The Nub

Strike Zones: Their Differing Effects on Ballyards and Battlefields

(Posted 10/18/14)

During the endless period between first pitch at 8:07 and last out at around midnight of most playoff games, recipe the few stay-awake East Coast fans find lots to grumble about: the imposed sleepiness, buy seek the know-it-all assertions of Fox’s Harold Reynolds, recipe and, worst of all, the elastic strike zone. Scholars of the subject report that Baseball has squeezed the widened zone through use of umpire-grading technology. While the monitoring has (allegedly) reduced bad outside-the-plate calls, it now frees umpires to be pitcher-generous on judging high and low strikes. You can almost hear the coast-to-coast groans over the resulting below-the-knees punch-outs.

Amid reasons offered for the sport’s offensive falloff – no more PED’s, killer relief pitching, etc. – the liberal vertical strike zone may be the main culprit. Political observers now identify a similar, overly generous strike-zone culprit on its field; over the years, this one, however, expanded rather than reduced America’s offensive clout. We became trigger-happy at the plate, says HuffPost’s Ivan Eland, because we feared caution could end in a bad call. We thus went for the fences, swinging at pitches outside our comfort zone and of minimal significance to those involved far away. Eland puts it this way:

“(We’ve) constantly seen local threats as more severe than the (affected) countries in a particular region…Thus the United States has leaped into… the quagmires of Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan/Afghanistan, and Iraq–in which the threats to the United States turned out to be vastly exaggerated. Turkey’s reluctance to dive into a seeming threat right on its border should be a wake up call to halt (another) U.S. slide…”

Two open-ended questions: Does our war on ISIS belong on that roster of well-intentioned errors? Is our eagerness to identify menacing enemies abroad linked to economic benefits of a booming war industry?

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E-Mailbag: “Two wild cards get to the series….Can you imagine the Giants having a shot at winning three World Series in five years.? Unreal.” – Keith W, Manhattan. The Nub: “There was something almost tragic about the Cardinals running out of pitchers. They had holes in their hitting lineup, but seemed to have pitchers in quantity. Confess to having looked forward to a game 7, and watching two admirable teams with complete neutrality.” (Which is how we’ll watch the World Series)

 Truth-Teller: We remember, back in July, when Raul Ibanez called his KC teammates together to tell them how good they were; how other teams hated to play them because of all their talent. “Nice pep-talk”, we thought, but surely an exaggeration. Now we know: Ibanez knew what he was talking about. Few fans today would bet against the Royals in the World Series.

Looking Ahead: Orioles Skipper Buck Showalter must have seen the handwriting on the wall early in KC Wednesday. Midway through the decisive fourth O’s-Royals ALCS game, Showalter, interviewed on TBS, referred to a costly first-inning play. In it, catcher Caleb Joseph lost control of a ball at home plate, allowing a sliding runner to score. Although only trailing by a run, Showalter told his interviewers he would address how to make that play “in the off-season.”

We’ll See: “I want to stay a Ray. I mean that sincerely. I want to be part of a World Series winner wth the Rays.”  Tampa Bay Skipper Joe Maddon, responding to rumors he would join departing GM Andrew Friedman with the Dodgers. (quoted by NY Post’s Joel Sherman)

History Lesson: “(Yesterday was) the 25th anniversary of 1989’s Loma Prieta earthquake. It struck the San Francisco Bay at 5:04 p.m., during the televised warm-up to Game Three of the World Series between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants; as a result, it was the first earthquake in the United States whose opening shocks were broadcast on live television. The earthquake reached a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale… and lasted about 10 to 15 seconds. There were 63 fatalities; that number likely would have been closer to 300, had it not been for the World Series. Many people had left work early, or were otherwise parked in front of televisions at a time when they usually would have been crowding the freeways and bridges.” – (Writer’s Almanac, 10/16)


(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)



About Richard Starkey

Dick Starkey handled media for former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and many other office-holders and candidates. He was sports editor of the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Perfect Pitch partner Robert Sullivan was the first to adapt focus groups to politics and has been called by Cuomo and others one of the "best" pollsters in the country.