I'm taking a brief timeout from celebrating that my two favorites teams, the Cubs and Yankees, have found ways to qualify for the postseason playoffs to discuss an issue that has been bothering me long before ESPN invented K zone.
When Glen Van Proyen, a Cubs scout since 2000, was coaching baseball at Maine South and in the early years when he was scouting for the Dodgers, the strike zone extended from the top of the kneecap to the letters on the uniform or the armpits.
So what happened?
I remember when I was a catcher on our high school baseball team in Blue Island. During the offseason, our coach had pitchers throwing through strings that were hung between two wooden poles. The strike zone, from the knees to the letters, was always the same.
But now the strike zone, for whatever reason, is from the knees to the belt. Anything from the belt to the letters is judged to be too high and out of the strike zone. No wonder earn run averages have soared sky high.
But Van Proyen believes that Major League Baseball is changing its view on the strike zone. He insists more high strikes have been called this season than at any time he can recall in the recent past, since the decision to cut the strike zone from the armpits to the belt was adopted.
"Umpiring is a lot more consistent since they went to major league umpires instead of American and National League umpires," Van Proyen said. "It used to be that National League umpires called low strikes and American League umpires called a more liberal zone, above the belt, the way it should be called."
Van Proyen pointed out that umpires used to work directly behind the catcher's head wearing a balloon chest protector. But now they work over the inside corner, over the catcher's shoulder on the hitter's side because they want to make sure they call the inside correctly. Why? Because that's what a hitter sees best as opposed to the outside corner. The umpires won't get an argument on an outside call because no one can see it.
The next time you're watching a major league game on television, see if he isn't right.