August 11, 2003
Questec has been talked about, often with disdain, for much of the 2003 baseball season, and swarms of fans have requested an article about it in TCO. I never let my loyal readers down, so here, in all its glory, is the greatest article on Questec ever written.
For those of you unfamiliar with Questec, it is basically a series of cameras installed in select ballparks to gauge the accuracy of balls and strikes called by the home plate umpire. The system is not intended to replace the umpire, nor is it intended to favor the pitcher or the hitter. It is intended to provide a more consistent strike zone throughout the league.
Despite its intentions, Questec has drawn ire from many players, including the outspoken Curt Schilling. Curt felt that Questec was causing the umps to refrain from calling some balls up in the zone "strikes" because the calls wouldn't agree with Questec's view, thus resulting in some minor reprimanding of the umps by MLB officials. Schilling and others also feel that each setup results in a different strike zone in each ballpark it is installed. This cry may be a legitimate beef, but if you read how Questec works (a side angle camera to gauge the strike zone from letters to the hollow above the knees and a center field camera to gauge the zone across the plate), it seems too simple to screw up. The center field camera could be misaligned, but that's something that could easily be corrected.
Regardless of the limitations of Questec, at this point, the umpires claim to know the "Questec strike zone" for each park and even talk about it with the pitchers before the game so everyone is on the same page. The biggest complaint about umpires among hitters and pitchers is a lack of consistency. Players always say that they won't complain as long as they know what's a strike and what's not a strike. In the case, the umpires are outwardly saying, "in Arizona, the pitch at the letters will be called a ball because Questec sees it as a ball." What more can you ask for than that, Curt Schilling? I'm sorry that your ERA is over 2 runs higher at home than on the road, but the zone is more consistent than ever.
While the strike zone might change from park to park, Questec is designed to keep the zone consistent within the game (and ultimately, consistent everywhere), which is more important. No longer is Tom Glavine getting pitches called his way 6 inches off the plate while a 2nd year pitcher on the opposing hill gets squeezed. Some pitchers have adjusted (Moyer), some have not (Glavine), and some are good enough to complain, refuse to adjust, and still dominate (Schilling).
Questec is not trying to replace umps, slow the game down, or introduce a new gimmick to America's Pastime; it is simply trying to improve the human element of officiating without disrupting the game itself. So far, I think the maiden voyage has been a successful one. Just don't ask Curt Schilling about it.
Notes and Predictions
Royal Blue starting to bleed
Kansas City refuses to give in, but their lack of quality, healthy arms will do them in, despite Pena's ability to make them believe. Expect to see the Royals in 3rd place by season's end.
Blalock and Gagne let the Braves coast
Instead of trying to stay a few games ahead of the Yankees and Mariners for the best record, the Braves can coast the rest of the way because they have the division wrapped up and Blalock's All-Star home run gives Atlanta no chance at home field advantage in the World Series, regardless of how many games they win. Ridiculous.
Wild Card plus and minus
The wild card makes the only close NL divisional race, the Central, much less dramatic because the runner up should be right in line for a wild card berth. However, the wild card will make for an exciting finish as 7 NL teams are within 5 1/2 games of each other and the A's and the Red Sox are poised to battle it out down the stretch for the AL's last berth, unless they can unseed New York or Seattle.