination of the high strike, if the game deems it’s necessary to alter the strike zone due to pitcher or hitter dominance, they can still do so, but at least it would be applied CONSISTENTLY and with everyone’s knowledge.

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    • philkid3 says:

      “Part of that entertainment value are the umpires, it is the arguments you see with players, it is the emphatic ejections you see, the animated safe/out calls that decide games at the plate. You remove that, you remove part of the game.”

      I don’t think you are speaking for the majority of fans here, and I definitely don’t think it brings more fans in to the game.

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    • philkid3 says:

      “We have images of a tear filled Joyce accepting the line up card, a sentimental Joyce acknowledging his mistake, and forgiveness by Gallarraga.”

      I’d rather watch a perfect game.

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  28. TheGrandslamwich says:

    Joe West would eject this article.

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  29. WillClark says:

    For those opposing adding replay to Baseball and stating that doing so would eliminate or decreased the human element as well as the entertainment value of the game due to the diminishment of the importance of the umpire; I only have one response. I like the vast majority of fans, watch baseball, follow baseball, enjoy baseball, for the players and teams and not ever, NEVER is the Umpires a reason.

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  30. Annie says:

    As a hockey fan first and foremost, the opposition that so many baseball fans have to increased replay never ceases to amaze me. I get that people don’t want to see the game taken over by machines or whatever they think is going to happen, but nobody I know goes to the game to watch umpires. As several people have already said here, I go to see my team play and get the results they deserve for the way they’ve played, not to see them robbed of runs or bases or whatever the case may be by the “human error” so many traditionalists glorify. The fact that error is seen as something to be embraced and celebrated just does not compute for me. It kind of scares me, to be honest.

    When I’m watching a hockey game and a puck may or may not have crossed the goal line, I appreciate it when they go to replay. Plays happen fast, and refs can’t possibly see everything right the first time. Sure, it takes an extra minute or two, but you know beyond a shadow of doubt that the right call has been made, and it doesn’t slow the game down any more than Jonathan Papelbon retying his shoes three times in the bottom of the ninth does. I would prefer that, and I have to think that most fans would prefer to know that the right call has been made, or else I’m seriously worried about people’s states of mind. How does an increased potential for error add to any kind of “mystique”?

    I mean, obviously as long as the game is run by old guys who think the baseball gods are going to smite them if they admit this is 2011, nothing’s going to change. But I agree with the proposal of giving managers challenges, at least to start, and hopefully progressing from there. (So this could’ve been a one-line comment, really. Oops.)

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    • David K says:

      Very well stated!

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    • Rustybob says:

      Hockey goals isn’t really a great analogy here. The average game has probably 5 goals total, and only a small subset of those need to be reviewed. This would be similar to homerun/foul calls which are reviewable.

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  31. Ed says:

    This play was the baserunners fault. If he really wanted to score he should have speared the catcher in the chest to force him to drop the ball. Maybe even broken the guys leg so that he wouldnt block the plate anymore. He is disrepecting the game by sliding.

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  32. Dwezilwoffa says:

    Milton Bradley would still get ejected by the robot umps. Also really what the hell is with all this traditionalism. I love this game and honestly if technology can do accurately what man cannot, go with it. What is this backlash against technology and improvements to the game.
    The rules in baseball are either unchanging and correct therefore they merely need application or they are variable and open to interpretation by umpires and adaption to new ideas and technology.
    Its the same argument.
    For those who miss the past, I remember my share of favorite baseball players from the 20th century, don’t remember one umpire.

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  33. Cesar Izturis says:

    I have a higher WAR than Kotchman!!

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  34. Brian Cartwright says:

    Didn’t Kotchman get his eyes fixed or something?

    Last week, Xavier Paul had a .308 BA and a .304 wOBA for the Pirates. Now that’s a misleading BA! (this week it’s down to .257/.256)

    As to the umpires -

    They seem to be doing the worst job on tag plays, most commonly occurring on steals of 2b. Seems like about a play a game is wrong.

    I might be willing to accept a limited number of manager’s challenges.

    A replay official in the press box, ruling in real time might also work.

    In hindsight, I hope that teams submit to the league every case of suspected umpire error, and that those are reviewed at the league office and go into deciding if an umpire keep his job. At all levels of the minors too. It would be great if those rating were then made public.

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  35. ChrisFromBothell says:

    Use the technology in the minors, to train the umpires. Have a more transparent and responsible system for demoting and promoting umpires based on accuracy. We don’t need more robots, we need better humans.

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    • Dave S says:

      Wrong. We need robots doing jobs where they are clearly better than humans. And we need humans doing jobs that humans perform better.

      If your life depended on the accuracy of a ball and strike call, who would you want calling it? And if your life depended on a whole game worth of those calls, who would you want calling it? And if your life depended an entire season of those calls, who would you want?

      I’m not saying baseball is life or death.

      But we have the ability to get this part of the game correct, 100% of the time, without any adverse affect on the flow of the game.

      Why not do it?

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  36. MadDog says:

    Rather than trying to get every call right, I’d like to see a focus on avoiding calls that are so obviously wrong that a fan watching the game at a normal speed can see it’s wrong. That doesn’t require delays or fancy technology. A fifth umpire at a bank of terminals and an earpiece for each on-field umpire would do the trick. The fifth umpire alerts the umpires on the field what he saw. Just a quick “out”, “safe” or whatever. If there’s time for a couple of seconds, a quick replay might be possible but most of the time if the play is close enough for the man with the monitor to be unsure, then let the ump on the field make the call.

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  37. t ball says:

    Actually, I don’t think using replay would add any time, not even two to four minutes. The manager already spends that much time arguing with the ump over a bad call, the replay might actually speed things up.

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  38. pft says:

    Don’t mind umps being wrong on a call I need to watch on replay and slo mo several times to know it is wrong. In this case, there was 1 frame that suggests he may have been out looking at it from the umpires vatnage point. Umps can not look at a play from multiple angles.

    As long as there is no evidence of bias, it’s all good.

    I do think MLB needs a better system of recruiting and training umps before selection to MLB, and retiring those who have lost it. Also, increasing the talent pool by increasing monetary incentives would help, and this would help induce early retirement as well. As it is, MLB has little to do with umpires until they are promoted to Triple A, So when an opening at the MLB level opens up, they have a very small pool of talent to choose from. If they pick a bad one (eg. CB Bucknor), they are stuck with him for another 30-40 years.

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  39. Ben says:

    I’m for adding instant replay, i don’t really see a reason not to (and anybody that complains about slowing the game down, just watch a different sport. baseball is slow, get over it). but using tech to call balls and strikes? balls/strikes seem to be much more inherintly subjective than a tag or a fair/foul call. i dont really know if a pitchfx computer would do a better job than an ump.

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    • David K says:

      I STRONGLY disagree with the statement that the srike zone is INHERENTLY subjective. It’s ONLY subjective because the UMPIRES make it that way, which is the reason many of us want the computers making the calls. The left/right edges line up with the home plate edges, and that’s a no-brainer. Then you just need to define the top and bottom of the strike zone with one criteria and be done with it. Yes, the way a batter crouches can alter the strike zone somewhat, but you can even come up with a fixed strike zone for all hitters and it would still be better than what we have now. I would say the distance from the ground to the knee is close enough for all MLB players that the bottom of the strike zone can be standardized. The top of the strike zone is tougher since there’s some 5’6″ players and some 6’6″ players, so that may be difficult to standardize, but maybe you can just take a 6′ player as an average and set the top of the strike zone based on that. Yes that may give taller players an advantage, but they don’t exactly lower the basketball rim for shorter NBA players, so I don’t see this as a big problem.

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      • RC says:

        Coming up with a strikezone based on the batter’s knee and uniform letters is computationally trivial.

        Tracking pitches is the tough thing, and PitchFX does that well.

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      • David K says:

        “Coming up with a strikezone based on the batter’s knee and uniform letters is computationally trivial. ”

        I agree, but my point was that even if we picked a standard strike zone for all players, in my opinion, it would still be better than the mess we have now.

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  40. Colin says:

    Have to agree with a good amount of sentiment about the play on here. I thought it was obviously incorrect in real time and then after seeing the behind the plate camera it looked like Avila’s glove got a bit of a snag with his initial swipe right on the heal. Cannot say for sure that he got him but it definitely looks a lot closer than I originally thought. Frankly, I think if the replay is that indecisive and the ump says he got him, he would have seen that snag and said the same thing. So I’m not sure it would have made a difference here.

    Also, I am pretty confident that’s what the ump was motioning for when he touched at the back of his heel when explaining the call to Ruggiano. There’s no feasible way he made that call on the second exchange when Ruggiano plopped his foot down and Avila put his glove on him well afterwards.

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  41. shthar says:

    If it wasn’t for umpires and the BCS, sports talk shows & blogs would have nothin to talk about.

    I’m not ready for that world.

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  42. stareagle says:

    For those of you claiming that Avila did tag him…

    “There are calls like that all the time, and sometimes it works out for you and sometimes it doesn’t. You don’t complain when it does.” – Alex Avila, 6/14/2011

    He also said that he agrees with Ruggiano that, if he had run Avila over instead of trying to slide in, he would have been safe without question, and that he had been expecting Ruggiano to do it.

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  43. BTP says:

    Good for you Jonah for taking these guys on as the deplorable job umpires do every single day is my biggest peeve in sports, particularly with the amorphous strike zone and their insufferable inability to accept criticism. Question though: Why not bring up a more radical solution which would be to fire all of them and strip away the union (probably impossible legally, unfortunately) and then let them apply individually to work in an environment like every other job that works well in the world? You do a good job, you get to stick around and get paid more. You do a bad job, you get paid less and at some point get fired. Pretty simple.

    I don’t know why we have to pretend that being overpaid with (virtual) lifetime job security can result in anything other than what we have, which is consistently poor performance.

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  44. tocororo says:

    Instant Reply will interrupt the flow of the game, bullsh!t I say.

    Baseball is not a game that flows like rugby, football (read soccer) etc. it stops and starts between every pitch. Taking a few seconds to look at a call would take as much if not less time than it takes for most batters or pitchers to ready themselves anyway.

    The other thing to remember is that instant replay would not be used on every single play. I can only really see it being used when an umpire requests it on a close call and/or when a manager makes a challenge. I think it’s fair to assume that replay would most likely end up being used 4 maybe 5 times a night at most.

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  45. Barkey Walker says:

    Totally unsurprised you are getting exercised about this after a call that goes against the Rays. If you want to really make this argument, make it on a bad call that goes the Rays way!

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Come on man, there’s at least one blown call in nearly every single game that happens, every night.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        My point exactly. It looks more like just whining about the refs when it is your team that was wronged.

        If you believe in change, then you got to argue that the bad call that go your way should go away.

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  46. RC says:

    AS much as this stuff sucks, I really think the calling of balls and strikes has a much bigger impact on the game.

    Look at a typical PitchFX game chart, and its not abnormal to see an ump call 30 pitches incorrectly over the course of a game. Some of them obvious strikes being called balls (and vice versa).

    I’ve seen games where the bottom 12″ of the strike zone isn’t getting called, or games where the strikes zone extends basically to the ground, or a foot outside against only right-handers.

    Its bizarre, and in a lot of games has more of an effect than how well the pitchers are pitching. Its pretty much impossible for a guy like Masterson, or any other groundball pitcher to pitch well when the strikezone starts at the waist.

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    • Dave S says:

      Could not agree more!

      And this would be an easy fix. The equipment already exists.

      The fix could be made nearly invisible if desired (or, you could make it very evident and clear on TV, if desired).

      And no ump would lose their job. They are still needed for all the other usual calls: foul tips, hit batsmen, balks, etc.

      Its easy to implement. No effect on game flow. Get every ball/strike call correct, every time.

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    • Mike Fast says:

      Those PITCHf/x game charts are very deceptive if you don’t know what you’re looking at.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        How so? From what I’ve read (you wrote?) its 1/2 inch here and there and then 6 inches in an Texas/Yankees ALDS game. That sounds WAY better than umpires.

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      • Mike Fast says:

        I mostly see people judging the strike zone based upon where a dot falls in relation to a rectangle, without any knowledge of where that rectangle came from or what it means. If somebody drew a box, that must be THE strike zone, right? No. Often it is arbitrary and/or incorrect.

        Many PITCHf/x strike zone charts use 1.5-3.5 ft boundaries top and bottom. The actual zone is more like 1.75-3.4 ft tall. So people see all sorts of ball calls at the bottom of the “zone” and think the ump screwed up, when actually the problem lies with whoever decided to draw the bottom line on the graph at 1.5 ft.

        Umps also call a wider zone than the plate, about 2 feet wide rather than 20 inches. Now some people don’t think it should be that way, but all the umps do it, so to call those calls at the edges “mistakes” or bad calls is also being too harsh on the umps. Maybe there is an argument to be made that baseball should change the strike zone to be more like the rulebook, but if the batter and pitcher both expect a strike call, you can’t fairly say the ump blew the call if he calls it a strike, even if it’s off the black by a hair.

        I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere.

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      • Dave S says:

        Are you going to say, that in 2011, we don’t have technical equipment that could accurately determine if a thrown baseball intersected a predetermined plane in space (aka strike zone), 100% of the time?

        For real?

        Hawk-Eye is already in use in Tennis and Cricket.

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      • Dave S says:

        I envision it using the front edge of home plate to define the vertical plane. I think that would be more than good enough. Hawk-Eye or similar technology could do that easily.

        It could probably use the entire area over home plate. Would just need to define the top and bottom horizontal planes of the strike zone.

        But at that point, we’re just picking nits.

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  47. Bill says:

    “NFL refs have fine-tuned the process to where play can resume after one commercial break.”

    You sound impressed by that.

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  48. Brad Dasterdly says:

    You know everyone talks about the errors by the umpires but in reality baseball is a game of errors.

    The game starts with a pitching error; the pitcher makes an error and lets one sail into the hitter’s zone, different from the strike zone.

    The fielder makes the error that lets a runner on and now you have a baseball game.

    Without the error the game would NEVER progress beyond 0-0 bottom of the 100th inning.

    Now you know the ugly truth of the game you want to complain about the HUMAN judgment of a umpire.

    Really these are the best parts of the game and now you all want to change it.

    What is it about changing things? why can’t somethings be left alone

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  49. philkid3 says:

    I would like it more than what we have now, but I would hate a challenge system in baseball. Making sure calls are correct shouldn’t be a strategy, and managers shouldn’t be penalized for multiple bad calls in a game. Nor does it need to take that long. Just have someone in the booth watching the game and buzzing the umpires when there’s a mistake, telling them to fix it. They don’t even have to leave the field for the long reviews the NFL has, make it quick and make it efficient and make it accurate.

    Thanks for calling them out, Jonah. The biggest problem is that the mass of baseball fans does not quite recognize how much of a problem there is. We’re getting there, but it’s still not enough to make baseball respond. But the more people use their platforms to point out problems, the more straws are placed on the camel’s back.

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  50. The Frankman says:

    I cannot fricking wait until sexy android umps replace the umpires.

    Whatcha gonna do, people… when YEAR OF UMPS rolls on you?

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  51. CircleChange11 says:

    At Tango’s blog, they showed where umpires are more likely to call a borderline pitch a strike/ball based on who is ahead in the count.

    Things like this just drive me crazy. We’ve all seen a pitcher throw a borderline pitch that’s called a ball … and then follow it up with the same pitch in the same spot and have it called a strike, seemingly as a reward for being able to duplicate the act or demonstrating control.

    Furthermore, pitchers with good control have been able to expand the strikezone as the game goes on.

    I recall Livan Hernandez’s 12-K game in the playoffs against the Braves. I credit Livan with 4 K’s and Eric Gregg with 8.

    It’s just too damn important to not be extremelly accurate.

    We’re also familiar with the “great diving play = out at first on a close call” plays, even if the runner tied or beat the ball to the bag.

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  52. really nice information there in your blog. Thanks for posting. I will be back again to read your updates. Thanks again.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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