MLB: Please, Just Trust the Umpire

josh millarSenior Analyst IJune 20, 2008

Recently, Major League Baseball says it wants to speed up the game. OK, that’s fine. Just have extra bats ready, and keep guys in the batter's box.


But if baseball wants to speed up the game, it should take a good, hard look in the mirror.


At the start of this decade, the MLB decided it wanted to evaluate the performance of their umpires, thus they introduced a system called QuesTech. In simple terms, it measures which pitches are balls and strikes. Doesn’t seem so bad does it?


Little did you know, QuesTech is at the heart of baseball’s pace of game problems.


First off, the evaluation is flawed. The system is based on demerit points, much like your drivers license. If an umpire calls a pitch a strike that QuesTech determines is a ball, the umpire loses a point every time this occurs. However, if the umpire calls a pitch a ball that is actually a strike he does NOT lose a point.


QuesTech is only in selected ballparks, and the umpires know which ones they are, so they call the game based on the system. The evaluation system forces umpires, for their own good, to shrink the strike zone and call more balls. More balls mean more pitches, which increase the possibility of walks. Walks mean more base runners, and more base runners slow down the pitchers pace, and this results in more visits to the mound.


Add to this the fact that baseball has gone from an east-west (horizontal) strike zone to a north-south strike zone (vertical), which tightens the strike zone yet again. For the most part, pitchers won't pitch up in the zone, as their chances of success are reduced.


What was wrong with umpires having their own interpretation of the strike zone, so long as they were consistent. Teams had a good idea of what each specific umpire would call, and as long as calls were consistent, everyone was happy.


It was one of those vague, unwritten rules of baseball that made the game great.

Now, thanks to MLB and QuesTech, umpires are consistently inconsistent, as are the pace of games. The games would speed up if baseball threw QuesTech into the nearest garbage can.