Genius Way to Error Proof the Strike Zone

Posted on September 13, 2013 | in Baseball, Error-Proofing, Lean Tools, Sports, Visual Management | by
Denver Bears 1952 strike zone uniform

Is it really genius if a hitter helps an umpire out by visually displaying his/her strike zone?

One of the biggest inconsistencies in all of sports is the apparently-stated-but-not-really-followed-or-enforced standardized strike zone. In reality, baseball strike zones are extremely subjective from one home plate umpire to another and from hitter to hitter (they are all of different heights and use different batting stances).

If only there was a way to better error-proof strike zones for consistency!

Well thanks to Rob Neyer at BaseballNation we get this nugget of a jersey, worn by the 1952 Denver Bears of the Western League minor league baseball league, along with the reasoning behind the design:

Sometimes baseball experiments take root (as in the DH), and sometimes they fail to gain traction. In the latter category was Denver’s “strike zone” uniform, which made its debut against Omaha in August, 1952. Now, why the Denver management thought making it easier to call strikes against its players was a good thing we don’t know. Or perhaps they were responding to the quality of umpiring in the Western League by being helpful.

Clever, but yes…why would hitters want to make it easier for umpires to call strikes against them? I suppose it could also justify to an umpire that a high pitch was actually a ball. There’s probably no Pitch F/X data available for the 1952 Western League.

Maybe they were onto something – the 1952 Denver Bears won the Western League championship that season.

This is a nifty example of using visual indicators to better error-proof subjective measures. It’s not fully error-proofed, but it at least provides additional information to an umpire so that the odds of making an accurate call are increased.

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6 Responses to “Genius Way to Error Proof the Strike Zone”

  1. Mark Graban says:

    I wonder how much “white ball against white jersey” would have an effect other than “white ball against dark jersey”?

    Did they pants have a similar lower strike zone line? 🙂

    • Chad Walters says:

      The only observation I would make regarding your first point is that the white/dark junction point on the jersey at least provides a boundary for the umpire to quickly observe with his peripheral vision. I think it could be effective unless hitters wore oversize jerseys to drop the junction point of colors.

      Also, while I wasn’t around back in 1952 to confirm (try as I might), hitters generally wore high-hemmed pants at the knees and darker stirrups on the lower legs. If the strike zone was then defined as mid-chest to knee, then that helps to create the white/color junction point for the umpire. Just a guess.

  2. Richard Grime says:

    I would like to hear from the umpires as the the helpfullness of this indicator wear.

    • Chad Walters says:

      Well the free market being what it is, technology (and technological ideas) that don’t provide better usefulness or quality (or are eventually exceeded by something better) eventually go away. Seeing how no teams use this concept anymore, I’m guessing the umpires wouldn’t have glowing reviews.

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