MORE ON K-ZONE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Much has been said about the quality of the strike zone judgment of MLB umpires but absolutely nothing has been done to improve it . It has largely been left to the umpires themselves as to whether or nor they are ” bringing their A game ” to the park that day . I have written and talked incessantly about the K-Zone , why we have it , and I am mystified as to why it isn’t being implemented as a tool to be utilized by MLB umpires to be 100% accurate in their strike zone judgment . K-Zone is used to evaluate the performance of MLB umpires . The results are completely unacceptable . Much of this data is available on line . You just have to search for it . Umpires are calling pitches strikes that are out of the strike zone an average of between 7 and 11% of the time and as high as 14% . To put this in perspective , if a pitcher throws 100 pitches in a game and has a 2 to 1 strike to ball ratio , he throws 66 strikes and 34 balls . Of the 66 strikes , between 4 and 9 of them are NOT swung at and called strikes OUT OF THE ZONE . This number represents 7% on the low end and 14% on the high end . For both pitchers , that represents between 8 and 18 total pitches in game . This is a game changer .
Now to be fair , being an MLB umpire is not an easy job . Pitchers in the MLB are very good at controlling the movement on their pitches and create serious deception by changing speeds and increasing depth on pitches to change how a hitter sees the ball . The only one who knows what pitch is coming is the catcher . As logic would have it , it begs the question , ” Who has better strike zone judgment ? ” The umpire , the hitter , or the catcher ? I would say the catcher first , the hitter second because of his ability to to actually ” perform ” at the MLB level , and the umpire comes in a distant third !
Sooooooo . . . . . . . . . what are we going to do about it ? There is definite pressing need for improvement . Replay has made the game so much the better . It is always in the best interest of the game to get the call ” perfect . ” It is only fair to both teams . The way I see it , we have three choices :
#1 – leave things the way they are . . . . or . . . .
#2 – implement the K-Zone immediately ( we have the means to do so ) . . . . . or . . . .
#3 – implement a performance clause and a performance incentive in to an MLB umpires contract
Number 2 is our best choice but if the decision makers do not have the spine for that , then number 3 is a good compromising position with a plan to phase in number 2 after we have performance data . Number 1 is simply not an option .
Billy Ripken , former MLB player and current analyst for the MLB Network espoused some reasonable ideas recently in a round table discussion . When a player is brought up to the major league club from the minor leagues and he performs at the MLB level , he is rewarded with a spot on the 25 man roster . If he does not perform , he is sent back to the minor leagues to work on the things that will allow him to perform at the MLB level . The umpires should be held to the same standard with the K-Zone as their guide to gauge the performance level . I have no doubt in my mind that this will increase their performance metrics .
Umpires should not rotate their crew . Only the best performing umpires should be rewarded with plate duty . And they should be paid more than their counterparts based on their actual ” performance ” – NOT seniority . This is how an MLB player is compensated . It is performance based .
There should be a performance clause in their contract . Much the same as if a player wins an MVP or attains 600 at bats or 200 hits or 45 home runs or _______________ ( fill in the blank ) . If they perform at the standard set by the commissioners office , they should get a bonus for that . The bar should be set high . Only two players in the MLB are MVPs .
At some point , MLB will have to implement the K-Zone . The technology is there and the umpires presence will still be necessary behind the plate for calls at the plate and communication between managers and the MLB offices in New York for replays . The so – called ” human element ” will never be removed from the game because humans are playing the game ! And that is where the focus should be – on the players . Umpires will truly go unnoticed and that is as it should be .