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Top of the zone


ousafe

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I really don't understand the top of the strike zone, as called by MLB and also lots of my fellow high-school umpires.

If the pitch is over the plate while it breaks the horizontal plane at the batter's midpoint, it's a strike. Totally get that.

But in practice it seems like anything 2 baseballs above the belt is called a ball. It seems as if guys call the top of the pants as the top of the zone...maybe one baseball higher, but nothing like what the full zone is defined as.

IMO a ball at the base of the sternum is fully in the zone. Grazing the top of the zone is almost mid-sternum. Never see this called.  Or if it is, people lose their minds. It seems like the MLB top is simply lower than the definition?

How do you really experienced guys judge the top of the zone?

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I have only been working for 4 years. 

According to the OBR definition of terms, 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.

Depending on the age level I will add balls to the top of that zone. 

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2 minutes ago, MarsOmega said:

I have only been working for 4 years. 

According to the OBR definition of terms, 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.

Depending on the age level I will add balls to the top of that zone. 

So...I get that.  Is that where you see MLB umps calling the high strike?  Not me.

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You're correct, the top of the zone in reality is lower than what is described in the rule book, except save for the younger levels.

I tend to try and get the upper part of the zone as often as I can. I found that the strike zone in practice is more of an egg shape than a rectangle. Lower pitches are easier to get a little farther outside and inside, while upper pitches need to be more down the middle.

I try to use the batters elbows as a guide, and that seems to work pretty well for most any level. Anything just under the batters elbow for me, is a good top of the zone. The pitcher is getting his pitch, and the batter can hit that pitch as well.

I've worked with guys that won't call anything above the belt. To me, that's just a little too tight on the top of the zone. But then again, I like to utilize the upper part of the zone, not everyone does, however.

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I like to try to get my eyes at the top of the zone. It’s easier when you know if your eyes move up it’s a ball. Of course there’s variables and constant adjustments. Some guys are just too short to get low enough, F2’s position may force you up or down from where you want to be also. 

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Don't get caught up trying to figure out what MLB umpires are doing. It's complicated by the facts that we see the "square" superimposed by TV, and that the "square" is slightly different for each broadcaster. On top of that, the strike zone is 3 dimensional, and the "square" is 2 dimensional. And it's often in the wrong place for taller or shorter batters. If we're assessing an umpire's calls based on the square, we're bound to be puzzled.

Many veteran (HS) umpires call an egg-shaped zone, bigger top and bottom over the plate, and wider just below the belt. Alternatively, we can think of it as allowing F1 to "miss" in one dimension (up/down, in/out) but not two. 

This might not help much regarding mechanics of calling the top of the zone—I do what Rich does, setting my eyes near the top of the zone (works for HS players, not so much for yoots, at least, not with my back). It's tricky, because of the 4 directions we might miss, up is probably hardest for the batter to reach.

I also don't go crazy stretching up and down, because those directions are easy to read from the dugout. Having the eyes where we want to call it makes consistency at the top easier, which is the key. 

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11 hours ago, MarsOmega said:

 batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

 

(1) When the batter is preparing to swing, the midpoint is often a bit lower than where it is when the batter is standing preparing to receive the pitch.

(2) In reality, for most of us, the strike zone is whatever leads to the least bitching.  Not by one coach in one game, but by all coaches in all games (at that level / league).

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(1) When the batter is preparing to swing, the midpoint is often a bit lower than where it is when the batter is standing preparing to receive the pitch.
(2) In reality, for most of us, the strike zone is whatever leads to the least bitching.  Not by one coach in one game, but by all coaches in all games (at that level / league).
What works for me is trying to fix my eyes at where I think the belly button is and it the pitch touches that line, I have a strike. I need a fixed location, an anchor so to speak, across all batters.

Nothing else works for me... elbow? Doesnt work for me if they have a high elbow stance like Joe Morgan. Letters on a jersey? Different locations of numbers or lettering between teams. Stance? Rarely does one see a stance like Pete Rose all scrunched over at the initial starting position.

So the belly button, if they have one, works for me.

I didnt give my age away, did I?

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I just got home last night from a camp that used a laser strike zone for cage work. The top of the zone was set at 46”, which I believe is supposed to be the top for a 6’0 batter (but don’t take me to the cleaners if that’s wrong)

Anyways, we got near instant feedback on balls and strikes calls and everyone was floored at the “true top”

Some pitches the C had to reach up for and all were called balls when they did so and most of the time it nicked the true top, and everyone said “no way”

call it bad habits, call it “umpiring to the dugouts” (less chirping if you don’t call top), but we, as a whole; are definitely missing some high strikes.

I get those high strikes often, even in college, but I mainly work d2 and d3. I fully admit that when I umpired summer leagues that had d1 guys and former pro guys, I did not get the “high strike” and I never heard a complaint about that, though my trackman score suffered bc of it I guess

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If I worked with a partner who called belly button or belt strikes as the top limit, I would walk right past him to the parking lot without saying a word and then never work with him again.

Why the hell are y'all giving away a good 1/3rd of the strike zone?  Or are you some sort of alien with different anatomy than people?

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17 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

If I worked with a partner who called belly button or belt strikes as the top limit, I would walk right past him to the parking lot without saying a word and then never work with him again.

Because you're annoyed or because it's hard to see in the dark at 2am after a 10 hour game?

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If I worked with a partner who called belly button or belt strikes as the top limit, I would walk right past him to the parking lot without saying a word and then never work with him again.
Why the hell are y'all giving away a good 1/3rd of the strike zone?  Or are you some sort of alien with different anatomy than people?
Well, I must be doing something right as I still get the batter's groan on the upper strike and my partners have never complained I am missing the ceiling.

But until I can get in front of a pitch tracker to see what I am actually missing, using what I use will have to do. I suspect what I am missing up top, I am getting on the bottom. Lol.

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Pure speculation on my part and impossible to prove...I believe the EVOLUTION of the top of the MLB strike zone to the point where it is now? It's because I don't believe even with all of the advances in equipment that umpires want pitchers working up in the zone because it's more likely they will wear pitches that are up. You also have to remember that it's easier to hit the ball, hit the ball hard and hit the ball far when it is up in the zone.

I can't speak for everyone but, I spend more time working on and discussing the strike zone than any other aspect of umpiring...no doubt to my detriment. As others said above, umpires can't really get too greedy up and down because that's more easily seen from the dugout. I had a great breakthrough this spring wherein I have started calling channel strikes. (That's the area between the edge of the plate and the inside edge of the batter's boxes.) If any part touches the chalk, that's a ball. If it's not touching the chalk, that's a strike. Is it a perfect zone? No and I'd never think it is. But, since implementing this my games move along much more smoothly and that modification is appropriate for the level of baseball I work.

~Dawg 

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44 minutes ago, SeeingEyeDog said:

I can't speak for everyone but, I spend more time working on and discussing the strike zone than any other aspect of umpiring...

I believe many umpires are not familiar with the difference in the top of the zone between high school and MLB/ NCAA strike zones.  MLB/NCAA: "...The strike zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."

NFHS: "...The height of the strike zone is determined by the batter's normal batting stance."

What that means to me is that the MLB/NCAA strike zone is determined after the batter has taken his stride.

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4 hours ago, BigBlue4u said:

I believe many umpires are not familiar with the difference in the top of the zone between high school and MLB/ NCAA strike zones.  MLB/NCAA: "...The strike zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball."

NFHS: "...The height of the strike zone is determined by the batter's normal batting stance."

What that means to me is that the MLB/NCAA strike zone is determined after the batter has taken his stride.

 

Only if that is when you are calling it.  How the heck am I supposed to know where that is when he doesn't swing?

My zone locks in on what the batter "presents" to the pitcher as the pitcher begins his motion.  That is where I lock my eyes because that is the target the batter gave the pitcher.  Any movement he makes after that is disregarded (to the best of my ability).  I don't care if he crunches, stretches, squats, jumps, or turns into Inspector Gadget.  He gave the pitcher a target zone and the pitcher has to hit the zone, not guess at what it will become at some theoretical point in the future.

For those that work softball, this is a valuable skill to develop in a game where slap hitting is a thing.

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4 hours ago, SeeingEyeDog said:

You also have to remember that it's easier to hit the ball, hit the ball hard and hit the ball far when it is up in the zone.

 

I always thought that as a hitter.  But then, I was also hitting the first pitch you threw me.  If I couldn't get that one, I was hitting the next one.  I didn't walk much, I didn't go deep into counts, and I hit a hell of a lot of home runs in my day.  (Yeah, back before most of our community fields had fences.)  My job was to hit hard and often.

4 hours ago, SeeingEyeDog said:

 As others said above, umpires can't really get too greedy up and down because that's more easily seen from the dugout.

 

Is it though?  They still don't know the difference between the front of the plate and six feet later when the catcher catches it.

 

I fully agree with your chalk mentality.  Turf fields make this easier since you have the lines the whole time and you know they are accurate ... fairly accurate ... relatively accurate?  On dirt, not only do you lose the lines, but they typically aren't correct to start with.  I might even give some chalk on those fields.

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1 hour ago, BigBlue4u said:

Call the rule book definition.

 

I got that, I'm saying the definition is stupid to use an unknown point to be possibly determined sometime in the future.  How am I supposed to know where the zone is going to be after he strides?   It hasn't happened yet.

What do I do when I get four consecutive high pitches and the batter doesn't swing at any of them?

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9 hours ago, The Man in Blue said:

 

I got that, I'm saying the definition is stupid to use an unknown point to be possibly determined sometime in the future.  How am I supposed to know where the zone is going to be after he strides?   It hasn't happened yet.

What do I do when I get four consecutive high pitches and the batter doesn't swing at any of them?

If you call the first three strikes, you won't have to worry about the fourth.

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On 10/7/2023 at 7:26 PM, The Man in Blue said:

 

I got that, I'm saying the definition is stupid to use an unknown point to be possibly determined sometime in the future.  How am I supposed to know where the zone is going to be after he strides?   It hasn't happened yet.

What do I do when I get four consecutive high pitches and the batter doesn't swing at any of them?

Duh......send him to first base?

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