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mac266

umpired my 2nd game, questions

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I umpired my second game last night, first behind the plate.  The age group was 14U.  It was a 7-inning scrimmage, so it was low threat and the coaches offered (yes, kindly) to provide some feedback.  They knew I am new and actually wanted me to umpire their scrimmage for three reasons:  1) They don't have to do it, and 2) They wanted the chance to get an umpire up to speed without any contention, and 3) It was merely a scrimmage and therefore low threat for everyone.  Additionally, a mentor showed up for the first two innings to observe.  The feedback from the mentor and the coaches and some of my own observations leads me to a few questions:

1- They complimented the consistency of my zone, and said it was the same for both teams and did not change.  They said this is the hardest thing with new umpires.  They stated, however, that my zone was way too high -- the bottom end was too high and the top end was too high.  All of them agreed, so they are likely right.  Does that mean I am setting too low or too high and getting a weird angle on the pitch?  Or something else?  How to improve?

2-  One batter was 6 feet tall and 200 pounds easily, and he crowded the plate BIG TIME.  He crept in so closely that I had no slot to work in whatsoever, and his hands when holding the bat blocked my view of the pitcher.  Had the pitcher balked, I never would have seen it.  I adjusted so I was directly over the catcher's head, but I still couldn't see all of the pitcher.  So I adjusted farther to the right (right-handed batter) so I was into the opposite slot!  What should I have done?

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One more question:

3-  With two strikes on a batter, I saw a breaking ball break and hit the dirt behind the plate.  The batter swung and missed.  The catcher did not catch the pitch, so the batter took off for first, which was unoccupied.  They threw him out at first.  The third base coach appealed (yes, nicely), stating he thought it had been nicked by the bat and fouled down into the dirt.  This would make it a dead ball, and not strike 3.  I'm questioning myself as to whether he was right -- he could see in front of the batter much better than I could!  But I was listening for the sound of the metal bat for cases just like that, and didn't hear it, and it's hard to say if the direction of the ball changed when the bat passed over it (indicating it had been hit).  So I stood by my call.  Either of us could be right, so what are some techniques to make a better observation on that one?

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1- Stick to your fundamentals. 

Before the pitch, get your reference points to judge your boundaries of the strike zone. 

Use good timing. Wait for the pitch to hit the mitt, take a half second to replay it in your head, make a decision, then call it.

2- There’s a reason that they call the side opposite the slot “the kill zone”! Your chance of getting nailed by a foul ball is much greater there. Stay in the slot, raise higher, go lower, adjust, so what it takes to see the pitch and the pitcher.

 

 

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3- Use your eyes and ears to gather as much input as you can, then make the best call possible. They’re always going to be second guessing you, don’t take their word as fact. 

On this one, your best response was probably, “That's not what I had”. And leave it at that. Walk away and return to your position. 

 

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If you are missing pitches at the knees you may not be seeing them as well as you can. Perhaps your positioning behind F2 is keeping you from seeing the entire zone. Check to make sure your height and depth allow you to see the entire zone

You can also use the location of the where the ball is received to assist in your decision making. If F2 receives the ball within his shoulders, at or above his knees, and below his eyes, its probably a strike if he is lined up behind the plate. When batters impeded your look, you can go up or down to get a better look or you could use F2's receiving the ball as a gauge to its strike worthiness. Never ever move out over the plate, away from the slot.

As @BretMan mentioned, it can be a killing zone

Injury Study - The Slot and Mask vs Helmet Debate | Close Call ...

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I would agree with both guys above. I would add that if they were both impressed with your consistency then seeing the ball doesn't seem to be the problem--if one does in fact exist. Rather your definition of what constitutes a ball or strike--and keep in mind everyone's zone is a bit different.

As Kevin has stated... As the batter steps in and settles, determine the high point of your zone as it relates to the catcher, not the batter. For one batter that may be below his mask, for another it could be a little higher or lower.  I am a big believer in reference points on the catcher. Know where the catcher is set up in relation to the plate--it can hit his mitt dead center of his body but he may be setup two feet outside.

For me, the hardest pitch, by far--not even close, is the outside pitch on a left handed batter. Maybe because I'm right eye dominate. I've tried everything over the years to improve my accuracy with that pitch and the best solution I have come up with is that I pay very close attention to where the catcher is set up/where he receives in relation to his body, to determine if it's too far outside.

Good luck and have fun.

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11 hours ago, mac266 said:

I umpired my second game last night, first behind the plate.  The age group was 14U.  It was a 7-inning scrimmage, so it was low threat and the coaches offered (yes, kindly) to provide some feedback.  They knew I am new and actually wanted me to umpire their scrimmage for three reasons:  1) They don't have to do it, and 2) They wanted the chance to get an umpire up to speed without any contention, and 3) It was merely a scrimmage and therefore low threat for everyone.  Additionally, a mentor showed up for the first two innings to observe.  The feedback from the mentor and the coaches and some of my own observations leads me to a few questions:

1- They complimented the consistency of my zone, and said it was the same for both teams and did not change.  They said this is the hardest thing with new umpires.  They stated, however, that my zone was way too high -- the bottom end was too high and the top end was too high.  All of them agreed, so they are likely right.  Does that mean I am setting too low or too high and getting a weird angle on the pitch?  Or something else?  How to improve?

2-  One batter was 6 feet tall and 200 pounds easily, and he crowded the plate BIG TIME.  He crept in so closely that I had no slot to work in whatsoever, and his hands when holding the bat blocked my view of the pitcher.  Had the pitcher balked, I never would have seen it.  I adjusted so I was directly over the catcher's head, but I still couldn't see all of the pitcher.  So I adjusted farther to the right (right-handed batter) so I was into the opposite slot!  What should I have done?

1. It could be a few things.It could be that what you think the zone is is too high. It could be that you perceive the ball coming in lower than it really is. If it's the latter, then I would try getting your head a bit lower.

2. When being blocked out, try moving up/down and forward/backward as your primary axes, not left/right. You'll usually be able to find at least some space to see that is safer and closer to your usual view than if you try going more outside.

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19 hours ago, Kevin_K said:

If you are missing pitches at the knees you may not be seeing them as well as you can. Perhaps your positioning behind F2 is keeping you from seeing the entire zone. Check to make sure your height and depth allow you to see the entire zone

You can also use the location of the where the ball is received to assist in your decision making. If F2 receives the ball within his shoulders, at or above his knees, and below his eyes, its probably a strike if he is lined up behind the plate. When batters impeded your look, you can go up or down to get a better look or you could use F2's receiving the ball as a gauge to its strike worthiness. Never ever move out over the plate, away from the slot.

As @BretMan mentioned, it can be a killing zone

Injury Study - The Slot and Mask vs Helmet Debate | Close Call ...

To quote a MLB catcher:  "It's not where I catch it - it's where it goes through the zone"

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1 hour ago, Rich Ives said:

To quote a MLB catcher:  "It's not where I catch it - it's where it goes through the zone"

14u is not MLB.

Perhaps a review of some of the pitches called strikes in the Atlantic League last year and the reactions of players and coaching staffs would suggests that where a pitch is caught matters.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Kevin_K said:

14u is not MLB.

Perhaps a review of some of the pitches called strikes in the Atlantic League last year and the reactions of players and coaching staffs would suggests that where a pitch is caught matters.

 

 

 

 

The Atlantic League>Sure. Prime talent there.

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Boy. That second video is hard to watch. That PU just seems lost out there. I was just cringing after every pitch.

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47 minutes ago, aaluck said:

Boy. That second video is hard to watch. That PU just seems lost out there. I was just cringing after every pitch.

He wasn't lost ... he was playing their game very well ... "You want this crap, you get this crap."

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1 hour ago, The Man in Blue said:

He wasn't lost ... he was playing their game very well ... "You want this crap, you get this crap."

 

That's exactly how I saw it he was letting the machine call the game and that was how it was gonna be called..

sad really..

 

Something to point out they felt you were calling your zone over all too high.  What is your K zone defined as   IE how do you define it.

For my purposes with LL I go armpits to top of knees, my own mistake was originally calling the bottom of the knee too and I caught some flack for that although the coaches both agreed I was consistent as all hell on it. LOL .

I been in that top middle picture position before and MAN talk about being nervous  What I was afraid of was the catcher setting up outside and the LL Pitcher gunning a fastball inside right at me.  Never happened of course but You do feel left out to dry

 

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You get what you ask for - if real umpires called the strike zone exactly as it is defined the game would be a travesty - and the Atlantic League is demonstrating that.

The bottom two inches of the strike zone (ie. where the top of the ball clips the bottom of the strike zone) - as fundamentally followed by the letter of the law - is virtually unhittable...and the top two inches isn't much better....especially if said pitch is clipping the strike zone only at the front of the plate.

You could conceivably have pitches that clip the strike zone and hit the plate be called strikes by computers (sinkers, splitters, knuckeballs) - a practice rarely done by umpires of most levels...but the computer would call it because the rule doesn't prohibit it (in softball it's actually prohibited to call a strike on a pitch that hits the plate).

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10 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

For my purposes with LL I go armpits to top of knees, my own mistake was originally calling the bottom of the knee too and I caught some flack for that

How does calling the top of the knees versus the bottom of the knees on a kid (I assume, since you said LL) make any real difference?

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6 hours ago, Young_Ump said:

How does calling the top of the knees versus the bottom of the knees on a kid (I assume, since you said LL) make any real difference?

- Little League Rule Book states: "The strike zone is that space over home plate which is between the batter's armpits and the top of the knees when the batter assumes a natural stance. The umpire shall determine the strike zone according to the batter's usual stance when that batter swings at a pitch."'

 

Thats why its how it is defined in the book and when I originally was talking to other umpires in my area they said knees to armpits and I went ok bottom of the knee is still knee.  So now when it just ticks the zone there and I call it it is really actually low. I re-read the book and saw it specifically says top of the knee and knew then I was mistaken so I adjusted and no one has complained or said I was calling them too low since.  

I should note this is for the 10-12 yr olds for me for the 8-10 yr olds yeah I open it up shoulders to bottom of knees and nearly batters box line to batters box line. Otherwise there would be barely any strikes at all..  LOL

 

 

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2 hours ago, ArchAngel72 said:

I should note this is for the 10-12 yr olds for me for the 8-10 yr olds yeah I open it up shoulders to bottom of knees and nearly batters box line to batters box line. Otherwise there would be barely any strikes at all..  LOL

Absolutely. At a youth level, the strike zone is what the pitching (and score) dictates. And every coach not living through his kid will appreciate that.

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9 hours ago, Young_Ump said:

How does calling the top of the knees versus the bottom of the knees on a kid (I assume, since you said LL) make any real difference?

That is effectively the width/height of the ball - it's a significant difference...for some batters the difference in batting average can be 25, even 50, points in hitting balls between those two points.   Even Ted Williams, by his own measurement, was almost 20 points lower hitting pitches in the bottom ball height of the strike zone.

Calling the bottom of the knee is an umpire's wet dream...but it's enough to make kids quit playing, and people quit watching.

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