Tag Archives: Major League Baseball

New TBS Digital Strike Zone Tracker Distracting and Unfair

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.

World Series: Game 6

By Matt Ostrow

The two commentators on call for Game 6 of the World Series between the Rangers and the Cardinals were Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. It was an amazing back and forth game that fans enjoyed. The commentators did an average job, but there were multiple things that took away from such a great game.

Joe Buck did the play-by-play and, at times, was the only one speaking for almost the whole half of an inning. Buck was also very unemotional during very exciting plays that had me running around my apartment. For example, when Adrian Beltre for the Rangers hit a home run in the top of the 7th inning, making it a 5-4 lead for the Rangers, with no emotion, Buck said, “that one is gone, the Rangers now lead.” The job of the commentator is to capture the moment with emotion. It was a huge home run in the scope of the game and he needed to show more excitement with a play of such magnitude.

The other big issue I had with Buck’s commentary was that for a big part of the game, he would not even comment on the plays happening in the game, but talked about Pujols and his future. For almost the whole top of the 8th inning Buck talked about Pujols and free agency. He completely ignored the pitches being thrown by the Cardinals pitcher and only commented on the actual game if their was an out recorded or the ball was put in play. I understand Pujols is one of the best players in baseball and his future is important, but that conversation should not be happening during Game 6 in the top of the 8th inning. Those conversations need to happen pre-and post-game. Also, the coverage felt pretty unfair because most of the conversations were about how great of a comeback story the Cardinals were even when the Rangers were ahead 7-4 in the 8th inning and about to clinch the World Series.

Buck did do some things well, though. He gave many good statistical comparisons between the two teams or similar players. Another thing he did that was beneficial to the fan was: every time a new player entered the game he talked about how they came to be on their current team.

Tim McCarver rarely spoke, but when he did he had good insights into the game of baseball. When there were big plays, McCarver would explain why that call was made by the manager. I really enjoyed his analysis of the big plays and what possibly the player or manager could have done.

There were some things that Fox did well in producing the game. There were great replays of big plays with multiple angles and speeds. There also were a lot of great shots showing the managers reacting to big plays throughout the game. Something Fox did poorly was, it played the same song that they play for Sunday football and it totally does not fit the emotions of baseball.

The most memorable moment of the commentary was when Freese hit the walk-off home run in the 11th inning and Buck said, “We will see you tomorrow night.” This was not only a a great phrase to use, but is an honor to his late father, Jack Buck, who used that same phrase in 1991 when Kirby Puckett hit a walk-off home run in Game 6 of the World Series. A walk-off is always a special moment no matter what, but that call by Joe Buck made it even more memorable.