In 2018, Cubs player Ben Zobrist was thrown out in the ninth inning of a 2018 game against the Milwaukee Brewers after telling plate umpire Phil Cuzzi “That’s why we want an electronic strike zone.” I have long agreed with Zobrist that it is insane that we continue to rely on umpires rather than electronic strike zones. Indeed, we watched games where an electronic strike zone is used to determine if an umpire was right. Instead of using that system, however, we use the less reliable human umpire at home plate. Now a new study of some four millions pitches found that umpires were wrong an astonishing 20 percent of the time. That is one out of five pitches in games that often turn on a handful of calls. It is insane to use the least accurate means for calling strikes and balls when so much depends not just for these games but for the players who deserve to be measured accurately on their performance.
They confirmed what many of us have said for years: “Botched calls and high error rates are rampant.” Notably, when there were two strikes, the error rate increased with the importance of the calls. Older, experienced umpires were more likely to be wrong. Frankly, I am amazed at how good a job umpires do in these circumstances. However, that does not persuade me that we should continue their use at home plate for calls when more clearly more accurate technology exists. The MLB is continuing to make buggy whips in the age of the automobile.
As many of you know, I am an ardent Cubs fan and watch every game. I love the game. However, nostalgia is preventing more accurate plate calls. Even if umpires were wrong in two percent of the calls, why preserve that human error factor in the game? We have to constantly “adjust” a strike zone to particular umpires and shrug off clearly erroneous calls. It reminds me of the years of opposition in soccer to a simple instant replay option on goals. We can still use home plate umpires to call slides and other elements, but balls and strikes need to be automated for the fairness of the players and the integrity of the game.
Come on, folks, nostalgia is one thing, but this is nuts.
What do you think?