On umps and strike zones
I was going to put up a big, picture-heavy post on how Marvin Hudson’s inability to call a decent strike hosed the game up, but two things:
1) he didn’t do that bad on Washburn and Aardsma, and McCarthy made out decently, though there were some bad calls. And overall, check out the normalized strikezone graph. He wasn’t calling the low strike for beans.
2) humans shouldn’t be calling balls and strikes. A guy squatting behind a plate can’t adequately determine if a 90mph pitch crossed a three-dimensional strike zone. The sooner the swap’s made, the better for the game.
To pre-empt the standard “you can’t be serious” comments I get: I am. That anyone should be trying to judge balls and strikes by eyeballing it is absurd. We know it doesn’t work: we’ve got all of baseball history to show that. If you want the strikezone called consistently, especially if you want it called by the rulebook, you’re on my side.
Arguing that umps should be doing this is saying “I support preventable errors affecting the outcome of games.” And then why not just have whatever system you implement make errors, say, 50% as often as human umpires? Or heck, if you like the errors, have them call 25% of pitches randomly.
Or re-write the rule book, and define the strike zone to be whatever the guy behind the plate thinks it should be, and have that day’s home plate ump give a quick talk about his artistic interpretation during the lineup exchange so both managers can brief their teams on what to expect. Acknowledge and celebrate the flaws.