Knowing the Strike Zone

This Comment was copied from the NCAA Baseball Umpire website.  I believe it has merit for any baseball or softball sport where Balls and Strikes are important.

Knowing the Strike Zone

From Tony Gisondi

We have all been part of discussions about the strike zone: our own calling of the strike zone, our partner’s interpretation of the strike zone, a coach’s perception of the strike zone and even the professional’s interpretation of the strike zone.  The NCAA rulebook says that for a strike “the plate umpire should determine if the pitch is a strike in relationship to the batter’s normal position as the pitch crosses home plate. Any part of the ball passing over any part of the plate, from the bottom of the kneecaps to the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, is a strike. The pitch should be judged to be a strike or a ball as it crosses home plate, not where it is caught by the catcher” (Rule 7-Section 4-b AR-1).

It is my opinion, and the opinion of most, that being forceful in calling strikes has a positive effect on the quality of the game.  Experts in communication tell us the underlying message of positive assertive behavior is to gain control over occurrences.  So if we think that a pitcher’s objective is to throw strikes and a batter’s objective is to swing at strikes it is in the best interest of the game for us to accommodate these objectives by being assertive and making sure any pitch where any part of the ball passes through the defined strike zone is called a strike. Think of every pitch as a joint effort between the pitcher, catcher, batter and umpire to add a component to make that baseball game better. Umpires have sometimes been known for not being assertive for fear of displeasing others and of not being liked.  However, you may avoid some immediate unpleasantness by not being assertive, but could jeopardize other’s perception of you as an umpire if you refuse to be assertive in a helpful method.

I had a talk on this subject with person who has been a coach at high levels.  This person shared with me some statistics.  In a game each team takes a minimum of 20 pitches that are called balls. This is where there is no attempted swing by a batter.  If only 5 more of the pitches are called strikes (because they are) then it would have an positive effect on the game by putting batters in a swing mode and pitchers in a strike throwing mode. If that is multiplied by the number of games we do each season it is a significant amount of strikes that will be called. In his opinion, the most important pitch to a batter is the 1-1 pitch.  If the count goes to 1-2 on the batter, the batters on-base percentage is .220.  If the pitch count to the batter is 2-1, the on-base percentage increases to .480.  It is his opinion, which is an opinion shared by me, that many of these pitches are where a part of the ball passes through the defined strike zone at the bottom of the knee caps.

Learn to be assertive in the strike zone in a positive way.  Take the time to self-evaluate and think about having systems that allow you to assert yourself. Last year I wrote about body language.  It is very important here also.  You won’t learn how to become a more assertive person just by reading this or any article. You need to apply it in real situations. 

Remember, when assertiveness is positive and for the common good of NCAA baseball, it will have a good effect.  To be assertive means that you affirm your convictions and you know the pitches you are calling strikes are strikes.  The assertive approach will win out with the confidence it shows.

Tony Gisondi is Division I Regional Advisor, Northeast, covering the America East, Atlantic 10, Big East, Ivy, MAAC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, and Patriot conferences.

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