Open Thread: The strike zone is slightly amorphous


David Biderman at the Wall Street Journal posted a look at the strike zones called for each player on the Mets and Yankees, and to no one’s surprise, star players get star treatment. Well, except for Alex Rodriguez. Apparently some umps are out to get him, because strike zone is the third largest on the team. One of these days we’ll have robot umps and laser traced strike zones and everything will be nice and uniform. Until then … the human element!

Anyway, here’s tonight’s open thread. For the latest on Andy Pettitte, see our injury update post. In sports, you’ve got NBA and NHL playoff action, plus the Cardinals and Phillies are on ESPN (Penny vs. Kendrick). You know the routine, so have at it.

Categories : Open Thread


  1. Hangoverologist says:

    Of course the umps are after A-Rod. Since they really can’t call him out as a disgrace to the integrity of the game, the least they can do is pinch him in the zone.

  2. JobaWockeeZ says:

    Sorry but screw the human element in umpiring. Wrong calls shouldn’t be wrong anymore.

  3. But umpires get the call right 99.9% of the time! Especially balls and strikes!

    • I don’t know about 99.9%, but it’s redonkulously unfair of people to criticize the umps for what they see in slow motion that the umps have to judge in real time. I’m amazed how many calls they get RIGHT.

      If you want to make an intelligent criticism of an ump, you could say he was out of position, simply wrong on the rules, called the tag instead of how close/far the play was from the bag, stuff like that. But to say he got a close call wrong after watching the slow-mo replay is just Monday morning quarterbacking.

  4. ethan says:

    Guys–A-Rod’s still getting a strike zone that’s smaller than league average–92.1% of league average, so not exactly suffering from hatred, is he? He’s just not getting same level of treatment as Jeter.

    This is fascinating but there’s absolutely no information on if this data’s statistically significant or not, so I’d take it with a big grain of salt. Furthermore, strike zones expand and contract depending on the situation and the count. So, a patient hitter who gets into lots of hitters counts could actually see a larger strike zone. Similarly, A-Rod, by batting 4th in the Yankee lineup, might come up with men on base more than the average MLB hitter–and in situations that favor the hitter, the strike zone expands.

  5. ethan says:

    I’d also love to know if a player’s zone changes when he changes teams. The Yankees are renowned for being patient–you get put in the middle of that patient, brutal lineup, do the umps give you an edge?

  6. [obvious reference is obvious]

    We need to find Jeter, a roll of bubble wrap and hide him

  7. Yeah, Sutt. They did such a great job of rallying their team in Game Four, too. Wait, what?

  8. dkidd says:

    i’ve never umpired, so i may be wrong, but isn’t crouching behind the catcher a terrible position from which to judge if the ball crosses the plate? wouldn’t a person looking at a (true) centerfield camera angle have a better view?

    • It’s about the same. I’d get a bit better view of where the ball crossed from behind the mound, but I got a better view of the corner while crouching.

      • dkidd says:

        aren’t there times when a catcher’s head or shoulder blocks one side of the plate and the umpire just (educatedly) guesses?

        • Well, I didn’t stay in one spot the whole time. If the catcher moved, I’d move with or against him to get a better view of the plate. I also umped for mostly 10-13 year olds, so seeing over them was never much of a challenge. The trade off? They weren’t tall enough to get a lot of foul tips and I got hit in the face a few times.

          • dkidd says:

            ever have to toss anyone?

            was about to ask “ever give a kid the thumb?” but decided against it…

            • dkidd says:

              as i was hitting submit, i realized “toss” is also dirty


            • Haha, nah. I came close to ejecting a parent last year, though. I told him if he didn’t like the strike zone, the other umpire and I would leave and he could call the game from right field where he was sitting. The coach of that guy’s son’s team then gave him a tongue lashing and said that if he ever tried to show up an ump like that again, his son would sit. It was awesome.

              The guy did apologize to me after the game, which I wasn’t expecting.

  9. Salty Buggah says:

    Even though he may or may not take a single snap this year, Tim Tebow’s jersey was the #1 in sales for April. That’s why the Broncos drafted him. He’s a revenue machine…at least for now.

  10. Marcos says:

    I’d like to see what NJ’s strike zone looks like, just to see if his reputation precedes him.

  11. JGS says:

    I fear this is a season ending injury for Andy. :(

    same guy, two minutes later: And I have a feeling we will get swept by the Sox this weekend — all 3 games blowouts.

    Yay LoHud comments!

    • bexarama says:

      I was reading them before and even I, who love reading stupidity, had to stop. They were just… wow.

      On the other hand, the Andy Pettitte thread on NYYFans turned into a (children, look away) dick-measuring contest about who had called it that Pettitte was hurt and what kind of idiots everyone else was for not being terribly worried, someone gleefully calling that he’d have to get TJS, etc.

      • JGS says:

        Yeesh–I can’t bring myself to read NYYFans. I don’t even read LoHud comments unless a) someone here mentions something particularly dumb that they said, or b) I feel like reading cliff-jumpers talking–usually coinciding with news like “Pettitte had an MRI on his pitching arm”

        Kudos for being able to wade through NYYFans. People were actually hoping he would need TJ?

        • bexarama says:

          I read a comment on LoHud that was like THEY ONLY SAID ANDY HAS MILD INFLAMMATION BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO TELL YOU HOW BADLY HE’S HURT!!!!!!!!! and I just had to stop reading. Also, there’s ONE USER there that is way too worried about everything to the point where it is ridiculous. I will not name names.

          I don’t think the person necessarily wanted Pettitte to get TJS. They were basically just like “TJS, here we come!!!!!” when the news broke. Then someone pointed out that if he needed that, he’d probably just retire. Then it turned into a mini-debate about how greedy Andy is, or something. I don’t know. I’m really surprised at how easily people get into fights on other boards/comment sections and stuff. Of course there’s sarcasm and snippiness and stuff here, but it’s mostly civil.

          I HAVE seen people on NYYFans in the past wish Andy and AJ get hurt so that Joba/whatever other prospect they’re all googly-eyed over at the time can start. I’m sorry, I understand frustration over the fact that Joba’s not in the rotation, but that line of thinking borderline offends me. How the HELL do you actively want two very good, productive members of your team to get hurt? Stop it.

  12. Steve H says:

    David’s fine,’’ Pedroia said. “He’s one of our teammates. It could have been me that hit into a double play. It happens to everybody, man. He’s had 60 at-bats. A couple years ago I had 60 at-bats, I was hitting .170, everyone was ready to kill me too. What happened? Laser show. Relax. I’m tired of looking at the NESN poll: ‘Why is David struggling?’ David’s fine.

    I hate Pedroia, but that’s pretty funny.

  13. Rasums was probably safe.

  14. Melvin likes Bring Melvin To America.
    Melvin likes River Ave. Blues.
    Melvin likes This Purist Bleeds Pinstripes.

    (I have a screengrab)

    My work here is done.

  15. Cecala says:

    I wonder who is on ump duty for the Boston series. Hopefully the umpire stores baseballs in his neck.

  16. So…Milton Bradley makes it really hard to like him, huh?

  17. Jose says:

    I tried to get a “mystique and aura” reference in, but he didn’t post it. Sooner or later I’ll get one in there Steve.

  18. So remember this time last year when Ibanez was raking and a lot of people were trashing those who called his contract a bad deal? Good times.

  19. That is probably the worst call all year. Absolutely awful.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Brendan Ryan? I think he called him out just for being stupid enough to slide into first.

      • Haha, yes that call.

      • Chris says:

        Has anyone actually demonstrated that it’s slower? It’s clear that sliding feet first is slower, but diving head first should give you enough extra reach that it’s faster. Of course, there is still the injury concern…

        Also, if it’s truly slower to dive, then why doesn’t anyone get outraged when an outfielder dives to make a catch?

        • I’ve always argued that sliding isn’t about speed at all, but instead about avoiding the tag and slowing yourself down so you don’t overrun a base. Without the necessity of a tag and the ability to run through first, there’s no reason to slide into that bag.

    • Hangoverologist says:

      I went nuts seeing that. I saw the replay and the ball wasn’t even in Howard’s glove and the ump called him out. Absolutely terrible call.

  20. Cecala says:

    I hope the Flyers win tonight, I hate the Bruins.

  21. Yankee1010 says:

    A tour de force in bad umpiring in Philly.

    Also, the 1B ump missed the last out of a triple play in Boston right now.

    Hooray for humans and no instant reply!

  22. My fantasy team is the anti-Mark Teixeira. It has seemingly forgotten to hit since the calendar changed to May.

  23. Making steak, garlic bread, and a salad is a lot of fun and very tasty. Cleaning up the dishes alone is not fun.

  24. Has there ever been definitive proof that defenders play better against pitchers who work faster?

  25. Steve H says:

    alex gonzalez (Santo Domingo, D.R.)

    Hello Wally, Cano’s head seems to be in the right place this year with less laziness in play making. Do you think his hot start to the year is for real?
    Wallace Matthews
    (2:15 PM)

    Alex, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and you hate to point a finger, but the talk was that he and Melky Cabrera were not the best influences on one another. all I know from this year is that Melky is gone and Cano is listening to Jeter and Rivera and A-Rod, guys with great work ethics who always have their priorities straight on game days, and there hase been a tremendous difference in Cano’s play both at the plate and in the field. Plate discipline is much better, too. Suddenly, it seems like he “gets” it.

    Bravo Jose.

  26. Since were talking umpires, I was fascinated during the ALCS at how much trouble the umpire had with the low strike when 6’1″ Angels Catcher with zero flexibility Mike Napoli was behind the dish. With each pitch, Napoli kept trying to crouch down lower and lower to get his pitcher the calls, but in doing so was obviously putting himself at a disadvantage for the high wild pitch or for setting up to throw out a base runner.

    Since we have an even larger (6’4″) Catcher in our own farm system with flexibility issues of his own, it’s something I found very interesting.

  27. Hangoverologist says:

    That’s only Polanco’s fourth HR? It seems like he has driven a lot more out.

  28. bexarama says:

    Ortiz hit another HR, lolAngels

  29. Brad Toughy says:

    Braves announcers just said that even though the Pirates would regret trading Nyjer Morgan, it would be offset because Andrew McCutchen looks like a nice player.

    I’m fairly sure that it was Lastings Milledge going the other way in that deal and not McCutchen.

  30. Has anyone read The Body by Stephen King and seen the film adaptation of the book, Stand by Me? I’m writing a short essay on them and I’m wondering if there are any major differences.


    Great to see Romine off to the hot start. I’ve always thought of Ramirez as a reliever long term since he’s so slightly built, and that assumes he climbs the ladder. Lots of guys get tripped up at the upper levels, but he’s blowing guys away in Charleston, so he’s sure to get promoted sometime this year.


    If Javy Vazquez turns around pitches like we all thought he would, believe it or not we could lose Andy for the whole season and be fine. Were already getting WAY more out of Hughes (and AJ) than anyone could have expected, so with Javy contributing we would essentially be looking for a 5th starter. If they don’t like our internal options of Mitre/Aceves (no, not Joba) then guys like Washburn are still out there to serve as a #5.

    But this does not appear to be serious, so even without Vazquez getting his act together this appears to just be a bump in the road for an aging pitcher.

  33. Dela G says:

    i’d like to congratulate TommieSmithJohnCarlos for his newborn son, Carter Aubrey, born today at 5:14pm.

    I hope the boy grows up to be a future yankee, jet, or houston rocket

  34. Accent Shallow says:

    How concerned should we be about Dave Robertson?

    • Jose says:

      I’m not. Too small of a sample to think he can’t still be effective. When he has outings that bring his BABIP against back down to normal levels, the numbers will be there.

    • Considering he gave up 2 consecutive HRs and the one of his 2 outs went to the warning track, I’d say very.

    • bexarama says:

      Before today, I’d say not all that much, he was kind of getting bad lucked to death. But today… he was just missing badly and getting killed for it. It’s still a SSS, though.

    • Medium. He’s looked like garbage this year, and he’s not locating his pitches. That’s a recipe for disaster.

  35. sam says:

    Oh, man. I’m glad someone else wrote about this. The strike zone this year, pretty much all around, has been AWFUL. Amorphous at best, downright biased at worst (I’m thinking of Phil Hughes’ game before this most recent one – I’ve never seen someone get squeezed so hard just because he was a rookie facing a vet [Millwood, I think]). I wrote a piece about this on my blog but I didn’t think anyone else noticed or cared. I was SCREAMING at the TV every time Hughes struck out someone looking, only for it to be called ball four. Hughes battled valiantly against both the Orioles and the umps, and had a pretty good game, but would have made it at least another two innings if he hadn’t had to throw all those extra pitches.

    This kind of thing really bothers me – the “vet” getting outside/inside/upstairs calls, while the “phenom” gets nothing. I was watching simultaneously on Gameday, and it was clear beyond all doubt that the zone was completely different for the two pitchers. I would love it if someone took that data and did some analysis on it… how much do umps give to vets, exactly? How much do they take away from young guys? I know Maddux was the master of this. By the time the 6th inning rolled around, he had the umps so completely in his pocket that he would throw 6, 7, 8 inches off the plate and hitters would HAVE to swing because they knew it would be a strike anyway.


  36. sam says:

    EDIT: to my last post, I’m going to submit this query (how much do vets get vs rookies) to the guys at Replacement Level… sounds like a job for math geniuses. I’ll let you guys know if they crack it.

  37. poster says:

    Question: Arent’ strike zones SUPPOSED to be amorphous? I always learned that the strike zone was from your shoulders to your knees. I remember reading about pitchers complaining that Rickey Henderson had a “small” strike zone.

    • This is an amorphous neutralized strike zone. The neutralized strike zone should be the same for everyone, and the Wall Street Journal article says that it’s not.

      • poster says:

        Let’s pretend for a moment, unlikely as it may seem, that I am a total blithering idiot. Are you saying that both strike zones are used? If so, how would that work? And if not, is only the neutralized strike zone used? I’m confused.

  38. Camilo Gerardo says:

    saw a highlight of pedroia getting thrown out at the plate; he gave up after he missed the plate on the slide. is he losing his grit?

  39. Marcos says:

    So I’m still curious as to why Melvin isn’t playing in America yet?

  40. Lance says:

    Who kidnapped Montero?
    This surely can’t be his stats, right?

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