Technology in Baseball, Part 2: Electronic Strike Zone

I want to add to the technology in baseball post I made the other day. It’s turned into a two-part thing I suppose, and I wish I could say this was planned, but the reality is I forgot about this aspect of it. I hate the k zone, or whatever a channel calls it when they put the strike zone on the television. For starters, I think it makes the screen look cluttered. It’s the only sport where something is placed in the middle of the screen, and in the action and just from an aesthetic point of view I don’t like it.

I think it ends up putting scrutiny on the umpire (which I’m not completely against in some ways as there are definitely umpires who put themselves at the center of attention and don’t do much to diffuse situations) but it creates scenarios where an ump is getting criticized for a pitch that only an inch or two off the plate. It’s easy to say “that’s a bad call” when you have a real time box telling you. It’s even worse when a player watches a replay then argues about the call a minute or two later. I’m not against a good baseball argument but it’s hardly fair when you wait to look at the information then argue the call.

I’ve watched games from the past and there are pitches that are obviously off the plate getting called as a strike and there’s a lot of times where the players don’t even react. They’ll take their strike three and go back to the bench. I do think there’s something to be said for that style of umpiring as it does add incentive for a hitter to swing and not search for the walk.

And I’m not even saying I want umpire’s calling a ridiculously inconsistent zone or that they should call pitches outside the plate as strikes on purpose but I do think there’s something that’s taken away when the strike zone is perfect to the viewer and when the pitchers and hitters have access to the electronic strikes zone while the umpires are still calling the game as an umpire has always had to call the game. I think there’s something lost in the “perfection” of it and I do think it’s a little silly that players are able to watch replay and immediately call out an umpire because of the box.

I think that as a viewer it’s more frustrating to see the box. I think about my fandom growing up and yes, there were certainly times when I’d complain about an umpire’s call on a ball or strike it was usually if it was obviously bad. Now I get frustrated at every single missed call and it ends up creating an experience that’s more frustrating and aggravating than entertaining.

The question then is the automated strike zone the correct answer? I mean it certainly is from an accuracy point of view but on the other hand will it be enjoyable to watch a ball constantly going into a box because I’m sure the screen will be completely covered. I’ve found myself liking instant replay less and less over time and I can’t help but wonder if something that seems logically like a good idea unless you’re in the umpire’s union, will ultimately take away from the game.

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