Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 06 May 2012
QuesTec: Its impact on fantasy baseball.
The QuesTec system has been a major topic for discussion these days since being brought to the forefront by Curt Shilling taking a bat to one of their “umpire monitoring systems” out in Arizona (hmm…wonder if that may have contributed to his broken hand?) The real question is why are Curt and so many other managers, pitchers, pitching coaches, and umpires so upset? The answer is multifold but the bottom line is that QuesTec affects not only pitchers during their games, but fantasy statistics as well.
QuesTec is operational in 13 of 30 major league ballparks and the effects are still being measured. However the trends already noted seem to point to much smaller strike zones because umpires get punished if more than 10% of their called strikes are not also called by the QuesTec system. This leads to ace pitchers losing out on calls they would usually get which results in fewer strikeouts, more walks and a tighter strike zone that ultimately favors the hitter.
QuesTec makes even good pitchers parks much more friendly to hitters. They no longer have to pay as much attention to the corners and are more likely to get a pitch they can handle better. It goes without saying that most veteran pitchers hate it because they are no longer getting the borderline calls. The umpires are scared to call borderline pitches the way they think they should be called - because they are punished and considered ineligible for post season umpiring if their calls don’t match with what the QuesTec machine says they should be.
Because of this, pitching at all of the parks where QuesTec has been installed has been less than what we might usually expect. Aces like Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, Andy Pettite, Jeff Weaver, Al Leiter, Derek Lowe and many others have been getting hit much harder than anyone expected, especially in their home parks where QuesTec is installed. Umpires have apologized saying that they’d like to call it the way they see it - but it’s a computer night. (paraphrased from a number of sources).
By contrast younger, less developed pitchers who don’t yet have a reputation are able to get the same calls as the veterans do but only because the vets are no longer getting the calls that were once “theirs”.
Its effects are narrowing the difference in the pitching field in all of fantasy baseball. Aces are no longer as dominating due to the loss of these calls while rookies and average pitchers are finding the disadvantage much less when they face big name pitchers. WHIPS have seemingly increased due to more balls being called and the forcing of more hittable pitches that end up being hits.
So what that means is that pitching when at the QuesTec parks is devalued greatly and offense is valued higher than elsewhere. So which parks have QuesTec? After extensive searching we still did not have a complete list but we know it’s at both New York ballparks (might be a factor in the Yankees troubles - especially at home), Boston, Anaheim, Baltimore, Cleveland, Arizona, Milwaukee, Houston, Oakland, and Tampa bay. It is expected to be operational this season in Kansas City, U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, and Cincinnati.
Numerically the changes have been looking something like this at the parks with QuesTec.
Earned Runs Per Game Average scored against the home pitching staff
2002 - 3.93
2003 - 4.07
2002 - 4.35
2003 - 4.72
2002 - 3.74
2002 - 3.52
2002 - 3.96
2003 - 4.30
2002 - 3.59
2003 - 4.04
2002 - 4.23
2003 - 4.18
2002 - 4.51
2003 - 5.38
2002 - 5.14
2003 - 5.46
2002 - 3.94
2003 - 4.20
2002 - 4.88
2003 - 4.11
In looking at those numbers only two teams have noticeable oddities. Oakland which possesses the best staff in baseball has fewer runs scored which have over half a run (probably due to a healthy Mulder and the emergence of Ted Lilly) and Cleveland which is rebuilding and throwing a lot of rookies has improved (which may be due to lack of offense in the weakest division in baseball).
However all of the other teams have either remained roughly the same or in the case of the teams that have better staffs such as the Astros, Yankees, Mets, Angels, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks, we have seen more runs yielded. While statistically this is small sample we’ve all seen top pitchers almost across the board have a harder time in the QuesTec ballparks. It’s something we’ll keep an eye on, but it could be a big factor in baseball this year. And it will be a huge factor next year as it devalues almost all top pitchers.
We will bring you more statistics throughout the season as the information becomes available.