Monday, June 22, 2015

A Work in Progress

(Video technology to track pitches started to be installed in every major league ballpark in 2007.
The system is called PITCHf/x5
. The fabulous thing for you and your students is that the data is
provided at no cost by Major League Baseball (although it is copy righted). Alan Nathan has a
good web site ( to describe how to download
the data and what the quantities actually mean6
. The easiest way to get the data is from Dan
Brooks’s web site PITCHf/x Tool7 (

They are already coming up with equipment to call balls and strikes. Because I believe the consensus is the powers that be and most fans don't appreciate that the umpires in major league baseball all have their own interpretation of what a strike is and consistency is lost in the shuffle.

It is known that Roger Clemens took notes and studied the umpires. I would like to think all pitchers did this, since their livelihood depends very much on the way an umpire calls balls and strikes. You would have to know the umpire's preferences just as you would have to know a hitter's tendencies.

I recall recently listening to a ballgame in which the announcer suggested that Tim Hudson may have a long day ahead because Hudson is a low-ball, sinker pitcher, while that day's umpire was a "high strike" balls and strikes guy. This is exactly the sort of thing in which those capable of devising methods/machinery could come up with/discover a method of accurately and more consistently determining balls and strikes, if queued up precisely.

There are scientists and engineers out there who love the game of baseball and they have the acumen and intelligence to pool their ideas together to come up with a way to make the game better by assuring consistency to a game that needs its human elements but not where interpretations of the rules are concerned.

We're already talking to automated voices when paying bills or needing further assistance on matters that companies have no trouble passing off to the robotic voices asking us to enter whichever number or asking us to speak clearly into the phone. Not taking into account that accents or misinterpretations may get lost in the translation and this could dramatically remove their effectiveness.

(I will leave references for those interested in pursuing this subject. It's where I got the idea for this piece.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Footnotes to the aforementioned highlighted site at

The author makes no apology for the use of English units throughout this paper. After all, they
are the traditional units of the National Pastime!
An amazingly sharp 30-frames/second video of Bonds hitting the ball can be found at Video of the entire at bat as well
as just the last pitch can be found by searching Major League Baseball’s site
3 is their home page
4 is their home page. You may want to check out their Gameday feature that uses
this data at
Sportvision’s description is at
Ironically, just before this fateful pitch, the pitcher requested a new baseball. He tossed home
to the catcher and this event fooled the software into thinking it was an actual pitch. The data
from this toss is what you will get if you use PITCHf/x Tool. MLB has put the corrected data on
its server and that is where the author collected it.
The author has made little effort to track significant figures because the data from PITCHf/x
has little regard for them. Just keep in mind that trajectory data is good to about one-to-two
See Nathan’s web site,, for an explanation.
several physics of pitching references

Can We Talk?

On May 31,1968, the San Francisco Giants were in Los Angeles to resume their rivalry with the Dodgers from their days of playing in the boroughs of New York. With the Giants in Coogan's Bluff, Upper Manhattan and the Dodgers in Brooklyn.

On this night Don Drysdale was embarking on setting the new major league record for consecutive innings without allowing a run as the shadow of Walter "Big Train" Johnson hovered as history might be re-written.

As the game entered the ninth inning, Drysdale was three outs away from accumulating enough innings to surpass Johnson's 56 consecutive scoreless innings. Hall of Famer Willie McCovey led off with a base on balls. Jimmy Ray Hart then singled him over to second base. Next to bat was Dave Marshall and he too walked to load the bases. Three runners on and nobody out. It would take a fortuitous act now to save Drysdale's bid to set the major league mark. (Note: Marshall would later be traded with Ray Sadecki to the New York Mets for Jim Gosger and Bobby Heise. Sadecki was the player the Giants acquired for Orlando Cepeda. Ouch, that trade still stings.)

Up came Dick Dietz. With a two ball and two strike count on him, Drysdale (who made a living of taking as much of the plate as he could feeling it was his and not the batter's)came inside to Dietz and the Giant's catcher was flummoxed as the ball plunked him. As he made his way to first base home plate umpire, Harry Wendelstedt told Dietz to get back in the batter's box. Dietz and the Giants argued but this was Wendelstedt's fifteen minutes of fame moment. No way Wendelstedt was missing this opportunity. He explained that Dietz made no attempt to get out of the way, as stated in rule 6.08 (b). (The rule 'if the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.'

Wendelstedt may have gotten the call right but much like an official scorer cannot assume how a play was made and rule an error due to degree of difficulty, Wendelstedt ruled on Dietz's intent not allowing for the fact that perhaps "the Mule" was fooled by the movement of the pitched ball.

Now, had Dietz leaned into the pitch then Wendelstedt would have had every right to order the batter back into the batter's box.

(Fast-forward forty-seven years)
Unfortunately, on June 20,2015, home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski failed to do as much and Jose Tabada was allowed to take a base (first base) he most certainly did not deserve. Ending Max Scherzer's attempt at pitching a perfect game.

Kevin J. Marquez

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dagnabbit !!!

The year is 2015, umpires are not automatons, they are human so you cannot expect Umpire Davis to have the same strike each and every fifth game it is his turn to be behind (the catcher) home plate. (The rotation is counter-clockwise: home to third to second to first.)

Every day major league baseball has a game you have the potential of a Gerry Davis strike zone. On May 27, 2015, with the Giants in Milwaukee ( according to Giants’ announcer Jon Miller) he had a strike zone that used how the catcher framed his pitches as opposed to whether the ball entered the rulebook strike zone or not.

The strike zone was adjusted a few seasons back when it amended an interpretation to read that a pitched ball can be no more than the width of two (2) baseballs above the belt (of the batter).

There are thirty (30) major leagues teams so there can be as much as fifteen (15) umpires at the helm of distinguishing balls from strikes, or vice versa, on a fully scheduled day of baseball. ‘They’ say you always see something new at a ballgame, well, I wonder if all 15 umpires calling balls and strikes have their own interpretation? You better believe they do and if you had the capability of watching each and every one of them bungle the strike zone I’d bet you would be outraged by the inconsistencies of each umpire. The standard of umpiring has fallen off over the years and I believe it is due to the allowance of umpires to have their “own” interpretation of what a strike is versus the rulebook definition of what a strike is… It’s there in print for all to read and yet they choose to ad lib this portion of the rulebook.

In the Memorial Day game, also at Milwaukee, Khris Davis of the Brewers hit a home run off of Tim Lincecum but failed to touch home plate. Someone on the Giants alerted Manager Bruce Bochy and before Lincecum made his next pitch he stepped off the rubber and appealed that the batter-runner had missed home plate. The home plate umpire ruled the batter-runner OUT!!

Feeling like he must have been in a dream, Milwaukee manager, Craig Counsell wanted to challenge the call. The umpires went to the area where the headphones are plugged into New York’s Replay Central (for all disputed calls) and awaited the verdict. A couple of minutes later the umpire-in-charge gave the safe signal showing that the home plate umpire of the game, the person with the best view of any camera angle was over-ruled.

This is all conjectural because decisions from New York’s Replay Central come without explanation.

Why the secrecy? Let the fans know what determined the decision, dagnabbit!
There is no need for confidentiality here. These aren’t someone’s medical records it’s a game people paid good money to see. They have a right to know, as does everyone watching the game, what the deciding factor was in over-ruling the original call or why the call was not changed.

It’s the mysterious handling of arriving at the decision that makes both Major League Baseball and the National Football League suspicious in their appalling actions.

Kevin J. Marquez