Robotic umpire, extinction of the human element in baseball.

Sports are evolving at a rapid rate. Usually evolution is an adaption for the better. To help the individual or species survive longer. Is that what sports needs? Baseball specifically!

Over the past decade we have seen more changes in baseball than probably were seen in the past century. Protecting players, speeding up the game, shifts, a sliding lane at home, instant replay, more analytics than you can imagine and now the robotic umpire. Some of these changes will bring the “on the fence” fans to the good side but is baseball sacrificing their die hard old school crowd? Are they trying to please everyone instead of letting the boys be boys and just play? Is the robotic strike zone really an answer to a problem? The human element has been apart of this game since the first game umpired in 1876. The game involving Boston and Philadelphia was umpired by William McLean. He was the first professional umpire. Since then umpires have been making bad calls and inserting them selves where they shouldn’t be. When a call goes our way we turn our head and say well he is human. On the other hand when a big call goes against us we seem to think that getting rid of them all together would make the game better. Would it though? Would getting rid of human error behind the plate make this game better? I Have a feeling there is going to be a split verdict on this one. Do we acquit them and let baseball be baseball or do we convict them and sentence the home plate umpire to death?

First let me throw a stat at you. What would a baseball conversation be without stats? Boston University actually took the time to see how accurate home plate umpires are with their ball and strike calls. Focusing on the most recent statistics in 2018 umpires missed about 34,300 calls behind the plate. This seems like a large number when we are talking about money or if some of you Fitbit fans are trying to set a personal step goal in a day. This isn’t a ridiculous number when you consider how many pitches are thrown in an mlb season. It’s actually a 9.21% of total pitches called. Also you have to take in consideration the calls an inch off the plate, a slider that “clipped the zone” or those calls on 3-0 and two strike bias. Through my career these calls would probably account for most of umpire mistakes. Yes they are paid to get it right but they are human!! Stand back there for 3-4 hours and be perfect on every single call. If a hitter takes that perfectly placed pitch on a corner with two strikes and you have been wanting to show off that strike three call you been practicing in the mirror, you might just give a little off the plate.

Personally, it would be tragic to see a robotic strike zone. Apart of me understands the necessity and can agree with some of the arguments but IT’S NOT BASEBALL! Let me bring an argument to light that many may have not thought of. All baseball records strike outs, walks, home runs and everything that happens in baseball is based on the count which involves the human element. As a hitter if I’m ahead I can be a little more aggressive and if I’m behind I’m going to be a little more focused on contact. As a pitcher my whole game plan changes with each pitch depending on the call, who is on deck and situation. Where am I going with this? Every record would need a asterisk next to it saying (before the robotic strike zone). Do we go back and take strikeouts away that should have never been? A robotic umpire improves the balls and strike calls of today but does it not tarnish the game that has been played for the past 143 years?

Please take the time to weigh in and let me know your thoughts on the robotic umpiring. It is already being used in lower level baseball such as independent leagues. They say things went over without a hiccup but is it still baseball?

Take a peak at Boston University analytics if you want to dive into the stats a little more.

https://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/mlb-umpires-strike-zone-accuracy

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Angels on the mound in L.A.

In my first post I talk about how beautiful this game is. The same night we have the Los Angeles Angels honoring Tyler Skaggs, a left handed pitcher who suddenly died in Southlake, Texas on July 1, 2019.

How is this beautiful? It’s not the loss of a teammate, a brother, a son and a husband that is beautiful. It’s Baseball that gives thousands of fans, family and teammates the opportunity to honor Skaggs. The result of this opportunity is what makes the game beautiful. If you haven’t seen it already through social media platforms or any other outlets, and even if you have, follow along to appreciate a magical/spiritual event that took place last night.

The Angels have just come off the all star break where Mike Trout and Tommy LaStella wore Tyler Skaggs no. 45 to honor their late teammate. Mike Trout for the first time in 7 years went hitless in the game. Not that this is a positive note when you’re trying to honor a friend but leave it to Trout to make his performance honorable. When asked about his hitless night Trout responded with “It was special, Obviously, felt him out there with me. If there’s any all-star game for me to go 0-for this is it cuz Tyler’s a pitcher. He would wanna go out there and throw some scoreless, hitless innings.” Not only is this response a great tribute to his friend/teammate but little did Trout know how many scoreless, hitless innings Skaggs was about to throw! Back to last night. The night that every pitcher and position player wore the number 45 and Skaggs across the back of their jersey. The night that his mom came out to throw the first pitch off a mound where her son had thrown many. Not only did she throw the first pitch but a strike! A woman who is a high school softball coach but also a mother who lost a son, with her other son (wearing Tyler’s high school jersey), Skaggs’ stepdad and her daughter-in-law by her side. Full of emotion in front of thousands of people, she threw a strike. If this alone isn’t goosebump worthy the rest of the night definitely was.

The Angels take the field. A team full of men playing a kids game, who surely felt the absence of a personality they had become accustom to hearing and seeing. The idea of being able to truly focus on the game and perform at their highest level didn’t seem attainable, from the outside looking in. They took no time in showing that not only were they going to play at a high level but possibly have one of the most memorable games of the year. Taylor Cole comes out along with the rest of the team wearing Skaggs’ jersey. He has an uneventful first inning as the Mariners go three up, three down. Surely just a good start to a game, nothing crazy, just glad that it went smoothly. Then the bottom of the first is when things get interesting. Trout comes up and quickly gives the Angels a lead with a home run. Not just any home run but a 454 foot home run. Now yes the projected distance can’t exactly be measured but the fact that it started with a 4 and a 5 (45 being Skaggs number) brought a grin to many faces. Maybe starting to get people to believe that Skaggs was there with them and not just a name on the back of their jerseys. The inning ends with 7 runs scored by the Angels. Surely being a nice cushion to enjoy the game and feel comfortable with their lead. Cole goes back out for the second and throws another hitless inning. Nothing too exciting 6 up 6 down. A good way to start a game and always nice to throw up a 0 after you score. With no thoughts that something special was going to ensue, Angels score again in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Making it 9-0 after two full innings.

The top of the third comes with a pitching change. Manager Brad Ausmus had planned to only go with Cole for two. Felix Peña comes in and the rest is history. The innings come and go with the Angels scoring another run. The hitless innings on the defensive side seem a little more magical each time the team steps off the field. In the 6th a ball is hit between the third basemen and the shortstop. Off the bat it looked like maybe the magic was over and it was a good run at a no hitter. No hitters aren’t just an everyday thing but who wouldn’t want it to continue on this night. The ball bounces through the grass and then Angel’s third basemen might of grown wings as he dove to stop the ball from getting to the outfield. He stands up and fires the ball to first in time to get the runner. After a play like that on a night like this, you begin to feel that maybe it’s meant to be! If you have the MLB app many know that when a no hitter last 6 innings a little update shoots across the screen of your phone. It has happened multiple times and many times it doesn’t end with history but a late base hit followed with an ovation for the pitcher’s efforts. This night seemed like one of those special nights though. One of the nights that proves how beautiful the game of baseball truly is. One of the nights where you feel it’s meant to be because something more than a baseball game was being played but a human who had been apart of so many lives was being honored.

Let’s take a step back to 2016 late in the season when a kid by the name of Jose Fernandez dies in a boating accident. Remember the coverage like it was yesterday. In disbelief that such a talented young athlete was taken from this game. They honored him as well. As many sports fans remember something special happened on that day. Dee Gordon wearing Fernandez’s jersey lead off the game with a home run. Many people hit home runs but this was his first home run of the season. With just a few games left. In his own words Gordon would say that he had a little help that night. Even adding a little comedic relief by saying he had a hard time hitting home runs in batting practice. Many who remember that moment would tell you that something special happened when that ball left Gordon’s bat. Maybe just a coincidence but to the real baseball fan there are no coincidences. I would like to think that was proven last night.

This game is a game of numbers, stats and records. The numbers kept coming out to be zero in the Mariners hit Column after the 7th and then the 8th. They were three outs away from finishing something that had only happened 10 times before in franchise history. A franchise that has been around since 1961. Could this really happen for the 11th time on this night? The night that everyone is wearing his jersey. The night that his brother stepped out with his mom wearing his high school NUMBER 11! The night that Trout happened to hit a home run that went 454 feet. A night that the Angels started the game with 7 runs and were about to finish with 13 runs and hits. This happened to be the numbers for HIS BIRTHDAY 7/13! This is a game of numbers and for them to all line up the way they were, you can’t help but feel this is meant to be! That’s also the beautiful thing about baseball. The Angels couldn’t just run out a clock to make sure that their buddy was honored with a no hitter and all the stats that point to a special Angel on their shoulders last night. No they had to go out and play defense one last time. The pitcher had to put the ball over the plate and let the good Lord take a liking.

Peña walks out to the mound. He warms up for what must have been one of the most emotional, exciting and gut wrenching innings for everyone in the stadium. Fingers crossed and blue faces waiting to exhale with each out made. 2 come to the plate and 2 go down without much of a struggle. Surely this was it. Surely this game would end how everyone was praying for it to end. Peña throws a fastball up and in to Mallex Smith, he hits a hard ground ball towards the middle of the infield. Second baseman Luis Rengifo at the young age of 22 knocks the ball down with his chest, picks the ball up and off balance throws a strike to first just like when Skaggs mother threw a strike to the plate this strike had to be just as emotional. It ended a night that many in the baseball world will not forget. Not just because it was a no hitter but it was SKAGGS’ no hitter. Every Angel that night wore his jersey, but myself along with many would like to believe that their was a special Angel there that night. Not a physical player but an Angel that was with all of his teammates, his brother, his mom and his wife. An Angel that had a little hand in the result of last night. An Angel by the name of Tyler Skaggs.

Sure if you want to be that guy to say ohhh it’s all just a coincidence, I’m sure there will be people to agree with you. The baseball fans will know better. The people who believe in the love of the people who watch over us everyday, from a higher place, will know better. Look at the numbers and comment below on how this beautiful game had this many coincidences. Tyler Skaggs born on July 13, 1991. 28 years from today. Everybody has heard of an early birthday present and last night couldn’t have been a better sight to see on the night before his birthday. Trout hit a home run 454 feet (the numbers of Skaggs’ jersey). They scored 7 runs in the first and ended with 13 runs/hits (the numbers of his birthdate). They threw the 11th no hitter in franchise history (the number of Skaggs’ high school jersey). The last combine no hitter thrown in California was 7/13/1991 (the day Tyler was born). All of this on the night his mother threw the first pitch right down the middle. All of this on the night they all wore his jersey!

You’re allowed to believe what you want about this game but if this doesn’t give you goosebumps or the feeling that something bigger was at work last night then I don’t know what will. There was no way to run out the clock when all the stars aligned or to manipulate the ball to make sure that the runs and hits for the Angels turned out just right. The wind and the natural elements couldn’t of been controlled to make sure that everything went as planned. They played on a patch of grass and a patch of dirt for 9 innings surrounded by thousands of people who were there to appreciate a kid that brought them wins and memories that won’t be forgotten any time soon. By the grace of God, they got a little something extra which was the opportunity to see proof that Tyler Skaggs is and will always be an Angel.

Please comment on a memory you may have of something similar happening through your baseball career. Love to hear the stories. Spread the love for the game of baseball!

Picture credit of barstool sports

The Plan

Baseball. A patch of grass and a patch of dirt. The place that 90 feet could be the difference in winning and losing. The game of baseball is a beautiful one. Played strategically by a team with individual jobs. I have been playing this game since I was 4 years old. I’m 28 now and just got back from California, where I played, more than likely, the last bit of professional baseball I will ever play. This game takes a hold of you! It does not let go! The leather, the laces, the pine tar, the freshly cut grass, the sound of a heater hitting the mitt and the therapeutic sound of a wooden bat hitting the ball just right. The plan for this blog is to change the perception and teach the game that many think is BORING, TOO SLOW, and TOO LONG. Be prepared to be filled with more knowledge of this game than ever before. Hope you will stick with me on this journey. Ask questions, make comments and become a student.