Crawford v. Papelbon

I don’t have ESPN and the Sunday late games are blacked out on, so I listened to the end of the Jays-Sox tilt tonight.

Well, I didn’t only listen. I also watched the data flow on mlb’s Gameday app, which shows location and speed and percentage of break and in what direction. I’m not a total believer in ths technology, though the potential is obviously huge. The problem is that the margin of error is great.

In tonight’s climactic Crawford versus Papelbon at bat, two out, men on second on third, the Rays down a run, according to Gameday, Papelbon didn’t throw a strike, but Crawford swung through three  high balls out of the zone.

I’m not saying this didn’t happen, I’m sure it has, but Crawford’s aggressiveness up and out of the zone shown makes me think the zone shown isn’t kosher. I have had the same problem with similar technologies on Fox and ESPN.

The point is, if you show this display but the game doesn’t follow it, all you’ve done is undermine the game. Umpires are far from perfect, but we have to assume they’re doing their best. Data presented as “objective” that doesn’t hew to the common perception is a problem.

Maybe Carl Crawford swung at all those high strikes, I’ll have to go back to the archive to see. If they let me. But until we can have a high standard of confidence in the recent hi-tech tools MLB is selling us, be a little skeptical. It’s what the umpire says, after all, that matters.