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I would like to know from badged umpires who call HS and college games why the ball above the waist and below the letters is not a strike.  Its so common not to be a strike that on the rare occasion something around belly button is called and the hitters and coaches start complaining.  Is this mandated? What is the real strikezone you are directed to call?   Its to the point now pitchers (other than the outside strike which is generous) are asked to put the ball in most hitter's wheel-house to get a strike called.  just want an honest answer.  

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Love the question @HSDad22.  Can't wait for you to get an answer....   

I suspect you won't get a specific answer to "the real strikezone you are directed to call" because it is evolving.   My oldest son and I were talking about this during super regionals.  As a follow up, I started reading a dozen or so articles on the the topic.  In my opinion, there is a difference between "in-theory" and "execution", and I don't know why.  The current NCAA strike zone policy is noted below.   The hollow beneath the knee cap is pretty straight forward.   What is a little murky to me is the midpoint definition.   That needs to be more clearly defined.

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According to NCAA rules (today), the strike zone "starts from the bottom of the kneecaps to the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants." The strike zone depends on the batter's stance while preparing for a swing at a pitched ball.

NCAA 2-75 Strike Zone - Baseball Rules Academy

@fenwaysouth posted:

Love the question @HSDad22.  Can't wait for you to get an answer....   

I suspect you won't get a specific answer to "the real strikezone you are directed to call" because it is evolving.   My oldest son and I were talking about this during super regionals.  As a follow up, I started reading a dozen or so articles on the the topic.  In my opinion, there is a difference between "in-theory" and "execution", and I don't know why.  The current NCAA strike zone policy is noted below.   The hollow beneath the knee cap is pretty straight forward.   What is a little murky to me is the midpoint definition.   That needs to be more clearly defined.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

According to NCAA rules (today), the strike zone "starts from the bottom of the kneecaps to the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants." The strike zone depends on the batter's stance while preparing for a swing at a pitched ball.

NCAA 2-75 Strike Zone - Baseball Rules Academy

Love the graphic and this question has been bugging me for years.  It's so consistent, that there has to be a mandated "unwritten" umpire rule.  This is the strikezone that I see called consistently (barring occasional error).

See below

The inside corner is ignored, the outside corner gets 1-3 balls beyond the plate, above the belt is a ball, and it's often just above the knee, not  the hollow beneath.   We won't mention breaking balls that cut through the zone but end up outside it.



As a hitter, I'd rather have the high strike called than the outside off the plate strike,  Unless I sell out for the outside  strike I can't really do much with it.

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Statistically the called zone is wider and shorter than the rulebook zone.

For the spectators that looks bad because wide calls can look worse but Statistically this helps the hitters, low and high creates more swing and miss than in and out.



I looked it up on statcast and in an out pitches outside the zone create about 30% whiffs on swings and low and high about 60%. This could be an issue with robo umps, you don't get that occasional in the other batters box wide call but you get a lot of calls just at the bottom and top that get called.

HS dad

during our Area Code games, I installed a special AC strike zone.
Since the games were on 2 hour time limit, the professional umpires cooperated as all 5 daily games were played one field to benefit the players, scouts, coaches and parents.

With 300 radar guns aimed at each pitcher, the hitter knows in advance what the next pitch will be.

Bob

We were asked to be more proactive in "getting" the "higher strike" this year - it's hard to undo years of training though. The key is communication with the C on your top. As a dad of P's I know they were taught to keep it down, so when you see someone consistently up, your job to call fairly/evenly is harder.  Especially at some HS games where there are 6'4"+ and 5'10"- batters next to each other in the lineup. I've generally thought the higher strike equates to less control - really would be hard to call that ball "just off" the plate all the way up, so now your zone could feel like a lopsided trapezoid.  Just remember the plane on which you seeing the ball - outside of submariners it's a downward plane, with movement - if you're calling that one at the top of the zone consistently you're likely to be easily fooled by a ball over the zone.

In the long run, it's being consistent... Does anyone care that the 3-0 pitch just above the belly button is called a strike?  Probably not - there's almost an expectation that even when a pitcher is struggling that you call a strike on a 3-0 pitch within the zip code - that helps game flow... Does everyone get pissed when the same pitch at 3-2 is called a strike? OK, not everyone, but for consistency you should call that a strike unless of course your consistency is keep the ball down. The challenge is to actually try it yourself - they used the PU cam in CWS games - did you watch that perspective? Did you have the same call as the guy behind the plate?  Would you put yourself back there to try? If not, then live with what you got - batters will adjust (and complain).

@JohnF posted:

We were asked to be more proactive in "getting" the "higher strike" this year - it's hard to undo years of training though. The key is communication with the C on your top. As a dad of P's I know they were taught to keep it down, so when you see someone consistently up, your job to call fairly/evenly is harder.  Especially at some HS games where there are 6'4"+ and 5'10"-...

John, Appreciate the reply and some insight.    I have two sons,  a college pitcher and a high school catcher, so the stikezone is of ultimate importance to me and them.

I often wonder with the overall emphasis on offense in MLB (which everything seems to trickle down from) and the swing up concept, leaving gaping holes in the upper part of the zone, if there will be a strong effort to call the high strike and risk offense.  So,,,I am glad to hear you say the high strike has been emphasized.  (SERIOUSLY JUST GIVE ME TO THE BELLY BUTTON), I don't need letters or "Mid spot between top of shoulder and belt")

I still believe, as long as you haven't sold out to launch angle (not right term for describing the swing), that calling the strike over the plate, whether up or down, is fairer to both pitcher and hitter.  Off the plate is just too advantageous to the pitcher over the hitter.  And to unreliable a call for an umpire who sets up on the inside shoulder of the catcher, like any player, to make the play your eyes need to be behind the ball.  some are better at judging that than others, I just don't know why they want to set up so off center, maybe to look around the catcher head?

The one pitch I've only seen one ump this past year in D3 call right, is that hard slider or curve that crosses the outer third of the plate and ends up in the catcher glove 12 inches outside.  It's a strike, but rarely is it called.  And when it is, boy does the complaining start.  Same goes for the backfoot slider.

PS. the comment by Dominik on the swing and miss rate, I'm not so sure on that without looking what that metric really is,  but before swinging up, most hitters will tell you the hardest pitch to hit is the low outside pitch, and honestly a fastball at just above belt should not be hard to hit.  your eyes stay level, your bat does also,  so timing does not have to be perfect.  Not saying it's wrong, I just need to look at it to grasp why.

Part of it might be change in approach...In HS and college guys are so on top of the plate because they basically have to cover out to the other batters box line. So that leaves them exposed to up and in.  MLB guys are more off the plate, but have better concept of direction in their swing and can cover the outside pretty well as they've gotten used to it being out there.  Also many young hitters chasing exit velo, pull with bottom hand and that does generate faster swings, but the bat leaves the zone early, ie running out of barrel, which exposes them to the outer third to off the plate.

I don't care what bat angle things the batters are being taught... I'm not a fan - I like line drive, look to hit gaps, go the other way, go with the pitch...

Setting up in the slot between catcher and batter where your head is above the catcher's head is desired / taught. Having your line of sight be the top of the strike zone is key.  Think top left or right depending on batter and keep your head there following the ball with your eyes. Hard not to "move" if the ball comes right at you... or when your catcher doesn't at least block well... even worse is batter swinging on a high inside pitch because when/if it's fouled off it's going to hit one of us.  Of course if you "called that" strike you're a jerk or don't know what you're doing.

As for that slider that hits the front or outer 1/3 of the 3d plate and is caught 12" outside - yeah, really hard one. A good catcher can help though.  If the C falls over trying to get that you look really bad calling it a strike regardless of whether it was one.  Perception is reality.  In the long run it's not where you catch it - it's where it/if it crosses, but damn if you cannot catch the crotch shot down the middle and I call that a strike, I'm getting grief.  Similarly if you catch one 12" off and drag your glove back into the zone, everyone can see that - don't be surprised when I have to ball something like that. Hard enough to call moving pitches if your catcher doesn't help you with moving all over the place.  Work with the umpire and you'll be surprised what happens.  Telling your coach that the ball that was off the plate was a strike and you don't what this guy behind you is missing is probably not your best move. Telling your coach - yeah that was out or in because that's what info you were given is going to go a long way to getting that same pitch / spot later.  Prove to me you can hit that more than just once by sheer luck - command and control is huge. As I've said before - it's an imperfect system... If/When RoboUmp is implemented everywhere - there will be more complaints especially on the slider/curve that nicks a corner and ends up not being caught.  Eephus pitch - here we come...

@Consultant posted:

HS dad

during our Area Code games, I installed a special AC strike zone.
Since the games were on 2 hour time limit, the professional umpires cooperated as all 5 daily games were played one field to benefit the players, scouts, coaches and parents.

With 300 radar guns aimed at each pitcher, the hitter knows in advance what the next pitch will be.

Bob

I guess as long as all coaches were made aware.  I know my youngest son always asks the umpire while greeting them to let him know what the strike zone he prefers to call is and that he may ask once in a while where a pitch was, unless the ump has any issues with it.  He then tells them if he thinks it's there, he'll hold it for a second for them to get a look.  He also tells them he will keep strikes, strikes, and not drag balls into the strike zone.  This seems to go better for him in getting calls for his pitchers than "framing" every single pitch into the zone.

He tells me he never really felt he stole any pitches for his pitcher by "framing", that the ump was either going to call it a strike or not already.  He says sometimes he has to chuckle when he basically reaches into the other batters box (It was funny to watch him demonstrate that while telling me), catches the ball and tosses it back to the pitcher right away and then hears,  STRIKE!

Pictures don't tell the whole story...

Left picture only gives where (4) crossed, but could that have been a CB that broke late and was letter high before break?  IOW, it could have looked like (1).

Right picture has (1) being a called strike and leads to other pitches in that area. Coming inside with (4) and not getting it is a shame especially since (3) was expected out of zone on 0-2 count. Was the batter crowding the plate since he's had pitches on outer third... was the catcher set up way inside causing a partial block of view. Was the catcher set up outside and the pitch came inside?  Was that pitch caught by the catcher?  I assume R on L here considering your nick, but L on L w/ (4) could be a tough call with batter crowding plate and catcher set up inside. That low inside is one of those mental pitches you have to get and if you've been calling 1-2 balls off the plate outside, then it's even harder mentally at times to grab [too far] inside.

Pitcher is a righty.  Thank you for writing back; I guess I wasn't thinking about how the ball broke.  We watch on a live stream with only one camera angle, so we rely on Gameday for a lot of information about where the pitch lands.  Your response is very helpful.  Thank you for taking the time to explain how that picture might not represent the pitch correctly.  I appreciate it!

Thank you all and especially JohnF for your insight into my questions.  I really do appreciate the work umps do.  There are good ones and not so good ones, but I do feel they are all giving it their best.  I empathize with having to work two man crews, thats not easy.  I respect effort and humility and as long as those things are present I could never bad mouth an umpire.  I will admit I have come down hard on some umpires in my head, maybe said a word or two out loud, I'm human, but never got personal.   but being able to ask questions and discuss topics like this certainly help educate me so I get a better insight into the why.

thanks again

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