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Interesting comment on working the count


Frobby

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I was listening to Mike & Mike on ESPN radio today. They were noting that run scoring is up in MLB this year, and is actually at its highest since 2000. They hypothesized (maybe based on some article they had read) that it is because more and more teams are emulating the Yankees and Red Sox and trying to get the starting pitchers' pitch count up, so that mediocre middle releivers have to fill the 6th and 7th innings.

I definitely feel the Orioles are much more conscious of this than they used to be. In fact, I'm much more tuned into it as a fan than I used to be. I'm often keeping track of pitch count as the game progresses, and in fact they post it on the scoreboard now.

Of course, higher pitch counts not only means more runs, it also means longer games. Big problem there.

While I think the idea of working the count is here to stay, if I were MLB I'd try to get the umps to call the high strike more often. When hitters see a steady diet of pitches at the knees, it gets fairly easy to spoil them. It's a lot tougher when the hitter have to defend the pitch at the knees and the pitch just below the letters.

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It's not rocket science to figure out the easiest way to beat a team is get their version of Mark Hendrickson in the game as quickly as possible.

I'm in favor of a bigger strike zone for a variety of reasons. Call letter-high strikes, make the minimum bat weight 32 ounces, and deaden the ball a little bit and you can lop off 2-3 relievers from every team and give their spots to useful players who contribue to strategy.

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It's not rocket science to figure out the easiest way to beat a team is get their version of Mark Hendrickson in the game as quickly as possible.

I'm in favor of a bigger strike zone for a variety of reasons. Call letter-high strikes, make the minimum bat weight 32 ounces, and deaden the ball a little bit and you can lop off 2-3 relievers from every team and give their spots to useful players who contribue to strategy.

I seem to remember the strike zone was once the knees to the letters. Now it's knees to the belt.

I agree. Widen the strike zone.

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All they need to do is go by the rule book. The strike zone is spelled out quite clearly there.

I don't know why they refuse to go by the rules for this one crucial part of the game.

Just following the rules would fix a lot of things.

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All they need to do is go by the rule book. The strike zone is spelled out quite clearly there.

I don't know why they refuse to go by the rules for this one crucial part of the game.

Just following the rules would fix a lot of things.

The hitters would even get some space back off the corners. Umps will call strikes out of the zone on the corners but they won't call strikes in the zone if they're high. It's ridiculous. Call the zone in the rule book.

It's better than it was maybe 10 years ago because they forced the umps to call strikes a little higher than they were previously. I recall Tom Glavine had a really difficult time when they did that because he lost the 4" of the plate strike. But now they're still calling 1-2" off the plate strikes and not calling letter high strikes.

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All they need to do is go by the rule book. The strike zone is spelled out quite clearly there.

I don't know why they refuse to go by the rules for this one crucial part of the game.

Just following the rules would fix a lot of things.

I've long had a little conspiracy theory that the powers-that-be let the strike zone shrink over the last 20-30 years because they came to the realization that most short relievers can throw 95 mph, and a letter-high 95 mph fastball is often unhittable. Everyone has 3-4 of these guys, and they use them all the time. So hitters would be done, some guys would strike out 250 times a season, and we'd be back to two or three run a game baseball. And fans like runs.

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All they need to do is go by the rule book. The strike zone is spelled out quite clearly there. I don't know why they refuse to go by the rules for this one crucial part of the game. Just following the rules would fix a lot of things.

Except that "following the rule book" is beyond the capabilities of a human umpire without some kind of technical assistance. What that leaves us with is varying interpretations of the strike zone from umpire to umpire and even from pitch to pitch with the same umpire. Sometimes those interpretations will be in the hitters' favor; sometimes the pitchers', but the problem is that they're so darned inconsistent! Umpires need help, and it needs to be help in real time as they're making the call, not after the fact help where the home plate umpire gets a DVD after the game that shows him just how good -- or terrible -- he was during the game.

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Except that "following the rule book" is beyond the capabilities of a human umpire without some kind of technical assistance. What that leaves us with is varying interpretations of the strike zone from umpire to umpire and even from pitch to pitch with the same umpire. Sometimes those interpretations will be in the hitters' favor; sometimes the pitchers', but the problem is that they're so darned inconsistent! Umpires need help, and it needs to be help in real time as they're making the call, not after the fact help where the home plate umpire gets a DVD after the game that shows him just how good -- or terrible -- he was during the game.

Bring on the technical assistance. We're long past the point where it's quaint to have the basic playing rules both changed and willfully ignored on a daily basis.

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Except that "following the rule book" is beyond the capabilities of a human umpire without some kind of technical assistance. What that leaves us with is varying interpretations of the strike zone from umpire to umpire and even from pitch to pitch with the same umpire. Sometimes those interpretations will be in the hitters' favor; sometimes the pitchers', but the problem is that they're so darned inconsistent! Umpires need help, and it needs to be help in real time as they're making the call, not after the fact help where the home plate umpire gets a DVD after the game that shows him just how good -- or terrible -- he was during the game.

The bolded part is simply untrue. While no human is absolutely perfect at anything, research shows that people can be trained to reliably make consistent perceptual judgments. The umps do it the way they do it because MLB permits it. The main problem here is not human ability, it's the lack of appropriate direction and competent supervision.

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I've long had a little conspiracy theory that the powers-that-be let the strike zone shrink over the last 20-30 years because they came to the realization that most short relievers can throw 95 mph, and a letter-high 95 mph fastball is often unhittable. Everyone has 3-4 of these guys, and they use them all the time. So hitters would be done, some guys would strike out 250 times a season, and we'd be back to two or three run a game baseball. And fans like runs.

No doubt many hitters would struggle. However, a large part of that is because hitting a letter-high fastball has not been part of the criteria that selects good hitters. Even those who can do it have been taught to lay off. While there would no doubt be a period where lotsa of hitters would look silly, over just a bit of time hitters as a group would adapt. And, once they did, it would at least be a fair fight between hitters and pitchers.

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The bolded part is simply untrue. While no human is absolutely perfect at anything, research shows that people can be trained to reliably make consistent perceptual judgments. The umps do it the way they do it because MLB permits it. The main problem here is not human ability, it's the lack of appropriate direction and competent supervision.

So MLB chooses to let their umpires miss about 10%-15% of all pitches, not just the high strikes, and not in any kind of discernable pattern? I'm interested in the reasoning behind that. Because if they were trying to make it look like human umpires didn't have the ability to consistently judge balls on the edge of the zone they'd have a hard time making the data better than it is today.

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So MLB chooses to let their umpires miss about 10%-15% of all pitches, not just the high strikes, and not in any kind of discernable pattern? I'm interested in the reasoning behind that. Because if they were trying to make it look like human umpires didn't have the ability to consistently judge balls on the edge of the zone they'd have a hard time making the data better than it is today.

Well, for some umps there is a discernible pattern. But I agree that the problem is not reducible to that. So, yep, what you said is pretty much the truth. It makes zero sense to me. If they wanted to fix it, they could fix probably 90% of the problem in less than a year. Probably 95+ % if they were willing to fire specific guys who either couldn't or wouldn't respond successfully to high-quality supervision. But that's getting ahead of ourselves. The first step is to have appropriate direction and rigorous supervision, which the quite obviously do not have. It is clearly not handled in a competent and professional way.

EDIT: Even when there appears to be no discernible pattern, I bet closer review would indicate their often is (re: various situational factors).

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... If they wanted to fix it, they could fix probably 90% of the problem in less than a year. ..

I think that they've already "fixed" about 85-90 percent of the problem and the remainder is more or less intractable.

We know that umpires blow ball/strike calls all the time, sometimes by as much as 5-10 inches but usually by only a couple inches or so. They're also inconsistent about it; one time they'll call ball 4 and the next time they'll punch a guy out on a pitch that's in practically the same place. I refuse to believe that is deliberate on the part of the umpires or that baseball is deliberately refusing to take steps to fix it.

There are several reasons for the problems. One is that umpires must always look at pitches from an angle -- because the catcher will always block them from being able to line their eyes up with the pitch. Another is that the ball is moving at a speed which makes it difficult to follow. If baseball used slow pitch rules, umpires would at least be able to tell which balls were over the plate.

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