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Balls and strikes


Guest Jim

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Guest Jim

Since the umpire is supposed to be looking at the ball as it crosses the plate, why are so many umpires “fooled” by a catcher framing the pitch?

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Strike Zone 101...we track the pitch from the time it leaves the pitcher's hand...ALL THE WAY to the catcher's mitt. It has been proven that in order to see "any part of the ball over any part of the plate" in addition to the vertical requirements we have to follow the pitch through to the catcher's mitt. And understand when we use the word tracking, that is defined as locking in your body, head to toe...and ONLY moving your eyes. The eyes track a moving object best when the head and body are still. Even the slightest movement of the head and or body can affect an umpire's ability to properly call pitches.

Now, let's get REAL nuanced about framing...Framing is the skill of a catcher to receive a borderline strike/ball pitch such that it best appears a strike. Framing is not Johnny LittleLeaguer receiving a pitch well outside the strike zone and then moving their mitt back into the strikezone. Only very new umpires are fooled by that kind of move. Typically, when an experienced umpire sees that move we say to the catcher, "When you pull your glove back in the zone, you are telling everyone in the ballpark including me, that you didn't think it was a strike. If you want those pitches on the edges called strikes, stick the mitt and hold the pitch there a bit."

Framing cuts both ways. Catcher's will frequently call and setup for a high strike but then have to quickly drop their mitt to receive a pitch low in the zone. It's very difficult to bring that mitt down, receive a strike and stick the mitt without letting the mitt either drop below the zone or in most cases hit the ground. Again, the pitch could've clipped the bottom of the zone and we should see that but, the optics of the glove coming down and possibly hitting the ground, make that a tough pitch to call a strike. Now take that SAME pitch, same trajectory, same location but, the catcher starts with his mitt on the ground and comes UP to receive that low strike...better optics.

Dropping strikes...at some levels of play, we've all seen umpires not call a pitch a strike if it's dropped by the catcher. That's umpire judgement, of course. The concern is, if a catcher drops a strike that's right down the middle it then becomes difficult to call his drops strikes that are down in the zone. The presumption is the pitch was so low the catcher couldn't even catch it so, why should that be called a strike? If you're ever up by the backstop at say a JV game or above, you'll hear the catcher say to the pitcher when he drops a strike, "My bad..." because he knows if it was called a ball it might have been called a strike had he caught it.

To answer your question directly, we're "fooled" because framing is an optical illusion that can help or hurt strikes and balls.

~Dawg

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Dropping strikes...at some levels of play, we've all seen umpires not call a pitch a strike if it's dropped by the catcher. That's umpire judgement, of course. The concern is, if a catcher drops a strike that's right down the middle it then becomes difficult to call his drops strikes that are down in the zone.
~Dawg


Yes, I understand you’ve indicated the level of play matters in your thoughts, and I can respect that. But I don’t find it difficult at all to call strikes, regardless if the catcher catches it.

I’m probably in the minority. I don’t believe in gifting the batter and punishing the pitchers, because the catcher drops a ball. For me, that’s deadwood old school. We should call pitches for what they are.

Honest to goodness, I almost never get blowback for going that route.

Had a competitive JV game a couple days ago (and yes I’ve done this at the V level too). Twice called two dropped pitches - one a cockshot and another on the inside corner. Timing was great, had it all the way to the glove, judged the pitch, watched and tracked it as the ball trickled away, and decided to come up with a strike. Honestly the coach was more concerned with his catcher catching than me ringing it up (and one was a DK3).


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1 hour ago, Catch18 said:

 


Yes, I understand you’ve indicated the level of play matters in your thoughts, and I can respect that. But I don’t find it difficult at all to call strikes, regardless if the catcher catches it.

I’m probably in the minority. I don’t believe in gifting the batter and punishing the pitchers, because the catcher drops a ball. For me, that’s deadwood old school. We should call pitches for what they are.

Honest to goodness, I almost never get blowback for going that route.

Had a competitive JV game a couple days ago (and yes I’ve done this at the V level too). Twice called two dropped pitches - one a cockshot and another on the inside corner. Timing was great, had it all the way to the glove, judged the pitch, watched and tracked it as the ball trickled away, and decided to come up with a strike. Honestly the coach was more concerned with his catcher catching than me ringing it up (and one was a DK3).


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So on a breaking ball that starts at the bottom of the zone and drops to the ground before it gets to F2, what are you calling.

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So on a breaking ball that starts at the bottom of the zone and drops to the ground before it gets to F2, what are you calling.

Sounds like that’s a ball that’s in the dirt and isn’t “dropped” by the catcher. Thanks for playing, though.


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22 hours ago, Guest Jim said:

Since the umpire is supposed to be looking at the ball as it crosses the plate, why are so many umpires “fooled” by a catcher framing the pitch?

Why are you fooled by the BOX on TV?

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Catch18....no offense, but the question about being fooled doesn’t really apply to “competitive JV”.  JV catchers aren’t fooling any umpires save for maybe brand new ones.  Get behind an NCAA D1 catcher and watch their magic.

As for the question about a pitch that crosses at the knees but ends in the dirt...technically that’s a strike, but that’s a near impossible pitch to call.  If your timing and tracking are good, the last thing you see is the ball in the dirt and you’re calling “ball”

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Catch18....no offense, but the question about being fooled doesn’t really apply to “competitive JV”.  JV catchers aren’t fooling any umpires save for maybe brand new ones.  Get behind an NCAA D1 catcher and watch their magic.
As for the question about a pitch that crosses at the knees but ends in the dirt...technically that’s a strike, but that’s a near impossible pitch to call.  If your timing and tracking are good, the last thing you see is the ball in the dirt and you’re calling “ball”

Where did I say anything about framing, fooled, etc.?

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2 hours ago, UMP45 said:

Why are you fooled by the BOX on TV?

This is also an extremely salient point that is often overlooked on TV. Most, not all, networks display their pitch tracker as a flat vertical plane. But the strike zone is indeed 3 dimensional as defined by the rule book. Think of it as a pentagonal cylinder.

We see pitches on TV that the pitch tracker plots as high and outside the zone but, actually continue to drop after breaking the front plane of the plate. They are dropping late into the zone, they are strikes and most umpires are grabbing that.

But, all of this is very confusing because not all the networks feature a 3D strike zone and not enough people are educating themselves properly via the rulebook on how the strike zone is defined.

~Dawg

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7 hours ago, Catch18 said:


Where did I say anything about framing, fooled, etc.?

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I didn’t say or mean to imply that YOU were being fooled. The OP was why umpires in general can be “tricked”.

Your response was not that you were fooled, never said you were, but that you openly admit it isn’t hard to calls balls and strikes and you DONT get fooled, which is great.  But then said you were doing a JV game.

My point was again, not that YOU are or should be fooled, but that any umpire who isn’t brand new would not be folded by a JV catcher and shouldn’t find calling balls and strikes hard.

Have you ever umpired on the dish for D1 college?  I have (fall games and inter squads, not games that count) Those level of catchers are practically magicians.

The one team had film from CF zoomed in on plate so They could watch it back later (thus I got to as well) and I remember being generally shocked, SHOCKED, that some pitches that looked phenomenal were actually in the channel or even beginning of the chalk.  It really opened my eyes into strike zone and better tracking at that level (guys throwing low 90s with terrific catchers is tough to be sure)

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On 5/1/2021 at 10:21 PM, LMSANS said:

So on a breaking ball that starts at the bottom of the zone and drops to the ground before it gets to F2, what are you calling.

If it is a strike I will call it a strike. I don't care what happens after the ball passes through the strike zone.

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3 hours ago, Mussgrass said:

If it is a strike I will call it a strike. I don't care what happens after the ball passes through the strike zone.

Though technically correct, this is a pitch that most baseball officials, players (except pitchers), coaches and spectators do not want called a strike.   It's not good for the game.  There's already too many strikeouts and not enough balls in play.  The Atlantic League is trying to train their bots to not call this a strike.   That in and of itself is an acknowledgement that the "standard" strike zone called by most umps, and supported by most people involved, is NOT the "to the letter" strike zone written in the rules.

Softball specifically has a rule that a pitch that hits the plate, even if it passed through the strike zone, cannot be called a strike.   Baseball calls it the same, without having the rule in black and white.

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If the Atlantic League feels that a pitch low in the zone that then hits the ground should not be a strike then they need to adopt a set of rules that redefine either what a strike is...or how the zone is defined.

Any catcher at any level who drops say a pitch right down the middle is making life difficult for the plate umpire. The implication to everyone BUT the umpire in that situation is, "How could it be a strike? The catcher couldn't even catch it!" 

~Dawg

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2 hours ago, beerguy55 said:

Though technically correct, this is a pitch that most baseball officials, players (except pitchers), coaches and spectators do not want called a strike.   It's not good for the game.  There's already too many strikeouts and not enough balls in play.

Im not sure about what the Atlantic laegue has to say about this and I'm sure your right.  Here's what I can tell you, the SEC/Sunbelt, etc camps say about it..."Call more strikes."

If a ball crosses the plate thought the strike zone it can be hit. End of story. If it can't you need to work on hitting, hit a pitch you like before you have two strikes (ie. don't the the first pitch split the plate just below the belt, as the pitcher tries to get ahead) or try to foul it off.

With all due respect to the AL we cannot call balls and strikes based upon how many people strike out or put the ball in play.  Maybe we should just call more strikes because the pitcher cannot find the strike zone--that makes just as much sense! 

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2 hours ago, SeeingEyeDog said:

Any catcher at any level who drops say a pitch right down the middle is making life difficult for the plate umpire. The implication to everyone BUT the umpire in that situation is, "How could it be a strike? The catcher couldn't even catch it!" 

That mentality has died exponentially in the past few years.

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25 minutes ago, Matt said:

That mentality has died exponentially in the past few years.

Respectfully, not the fields I work at it hasn't...in addition to yelling BALK! all fans, coaches and players have been genetically engineered to question all called strikes on any drop by F2.

~Dawg

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15 hours ago, aaluck said:

If a ball crosses the plate thought the strike zone it can be hit. End of story. If it can't you need to work on hitting, hit a pitch you like before you have two strikes (ie. don't the the first pitch split the plate just below the belt, as the pitcher tries to get ahead) or try to foul it off.

Not really....  It's hard enough to hit a ball right down the pipe.  A ball that nips the bottom outside front corner of the strike zone is virtually unhittable.   It's actually easier to hit a ball belt high three inches off the plate than a lot of pitches that are technically strikes.

So, yeah, leave the hitting lessons to those of us who know how to hit, and know how to teach it....there's nobody harder on hitters than I am.   There are "strikes" that aren't hittable, and calling them strikes is not good for the game of baseball...especially the BUSINESS of the game of baseball.   And that's why MLB umps don't call them strikes.   And that's why the AL is teaching its bots to call strikes more in line with what the human umps call.

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I gotta seriously bwahaha at this one.

 

At my level no they do not fool me.  Its is such a blatent and non subtle thing I snicker and usually tell the catcher "nice frame work there"  

 

usually the batter laughs too

 

I want to add but have not " you gonna be a carpenter when you grow up?"

 

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42 minutes ago, ArchAngel72 said:

I gotta seriously bwahaha at this one.

 

At my level no they do not fool me.  Its is such a blatent and non subtle thing I snicker and usually tell the catcher "nice frame work there"  

 

usually the batter laughs too

 

I want to add but have not " you gonna be a carpenter when you grow up?"

 

That's fine - I'll submit you're only noticing what you're noticing...the blatant stuff...the subtle stuff is, well, subtle...at the amateur level, 99% of the umpires I caught in front of fell into two categories:

 

1. I could move/turn the glove up to a few inches to get a strike

OR, if the ump didn't like to see a moving mitt

2. I could park my glove as far as the opposite batter's box chalk, and if my pitcher stuck it, and I didn't move the glove, I'd get a strike   (this is great if you have an accurate pitcher...it sucks if you don't, because this same ump will miss strikes if you have to move your glove too far across the strike zone to catch the pitch)

In either scenario, by the end of the first inning I knew which ump I had, and how far I could push it - I could probably count the umps on one hand who didn't fit either.

And with two strikes, once in a while, throwing down to third on anything close could be effective too.

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1 hour ago, noumpere said:

If you don't think the catchers are fooling you (some of the catchers; some of the time) then you are fooling yourself.

@noumpere  Bro they are 8-12 yr olds they cannot and do not make it subtle or minute enough for me to not notice their attempt.  Its always herky jerky and very noticeable.  They actually stop trying once I make the comment to them. 

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54 minutes ago, beerguy55 said:

That's fine - I'll submit you're only noticing what you're noticing...the blatant stuff...the subtle stuff is, well, subtle...at the amateur level, 99% of the umpires I caught in front of fell into two categories:

 

1. I could move/turn the glove up to a few inches to get a strike

OR, if the ump didn't like to see a moving mitt

2. I could park my glove as far as the opposite batter's box chalk, and if my pitcher stuck it, and I didn't move the glove, I'd get a strike   (this is great if you have an accurate pitcher...it sucks if you don't, because this same ump will miss strikes if you have to move your glove too far across the strike zone to catch the pitch)

In either scenario, by the end of the first inning I knew which ump I had, and how far I could push it - I could probably count the umps on one hand who didn't fit either.

And with two strikes, once in a while, throwing down to third on anything close could be effective too.

you are also talking amateur level, I get that. Is that the same as LL?  I would extend this all the way to say Local playoff levels for LL

 

Once you get into district and state level all stars yes I would say there are less than a handful 12 yr olds that could and do pull off a frame job and probably well enough I might bite at one.  but local levels now.. My UiC calls the minors I grab a ton of games at "Dodgeball" cause the catchers are not catching. My chest plate and shin guards are catching as much as they are.

 

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7 hours ago, beerguy55 said:

A ball that nips the bottom outside front corner of the strike zone is virtually unhittable.   It's actually easier to hit a ball belt high three inches off the plate than a lot of pitches that are technically strikes.

Then I would say the solution is to change the strike zone, not ignore it. No one would disagree that some pitches are easier to hit than others, but to penalize a pitcher that throws a hard-to-hit, or 'virtually impossible' strike seems unbelievable to me.  How many of these 'virtually impossible' to hit strikes are they throwing in the AL and why are all these great pitchers not playing in MLB?

The game has rules. To keep the game fair we need to play by the rules and not ignore the rules we may not like. If a rule is deemed unfair it should be modified or changed.  What next, a shortstop makes a 'virtually impossible' play we call the runner safe at first because it is unfair he made a perfect play?  

Finally, I had many great hitting coaches in HS and college. They taught us how to approach a successful at bat, not one of them told us not to fight off close pitches (with two strikes) that were virtually impossible to put into play. I'm not saying we all were 100% successful at it but sometimes you have to just tip your cap to the pitcher--not penalize him.

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