If the imaginary strike zone and eliminating the catcher stuff in the previous post were too much for you, here are simple changes that can be implemented mostly within the current rules and significantly improve the calling of balls and strikes.
1. Have the plate umpire use the old balloon chest protector.
2. Make the catcher stay directly behind home plate. OK, this may require a minor rule change, like the catcher must have both feet within the catcher's box when the pitch is released. Maybe also make the box more narrow.
For many years the old American League (AL) and the old National League (NL) had the home plate umpire use this big balloon thing that the ump pulled up under his chin. It provided much more protection than the inside protector, which the NL switched to first and which is now used by all plate umpires today in the Major Baseball League (MBL). The AL began switching in 1977, grandfathering the existing umpires who wanted to continue wearing the balloon through 1985 when the last, Jerry Neudecker, retired.
The NL was known as a low ball league and the AL was known as a high ball league. Squatting low behind the catcher reduces the ump's ability to call pitches at the top of the strike zone, which is why the strike zone has become so low. It also reduces the ump's ability to call strikes away from the side of the plate that he has abandoned. Obviously, standing upright behind the plate gives the umpire the best view.
A former catcher was on the MLB Network last week selling Brian Kenny on the notion that the catcher moves around to give the umpire a better look at the pitch. Baloney. The catcher moves around to give a better target to his pitcher on a pitch that is supposed to be border line and to deceive the umpire by catching it in the middle of his stance, thus deceiving the umpire on a pitch that is actually off the plate.
The umpire moves with the catcher in order to have the catcher shield him from the pitch and from foul balls. The ump is hiding behind the catcher. Catcher moves, umpire moves, which is why the strike zone has widened. It's not smaller as many contend. It's flatter and wider, which I think also contributes to more home runs as non-home run hitters can swing at all those low pitches and uppercut and jerk them out of the playing area.
No wonder the ump doesn't know where the strike zone is. That and the fact that the strike zone has no physical limits or dimensions. It's imaginary, remember?