Sports Medley: More
reasons why today’s baseball stinks: 25 Jul 16
by Tony Medley
ESPN’s Buster Olney,
a talking head “baseball expert,” opined that calling balls and strikes
by some sort of computerized procedure would not make baseball better
because “it’s not accurate enough.” What? Does Olney think that Umpires
calling balls and strikes are more accurate than the graphic
indications of ball placement shown on most of today’s telecasts (not
Sportsnet LA, unfortunately, because they refuse to show it on every
pitch)? Olney’s position is absurd.
Here’s an example of
how the horribly inaccurate calling of balls and strikes by umpires can
affect a game. In the top of the eighth inning of Friday’s game between
the Dodgers and the Cardinals and the score tied 2-2 with two men out
for the Dodgers and Andres Toles on first base, the count was 2 balls
and no strikes on Chase Utley. The pitcher, Jonathan Broxton, threw a
ball that was 6 inches below Utley’s knees and 3 inches outside the
strike zone that the umpire, Mike Eastabrook, called a strike.
So instead of the
count being 3-0, it was 2-1. Utley fouled off the next pitch (which with
the count 3-0 he probably would have taken) to make the count 2-2, then
had to swing at the identical low, outside pitch that Eastabrook had
already called a strike once, to strikeout. Utley had to swing at it
because Eastabrook had told him on that night, that pitch was a strike.
Had the pitches been called by computer, Utley would have walked. So
instead of the Dodgers having men on first and second with two out and
their best hitter, Corey Seager (who already had 4 hits in the game)
coming up, they were out of the inning.
This isn’t a
criticism of the umpire, who was looking over Cardinal Catcher Yadier
Molina’s, right shoulder and couldn’t possibly have seen the pitch
location as it approached the plate because it was low and outside to
his left on the other side of Molina, and he was completely blocked by
the catcher. He could not have seen whether it was low, nor could he
have seen whether it was outside because he was completely blocked.
The home plate umpire
is in the worst location to determine balls and strikes. He would be
better positioned if he stood behind the pitcher, where they stood at
the dawn of baseball back in the early 1900s, and where they generally
stood when I played in high school. For Olney and others to reject
automatized ball and strike calling because it’s “not accurate enough”
can’t stand up when compared with the lack of accuracy of the umpires
calling them manually.
The calling of balls
and strikes is the essence of baseball. It is unfair in the extreme for
games to be decided every day by this imperfect procedure. Baseball
needs to automatize it, and it needs to do it now.
Another Example of
how things have changed for the worse:
The Dodgers and Cardinals took 3 hours and 49 minutes to play Sunday’s 9
inning game, using ten pitchers. The final game of the 1908 World Series
between the Cubs and the Tigers was 1 hour 29 minutes. In a five game
series, only 10 pitchers were used by both teams, total; with six
pitchers throwing complete games.
manager Dave Roberts often sends a pinch hitter up for his pitcher in
the sixth inning, puts another pitcher in to start the seventh, and then
changes pitchers after one batter, even if that batter struck out. Not
only is there no justification for such arbitrary changing of pitchers,
it slows the game down to a crawl. At the end of Sunday’s game, there
couldn’t have been 20% of the fans in the stands who were there when the
Since there is no
hope for any manager in today’s game to eschew the sabermetricians and
their lying numbers, MLB should institute a rule in which there may be
no more than one pitching change per inning and every pitcher must pitch
to at least three batters. But as I’ve said many times in the past when
I’ve proposed changes, don’t hold your breath. Any commissioner daft
enough to base home field advantage on who wins the All Star game isn’t
going to make any change that actually has merit.