Class Warfare Blog

August 7, 2016

You’ve Been Waiting for This All Year …

Filed under: Sports,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 3:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

You know you want it!

All right boys and girls, we are into the second half of the baseball season and it is time for my annual rant regarding baseball. (I can hear the … delete, delete, deletes … and now that we are rid of those not interested, I continue.)

All the rage on TV broadcasts of baseball games are the graphic strike zones which claim to show where the ball was thrown on each pitch. There are a few problems with these graphics and I have already written about one (see “On Baseball from 4/24/2015 … that’s 24/4/2015 for you Euros out there).

Pitch Trax
Here is a screenshot showing the PitchTrax grid and the little balls that represent the places previous pitches passed near home plate.
The ball is about 3˝ in diameter and any part of it that intersects with the strike zone should be deemed a strike.

Here’s a definition of the strike zone:
Rule 2.00: The Strike Zone. The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap.

And we must keep up with rule changes, so in 1996 the “Strike Zone” was expanded on the lower end, moving from the top of the knees to the bottom of the knees.

So if a ball is thrown by the pitcher from any angle (as long as he begins to throw with one foot touching the pitching rubber he can end up anywhere he can reach) if any part of the ball passes through the strike zone, it is supposed to be called a “strike.”

Now with regard to the grid in the little graphic, we have a problem. Home plate is 17 inches wide and hence so is the strike zone … for everybody, but the height of the zone varies with how tall the batter is. So, I decided to use my own body for an example. According to the written definition, my strike zone would be 17˝ wide and 30˝ high. This zone has an aspect ratio of 1.76 that is the height is 1.76 times larger than the width. I then took a plastic ruler and measured the little grids on my TV screen and this is what I got”

PitchTrax     1.35 : 1
tbStrike Zone     1.35 : 1

I must have got something wrong so I remeasured my own zone and it came out the same … and then I remembered that umpires don’t call balls and strikes according to the actual rule. The rule they follow is:
De facto Rule 2.00: The Strike Zone. The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is at the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the bottom of the knees.

This practice has made the major leagues a “low ball league.” So I measured myself according to this de facto rule and I came up with an aspect ratio of about 1.32 : 1 which is close enough to the little screen grid.

But this doesn’t  actually solve my problem. My problem is they use the same grid for a tall player that they do for a short one. Here are the aspect ratios for the strike zone (= height / width) for the tallest and shortest players:

Tallest (roughly 6´8˝)     1.41 : 1
Shortest (roughly 5´7˝)     1.18 : 1

Now those numbers don’t make a very visual difference, so here are the two grids to the same scale graphically:

Strike ZonesThe strike zone on the left would be the one to use for a 5´7˝ player and the one on the right for a 6´8˝ player.
Note they are of quite a difference in height (but same in width as that is determined by the width of home plate, not the batter)
as well as the one for the taller player starts off farther from the ground (estimated).

I do realize that it is perfectly possible to map any of those grids onto the “standard” one they use for every batter, but that doesn’t give an accurate sense of where the ball actually was to most viewers making it easier for them to be disgruntled.

Also, I still wonder about the technology. I was watch Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox pitch the other day and he is a left-hander who often throws side arm. This means the ball is coming from about three feet to the left of a line drawn outward from the center of the plate. The camera is set up in centerfield shooting over the shoulder of the pitcher (so the batter and catcher can be seen) but fairly high up and to the right. (I am guessing it is to the right because most pitchers are right-handed.) So, Mr. Sale throws one of his wicked sliders which curves from left-to-right as well as travels over 90 mph and the “strike tracking software” throws up a ball symbol exactly where the catcher caught the ball, which was just off the grid. The pitch was called a strike, correctly so, for the pitch to land in the catcher’s glove … three feet beyond the plate on the outside edge of the grid it must have traveled through the grid up near home plate. The announcers reacted that the umpire had given the pitcher a gift by calling a pitch that was outside of the strike zone a strike … based upon a glance at the tbStrike Zone. Why the position of the ball symbol on the grid matched the position of the catchers mitt, which was physically impossible for the ball to do unless it started to curve back to the left when it reached the plate is puzzling.

I do not trust the accuracy of these gizmos and for all I know they could have an intern with a light pen watching a TV screen and then touching the grid on a tablet with a light pen, rather than the complicated radar systems they say they have.

I would prefer that they explain their technology better especially why the grid is the same for all players when the rules say each player has his own strike zone.

 

 

 

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2 Comments »

  1. As a baseball fan myself (the ultimate reality tv, and the only reality tv I can tolerate until football season) I had no issue at all with this rant 🙂

    Like

    Comment by shelldigger — August 7, 2016 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

    • Damn, I thought you were a good man … but now I know you are! ;o)

      On Sun, Aug 7, 2016 at 5:38 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 7, 2016 @ 9:17 pm | Reply


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