The Strike Zone: Where Knowledge is King

In baseball, knowledge of the strike zone can make you king.  Pitchers and batters who use it to their advantage can become millionaires – kings in other words and are set for life financially.

Just what is the strike zone you might ask.  It’s not real estate strictly speaking, but just bit of space that a pitched baseball must pass through from slightly below the shoulders to slightly below the knees as hitters stand at home plate.  Not to close to the hitter and not too far away either or it will be called a ball (a plus for the hitter and a minus for the pitcher). At some point if the ball passes over home plate which is 17 inches wide at its widest, it will be called a strike (a plus for the pitcher and a minus for the hitter).  For a time line on just how baseball’s strike zone has changed over the years click hereThe Strike Zone defined.

Every fan in the ball park seems know which pitches are balls and which are strikes and boo loudly when their opinion is not reinforced.  Team managers, seeing each pitch thrown from one of the worst perspectives, the dugout, are often ejected from the game for questioning calls.  Among the players themselves, there seems to be an inverse ratio in arguing ball and strike counts.  The best of them seldom react to calls that go against them, while the less skillful frequently have problems with pitches they feel are in or out of the strike zone.  For as long as baseball has been played only the umpire has had the power to call pitches balls or strikes and his decision has always been final.  See the accompanying pictures for two different strike zone perspectives.

Midget Eddie Gaedel at bat

A tougher call to make

For about 10 years, however, the digital media company QuesTec with cameras installed in about a third of the Major League Baseball’s (MLB) parks kept track of every pitch thrown in those ball fields. Rather than immediately second guessing each ball and strike call, the system was used as a means of evaluating umpire performance at the end of the each season.  You can see why suspicions arose from all quarters because the system was being used in only about 10 of the 30 baseball stadiums.  The Press, the owners, the fans, and the umpires themselves felt that the system was not guaranteeing uniform umpiring in all games.

Over time and even though, everyone seemed to adapt to the QuesTec system, but it was obvious that things needed to be tweeked.  Thus in 2009, Zone Evaluation replaced the older approach.  As was the case with QuesTec, many umpires have been reluctant to accept any second guessing of their calls.  In the end, though, both tracking methods have proven that umpires are correct in about 95% to 98% of their calls.

Despite the fact the umpires are highly skilled in what the do, they’ve not become millionaires, but do earn a higher than normal salary ranging from about $120,000 to $350,000 per year.  Not to bad you say, but the players over whom they hold sway can earn in the multi-millions.  It’s never been and even playing field even in baseball. So remember its the strike zone: where knowledge is king.

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