Chicago Cubs: Strike 3, they’re out…it’s time for robo umps

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

It’s not an illusion. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, and it’s not only happening to the Chicago Cubs. Umpires are terrible at calling balls and strikes.

First, I’m a modern baseball traditionalist.  I think sabermetrics is a tool, not the gospel.  I believe day baseball is better, but night games make it easier to go to the ballpark.  I don’t believe moving the mound back a foot is a good idea, but I know the DH is coming to the National League sooner rather than later and I’m OK with that.

However, one thing that is not acceptable is the rampant mistakes umpires make calling balls and strikes. It’s endemic and needs to end. I wrote about this two years ago and, if anything, it has gotten worse.

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To recap, Boston University looked at this issue and found that one in every five calls is wrong. That’s a 20 percent error rate. Slap that error rate on a shortstop and he’s out of the game.

Chicago Cubs aren’t the only victims here

Some umpires are worse than others and among the worst is Angel Hernandez.  Joe West and  C.B. Bucknor also rank among the worst behind the plate.  Last night it was Laz Diaz in the Cubs-Giants game who missed so many calls the outline of the strike zone was closer to a Rorschach test than a box.

Back in April, it was Cory Blaser’s turn to mess up in this Cubs-Brewers game.  As this clip shows this has been a problem for a long time.

Let’s get away from the eye candy test though.  As I said, I like metrics and few places are as metric-focused as Fangraphs.  An article by Ben Clemons shows that K-zones and accuracy are both unchanged and the calls are bad.

MLB is working on the technology and it was used in the Atlantic League in 2019.  What it revealed was interesting.  Robo umps called the full zone.  Fastballs that skimmed the top zone, rarely called a strike by a human ump, were called strikes consistently by the computer.  Same with bottom of zone curveballs.  Arguments ensued, adjustments were made and everyone moved on.

dark. Next. Cubs to open up Wrigley Field 100 percent next weekend

Baseball changes slowly.  Its traditions and mores seemingly carved in stone.  Maybe that’s the way it should be.  Changing baseball shouldn’t be like changing your shirt.  But in the case of human umps calling balls and strikes, it’s about time for a new wardrobe.