So last night's strike zone was the worst I can remember in a long time. Granted, after the 1st inning the A's may as well have batted with a red and white cane, but that cane was clearly needed by Tim Tschida who tschidad Gio Gonzalez out of clear strike after clear strike, except when he was squeezing Lincecum unduly, except when he was suddenly randomly calling the occasional wide strike for each before the resuming the squeezfest. It was terrible.
As someone ardently opposed to computerized umpiring but in favor of increased accountability and competence in the humans, I think ... If only someone had been able to track, objectively, how many clear strikes were called balls so that Tschida could be held accountable for doing such a terrible job.
How do we know that the calls were in fact terrible and it's not that as a fan I just saw it that way? We know, because "Pitch f/x," used to provide Gameday results online pitch by pitch, tracks every location objectively. Wait a minute...
Why isn't "Pitch f/x" being used as an accountability tool to force umpires to demonstrate good judgment or face sanctions (those could range from being fired or demoted, in minor cases, and in major cases being forced to watch a grisly montage of Daric Barton giving up at bat after at bat in the 1st inning by bunting)? Why is it that we can show objectively the next morning, that Tschida blew call after call, yet the only feedback that will get to anyone is frustrated players and fans ranting to each other?
Another "balls and strikes" issue I wonder about I've mentioned before and gotten little support, but I'll mention it again. Over 3 decades of watching far too much baseball on TV, I have consistently matched "K-zone's" and "Pitch f/x's" views of the strike zone better than the home plate umpire. I am also watching from a different perspective than the home plate umpire is.
The reality is, the umpire's position is not ideal. For one thing, he actually loses sight of the ball at the end, blocked by the catcher. Imagine asking your balls and strikes umpire to gauge pitches and then placing an obstacle in between him and the ball at the end of its flight. That's what's actually happening at the very moment that the pitch crosses the plate, which is when the pitch becomes a ball or a strike. Another problem is that the umpire cannot set up in the middle of the strike zone; he has to look over the catcher's left or right side, which places him on the inside or outside corner.
In contrast, from the "center-field angle" behind the mound, you get a perfect snapshot, at the end of the pitch, of where the pitch crosses the plate relative to the rectangle that is the strike zone. When catchers try to frame pitches, as a "center field camera" viewer I am consistently able to see, and factor in, that movement, better than home plate umpires can. It's just a better view.
I would not be at all surprised if the 2B umpire could actually call balls and strikes with more accuracy than the home plate umpire can. Now "ol' blue behind the catcher's ear calling balls and strikes" is so ingrained and "old school" that I'm sure it will never change, but the balls and strikes umpire should be behind the mound, not behind the plate.
And "Pitch f/x" should be his boss.
A's and Giants at 6pm tonight, Sheets vs. Zito.