BY MATTHEW OSTROW
The new strike zone tracker is distracting and possibly unfair to umpires even though it provides information to fans.
For the Major League Baseball Divisional Series on TBS, the whole game there is a picture of the strike zone showing where each pitch was and the total pitch count.
While this may provide some statistical information to the viewers, this broadcast feature has greater setbacks.
In the past broadcasts for baseball stations have only used a digital strike zone tracker for big pitches or balls they thought were close. This change to have a strike zone tracker on the screen the whole game changes some things for the viewer and is something the commentators constantly reference.
Those familiar with baseball know, more than most sports, baseball has a large human element to it. The strike zone is included in that. The strike zone is completely up to the umpire. To make balls and strikes so concrete by having a digital strike zone tracker on the side of the broadcast the whole game belittles the umpire. The strike zone is always changing based on the batter and type of pitches being thrown.
According to mlb.com the strike zone is defined as:
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. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.
This rule allows for some judgment by the umpire based on many factors. The digital strike zone tries to make balls and strikes more concrete.
Not only does this digital strike zone make things hard for the umpire it makes the viewing experience worse for the fan. While watching an intense game between the Nationals and Cardinals almost a fourth of the screen is being taken up by this strike zone tracker. This takes away from seeing the beautiful ballpark, clutters the screen and detracts from the viewing experience.
The digital strike zone tracker may be appropriate for big pitches that are close or to show during replays, but the whole game is too much. Having it on the whole game could hurt the perception of the umpires. It would be far more effective for breaks in play and replays.