Last night Ben Zobrist opened up about Major League Baseball needing an electronic strike zone, a topic that isn’t new for the sport or for Zobrist. In a 6-2 defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert the reigning World Series MVP Zobrist was called out on a third strike that for all purposes was really low. The slider from David Hernandez didn’t cross the zone (the strike zone which I have always lived by: knees to letters) so Zobrist’s frustration is understandable. We can’t forget Zobrist being called out on strikes in a 2013 game against the Rangers which might be the worst strike call in the history of baseball. Zobrist was rung up on a Joe Nathan sinker that never started in the zone and ended three feet outside. He was the tying run and final out, the Rays lost 5-4. To be clear this occurrence did not decide the outcome of a game (Yes the Cubs were “rallying” but the winning run wasn’t on base or in the hole) this does not have long standing ramifications other than bringing this topic to the public forefront, again.
Does Major League Baseball need to invest in alternative strike zone methods? Humans are naturally flawed so of course their calling of a Major League strike zone will be flawed. Even MLB 17 The Show by Sony San Diego allows for a “variable” strike zone to account for inaccuracies in umpires calling the zone. And believe me this variable zone might be more infuriating than anything that happens in real life because you actually see where the ball crosses the box. Some favor low pitches, away pitches, high pitches. It’s almost an artistic interpretation rather than a defined and confined strike zone.
It’s easy (and chic) to blast umpires, and rightfully so they are just awful at what they do for the most part. When they eject players/managers or make themselves the center of attention when you “show them up” is the most asinine thing in all of sports. I’ve always hated umpires and referees all throughout my playing days as a child all the way through college. But I don’t think a rise in A.I. is going to fix our problems.
Human umpires have blown many calls, historic calls, see: Tony Tarasco, Armando Galarraga and the list goes on. Based on those incidents and others is the reason why Instant Replay was introduced, to get game altering calls correct. While the pitch by pitch grind of each at-bat can alter the game as well you can’t pinpoint one ball or strike exactly to deciding a game. I’m sure in same cases you could if there is an egregious called strike but do you really want the umpires going to replay for that? Do you really think an umpire with the hubris and arrogance to throw a pitcher out of the game for questioning his zone would really admit his fault after reviewing the replay?
Unless you’re going to revolutionize the game and remove human umpires entirely and have a way to replicate all of their actions on the field by robots or computers I don’t see how an e-Zone is going to change anything. Players are still going to complain on the field even if the zone is determined by A.I. When you think a ball is low it doesn’t matter who is calling the strike you’re going to lash out. The greatest tradition in baseball is players and umpires arguing over anything and everything. An electronic strike zone isn’t going to stop players from complaining, they’ll just be venting to the media about how the T-5000 e-Zone umpire blew that call instead of Mark Wegnor.