It is very important for you to know that if you have a consistent baseball strike zone, you will be respected and stay out of trouble and not be questioned.
A PITCH IS A STRIKE IF:
1. It is struck at by the batter and is missed
2. Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone
3. It is fouled by the batter when he has less than two strikes
4. Is bunted foul
5. Touches the batter as he strikes (swings) at it
6. Touches the batter in flight in the strike zone
7. Becomes a foul tip
“The Baseball Strike Zone”is that area over home plate, the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The baseball strike zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball. (see diagram from MLB Rule Book Pg. 36)
Home plate is 17″ wide and the ball is about 2 1/2″ in diameter.
As far as the baseball strike zone is concerned we have learned through time as umpires it has been said several times before, “If you want to be considered an accomplished umpire and command respect from players and coaches, you must have a consistent baseball strike zone.”
There are Pitcher’s umpires and Batter’s umpires! Which one will you be? A Pitcher’s umpire calls strikes across approximately a 22″ wide plate. (17″+5″) A Batter’s umpire calls strikes only over a 17″ wide plate. As you know the plate is 17″ wide!
Will you call a strike only if the whole ball covers or passes through the 17″ plate??
Remember outside and inside (east & west) called strikes are more important than high or low called strikes. (north & south)
A very important factor to know is that every umpire establishes his own baseball strike zone in each game. To stay out of controversy be consistent. A strike called in the 1st inning should be the same strike in the last inning and for both teams regardless of the score. As an umpire working an amateur game, the wisdom of your strike zone is more important than the strict interpretation of the strike zone. Don’t get into arguments as to where a pitch was if you are consistent in your strike zone. Whether it is low or high, inside or out, if you are consistent the players and coaches won’t complain much. The batters will know what to swing at and the pitchers will know where to throw the ball. Depending on the level of the ability of the Players (the pitcher), the baseball strike zone may need to change. Call a lot of strikes and you will keep the game moving and yourself out of trouble.
REMEMBER: IT IS THE STRIKE ZONE NOT THE BALL ZONE!
WHEN THE BASEBALL LEAVES THE PITCHER’S HAND, IT IS A STRIKE UNTIL YOU ARE CONVINCED IT IS A BALL!!
ALWAYS BE LOOKING TO CALL STRIKES IN “YOUR CONSISTENT STRIKE ZONE”
UMPIRES ARE “NEUTRAL”. IT SHOULD NOT MATTER TO THE UMP WHO WINS!
Our local umpire chapter was assigned a High School Federation playoff game. The assigner was told to assign the game on a “neutral” field. The coach of one of the teams said, “Why can’t we have neutral umpires too?” He was told all umpires are “neutral”. This statement caused much controversy in our local chapter.
Most umpires agree we are looking for indicators to help us call strikes.
As you become set in the slot position* watch the pitch and to help you, look for the following:
1. The plate
2. The batter’s knee cap midpoint and just under the letters of the uniform
3. The catcher’s knees and shoulders
Be in position in the slot position on the inside corner. “You must position yourself to see the pitch.” (we will discuss the different positions later)
Follow the pitch all the way to the catcher’s mitt. If the batter hits the ball you should see the bat hit the ball. Just like they taught you as a hitter, a good hitter sees the bat hit the ball.
The term for watching the ball would be “TRACKING” the baseball. What we do in “tracking” the pitch is to use the above indicators to form an “IMAGINARY BOX”. (One of our favorite umpires, Durwood Merrill, author of the charming and informative book “You’re Out and You’re Ugly Too,” called it the “window frame. Read more about Durwood. Click on the add to the right!)
Durwood said if the pitch passes through your imaginary box it should be called a strike. This helps with your consistency.
What if the catcher drops the pitch in your “baseball strike zone box”? In an amateur baseball game never lose a strike. Strikes may be hard to find or come by depending on the level of ability of the players.
The catcher can be your best helper or your worst hindrance when calling balls and srikes. It is a good idea to talk to each catcher at the beginning of the game to make him aware of how he can help you.
HOW CAN A CATCHER HELP YOU CALLING BALLS AND STRIKES?
1. Ask him to not pull or jerk pitches. “Talk to him about framing or sticking a pitch.” (stick it or stickin’ a pitch)
Let the catcher know if you miss one not to stick or frame it as to show you up. Let him know you and he can talk about a pitch. However, if he faces the field that is OK. If he turns around and looks at you as you talk, you should not allow it. Let him know neither of you are perfect and you can discuss things because you are working together. If a catcher pulls in or jerks in a pitch, he is telling you it was not a strike. (in our opinion) Why did he jerk it in then?
IT IS RECOMMENDED AS AN UMPIRE YOU NOT ALLOW A CATCHER TO TALK TO YOU LIKE THIS (ABOVE)
If, however, the catcher insists in turning around to discuss pitches, call time, step in front of the plate and dust off the plate. Look the catcher in the eyes and tell him not to turn around when speaking to you. If he persists, talk to his coach between innings and let the coach know the catcher is subject to ejection. “Don’t be showed up ever.”
2. The catcher needs to catch the pitch in front of his body within your imaginary box and frame it there for the best results. If this is adhered to by both catchers, you will be very consistent and both teams will be treated fairly as far as your strike zone for pitchers, catchers and hitters.
YOU SHOULD HAVE FUN. IF YOU DO YOU WILL BE RELAXED, NOT UPTIGHT AND CALL A CONSISTENT GAME
3. Use your catcher to communicate to the pitcher and manager or coaches and most of all to protect you. As you communicate to your catchers you can choose one of two things:
4. To be an umpire who admits he missed a pitch!
5. Or one who remains silent as silence cannot be misquoted
If you are one who admits a mistake, it can be taken back to the bench and cause a big discussion. As we said before, tell them we can talk about it but only a little bit. Don’t allow anyone to have a discussion on every pitch. You have to draw the line. Let everyone know you will not be talking about every pitch.