Was it a strike, or wasn't it?

September, 18, 2009
9/18/09
2:24
PM ET
Another bit of news from the (meaningless) game that keeps on giving:
    Umpire Rick Reed acknowledged Thursday that his ball-four call on a ninth-inning pitch by Angels closer Brian Fuentes to Nick Green on Wednesday night "very well could have been a strike." He also admonished the Angels for their actions after the team's 9-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

    With two out and Green at a full count, a strike call would have given the Angels the game. Instead, the walk forced in the tying run.

    Reed said that on that final pitch to Green, Mike Napoli's actions led him to call it a ball after the Angels catcher tried to frame the knee-high pitch. Reed said he also had an earlier call on his mind -- a call he confesses he might have missed.

    "I saw the strike zone," Reed said of the pitch to Green, referring to the telestrator box used on television replays. "That said it was a strike -- it was a pitch I thought was borderline. The catcher did a nice job of bringing it up, and that was a telling blow. If a catcher moves his glove, it's to improve the pitch.

    "I called a [strike] earlier in the game that I thought was low, and I said, 'I'm not going to let that happen again.' I wish they were all waist-high. They'd be a lot easier to judge."

I wish the umpires would judge the pitches before the catchers have a chance to bring them up or knock them down or whatever other (theoretically) irrelevant things they might do.

As I learned from this truly wonderful book -- those on-screen representations of the strike zone are mere approximations. Close approximations, usually. But approximations none the less. Someday we'll have three-dimensional zones to look at on TV, and those will be closer than what we've got now. But even those will be subject to the vagaries of each hitter's "natural stance" (whatever that is).

If something on TV says a pitch clips the bottom of the strike zone and Rick Reed says it doesn't, well, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. But throwing the catcher into the equation, while refreshingly honest, doesn't do much for his credibility as an umpire.

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