Most people seem to say replay shouldn’t be enforced on balls and strikes, and I agree, replays would take up too much time for balls and strikes. However, for about a decade or so now, ESPN and other networks have replays on close ball / strike calls and in the replay there’s a computerized “K-Zone” that shows you where the ball actually crossed over the plate. Why not come up with a computerized system that automatically informs the umpire whether it was a ball or strike?
Personally, I’m tired of seeing umpires call strikes on pitches that were clearly out of the zone. For instance, I remember Jim Edmonds got ejected by plate ump Ed Rapuano just for saying: “That’s a ball.” On CSN’s version of “K-Zone”, both pitches called strikes were no where close to the strike zone. Also, there’s times when pitchers get tossed because of body language when they throw a ball right down the middle and the ump just stands there.
I imagine umpires get fatigued by the end of games standing out in the sun especially the games that turn into an extra-inning marathon, or games that get delayed by rain, or a day-night double-header, and that’s when they make crucial judgement errors that influences the outcome of a game.
(Or, umpires just have a dinner reservation waiting after the game and on bang-bang close calls that can go either way, they make the call that gets them one strike, or one out closer to the end of the game.)
Going back to the Edmonds-Rapuano incident, that play happened in the 11th-inning of a game that at one time had the Brewers at 100 percent probability of winning, and the Cubs at 0 percent probability of winning on baseball-reference.com’s “win probability chart” with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th and the Cubs down by four runs with nobody on base (thank you Ryan Braun for dropping the final out and thank you Geovany Soto for the 3-run home run). So I imagine Rapuano was getting fatigued and started letting his guard down when the Cubs were one out away from losing in the 9th, then they miraculously came back. Then Rapuano probably got even more fatigued thinking the game was almost over, then it continued, and by the 11th, a full day of sun probably influenced his bad calls against Edmonds. That’s just my speculation but thankfully, Rapuano’s call didn’t keep the Cubs from winning an inning later.
Just on a side note, if replay on close “out” or “safe” calls were enforced back then, the Cubs may have lost. I remember a play late in the game when a Brewers runner was called out at 3rd when he looked safe on replay, and it probably costed the Brewers a run.
So going back to my main idea, I don’t see any harm in trying to devise a computerized system that gets the ball and strike calls correct. I think something like this can be done, but I doubt it ever will. I know some will give me the whole “human element” argument, but personally, I don’t care about the human element in umpires. I care about the human element in relation to baseball players proving that they’re human, not umpires. Bottom line, I want the call right… even on balls and strikes