. . . hello Zone Evaluation:
Major League Baseball had been using QuesTec since 2001 to try to standardize the functional size of the strike zone, which often varies from umpire to umpire, despite the rulebook definition. But QuesTec cameras were installed in only about a third of major league stadiums, raising the suspicion among players and fans that umpires called games differently depending on whether QuesTec was watching. Umpires also questioned if the system was sufficiently accurate to gauge their performance.
The new system, called Zone Evaluation, relies on pitch-tracking data already collected by cameras in all 30 parks and distributed through applications on MLB.com and iTunes. Zone Evaluation software will rate umpire performance more quickly and accurately than QuesTec, according to Mike Port, baseball’s vice president for umpiring.
You won’t be surprised to hear that umpires are not happy about this:
Umpires may not necessarily welcome this much assistance. Port said the umpires union, the World Umpires Association, had approved the change, but a union spokesman, Lamell McMorris, declined to comment on that or any aspects of the Zone Evaluation system.
Asked if umpires had such concern about the new arrangement that they might consider going on strike — as early as opening day, which is Sunday — McMorris again declined comment. Jerry Layne, a veteran umpire, also declined to discuss the subject when reached by telephone.
Although a strike is unlikely, their silence suggested that the situation could hurt the relationship between Major League Baseball and its umpires, which had been improving.
I don’t think much will come of this. For one thing, studies have shown that even the guys commonly thought of as the least consistent umpires are pretty damn consistent, suggesting that no one’s feathers will be ruffled by the new technology. For another thing, even if the umpires want to take offense, they have no hope of winning a fight against technology in this arena. The players and the fans want accuracy when it comes to the zone. Everything out there suggests that Ques-Tec has been a positive to that end and neutral in terms of aggravation. If the umpire’s union decided to pick a fight about this, you can bet that we’d soon find ourselves with a new set of umpires who, while stationed behind home plate so as not to upset the aesthetics of it all, are mandated to call whatever the little Zone Evaluation-connected voice in their earpieces tells them to call.