In the early days of the 2022 MLB season, we have seen some less-than-stellar performances by umpires.
We have seen terrible calls on the bases, and, most notably, missed calls at home plate, during at-bats.
But what if they haven’t been so wrong in the first place?
Yes, that’s right: the strike zone we see in TV broadcasts is not necessarily the same as the one umpires have and use.
ESPN insider Jeff Passan explained in an article only available for premium subscribers that the zone we have grown accustomed to seeing is “completely different” from the one umpires have.
“It didn’t make sense. The strike zone you see on TV, on here, is completely different from the one MLB uses to grade umpires,” he tweeted, with the link of his article.
“The big takeaway: The TV/MLB app/MLB.com zones with which we’ve grown so familiar are rulebook and stringent. A strike is a strike. A ball is a ball. In its Zone Enforcement evaluation system, MLB allows umpires a 2-inch “acceptable” buffer zone off the sides of the plate,” he explains.
The big takeaway: The TV/MLB app/MLB.com zones with which we've grown so familiar are rulebook and stringent. A strike is a strike. A ball is a ball.
In its Zone Enforcement evaluation system, MLB allows umpires a 2-inch "acceptable" buffer zone off the sides of the plate.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 2, 2022
A Sizable Difference
If that’s the case, then the umpire grades we usually see on Twitter (for example, Umpire Scorecards) strictly follow the rules, but in reality, big league umpires can expand the zone a bit if it is a borderline pitch.
That’s why Joe West recently said that the Angel Hernandez game of Sunday, April 24, had a 96 percent grade in the league’s offices.
It’s because they saw some borderline pitches as acceptable calls.
For the average TV viewer, it’s easy to determine whether the pitch was a ball or strike because he/she has the strike zone included in the broadcast.
It all makes sense now, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.