Still Think Baseball Doesn’t Need Automated Strike Zone? Check These Numbers
As reluctant as Major League Baseball was to embrace the use of technology to reduce the number of incorrect calls by umpires, the sport still did manage to implement a replay system eleven years ago, becoming the last major pro sports league in America to do so.
And while the system has its flaws, it has cut down on the number of missed calls on the bases, on the foul lines, and at the fences.
But behind the plate (where no system currently exists) is a much different story.
The same year MLB went to instant replay (2008), researchers at Boston University began tracking the accuracy of balls and strikes calls from big league umpires - logging four million pitches in the process.
What they discovered is alarming.
Over that span of 11 seasons, the 'men in blue' were wrong on the strike zone more than 520,000 times! That's an error rate of 12.78 percent.
So what does that translate to per game?
Last season (2018), MLB umpires made 34,294 incorrect balls and strikes calls for an average of 14 per game or 1.6 per inning. And that was the best year the umps have had since researchers began tracking the data.
In the first year of the study (2008) the inaccuracy rate was well over 16 percent.
But if you think those numbers are bad, wait until you see what happens when a hitter gets two strikes on them.
According to the study, the rate of pitches that were actually balls being called strikes went up to a whopping 29 percent.
I know that baseball purists will argue that the umpires - like the players - represent the 'human element' of the game and that we can't expect perfection from either.
But I would remind those purists that baseball fans pay to see players, not umpires, succeed and fail at their jobs.
An umpire has one job - to get it right.
Baseball needs to make sure they're doing everything they can to make sure that happens.
An automated strike zone is a revolutionary concept that will take a few years to implement properly.
But isn't it time at least to start experimenting with a technology-based system in the minor leagues?