Baseball using tech. to call Balls/Strikes

Is MLB ever going to use sensors to correct or even call balls and strikes? I have heard they already use some type of equipment to rate umps’ calls, is this true?

Yes, they use the equipment in a few stadiums right now to check up on the umpires. There is no serious effort afoot to replace human umpires, though.

I sure hope so. I like tradition too, but the quality of umpiring with respect to calling balls and strikes is getting ridiculously bad.

Expect to see it within 20 years.


The most serious decline of late in umpiring home plate is consistency. Umpires in the parks that have the Questech system (vision system to check the umpire’s calls for later review) make their strike zone the size of a handkerchief, because the umpire’s afraid to expand the zone bigger than Questech thinks it is.

Pitchers like Maddux, Glavine, Martinez (2003 model) and others have made a living by showing the umpire that they can intentionally and consistently place pitches just outside the black. The umpires used to respect that, and give the pitcher some room in which to operate without having to resort to meatballs. Now the poor bastards are constantly having to work in the hole, while the batter hangs out over the plate like a vulture waiting for the prey to drop.


I could see sensors detecting strikes correctly side to side, but how could it be done up and down?

A strike is supposed to be between the letters and the knees. But not only do baseball players come in all different sizes, some stand straight-up and some crouch.

Seems unworkable. Trash the machines and let’s stick to what has worked satisfactorily for 100 years.

Just group all players into four categories: Short, medium, and Tall, extra tall. Then have the system have four different height settings from which to apply to the current batter. Apply a category to each batter that comes to the plate and press a button.

Any insight as to how they actually take care of wakimika’s problem? How does that Questech system work?

The height thing could potentially be addressed by putting some sort of computer sensor on the players’ uniforms, one on the knees, one at the top of the letters. You would average the heights in the two or three seconds leading up to the delivery of the ball, and disregard the half-second prior to the ball’s arrival, to eliminate the possibility of the player suddenly crouching to mess up the zone. There’s no reason the sensor would need to weigh more than a quarter of an ounce; it could even be just a patch of color or something along the lines of the green chromakey advertising rectangle behind home plate, something that’s recognized and analyzed by an external device.

Don’t underestimate the value of tradition, though. There’s something to be said for the psychological games played between pitcher and umpire, in terms of establishing a zone and stretching it out over the course of a game. Yeah, the human system is imperfect, but it’s part of the game’s charm, in my opinion.

Frankly the quality of the umpires today stinks. Hunter Wendelstadt miscalled the infield fly rule this season! Imagine that! (Fortunately, the ball was caught and the miscall had no effect.) Why should a Maddox get balls outside the zone called strikes while his wilder opponent has to hit the zone? It makes no sense. It is like handicapping golfers by giving the best ones the highest handicaps. If the strike zone is too narrow, widen it. When I see a strike called and the replay shows it three inches off the plate, what am I to think.

On the other hand, the height thing is hard. Hard for humans too. The point is that the umpires are told to call the strikes not according to how the batter may crouch when he is waiting for a pitch, but rather when he actually swings. If you crouch in a stance and then stand straight to swing you are supposed to use the higher zone. Frankly, I think the best thing to do is to ignore the stance and just use the player’s height to establish a zone for him and be done with it.

I agree that there can be a problem. It seems common that a whole bunch of reasonably good calls are followed by a really bad one. You want to ask the umpire: “WHAT did you see that made you call that a strike?”

Perhaps a “hybrid” system is possible, where the HP umpire judges height and a machine handles left/right.

Here’s brief description and FAQ about Questec’s system currently being used by MLB on a five year evaluation period: Questec’s site. I don’t really know how accurate it is, but I bet it’s better than Eric Gregg.

I hate to use FOX as an example of how to do anything, but their computers seem to have little trouble displaying a graphic strike zone fit to the batter’s height and stance. It would take about a half second to adjust it between batters.