Striking a Balance

The Sports Economist has an interesting post that suggests the calling of balls and strikes in baseball resembles a probability density function in that "the probability that a pitch will be called a strike depends on where it is." In other words, "how pitches in the middle of the strike zone are almost certain to be called strikes, how pitches near edge of the strike zone are much less likely to be called strikes, and how pitches outside the strike zone still have some probability of being called strikes."

This supported an earlier argument on the same blog that baseball ought to become more like tennis in its usage of sophisticated electronics systems to help make strike zone judgment calls.

Obviously, the question becomes "Why?". Why is it so crucial to eliminate that margin of error in the human umpire? The easy answer is that modern sport has philosophical pressures of rationally-measured Truth. And with the billions of dollars at stake in pro sport, the pressures of Truth become magnified to an even greater degree.

TSE reader Robert Schwartz has an interesting take on why these electronic systems will never be implemented, which is a twist on my ludic luddite argument:

The reason that Baseball won't get rid of umpires is that they are part of the game. Baseball tells stories about umpires past and present. The Game would be impovrished [sic] if the umps were replaced by machines.

You will note that there has been little agitation for instant replay in baseball unlike football. But football is specticale [sic] and it does not depend on story and memory. Baseball exists outside of secular time and means nothing without its past and its stories.

Related: QuesTec


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