Repeatedly through every means available to me I have advocated for a consistent strike zone using the technology available to us. At this time there is no longer a need for umpires to call balls and strikes as we can instantly utilize technology already in every stadium. We need to use the technology that perfectly tracks each pitch and allow computers to call balls and strikes.
It is understandable that many would find this position to be sacrilegious as baseball without the human element is one that we truly do not wish to see as fans. But the human element that I am paying to go watch is the one that is playing the game. Not the umpires. By removing the errors that any human will make when trying to track a 9.25 in object moving at over 100 feet every second we can ensure that the humans playing the sport are the only ones driving the entertainment value to us as fans.
A study by Yale professor Dr. Toby Moskowitz looking at all the balls and strikes called over a 3.5 year period found that umpires were right 88% of the time. In 2010 Baseball Reference had an article on the increasing number of pitches per game giving us a range of 136 in 1988 to 147 in 2010. Beyond the Box Score has a great article saying that about 53% of all pitches must be called by an umpire.
If we use a midpoint for pitches per game at 141 then umpires have to make a call on 74 pitches. 65 of them they are right. That leaves us with 9 pitches a game that are incorrect. For a human that is actually pretty solid. The problem is that alone can decide a game.
Lets say that 6 of the 9 are strikes for a pitcher who "earned" that call. Greg Maddox used to drive me crazy as he would get calls that the next inning our pitcher would see as a ball. And if we swung at it, it was a weak grounder or a popup because the pitch simply was not one you could hit easily.
Or we use another example of how some players such as Barry Bonds were known to have a "great eye" and would consistently get the benefit of the doubt on close pitches. For Rockies Fans, lets be real, Todd Helton benefited from this too.
In either case there is no situation where that miss is not a benefit to one team or the other. Consider every single count and what the error does:
0-0 - Pitchers REALLY want that first strike. Hitters want that first ball
0-1 - Pitcher gets to 0-2 and they can bring out their best pitch with little risk. Hitters getting to 1-1 will be happy
2-1. 1-1 - Call the strike wrong and put the hitter in a brutal spot. Call a ball in error and you let the batter sit back and pick his pitch.
0-2, 1-2, 2-2 - Every single missed call for the pitchers is a strikeout. If a ball is called the hitter gets another shot
3-0, 3-1 - A strike is like a new life for a pitcher, a Ball and we have a runner
3-2 - The full count. Strikeouts are a huge win and pitchers are praised for winning a tough battle. A walk and the hitter has won.
In every scenario that one pitch is important to the outcome of that at bat. Now, on average we have the potential for 9 ABs a game to be influenced by an umpire. There are about 70-75 ABs each game meaning that 12% of each game could be heavily influenced by an umpire.
This happens. We see it and then discuss it often in our comments here. We listen to commentators ask, "Where was that one?" on the radio and TV broadcasts. We even at times get to see the Ford Strike Zone point out that there are errors. I will never forget Tulo being rung up on a pitch that they would not show for about half of the next AB. Some producer must have decided they should and the ball was about a foot outside and low. At that moment we were down 1 and had a man on 2nd. That was a great example of an umpire influencing the game.
My point continues to be that we do not have to deal with this. Players do not have to deal with this. We don't have to see the stare down of umpires or the catchers hanging out after their ABs to make sure our pitchers will get the same call the next inning. The technology already exists and it is significantly more likely we will see it implemented than not at some point in the future, lets make it happen!
There are other tangible benefits to this. We can speed up the pace of the game in small ways. If pitchers and hitters know the strike zone is no longer susceptible to human error then we eliminate pointless delays while they stare down umpires who didn't give them a call they deserve. We eliminate players and coaches being thrown out of a game for arguing balls and strikes. With consistency likely comes better performances by young pitchers who no longer have to "earn" that strike on the edge of the zone. This can then lead to hitters knowing their strike zone every single time and may even lead to a small uptick in offense as hitters adjust and realize exactly what is a ball and a strike.
Ultimately I want to see baseball where we have the right calls consistently and the only discussion is about the game itself, not the umpires. By utilizing the technology that already exists we can do this quickly and easily helping improve what is already a beautiful game.
Article on the study by Dr Moskowitz: http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/gil-lebreton/article105378146.html
Baseball Reference pitch count http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/7533.html
Calls by Umpires http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/1/27/5341676/how-well-do-umpires-call-balls-and-strikes