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What is the Sox's problem with the umpires?


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#1 MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 08:52 PM

I'm not trying to create a reactionary thread here, but there seems to be a real problem: The Sox players are in a constant battle with the umpires.

After tonight's game finishes, Youkilis is in the home plate umpire's face, yelling, to the point that he follows him to the dugout and they basically have to be separated. Even Orsillo commented on it: This is almost a nightly occurrence at this point.

Clearly, the Sox are struggling and looking for someone to blame and the umpires are easy scapegoats, but I don't think I've ever seen a team with this contentious a relationship with the umpires. Where does the fault lie? Are the players especially whiney. Should Valentine be doing more to shut it down, as he did with Doubront earlier in the season? Is there any chance the Sox have actually been squeezed more than other teams?

I wouldn't even ask that latter question if not for the peculiar case of Adrian Gonzalez, the man who hasn't walked in a month...

Regardless, let this be an open discussion on the relationship between the Sox and the umpires and how it is affecting wins and losses. Is this just normal stuff that I would see if I watched any other team on a daily basis or is there real and different animosity going on here?

#2 BoSox Rule

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:25 PM

Youkilis has always been a huge baby when it comes to umpires and it makes perfect sense that this team would have a problem with umpires. Tito didn't call them entitled out of the blue.

#3 rembrat


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:29 PM

It's going to be an up-hill battle for Sox players after Valentine's little rant. He is 100% on the money but the majority of umpires are children with absolute power who now have that extra incentive to stick it to these guys.

#4 Green Monster

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:31 PM

Its not just Youkilis........Beckett, Lester, and others are constanting glaring in at the umpire whenever they don't get a call...........Its annoying, and I am sure it doesn't help matters going forward.

Edited by Green Monster, 11 June 2012 - 09:31 PM.


#5 reggiecleveland


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:42 PM

They are losing. They are frustrated. Lock the thread.

#6 AimingForYoko


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:44 PM

Clearly, the Sox are struggling and looking for someone to blame and the umpires are easy scapegoats, but I don't think I've ever seen a team with this contentious a relationship with the umpires. Where does the fault lie? Are the players especially whiney. Should Valentine be doing more to shut it down, as he did with Doubront earlier in the season?


Yes, yes they are. And the Fifth only allows this mentality to thrive when he goes off on rants before and after games. Rants that in turn piss off the more petulant umpires in the game, which then do the Sox absolutely no favours. It's cyclical.

But you already answered your own question, so...

#7 Pumpsie


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:50 PM

Yes, yes they are. And the Fifth only allows this mentality to thrive when he goes off on rants before and after games. Rants that in turn piss off the more petulant umpires in the game, which then do the Sox absolutely no favours. It's cyclical.

But you already answered your own question, so...


This has been going on for years. It thrived under Tito as well. Youks, Big Papi, Beckett and Lester are the biggest culprits. Little to do with Valentine. But the officials in almost every sport are getting worse and worse. Look at the the sixth game of the Stanley Cup tonight. The big fight fiasco the other night. Everywhere you look. You know where the officials have NOT gotten worse? Tennis! Because they take the calls out of the hands of the morons and take advantage of present-day technology. And baseball better do the same...and soon.

#8 There is no Rev


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:53 PM

This has been going on for years. It thrived under Tito as well. Youks, Big Papi, Beckett and Lester are the biggest culprits. Little to do with Valentine. But the officials in almost every sport are getting worse and worse. Look at the the sixth game of the Stanley Cup tonight. The big fight fiasco the other night. Everywhere you look. You know where the officials have NOT gotten worse? Tennis! Because they take the calls out of the hands of the morons and take advantage of present-day technology. And baseball better do the same...and soon.


The bolded is, I think, the precise moment that frustration with the problem of fallible humanity goes terribly, terribly wrong.

#9 uncannymanny

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 09:58 PM

Yes, yes they are. And the Fifth only allows this mentality to thrive when he goes off on rants before and after games. Rants that in turn piss off the more petulant umpires in the game, which then do the Sox absolutely no favours. It's cyclical.


In fairness to the V, he did call out Doubront earlier in the season for this behavior.

#10 AimingForYoko


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:01 PM

In fairness to the V, he did call out Doubront earlier in the season for this behavior.


Which is one of the things that I don't understand to be honest. How do you call out (and rightfully so) Felix earlier in the season, and then rant about robots now and hand all your players excuses?

edit: This isn't a blame Bobby thing btw, I just think that everyone (including Bobby) is just frustrated and angry.

Edited by AimingForYoko, 11 June 2012 - 10:02 PM.


#11 OttoC


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:01 PM

If a team constantly bitches about umpires calls, won't umpires subconsciously call the close ones against them. especially against the biggest complainers?

#12 Pumpsie


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:22 PM

The bolded is, I think, the precise moment that frustration with the problem of fallible humanity goes terribly, terribly wrong.


It's not just "fallible humanity" that's the problem. It's that the people who run these sports don't really care enough if their officials get it right or not. None of the commissioners put much effort into building great training programs for their officials. Not enough attention and effort is being paid to getting the calls right... to aiming for perfection. Way too often these days, referees, umpires and officials determine the outcome of sporting events. It's like everyone has given up and just defaults to "human error" as their excuse for not trying. As a fan, this is frustrating. At least in tennis, they've actually tried to get it absolutely right.

#13 uncannymanny

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:32 PM

Which is one of the things that I don't understand to be honest. How do you call out (and rightfully so) Felix earlier in the season, and then rant about robots now and hand all your players excuses?

edit: This isn't a blame Bobby thing btw, I just think that everyone (including Bobby) is just frustrated and angry.


I'd hope it's not about handing the players excuses, but rather Bobby being the guy to say it and telling the players to worry about their business and quit the constant bitching and eye rolls. Or he's just frustrated and can't help himself, which is a distinct possibility with BV.

If a team constantly bitches about umpires calls, won't umpires subconsciously call the close ones against them. especially against the biggest complainers?


As many gamethread posts and threads across the board have established, umps aren't robots (much to our dismay), so, yeah, I would guess not many of them are inclined to give Sox players the benefit of the doubt when there's an opportunity to. In a 50/50 situation I think it would only be human to call it for the guys that don't constantly mouth off to you. It's getting to be a tired act to watch as a fan, so part of me (a very, very tiny part) has some sympathy for the umps on this one.

#14 aksoxfan

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:49 PM

I don't watch other teams so I don't know if the sox are worse than most teams. I get pissed that jeter gets every inside call by sticking his ass out. I just wish the umps would take advantage of technology and stop being such a big part of the outcome.

#15 Doctor G

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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:52 PM

They are in a collective slump, at the same time as facing some very good
starting pitching.
The number of 0-2 counts is a sure sign of a slumping hitter. The hitters are behind in the count so often recently that they are blaming it on the umpires. maybe they might benefit by being a little more aggressive early in the ABs.

Time for some honest self scouting to lead the way out of this hitting funk.

Edited by Doctor G, 11 June 2012 - 11:03 PM.


#16 drbretto


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 10:53 PM

I think I've officially converted to the robot umpire crowd.

And I think the biggest culprit is HDTV. Not that all of the other factors don't play into it as well, but even if this generation of umpires (and officiators of any kind in other sports) happens to suck, I don't for one second believe there was ever such a golden age of umpires that ever really got it right. I just think we missed most of it.

I read an article in SI a while back while waiting in a doctor's office. It's about home field advantage across all sports, and the very convincing conclusion was that home field advantage is mostly (like nearly 100%) caused by officiating (with the interesting tidbit demonstrating that the old favorite questec was actually causing a reverse effect). I wish I could find the article online but I searched for a long time when I read the article because I wanted to start a thread on it but I couldn't find it. But if you, just for a moment, accept that premise, then the "human element" has been impacting games one way or the other (and more or less to the same degree) for over a century. The only difference is that back in the golden age, you didn't have high definition DVR's, 24-hour baseball networks, youtube and pitchFX to highlight each and every little human error that occurs.

We have the technology. I say it's time to start using it.

Edited by drbretto, 11 June 2012 - 10:58 PM.


#17 drbretto


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 11:16 PM

In your post in the umpire thread I think you were referring to a book called "scorecasting." As I recall SI included an excerpt when the book came out.


Thanks to lurker Twibnotes for finding the source of that article. Sounds familiar at least. It was a while ago.

#18 Harry Hooper


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 11:25 PM

Players are running out of other candidates to blame:

Terry Francona
Curt Young
DeMarlo Hale
Ron Johnson
Theo Epstein
Tom Gill
Dave Page
Greg Barajas
3 consecutive series in NL parks with no DH
City of Palms Park
Heidi Watney
Lou Gorman
Carl Beane
Umps
Fenway Park*
Media
Fans
Ownership
Physics of gyroball do not work in W. Hemisphere
Wood bats
Daylight Savings Time
Canada
Players


* e.g., Lester cited this after his latest loss

#19 Rasputin


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Posted 11 June 2012 - 11:25 PM

I think I've officially converted to the robot umpire crowd.

We have the technology. I say it's time to start using it.


It is utterly infuriating that we don't.

#20 Rice4HOF

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:38 AM

They are losing. They are frustrated. Lock the thread.

Reggie has bingo. I'm an umpire. When players or teams make mental and physical mistakes and start bitching at me, I shrug my shoulders and ignore it. They're frustrated and letting off some steam.
When players are playing well and start complaining, then it's personal and they're on the way to an early shower.
Nothing to see here.

#21 Rice4HOF

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:42 AM

If a team constantly bitches about umpires calls, won't umpires subconsciously call the close ones against them. especially against the biggest complainers?

No.

They may root against them, but won't subconsciously or otherwise make calls against them.

#22 Adrian's Dome

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 01:02 AM

When players are playing well and start complaining, then it's personal and they're on the way to an early shower.
Nothing to see here.


Even if you screwed up?

What then? Do you still throw the player out? Do you shrug and say "my bad", even if the team lost the game because of you? Do you, in turn, screw the other team to make up for the bad call?

The technology is there. Use it. Bad calls, especially with balls and strikes, are easily the biggest problem with baseball right now. Some days it's impossible for batters to be able to judge a strike zone because they have no idea what's going to be called and what isn't.

Edited by Adrian's Dome, 12 June 2012 - 01:07 AM.


#23 OttoC


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 07:20 AM

No.

They may root against them, but won't subconsciously or otherwise make calls against them.


I suspect that there are psychological studies that strongly suggest otherwise regarding subconscious actions and there certainly seem to be umpires who will do "make-up" calls.

I think it could be an interesting study to see how many times a strike is called on a borderline pitch after the batter tosses the bat away and starts heading to firston a putative ball four. Sort of like, "Who's the umpire here? You or me?"

#24 FelixMantilla


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 07:37 AM

Umpires seem to be more combative than ever. Instead of walking away many seem to relish a confrontation with players.

I thought that Sandy Alderson had somewhat reigned in that kind of behavior years ago. And that the combativeness started to creep back it when Mike Port took over. Or maybe I'm just misremembering.TM Posted Image

#25 biollante


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 08:26 AM

Complaining about refs. and umps is an epidemic from Little League to the majors, from travel soccer to the Euro Cup. I am tired of whining athletes. Sometimes the umps get is wrong, move on. I honestly don't blame the umpires, they really should be tossing more players.

#26 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 08:34 AM

The Sox certainly have the rep as whiners, by both the hitters and the pitchers. Umps are only human after all and it's natural for them to grow sick of the constant bitching.

This, to me, is the logical end game of a team originally built on strike zone control and being patient at the plate. Such an approach was fundamentally sound, but ever since Joe West shot his fat mouth off about the games being too long when the Sox and Yankees play it at least seems that the Sox hitters have been more patient at the plate than the umpires' calls suggest. IE the Sox hitters know the strike zone but aren't adjusting to the umps' making the zone bigger or what have you. We saw Drew struggle with this for an entire year; his eye was still good but the umps were ringing him up on borderline pitches and he never adjusted.

We all saw Youks get tossed on Friday night. The real problem wasn't the strike call, as the replay showed it right on the border. The real problem was that the pitch was too close to reasonably take with 2 strikes. Yet Youks took it. Trying to work a walk? I dunno. But there's got to be a point where they'll need to be fouling off those pitches as the umps are calling them strikes.

#27 Marbleheader


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 08:34 AM

Inexcusable for an ump to aggressively continue an argument like that. I don't care how tired you are of Youks' act, there needs to be some level of professionalism adhered to in those circumstances. As for the team, it gets old seeing the same guys bark to the umps routinely. I can't say it's solely their current situation, these guys have always been like this, losing just tends to magnify faults.

#28 Smiling Joe Hesketh


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 08:45 AM

Inexcusable for an ump to aggressively continue an argument like that. I don't care how tired you are of Youks' act, there needs to be some level of professionalism adhered to in those circumstances. As for the team, it gets old seeing the same guys bark to the umps routinely. I can't say it's solely their current situation, these guys have always been like this, losing just tends to magnify faults.


I certainly agree that there's no excuse for the umps to be the aggressors. They are paid to arbitrate the game, so getting aggressive is just adding to the problem on their part.

#29 MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 08:52 AM

It's been postulated that the outside strike is baffling Gonzalez as well - his lack of confidence about where that outside edge is is causing him to lose confidence in his at bats as a whole, leading to fewer pitches seen and the complete lack of walks. I'm not sure if that's relevant or not.

There is a bit of an interesting trend shaping up with the strike zone for the Sox: Currently, they are 10th in the AL in walks, with 184, and third in the AL with 479 strikeouts, a disparity of 295. There's some kind of common sense that these should be more in line, that a team taking more pitches both walks and strikes out more than a free-swinging team.

So I looked at the other teams in the AL East (only so much time available here...):

Yanks: 210 (3rd) vs. 404 (10th) - 194 difference
Rays: 217 (2nd) vs. 453 (6th) - 236 difference
Blue Jays: 193 (6th) vs. 450 (7th) - 257 difference
Orioles: 172 (12th) and 509 (1st) - 337 difference

Or how about the A's, that famously patient moneyball team?

A's: 204 (4th) vs. 472 (4th) - 268 difference

It looks like there's a bit of an argument to make there, that the Sox seem to be more out of line than most, but then how to explain the Orioles? Are they even more universally hated by the umpires?

I'm not even really making an argument here, just looking at some balls-and-strikes related numbers and thought the Sox's performance was maybe interesting there. Perhaps it's an indication that their offensive performance is unsustainable? I really can't figure out, looking at those walk numbers, how the team is sustaining its spot at 3rd in the AL in OBP...

#30 Shelterdog


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 09:14 AM

I agree that a lot of the Red Sox argue about calls too much, that they might get squeezed as a result, and that it's annoying, but do they actually do it any more than anyone else? I'm in New York city and I've been watching Derek Jeter stare incredulously at every call against him for close to twenty years.

#31 rembrat


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:22 AM

I agree that a lot of the Red Sox argue about calls too much, that they might get squeezed as a result, and that it's annoying, but do they actually do it any more than anyone else? I'm in New York city and I've been watching Derek Jeter stare incredulously at every call against him for close to twenty years.


I was going to mention that ever sine Girardi arrived in the Bronx their bench, usually the coaches, chirp a ton about balls and strike calls.

The Sox are just in a frustrating funk.

#32 Gene Conleys Plane Ticket

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:34 AM

I agree that a lot of the Red Sox argue about calls too much, that they might get squeezed as a result, and that it's annoying, but do they actually do it any more than anyone else? I'm in New York city and I've been watching Derek Jeter stare incredulously at every call against him for close to twenty years.


This was my first reaction to seeing the title of this thread. Do the Red Sox really bitch about umpiring more than most other teams? We see the Red Sox every day, and for that matter, the rest of the country sees them pretty often as well, as they seem to be on one national telecast or another a couple of times per week. I think we're just experiencing some selection bias here, on our own part and everyone else's.

That said...

...the officials in almost every sport are getting worse and worse. Look at the the sixth game of the Stanley Cup tonight. The big fight fiasco the other night. Everywhere you look. You know where the officials have NOT gotten worse? Tennis! Because they take the calls out of the hands of the morons and take advantage of present-day technology. And baseball better do the same...and soon.


This is absolutely correct. I quite literally cannot watch the NBA anymore because the officiating is so random. I wouldn't say baseball is reaching that point. In fact I'd say it's remarkable how many calls the umps get right. But clearly, it's not enough and too many games and big moments have turned on faulty calls. You can call it the "human factor," but in this case, "human factor" is a euphemism for incompetence. In what other profession, industry or area of human endeavor is incompetence not only widely tolerated buty actively encouraged as a desirable part of the enterprise?

Only sports, as far as I can tell.

I mean, next time anyone here screws up on the job and costs the company money, try going to your supervisor and saying, "It's the human factor, Boss! We wouldn't want to take that away!"

EDIT: Just to add one point, when Valentine says:

I think it’s almost impossible to do what they do, so why do we ask them to do the impossible. If in fact you can’t see the ball the last five feet, and now pitchers are throwing pitchers that are throwing pitches that are moving in that zone, cutting and splitting and moving in the zone your eye can’t see what’s happening. Your lens doesn’t snap that photograph and register in the time the ball is moving the last five feet. So if you can’t see it, why are we asking them to call it? They can’t see it. They’re humans. We’re asking humans to do a feat a human can’t do.


He is making his best point and possibly getting to the real heart of the matter. It could be that the umpires have not worse, it's the pitchers who are better. You could apply this to any sport, but I think pitching in baseball is the clearest example. In Sandy Koufax's era, a pitcher (like Koufax) could not ony get by as a starting pitcher -- not a one-inning closer, a starter in a four-man rotation -- but he could excel with two pitches! Koufax threw a fastball and a curve and that's about it. And there were many pitchers like that.

These days, a starting pitcher needs at least three preferably four pitches and sometimes more than that. Counting two-seamers, four seamers, cutters etc it's not unusual for a pitcher to have five or six pitches. Each pitch moves differently, and being better athletes than in the past, today's pitchers control each pitch more precisely than ever.

It's a lot to ask of even the best umpire to get everything right. But it's not too much to ask of, say, a PitchFX system or one like it.

Edited by Gene Conleys Plane Ticket, 12 June 2012 - 10:42 AM.


#33 Harry Hooper


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 10:55 AM

Given the team's comments after Beckett's start last night, I guess we have to add Wind to the "list of blame" above.

It's not simply an issue of complaining vs. not complaining. It matters HOW you complain to the umps. Don't make them look bad. The other day Middlebrooks was unhappy with a bad call, but he stared off into the grandstands as he voiced his objections to the ump. It probably won't be too long, however, before he adopts the approach of role models Ortiz, Youks, Lester & co. and turns around and bitches to the ump face-to-face, points fingers, and incites the crowd.

As for the Yankees getting away with stuff, that's just the double-standard reality. Everyone involved with MLB grew up with the Yankees being an obnoxious gorilla franchise, so it's essentially accepted as part of the landscape. No one on the field or in the seats has much stomach to see another team and its fans (e.g., Camden Yards as Fenway South) act like the pinstriped contingent.

#34 Pumpsie


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 11:04 AM

Here's Rosecrans on CBSSportsline on Bobby V and automating the strikezone calls. I'm with him 110%. It's way past time to do this.
http://www.cbssports...lls-and-strikes

#35 JimBoSox9


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 11:21 AM

It seems like people are taking it as an article of faith that an automated strike-calling system would be fully accurate. Is that really the case? My understanding was that different ballparks had different setups that could cause inconsistency, and minute changes could cause systemic problems. This analysis by one of our own seems to state that actual location measurements could be up to an inch off, and this more recent BP article seems to indicate that over larger samples, recalibration and adjustment can be used postgame to create accurate data, but within a single game there can be (relatively) quite a bit of variation.

So I guess my question is, while automation would almost have to create greater consistency within a game (in and of itself noteworthy, but not the final objective), are we really at the point where true accuracy can be fairly well guaranteed? Can it account for a 3-D strike zone as well? It doesn't seem like it, which makes this somewhat of a 'grass is greener' discussion, but there are clearly a preponderance of experts here who can tell me if I'm wrong.

Edited by JimBoSox9, 12 June 2012 - 11:23 AM.


#36 redsoxstiff


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:05 PM

The bolded is, I think, the precise moment that frustration with the problem of fallible humanity goes terribly, terribly wrong.



The problem[?] is going to be with us for ever...Umps who are consist are precious and becoming rarer while arrogant bungholes are unchecked by MLB...The Umps who show favoritism...need scotum removal so that they physically align themselves with thier lack of craft.

#37 Gene Conleys Plane Ticket

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:15 PM

It seems like people are taking it as an article of faith that an automated strike-calling system would be fully accurate. Is that really the case? My understanding was that different ballparks had different setups that could cause inconsistency, and minute changes could cause systemic problems. This analysis by one of our own seems to state that actual location measurements could be up to an inch off, and this more recent BP article seems to indicate that over larger samples, recalibration and adjustment can be used postgame to create accurate data, but within a single game there can be (relatively) quite a bit of variation.

So I guess my question is, while automation would almost have to create greater consistency within a game (in and of itself noteworthy, but not the final objective), are we really at the point where true accuracy can be fairly well guaranteed? Can it account for a 3-D strike zone as well? It doesn't seem like it, which makes this somewhat of a 'grass is greener' discussion, but there are clearly a preponderance of experts here who can tell me if I'm wrong.


No technology is "fully accurate" nor will it ever be. I don't think perfection is the objective. Optimization is. Also, the existing technology may not be appropriate. But I am certain that with an invetsment in some further R&D, it wouldn't take more than a year or so to come up with greatly improved, usable strike zone technology. If the history of the last quarter century or so has taught us anything, it's that technology moves very, very fast. All it takes is a commitment, which as long as they are wedded to the "human factor," MLB will not be willing to make.

In other words, the technology is not the problem. The mindset is.

#38 MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:19 PM

Can it account for a 3-D strike zone as well? It doesn't seem like it, which makes this somewhat of a 'grass is greener' discussion, but there are clearly a preponderance of experts here who can tell me if I'm wrong.


The 3D strike zone shouldn't be a problem. Essentially, SportVision, which makes Pitchf/x and lots of other video-based analysis tools for sports, uses videogrammetry/photogrammetry, which uses the fact that you're looking at the same object from different angles, plus a lot of math and algorithms, to establish where that object is in x/y/z space. For the sake of all the stuff on TV broadcasts, it just shows you where the ball crosses the front of home plate, but as long as the position of home plate is geospatially fixed within the software, there shouldn't be any problem setting up an "alarm" should any portion of the ball cross any portion of home plate.

The accuracy is another issue, though. SportVision says its technology is "accurate to within one inch," but that really means two inches, as it could be off by an inch in either direction. But I'd have to believe that's still better than what the human eye/brain can come up with.

The big thing for me, though, would be that it would just completely remove the arguing from the game. Even if it was occasionally slightly wrong, what are you going to do about it?

Personally, though, I don't think it will happen for a long time. I think there are plenty of players who believe that their stature in the game gets them favorable calls, and so they aren't likely to be for it, and I think the umpire's union will be opposed just for a face-saving gesture. I don't think you'd remove the home plate umpire, of course, but it would be something of a neutering that they probably wouldn't like.

#39 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:20 PM

Here's Rosecrans on CBSSportsline on Bobby V and automating the strikezone calls. I'm with him 110%. It's way past time to do this.
http://www.cbssports...lls-and-strikes


Bobby V better be quiet. If they successfully automate balls and strikes, what baseball job do you think they'd go after next?

#40 OttoC


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:24 PM

I think I've officially converted to the robot umpire crowd.

And I think the biggest culprit is HDTV. Not that all of the other factors don't play into it as well, but even if this generation of umpires (and officiators of any kind in other sports) happens to suck, I don't for one second believe there was ever such a golden age of umpires that ever really got it right. I just think we missed most of it....


Something no one has brought up with television is that the Amica Strike Zone (or whatever system is in use) is also not 100% accurate. We have a generation of fans who sees the Strike Zone on the screen and and THE positioning of the pitch that cry, "He was robbed." Maybe the umpire got it right and the "Strike Zone" got it wrong. That is certainly possible.

As fans watching games on television, we usually see pitches from the pitcher's viewpoint and it's a 2-D view. The strike zone is three-dimensional. We cannot tell the height of THE pitch just as it crosses the front edge of the plate nor can we judge it as it passes the rear point of the plate. It is certainly possible for a pitch to be of legal strike-height as it enters the front of the zone, yet drop below that before it exits the zone. Similarly, a high pitch could drop into the zone. There is also the problem of judging whether a pitch curved into the rear of the zone in the other plane. Sometimes the broadcast will show a side view in replay of a pitch. Watch THE low strikes. But even then, there is a problem with where the batter stands in relation to the zone. If he is way back in the box his back knee may not be in the strike zone, 3-D-wise; if he is far forward in THE box, his lead knee may not be.

Umpires also share this problem but they are closer to the action. I think their greatest problem may be the hseer lack of perception time involved with a pitch. A pitch the reaches the plate traveling at 90-mph is moving at 1584 inches per second. It is in the 17-inch strike zone about 0.0125 seconds (allowing for the diameter of a baseball on exit). It may be that the game is becoming too fast for home plate umpires but replacing them with a man-made measurement system still won't guaranty 100% accuracy. Besides, players will still bitch.

Aside from all that, if there were a switch to an automated system for calling balls and strikes, the home plate umpire will still be needed to supply a redundant caller. Because umpires rely on past experience for judging how certain pitches will move, replacing them with an automated system will reduce their experience at calling them. What might be a better approach is to let them continue calling balls and strikes and use an automaegtd system to over-ride them on questionable calls. Bear in mind that the umpires union may be stronger than the player's union, so MLB is going to need to offer some quid pro quo.

I see that others have added some of the same points I made while I was typing.

Edited by OttoC, 12 June 2012 - 12:27 PM.


#41 uncannymanny

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 12:26 PM

In other words, the technology is not the problem. The mindset is.


Bingo. And this mindset is not limited solely to the powers that be in MLB. Take a gander for yourselves at the comments in the article Pumpsie linked. Some of them are definitely coming from an anti-Sox bent, but I'd say the majority of the comments I read indicated the average fan sees no problem with MLB umpiring as it currently stands.

Have there ever been any studies of outcome variability using pitchfx data over a large sample (i.e. something that would be able to say with some degree of statistical backup that ~X% of games/ABs would have turned out differently)?

Edit to reply to Otto above: These are excellent points that seem to rarely be brought up. I've never understood why the overhead camera is rarely used outside of showing if a guy went around or not. I feel it's a much better view to understand how the pitch crossed the plate.

I had a thought earlier this season that umpires could wear some high tech glasses with an overlay of the strike zone. Something like those Google Glasses. It could give them access to a ton of information as well at the push of a button, all while keeping them behind the plate and salaried.

Edited by uncannymanny, 12 June 2012 - 12:33 PM.


#42 Red(s)HawksFan


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 01:02 PM

What might be a better approach is to let them continue calling balls and strikes and use an automaegtd system to over-ride them on questionable calls. Bear in mind that the umpires union may be stronger than the player's union, so MLB is going to need to offer some quid pro quo.

Perhaps a challenge system could be instituted? Tennis was brought up earlier. Tennis still employs line judges to make in/out calls with assists from the automated system, but they also have a challenge system where a player can ask for a line call to be reviewed. I think they get a limited number of challenges per match or per set, but it doesn't seem to delay the pace of the match in the long run.

Perhaps on those close calls like we saw the other day, the manager, the batter or even the catcher could challenge the call of the umpire. Sometimes the call will be overturned, sometimes it will be validated, but I can't imagine it would add any more time to the game than the arguing and grumbling already take anyway.

#43 Pumpsie


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 02:18 PM

There are a lot of ingenious ways they could do this. The ump could have something as simple as electronic voice or beeper connected to the system via an earpiece. The ump could still call the balls and strikes as before, but NOW they'd be practically always correct. Calibrate the system before each game and you're good to go. The league office could keep track of how many times an umpire makes a mistake, or mis-hears, and goes against the machine. It shouldn't be often. If the machine ever malfunctions, the ump just goes back to calling the balls and strikes manually until it's fixed. There should be NO change in the game as it now is played or umpired, only that the balls and strikes will be amazingly more accurate.

#44 PrometheusWakefield


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 02:43 PM

There are a lot of ingenious ways they could do this. The ump could have something as simple as electronic voice or beeper connected to the system via an earpiece. The ump could still call the balls and strikes as before, but NOW they'd be practically always correct. Calibrate the system before each game and you're good to go. The league office could keep track of how many times an umpire makes a mistake, or mis-hears, and goes against the machine. It shouldn't be often. If the machine ever malfunctions, the ump just goes back to calling the balls and strikes manually until it's fixed. There should be NO change in the game as it now is played or umpired, only that the balls and strikes will be amazingly more accurate.

That's a great idea.

Bear in mind that the umpires union may be stronger than the player's union, so MLB is going to need to offer some quid pro quo.

I don't really understand why the umpire's union is so powerful. MLB umpires have two jobs - one is to call balls and strikes, which is impossibly difficult, and the other is to call all the other plays, which are all simple and straightforward enough that I bet you could find several thousand people at least who could do the job with no loss in accuracy. What's their leverage, exactly? MLB was willing to play hardball with the union as recently as 1999, when MLB called a MLUA bluff and that led to the de-certification of the union.

I bet the problem here is not so much that the union is dug in, it's more that this is not a priority for MLB and unions aren't going to give up something like this for nothing.

Edited by PrometheusWakefield, 12 June 2012 - 03:00 PM.


#45 joyofsox


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 03:47 PM

The Amica zone is absolutely not the rule book strike zone. I have seen plenty of pitches that come in at a batter's belt buckle that are shown as hitting the very top of the Amica zone. Perhaps Amica is better on pitches that are inside or outside.

All I know is that things are going to get a whole lot worse before MLB/Selig decide to do anything constructive about the problem. We have already had obvious blown calls during the playoffs and no real stink has been raised. Does a team or two have to be absolutely robbed of a World Series title before anything real gets done?

#46 trekfan55


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Posted 12 June 2012 - 04:04 PM

The Amica zone is absolutely not the rule book strike zone. I have seen plenty of pitches that come in at a batter's belt buckle that are shown as hitting the very top of the Amica zone. Perhaps Amica is better on pitches that are inside or outside.

All I know is that things are going to get a whole lot worse before MLB/Selig decide to do anything constructive about the problem. We have already had obvious blown calls during the playoffs and no real stink has been raised. Does a team or two have to be absolutely robbed of a World Series title before anything real gets done?


The Cardinals were robbed by Don Derkinger (not strikes/balls but safe at 1st) way back in 1985 and still nothing was done.

#47 Pandemonium67

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 04:11 PM

I wish I had a link to this, but I don't. My Exhibit A in the argument to replace umps with robots (I'd settle for tech-equipped monkeys) is the strike 3 called on Mike Lowell on a Fruitbat pitch that almost hit him.

#48 YTF

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 05:43 PM

I'm not trying to create a reactionary thread here, but there seems to be a real problem: The Sox players are in a constant battle with the umpires.

After tonight's game finishes, Youkilis is in the home plate umpire's face, yelling, to the point that he follows him to the dugout and they basically have to be separated. Even Orsillo commented on it: This is almost a nightly occurrence at this point.

Clearly, the Sox are struggling and looking for someone to blame and the umpires are easy scapegoats, but I don't think I've ever seen a team with this contentious a relationship with the umpires. Where does the fault lie? Are the players especially whiney. Should Valentine be doing more to shut it down, as he did with Doubront earlier in the season? Is there any chance the Sox have actually been squeezed more than other teams?

I wouldn't even ask that latter question if not for the peculiar case of Adrian Gonzalez, the man who hasn't walked in a month...

Regardless, let this be an open discussion on the relationship between the Sox and the umpires and how it is affecting wins and losses. Is this just normal stuff that I would see if I watched any other team on a daily basis or is there real and different animosity going on here?


As for Gonzales ............I'm not one of these guys who has amazing recall of what certain players do or don't do, but from what I'm looking at this season, Gonzales is swinging at a lot of bad pitches that he seemingly never would have swung at in the past. There are certain ABs where he just looks completely lost, fooled, mismatched, call it what you will, but I don't remember him looking so bad in as many ABs last season.

The umps....lots of questionable calls. Maybe the Sox have a gripe, but guess what it's baseball. I understand being upset in the moment at times. Leave it there and move on. Don't drag it into the post game because rarely (if ever) is that going to help your cause and now that you're playing like shit you're coming across as whiners. Put that energy and focus into making contact and putting the ball into play. Start swinging at pitches that are cleary in the zone and stop flailing at balls you couldn't reach with a fucking broom. Whatever happened to the team that would "grind out" at bats. The patient team that didn't swing at balls outside of the strike zone and could foul off anything that was "TOO close to take. The team that could "hit the ball where it was pitched" and take what the pitchers would allow them. Where did those guys go? Have the Sox adopted a different philosophy when it comes to hitting?

#49 TallerThanPedroia


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Posted 13 June 2012 - 12:35 PM

There are a lot of ingenious ways they could do this. The ump could have something as simple as electronic voice or beeper connected to the system via an earpiece. The ump could still call the balls and strikes as before, but NOW they'd be practically always correct. Calibrate the system before each game and you're good to go. The league office could keep track of how many times an umpire makes a mistake, or mis-hears, and goes against the machine. It shouldn't be often. If the machine ever malfunctions, the ump just goes back to calling the balls and strikes manually until it's fixed. There should be NO change in the game as it now is played or umpired, only that the balls and strikes will be amazingly more accurate.


I wouldn't even require them to obey it, at first. Just give them the data and see what they do with it. Make it mandatory later if it comes to that.

#50 Alcohol&Overcalls

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 01:21 PM

It seems like people are taking it as an article of faith that an automated strike-calling system would be fully accurate. Is that really the case? My understanding was that different ballparks had different setups that could cause inconsistency, and minute changes could cause systemic problems. This analysis by one of our own seems to state that actual location measurements could be up to an inch off, and this more recent BP article seems to indicate that over larger samples, recalibration and adjustment can be used postgame to create accurate data, but within a single game there can be (relatively) quite a bit of variation.

So I guess my question is, while automation would almost have to create greater consistency within a game (in and of itself noteworthy, but not the final objective), are we really at the point where true accuracy can be fairly well guaranteed? Can it account for a 3-D strike zone as well? It doesn't seem like it, which makes this somewhat of a 'grass is greener' discussion, but there are clearly a preponderance of experts here who can tell me if I'm wrong.


Once the goal is strictly a 'Y/N' system without regard for specific location/speed/etc., it's likely entirely new technology would be introduced to obviate these problems.

We're used to the Hawk-Eye system in tennis, which is used for challenges, but it's likely that a baseball system would almost literally replace the umpire, rather than overruling it - there's no need to conform to the existing technology.