|Is it time for strike zone sensors?|
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on August 10, 2009
A graph picturing two really, really awful strike-ball calls has been circulating around the internet and it prompted Mac Thomason of Awful Umpiring to ponder alternatives to human home plate umpires:
The answer, presumably, is a machine. Assuming we can get one that reacts fast enough and can think in three dimensions, anyway. The umpires and their supporters would answer, presumably, (a) that we’re taking the human element out of the game, and (b) that they tried that before and it didn’t work. As for (a), I personally have never been one who thought that the “human element” was necessarily worth preserving when it meant making mistakes; the “human element” is supposed to be the pitcher and the batter; nobody goes to the ballpark to watch an umpire make mistakes. As for (b), they tried it thirty years ago with essentially the same technology as automatic door openers. I think we’ve come a ways since then.
As for tradition, tennis is if anything even more tradition-bound than baseball, and yet they’ve adopted replay and sensor technology for baseline calls. Traditions change.
I certainly would be in favor of such a device (and while we are at it, how about a device calling check swings - and a clear rule to go with it). There really is no reason not to do it. You could even let the device send a signal to the home plate ump who makes the final call and nobody would notice a thing.