Chicago Cubs: Will Friday’s missed call spark MLB to make changes?

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: John Lackey /

The inconsistency of balls and strikes has been a hot topic for debate for several years now. Friday’s Chicago Cubs game against the Cardinals showed why changes need to be made.

Video replay has been a part of Major League Baseball for several years now. With technology involving, baseball of the last of the major sports to implement a video replay during games. So far, that has solved some of the issues surrounding missed calls by umpires. However, there is still one major issue: balls and strikes. Those issues came to a head on Friday afternoon during the Chicago Cubs’ game at Wrigley Field.

In the fifth inning of Friday’s contest, John Lackey fired a 2-2 pitch to pitcher Carlos Martinez that was basically right down the middle. Home plate umpire Jordan Baker called it a ball. On the next pitch, Martinez singled and all hell broke loose.

The PitchTrack on MLB and all the local TV broadcasts showed it clearly as a strike. It was not a borderline pitch. It was an obvious strike. A blatant missed call.

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Baker had a rough day behind the plate. That wasn’t the only missed call he had. In fact, in the Cubs’ seven-run sixth, Martinez threw a pitch in the bottom corner of the zone that caught a lot of the plate. It was also called a ball.  These mistakes seem to be more and more frequent and one day, it’s going to cost a team a game.

What if that happens in the playoffs?

Every time this sort of missed call happens, the first thing that players and fans alike think about is the implications a missed call would have if it happened in the playoffs. Take yesterday as an example.

What if that happened last November in Game 7 of the World Series? What if a missed strike call to Michael Martinez turned into a hit that tied the game? It could have caused the Cubs to lose the World Series.

With the continued missed calls, this is bound to happen in the playoffs and it won’t be pretty. MLB will argue that they have their best umpires during the playoffs but how does MLB come to those decisions?

Fixing the problem

Unfortunately, fixing the problem is not as easy as it looks. The obvious answer is using an automated strike zone. Joe Maddon has long supported it and even Len Kasper said he was in favor of it.

However, there are a lot of logistics to that. The strike zone would have to be adjusted for each batter to figure in their height. Where exactly would the ball or strike call be show? What part of the border of the strike zone would a ball have to hit to be considered a strike? While ultimately, this may be the solution, it’s not plausible right now. So what else can be done?

Well, umpires could get reviewed/evaluated based on their level of accuracy. With modern technology, MLB has the ability to watch video of umpires and evaluate their accuracy based on the pitch track that is used. Then, each umpire would could be given an evaluation and that could be used to determine what umpires call what games. That way, the umpires with the highest evaluations would get playoff games or the games that have meaning in the end of the year.

A second option would be to discipline umpires. Players get disciplined through ejections and suspensions when they argue missed calls by umpires. However, umpires don’t get suspensions. Why can’t they? It’s a way for MLB to take ownership of the issue

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Owning the issue

MLB should be working to solve this issue. Instead, the league will just shrug this off as “human error”. Sure, umpires are humans and they make mistakes. But these mistakes are becoming frequent. They also are making mistakes on obvious calls. Umpires could also start taking the liberty to admit their mistakes.

Instead of ejecting players, an umpire, like Baker, could have said to Lackey, “Yeah, I missed that call. I’m sorry.” That ownership alone would probably make players become more understanding during games.

In the end, this is a growing issue that MLB needs to address. We will see what happens of from this in the coming weeks and the upcoming offseason.