The frustration of inconsistent strike zones came to a head Sunday afternoon as one of the leaders on the Pittsburgh Pirates took to social media to publicly call for an automated ball-strike system.
After the team’s 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes posted on his X account an interaction with home plate umpire Bill Miller, detailing an egregious strike two call and comments made shortly after:
Some umpires really don’t care. 3-1 call not even close. I hold him accountable after the game walking off the field and his response is “ ♂️ I gave you a chance to hit a homerun” that tells me you don’t care at all. No accountability. Bring the ABS please @MLB pic.twitter.com/sgncakv8v8— KeBryan Hayes (@KeBryanHayes) September 10, 2023
As shown on the screenshot, the called second strike was miles away from the strike zone, yet Miller seemed to think it was in Hayes’ wheelhouse. If it were correctly called, Hayes would’ve taken first on a walk.
Then, Miller allegedly tried putting the young third baseman in his place by saying quote, “I gave you a chance to hit a home run.”
Let’s dive even deeper into the call and at-bat.
Take a look at Miller’s positioning behind the plate. He’s set up on the inside part of the right-handed batter’s box, almost in line with the inner chalk. The ability to make an accurate call on anything on the outer edge is next to impossible.
Factoring in Travis D’Arnaud’s framing ability, it’s not surprising that he blew the call.
Miller also missed several “balls” on Sunday, according to his umpire scorecard, most of which were on the outside part of the plate:
Hayes’ frustration is completely justified in this case, especially if Miller’s comments are true. Umpires having complete control over the outcome of an at-bat and being able to make smart remarks to defend their behavior is completely ridiculous.
I could imagine that being a MLB umpire is not an easy job. You constantly hear about your mistakes and rarely hear about any good things you do. In addition, you always make 50 percent of people happy while the other 50 percent want you out of a job.
But no matter how hard of a job it is, patience is wearing thin across the league and MLB needs to find a solution as soon as possible.
There have been a few experiments for resolving this conflict, one even finding success in the Arizona Fall League.
MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo reported in October that an automated ball-strike system was tested and it resulted in positive results. In short, hitters are able to challenge up to three calls in a game and if they win, they retain their challenge. You can read more about it by clicking here.
No matter how you feel about what the best course of action is, any solution would be better than allowing this behavior to continue.