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sthomas13100

Top of the Zone

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I'm feel like the top of my zone is not consistent.  Would you guys mind sharing what you use for a frame of reference?  I've tried using the bottom of the hands on the batter.  I've tried using the catchers glove in relation to his mask/face when he catches it.  What would you recommend?

Advise would be greatly appreciated.

 

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Here is something that overall works for me...

I align my eyes with the top of the zone. 

Now you can generally do this with most batters, without having completely improper head height in the slot. But you may have to improvise on either rather tall or short batters. Sometimes my chin may be an inch or two higher than the top of the catcher's head, other times it may be an inch or two lower. Anything more/less than that then I revert to proper traditional head height. 

 

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I try and grab a glance at the batter before he starts his warm-up twirls as he steps into the box and draw an imaginary line across his elbows and go from their. At least for teen summer ball. For varsity high school and college completely different game. Try to stay two to three inches above the belt; at those levels better to be down than error up.

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The top of the zone, for me, is the only "boundary" of the strike zone that changes in accordance to age/skill level I'm calling. Keep in mind the strike zone is an organic creature, not an ethereal, laser-defined cubic chunk of air.

Anything less than 17U Showcase ball, this upper boundary is typically mid-chest. Armpits, hands (typically)... I find that a lot of teams make it easy by wearing uniforms that have the team name placed very prominently across the chest. Then, the players make it even easier still by approaching the box taking air swings that I note are right at that projected height... mid chest. There are my benchmarks.

With Showcase ball and beyond, these ballplayers are much more cohesive, knowledgeable, and skilled hitters (I'll address MSBL separately). As such, the top of the zone is more around the belt / navel. With experience, you'll find it define itself. "Top of the zone" outside corner is quite a reach out there, while the toughest one to call IMO – top of the zone, inside corner – is affected because the batter's hands are usually in this spot. Batters at this level don't bail... they either straighten up and bring their hands up, or initiate a swing. For this reason, I place my nose right down the inner black of the plate, and my head height is such that if i can completely see the plate and (low) outside corner, yet if that inside one comes at my eyes, it's high. If it comes at my chin / chin guard if my mask, it's a strike... at the top of the / this zone.

MSBL guys are in a different category because, like the pros, they whine about the high/low stuff, but unlike the pros, they bail on anything in on them. Up and in becomes a whole bunch of bickering and "WTF man?!?!" I mention the bailing because there goes your reference point. They don't check their swing, they don't even initiate a swing measuring it up... they either straighten way up or they bail. So, with them vacating, on an inside pitch, I'm a bit lower than the typical "top of the zone" pitch that would be center or outer half. At that level, of the catcher is catching it at around _his_ chin/neck level, there's my top of the zone.

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Unless they have a very odd stance, I have found that their front elbow is a pretty good indicator for most batters.  Lets me establish a reference point on their torso.

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Nothing out of the ordinary, heel toe and in the slot.  Head height is chin at top of catcher's head.  I have pushed up in the slot this year to open up the low outside.  After reading some responses it might have to do with the fact I call from 13U youth-JV-to larger high school varsity.  Ive been trying to only expand the zone out at younger levels, but maybe at varsity level need to bring top down to belt/navel. 

Thank you for your help.

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Guys, call the freakin' high strike!!! The NCAA is adamant about getting it. If they expect it, you should be calling it regardless of your level. If you're balling pitches at the belly button, you won't advance.

Sternum high is a good pitch. Get it early and often!!!

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22 minutes ago, sthomas13100 said:

but maybe at varsity level need to bring top down to belt/navel. 

 

Do not do this. imo, of course.

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26 minutes ago, sthomas13100 said:

Nothing out of the ordinary, heel toe and in the slot.  Head height is chin at top of catcher's head.  I have pushed up in the slot this year to open up the low outside.  After reading some responses it might have to do with the fact I call from 13U youth-JV-to larger high school varsity.  Ive been trying to only expand the zone out at younger levels, but maybe at varsity level need to bring top down to belt/navel. 

Thank you for your help.

nope ...have to go higher .... Michigan has said WE WANT STRIKES ...... you'll have LONG games

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Like above - call the high pitches, get them in the first inning and set the zone. College players may complain a little, but they will adjust and as long as you are consistent you will be good.

If you limit yourself at the belt or navel - you could be in for a long day. Coaches want you to call strikes - a part of the NCAA calling the high strikes comes from the coaches.

I called just under the letters on the Cape and in NCAA last year, and never had a problem.

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3 hours ago, Thawk751 said:

Unless they have a very odd stance, I have found that their front elbow is a pretty good indicator for most batters.  Lets me establish a reference point on their torso.

 

That was what I was using a lot later in the year - the elbow. 

 

1 hour ago, sthomas13100 said:

Nothing out of the ordinary, heel toe and in the slot.  Head height is chin at top of catcher's head.  I have pushed up in the slot this year to open up the low outside.  After reading some responses it might have to do with the fact I call from 13U youth-JV-to larger high school varsity.  Ive been trying to only expand the zone out at younger levels, but maybe at varsity level need to bring top down to belt/navel. 

Thank you for your help.

I found this hard as well - doing so many different levels in a short time.

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How much inside do you guys usually go? I struggled with opening up the inside part of the zone last year.

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1 minute ago, udbrky said:

How much inside do you guys usually go? I struggled with opening up the inside part of the zone last year.

Depends on the age level, but for me, I'm normally setting my cutoff at the outer edge of the inside line of the box.  Remember, that gap between the edge of Home Plate, and the outer edge of the batter's box is only 6 inches, or 2 ball widths.  If it's little kids(12 & under) I'll give the pitcher that 2 ball widths.  13,14, even some 15 year olds, I'll bring it in a little, 1 1/2 ball widths.  By the time they get to be varsity pitchers (16 years old), they should be able to comfortably place that inside pitch, so it's down to 1 ball width.

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2 hours ago, MidAmUmp said:

Sternum high is a good pitch. Get it early and often!!!

Thank you for that, MidAmUmp!  A lot of fellow umps tell me the navel is the very top in varsity high school.  

Of course, the sternum is a pretty long bone.

For myself, I define the midpoint as where the lowest attached ribs connect to the sternum, right where the xyphoid process (that little finger-like doohickey at the bottom) attaches to the bottom of the body of the sternum.  That's my rulebook top of the strike zone from which I adjust for the skill level of the game.

As the batter first approaches the plate, I determine how high his xyphoid will be when he swings at a normal pitch. Then I note the batter's crouch as he prepares for the pitch to see how much lower his xyphoid gets (often four to six inches) to avoid being fooled by the crouch.  When the ball passes the plate, I apply my expansion adjustment for that game.  I sometimes can first doublecheck the top as the batter stands after the pitch.  I then make my call.

http://www.innerbody.com/image_chest1/skel16.html

 

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