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A modest proposal regarding ball and strike calls

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If we’re not going to get an automated strike zone anytime soon, this might help.

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Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I’ve already written about this in detail in the recap to Tuesday’s Cubs defeat, but let’s have another look at the egregiously bad strike-three call on Tony Kemp Tuesday night by plate umpire Marty Foster:

Pitch 5 is the one we’re talking about here, and that’s not a strike in any rule book I’ve ever seen.

Here’s video:

I’ve already been through analysis of this play in the recap. If the call is made correctly, maybe it changes the outcome of that at-bat, maybe it doesn’t. We’ll obviously never know. Kemp tweeted about it, and was as nice as he could have possibly been given the situation:

And right now, there is no recourse for teams that get bad calls like this going against them. If the player or the team’s manager argues, they likely get ejected, and depending on how vehement the argument is, possibly fined. They’re testing out an automated strike zone in the Atlantic League, but that could be years away from implementation in MLB. In The Athletic today, Jayson Stark has a lot of details on how it’s working in the Atlantic League and what might be coming next,

Here’s my modest proposal. What if MLB added to the review system a way to ask for reviews of ball and strike calls? Obviously, allowing this for every perceived bad call in a game could bog down the game and lengthen games, something no one wants.

So I propose this: Allow each manager to challenge two ball/strike calls per game, in addition to the current review system. That way, you wouldn’t slow the game down too much. In a case like the call on Kemp Tuesday night, that one would have been overturned very quickly and the game would have continued with the count 2-2 on Kemp.

If a system like this were in place, managers likely save these challenges for later in close games, or in situations where there are run-scoring possibilities. It would add a bit of strategy, for those who like more strategy. In most games, none of these challenges would be used. And once a manager uses up the two ball/strike challenges, no more — unlike the current review system where a manager can ask for a crew chief review late in games.

In a situation like Tuesday’s with Kemp, where currently teams have no recourse to overturn a blatantly obvious bad call, it would have given the Cubs a chance to have that at-bat continue.

What say you, MLB? If we’re not getting an automated strike zone anytime soon, how about helping out the umpires with ball-and-strike calls the same way they’re helped with calls on the bases?


Two ball-and-strike challenges per game...

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Great idea! Get it done, MLB!
    (500 votes)
  • 20%
    No way! Things are fine the way they are
    (125 votes)
625 votes total Vote Now