The OK Zone

One tv graphic that is alright in my book is the ESPN “K-Zone” graphic, locating a pitch within an idealized box representing the by-the-book strike zone. I have some reservations about it, since I haven’t seen anything about the underlying technology, and these reservations are really only about the accuracy of the crosshairs which locate a pitch as it crosses the plate (as in, is this thing accurate?). Assuming this device is accurate, then it really helps the viewer understand a few things. One is how varied different each umpire’s strike zone is from game to game. Another is how inconsistent any one umpire can be within any given game. Third, it’s great to see how wrong fans (and whiny managers – that means you, Mike Scoscia) who boo from the stands can be about supposedly close pitches (usually the pitch in question is 8-10 inches off the plate when the boos start cascading). Finally, it helps one understand how difficult it is to call balls and strikes consistently, especially when pitchers have incredible movement on their throws. I still think the umpires are generally quite poor at calling balls and strikes with any consistency, but the K-zone assists in showing why that is so. It’s one graphic that should stick around.

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  • I like the graphic, but I’ll defend the umps, who have an impossible task and generally do a pretty decent job of it. Of the 250 pitches per game, how many do they get wrong? Bad calls and inconsistency are annoying, but if anything that graphic show what a good job the men in blue generally do.

    YF October 8, 2004, 6:31 pm
  • Yeah, I think MLB umps are basically stellar at their jobs, and I am giving them an out here, on this task in isolation – calling balls and strikes appears to be a monumentally difficult task. My beef is that they are inconsistent at a tough task, not that they are failing an easy job.

    SF October 8, 2004, 6:40 pm
  • I don’t know. Even that graphic strikes me as unnecessary and sort of speciously “precise.” It reminds me of that horrible newish graphic that they use during tennis coverage for close calls where a CG ball hits a CG spot on a CG court, and the whole thing looks like it was made by an intern using MacPaint, and the graphic is used to either validate or refute the linesman’s call? The strike zone graphic isn’t nearly as bad, but I suppose I’d still just rather see the clean replay.

    Spidey October 9, 2004, 12:38 pm