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I pulled this from another thread.
Just want some umpires to chim it on this one.

As an ump my goal to to enter the field and leave the field and hope nobody knows I was there. That doesn't mean I get every call correct or I did't make a mistake. It means I was consistent and had good game management.

Now, let's talk about the borderline pitch. This pitch is the one that is established that day between the umpire; catcher, pitcher and batter. This is the pitch that has a tolerance of about an inch either way, the human factor. This is the same pitch that the spectator or coach will always moan about. Yet the only two people that have the best view is the ump and the catcher. Yet everyone else at the field can see the pitch better than me.

There are 3 situations that can happen.

1) The pitcher, the catcher and myself are all in a sync. The pitcher is hitting his spot and I'm calling strikes. Does a pitch that is a little further outside get called a strike, probably. I'm I changing the strike zone, no. The pitcher has consistently been throwing strikes in the same area all day, and yes, maybe I blew the call and gave him a strike. Usually the response from the offensive coach will be; "He's been calling it there all day, swing the bat".

2) The pitcher can't hit the broadside of the barn. The cather set's up ouside, he throws inside, the catcher, sets up inside he throws out side, etc. Then the catcher sets up outside and low and behold the pitcher hits his spot. The probablility in this situation is it's a ball. The pitcher has not earned the outside pitch. Am I changing the strike zone, no. The strike zone has not been established between the pitcher, catcher, batter and the ump. Therefore it's a ball. If the pitcher "flips out" then it will probablly still be a ball. Why? Because he has not earned the pitch.

3) Take situation 1, at the begining of a game. The pitcher is hitting that borderline area, and the ump is balling it. (Again, I'm refering to that 1 inch differece. Think about that for a minute. Look at ruler and compare a ball to 1 inch. BORDERLINE CALL.) I will gaureentee you that any umpire who is worth his weight will realize that the pitcher can hit his spot, and that borderline pitch can be called a strike. However, if the pitcher starts to "flip out" it will be a ball all day.
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Pirate Fan,

My view of this situation is a bit different than yours.

If the pitcher wants strike calls he doesn't have to hit his spots, he has to hit mine.

As the umpire, I set the zone. I understand what you mean by the "borderline" pitch but I don't use it to reward the pitcher with good control. Nor do I use it to penalize the pitcher with poor control. If it's a strike for one, it's a strike for the other. It's just that the pitcher with good control will get the strike call more often because he'll throw it there more often.

I've stated before on this site that I tend to set my zone appropriate to the age group. 13 year olds aren't going to be held to the same zone as Varsity pitchers. I know that some umps don't agree with that philosophy but that's ok.
I can live with it.

As far as pitchers who "flip out"....that's another matter. I guess that could mean a number of things. If you mean he takes a couple of steps down from the mound with that nasty look on his face because he wanted the pitch that I just called a ball then I 'll talk to the catcher first. You know; turn my back to the pitcher, dust the plate and remind the catcher that it's his job to keep his pitcher up on the mound. Usually the catcher understands and goes to talk to his pitcher. If he doesn't, I may add that if his pitcher continues to act that way he probably won't be pitching much longer.
At that point the catcher definitely understands and goes to talk to the pitcher. This usually takes care of any "flipping out" before it happens. If the pitcher still doesn't get the message and comes down from the mound or acts up again, then he can spend the rest of the game counting pitches for his reliever.
Piratefan, I give up trying to understand your reasoning as there are many contradictions to what you say.
You said umps like to call strikes and move game along, fine, but then you say you won't give a legion or hs pitcher a strike on the outside corner if the catcher set up inside.
Further, you don't want to have to hear from anyone in the dugout or stands question that call when the catcher reached across his body - even though it's a strike it's a ball?
You said you had thick skin & no "rabbit ears"
yet you readily admit your calls are influenced by players, coaches, and fans possible reactions.
Watch a mlb game, pitchers miss catchers glove or his setup position frequently and still get the call if it's a strike. They also get the call regardless of whether the pitcher, coaches, or fans are on them as they always are. Those umps are at the upper levels not just because of good judgement on calls but they also have the stones & temperament to call the game as it should be.
What your doing makes it very difficult on pitchers & hitters, your zone is not consistent at all as you readily admit.
Pilsner has it right.
Smokey - agree with what you say regarding how pitchers should handle themselves in other thread.
That said, I'd love to be sitting by you and soxnole at a game PF is umping and he won't call a corner strike all day because the catcher set up on inside corner or pitcher glared in a few times or showed some displeasure at his obviously moving strike zone. LOL
Its that is the whole point.
Negative waste of time which will put many UMPS in a rare mood.
The rules are NO ARGUING ABOUT STRIKES AND BALLS. A little interaction with the UMP can be fun but don't turn him against the pithcher.
As a pitcher you will get lots of calls you don't like and to tee off every time would result in a pitcher out of control and a big loser.
UMPs love to do a game with a pitcher they get respect from. I remember my son pitching a game which was part of the selection process for the Ontario Youth Team. He was totally in control and they subed in a new 3rd baseman who made 7 errors in a row on routine grounders. His errors resulted in our losing the game. My son was composed and he never got upset nor show any signs of blaming the player. While I was walking off the field the 3 UMPs met up in front of me and praised him amoung themselves for his composure after pitching a dominant game and losing. I talked to my son and I said if he didn't get picked I would be in shock. He said no way I lost and then I told him what the UMPS had said. He was one of 32 kids picked for the tryout from all the players in Ontario. I don't know if the UMPS had anything to do with it but I am sure they said something. The selection was done by MLB scouts from the 4 day tournament. He was also a year under age (16).
The UMPs zone, the crowd and all the negatives should be shut out. Act like you are winning the game.
I definitly prefer pilsner's stike Zone but you have to figure out early what the UMP wants and you give it to them.

It is interesting how different people view umpires.

I never liked speaking to umpires during the game. They are paid to do a job - and they should just do it.

They arent paid to give me compliments (or insults) on the field - and I always felt that could be a distraction during a game.

I always preferred to talk to no one other than my teammates and coaches during football and baseball games.

I never went up to an umpire after a play and said "good call" or "bad call" and I think they should do likewise - leave the players alone, call the game and get their check.

If they want to chit chat - do it after the game.
Yes I agree. They were not talking to me. They didn't know who I was. I just happen to be behind them when they met up to walk to the parking lot.
When I go to a game I socialize withteam parents befor the game and when not videoing I sit with the opposition parents. We get teams from all over the US and Canada to our tournaments. I find that interesting. I usually don't tell them if my son is pitching. I just talk baseball. I don't react to my son's games anymore. I can't even sit with my wife. She gets too excited.
I also sit with UMPs a lot who I have known for years and Like most of them a lot. We discuss strike zones and all the issues with umpiring and have no problem with them. Some are fantastic with kids and feel they have a role in their development. I give them a lot of respect and my son does the same.
Actually pirate fan, I understand what your saying. However for me, I was never comfortable with having different zones for different levels.

The best advice I ever got was to try and establish one zone. One good consistent zone and I do my best to call it no matter what level I do. Now I dont do much youth ball so I dont see the wild fluctuation in pitching ablities....

I even resist changing my zone in blowouts...I only end up hurting my zone.......One zone, all the time has made me more consistent.

At the levels I call there is not a lot of fraternization between us and coaches and players....we umpire, they coach, they the end of the game, its game balls to the head coach and Im off to the dressing room (most times the parking lot).......

I am approachable, and conversational, but away from the field. i do not want any team to think I favor one team or another...
Last edited by piaa_ump
I do understand what you are saying to some extent. Just please be confident in "your zone" (since we all know the book zone does not exist) and be consistent with it. NEVER change what you would call because of a pitchers reaction on the mound. As a coach I will let into my pitcher if I see him react on the mound, that is my job. If I do not do my job and he continues to react, let the catcher know, or go talk to him, or send him to the bench if need be. But, do not change the zone, that is unprofessional and I would talk to you about it between innings. Always remember this, it is innappropriate for the pitcher to publicly act disgusted with a mistake call, but, you have to remember that you publically reacted by making that mistake call that may affect his game. Stay consistent and let the coaches do their job of handling the pitchers. Like I said before, if they don't, then say something to the coach.

It is decent of you to be pleasant. It should not help nor hurt if you dont.

I am there to do a job. At higher levels there is some interaction with the catchers, but behind the plate, I rarely interact with Pitchers. Interaction during the game is best left to the catcher and Head Coach. Bench Players, assistant coaches and players in the field should not be involved in discussions with with the UIC.

I try to remain approachable, so you should not feel uncomfortable asking me anything if need be. But I am responsible to be an unbiased arbiter of the game, so dont mistake my non communication for anything but maintaining that professional separation.

best of luck this season...
My single umpire complaint has always been the arrogant notion of personal strikes zones... i.e. "my zone", as if the rules allow umpires to personalize the strike zone according to individual taste. While this obviously happens all the time, it is also a disservice (to both teams) when pitchers or hitters receive a strike zone advantage.
I have no beef with the fact that 15% of ball/strike calls can go either way but, for example, when an ump clearly rewards a "command" pitcher who can consistently hit a spot thats a full fist off the plate..... he gives an advantage to one team and eliminates any possibility of fair play.
Last edited by HaverDad
My zone is not an arrogant notion. It is just what happens when I am behind the plate attempting to judge a 3 dimensional strike zone that changes based on the batters height.

If you can imagine an invisible floating column, 17 and a half inches wide that extends from a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and at the lower level is the hollow beneath the knee cap. The zone is determined by from each batters stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball....the strike zone changes for a 5'6" batter to a 6' batter......

All of this adds to each umpire having their own zone....even as we all try to adhere to the rule book definition.

It is just the reality of doing the job. I am known as an inside and low ball umpire. I know this from video tape of my cage work at umpire clinics. I am more apt to call a ball a strike inside and low than I am at the outside and high side of the zone. Its just my reality...maybe its because I am short that I see that lower ball as a strike. Dont know, not sure what I can do as a human to improve on that.

I try and keep as consistent a zone as possible to avoid problems, but it is what it is.

I hope your not encountering the "Eric Gregg" zone..., a fist off the plate is not what I would constitute as a gross miss......But if a command pitcher has hit the zone all day, do they get that strike?.......probably.....but not as arrogantly intentional as you might think...a good pitcher/catcher widens the zone with good mechanics......

I do my best to contain my zone inside/outside....but a baseball is some 3 inches wide......if you give the black as a strike, the ball could be almost off the plate and still called a strike.....

Hope this helps you see my view....Calling a good strike zone is where an umpire makes his reputation and it is something I work hard on.........
Last edited by piaa_ump
The reality of the situation, is it is "my strike zone". I am the human element that is calling balls and strikes that day.

I will admit that there are umps who will give you the image that they are arrogant when making reference to "their strike zone". But much of that has to be taken in context with the game situation.

If there is a pitch, that I think is a ball, and the coach/catcher think is a strike, or visa versa, I think the pitch is a strike and the coach/batter thinks it is a ball, a discussion regarding "my strike zone" could happen. Depending on how that conversation plays out will determine if the ump is arrogant about "his strike zone".

And remember, this is all in context with the "borderline pitch". Guess what. It is what I call it. It's "my strike zone"

One of the best complementss to an ump, is "He's been calling it there all day!" Whether you agree or disagree with the call, that is not up for discussion. Why? Because it is "my strike zone."
Last edited by Pirate Fan
The job of a pitcher and catcher is to figure out the UMPs strike zone and spot the ball in that strike zone. Not all UMPs are the same and may differ slightly on a given day. Why waste the energy arguing and calling the UMP out.
I have seen UMPs chased to their cars by irrate parents/coaches after a game.
A parent/coach should teach a pitcher to accept the call and get on with it. Part of the mental game.
I have seen umps take away the pitchers best pitch because of his strike zone but you have to deal with it. The UMP ain't going away.
Nice to hear an UMP mention 3 dimensional zone.
What I am talking about is umpires who ingnore the rule book description and create their own "personal" strike zone dimensions.
Its one thing to call it tight or loose, but tight or loose is within the width of the ball. Its another thing, and wrong, to call pitches 6+ inches off the plate as strikes, no matter how consistently you do it.
If this weren't a big problem there would be no Questec.
If you experience an umpire consistently calling pitches 6+ inches off the plate a strike .....then what you have is not an Umpire......he is a cheat....

I dont work with cheaters....

If I had a partner who was doing that, we would get to the middle of the first inning and we would have a "Come to Jesus" meeting.....or he would be doing the rest of the game alone....

If you experience this regularly, then the umpire is either beyond awful, cheating or sticking it in your teams ear....

Questec is a MLB tool. although I would welcome the opportunity to train with it, I doubt I will ever see it in college or HS umpiring.
Last edited by piaa_ump

You have some excellent posts in this thread. I commend your professionalism and would love for you to umpire any game I coach anytime, anywhere, at any level.

pirate fan:

It is not "my strike zone". It is not your strike zone. There is a clear understandable strike zone. If I were ever to coach a game with you as an umpire and I was to say to one of my hitters "He has been calling it there all day!" you really should not take that as a compliment. It is shorthand for "of course that was not a strike, this idiot does not know how to call a strike, but i have told you guys this for the last 3 innings and you still take that pitch. Hit the $#@ @*&% ball." Just thought you should know.
As this thread has developed it appears that everyone has forgotten the topic. "Borderline" pitches.

Therefore TW344 I would take it as a complement, because if your pitcher was hitting the same spot all day, and it "was borderline" you would want it to be called a strike, wouldn't you?

Just came back from an umpire clinic (run by minor league umps) this weekend, and we talked about "borderline" pitches. The common answer was "if you can get it, call it a strike".

That is why the "borderline" pitch is "my strike zone". Not the pitch 6 inches of the plate, not the pitch at the shins, not the pitch at the chin. If an ump is calling the pitch at the shins, then, TW344 your comment is on the money.

The borderline pitch is what makes the game. It is the tone of the game that is set by the umpire for both sides. If the pitch is on the outside corner in the "borderline area" and if I call it a strike, or I call it a ball, I have set "my strike zone" for the day.
Originally posted by TW344:
... shorthand for "of course that was not a strike, this idiot does not know how to call a strike, but i have told you guys this for the last 3 innings and you still take that pitch. Hit the $#@ @*&% ball." ...


Is there a coach alive who hasn't said that - minus the expletives in my case - to his hitters at some time or another?
Last edited by Texan
Do you acknowledge that there is a "borderline pitch"?

As all three, a former player, former coach and parent:

Absolutely! For me, a borderline pitch passes within the width of a man's fist of the outer boundaries of the rule book zone. This allows for understandable errors when visual tracking of a thrown ball as it passes through a 3-dimensional space at 80+ mph.

My ongoing complaint has always been with the arrogant, intentional distortion of the rulebook strike zone, no matter how consistently applied, especially the total disregard for a high strike and the additional 6+ inches of outside corner.
Last edited by HaverDad
Pirate fan, who shook your cage? I didn't say a single thing to you.

What TW described has been seen by youth coaches everywhere. There will always be a few umps such as he described. If you haven't seen it, you haven't been around enough.

You started this thread trying to get the answer you wanted, and you didn't get it. So be man enough to admit it. You are the one who still refuses to get it.

Have a great day.
Texan & HaverDad:

Great posts. However, it is obvious that some insist on doing it their way regardless of all evidence to the contrary.

Pirate Fan:

Does this sound familar. "when any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone." If it does, can we agree that the pitcher's job is to throw that pitch, the hitters job is to hit that pitch and the unpires job is to call that pitch a strike if it is not hit, fouled or swung at and missed?

Can we further agree that if any part of the ball does not pass through any part of the strike zone and it is not hit, fouled or swung at, that it should be called a ball?

Finally, can we further agree that home plate and its demensions defines the strike zone as to "in and out"? To put it another way, if a thrown pitch does not have some part of the baseball pass through some part of the three demensional plate, white and black, it must, to maintain the integrity of the strike zone, be called a ball if it is not hit, fouled or swung at and missed.

If you cannot agree with these statements, then there is nothing further for me to say. If, however, you do agree, IMHO a borderline pitch can be in and out and it can be up and down and that could be a very interesting discussion for another day. But if it is in the smallest measure more than one baseball off the plate, it is not a borderline pitch in and out, it is a ball. The ability to recognize and make that distinction as an umpire consistently and fairly is what we all should be striving to reach and teaching or practicing any other artifice that makes that call inaccurate is to be favoring the hitter over the pitcher or vice versa and has no place in this game.

And if everyody does that, then "that same pitch . . . will" not vary from ump to ump. Just my opinion of course.
"Does this sound familar. "when any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone." If it does, can we agree that the pitcher's job is to throw that pitch, the hitters job is to hit that pitch and the unpires job is to call that pitch a strike if it is not hit, fouled or swung at and missed?

Can we further agree that if any part of the ball does not pass through any part of the strike zone and it is not hit, fouled or swung at, that it should be called a ball?"

I agree 100%...totally.....


I believe what Pirate fan and I are saying that we all try to call the strike zone as described in the rule book. Going back on my training, I can tell you based on video proof, that I call the borderline pitch inside and low a strike, but the outside and up pitch a that is defining "my zone" over the strict rule book zone....

Its a condition of my height, my stance, my experience and probably a hundred other factors.......I keep working to refine my zone to fit into the rule book, but truth be told, I probably wont ever get it book rule perfect.....

"But if it is in the smallest measure more than one baseball off the plate, it is not a borderline pitch in and out, it is a ball. The ability to recognize and make that distinction as an umpire consistently and fairly is what we all should be striving to reach and teaching or practicing any other artifice that makes that call inaccurate is to be favoring the hitter over the pitcher or vice versa and has no place in this game."

I also agree 100%.........I hesitate to offer this statement since usually this is the childs way out, but I will offer that it isnt as easy as it seems.....But I will guarantee you that I will keep trying to get better.......(PA state clinic March 11, 2006)where I will get cage work in....

"And if everyody does that, then "that same pitch . . . will" not vary from ump to ump."

Despite all our efforts, I feel there will always be some variance.......but I will try to get better......if at any time I feel I am doing "good enough" and fail to work on refining my game......I will call it a career.......

hope this helps understanding of my point of view....
Last edited by piaa_ump
TW - A very good arguement and definiely a legal interpetation of the rule as it is written and you are 100% correct.

However, as Piaa_ump and I have tried to explain there are many outside factors that are envolved in detemining "if any or all of the baseball went thru any part of the strike zone."

Umpire's stance, head height, how the catcher received the ball etc. are external factors that go into calling the pitch, near the outer most edge of the stike zone. As piaa_ump has said this is the pitch that any good umpire will strive to call correctly. This is the pitch you have to call inorder to move up in an umpire organization and into hihger level ball.

Let me give you an analogy. You are driving 57 mph in a 55 mph zone. Technically and legally you are speeding. If following the tone of this thread one should get a speeding ticket. Yet in reality, you probably won't get a ticket. (Unless your in TX and from VA, a little comic relief).
The reason you will not get a ticket is because there are to many variables that could effect the radar gun with such a small differential. The calibration of the radar gun or the spedometer, outside interference with the radar beam which could give a false reading, etc. Therefore, there is no conclusive evidence that someone was actually going "over" the speed limit.

With that said, I hope all see this as the reality of the situation when the the ump is calling balls and strikes, exspecially on the pitch the is at the outer most portion of the strike zone and determining if any or all of the ball went thru the zone (i.e. borderline pitch).

If not, so be it.

Great post. excellent point. The important thing that comes through your post is you are trying to improve every season, every game, etc. I applaud your efforts. I am almost sixty years old and I still umpire Little League and Senior League games for my local league.

Used to umpire high school and some college but honestly feel I don't have the ability anymore to follow the 80+ fastball and the edge of the plate off speed pitch as accuratly as the kids deserve. I am not knocking umpires that try and make honest mistakes. I don't believe I ever called a "perfect game" behind the plate where I did not miss a single pitch.

But I have been to umpire clinics too. I have talked to umpires who say things like "I call that outside pitch two baseballs off the plate. I do that because a) a good hitter should be able to hit that pitch and the pitcher needs all the help he can get" or b) "I will not call that inside pitch unless the whole baseball is over the plate and that makes things even." When I say, "But that is not the strike zone," They look at me and say "But it is my strike zone," as if that ends the discussion.

Yes it is easier said then done, yes sometimes you are out of position and don't see the pitch as it crosses the plate [or does not] from the angle you are at that fraction of a second. But we have to try. The kids deserve that. And you are trying and you are to be commended. As I said at the beginning of this post, you can umpire my game anytime, anywhere against anybody. I can't think of a higher compliment I can pay you.

pirate fan:

Maybe we are not as far apart as I originally thought. In any event, I believe most experienced coaches out there know when they have a good umpire and when they don't. If I go to play a team and I am faced with a home plate umpire that "consistently" calls the outside pitch 6 inches off the plate a strike for my opponents junk ball pitcher but will not call any pitch above the belly washboard a strike for my 85 mph guy, I blame the coach as much as the umpire and I usually tell him {the coach, not the umpire} so after the game. I have even gone so far on at least two ocassions to say, "Next time we come here, that guy better not be behind the plate or we will simply go back home." So far. I have never had to walk off the field before a game. Somehow, they manage to find a pretty good umpire the next game. Obviously that is in a league and not a tournament situation.

As a coach and a former umpire, I have too much respect for the game to call an umpire out. You tolerate it and you try to make it a learning experience for the kids and the parents. You make sure that the umpires you hire are honest and competent and call a fair game. If someone you have hired is not that, you should not hire him again. It is that simple.

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