Friday, September 19, 2008
Fool Proof Strike Zone
It's back to basics. Years ago a kid on a farm would practice pitching by throwing at a tire hung on the side of a barn. In cities improvised baseball games like stick ball had strike zones drawn on the wall behind the batter. No catcher needed as the ball would bounce back to the pitcher if not hit. Everyone facing the batter could see if the pitch was in the strike zone. These concepts can be applied to MLB. Move the plate umpire behind the pitcher. Place something behind the plate that would be a target for the pitcher. Ideas: - barrel - whole in a netting - whatever works. The target would be round, not a rectangle like the current strike zone; that's more fair as those corner strikes are hard for the batter to judge and for pitchers to throw to. The width of the current strike zone is the width of the plate, 17 inches, plus the diameter of the ball, about 4.5 inches: 21.5 inches. The new target could be 21.5 inches or 20 inches to make more simple. The same size strike zone would apply to all batters. That is a change. No other team sport varies something for the size of the player. Basketball does not lower the basket when a short player attempts free throws. Football does not change the height of the goal post for smaller kickers. Only baseball has the silly rule that a batter has a personal strike zone. I might allow the batter to select the height of the target but not change the size. Pitchers would now have a uniform size target for every batter. That's fair. The umpires would no longer vary the strike zone based on individual interpretation. Either the ball goes into the target area or it does not. The catcher could be deployed elsewhere. The umpire could hand the pitcher a new ball. Ball boys/girls could keep the batting area free of loose balls. The metaphor for a catcher is backstop. A backstop is a wall. Who wants to play wall? It's easily the most ridiculous position in team sports. Most baseball players want no part of catching. Put that player in fair territory where he can do some good. How about next to the pitcher where he could field balls hit up the middle and still be close enough to cover home plate? I have already advocated that base runners may not take a lead until the ball is hit. That would speed up the game as the pitcher would have one pitching motion (no stretch position) and no need to check the runner and throw to the base. The new strike zone rule would eliminate the getting the sign from the catcher ritual. Throw the ball where the batter can hit it and judge that in a fair and simple way.