I just caught a fascinating study by David Golebiewski over at BaseballAnalytics.org. Essentially, his conclusion is that pitchers who throw really hard get squeezed by the umpires, relative to pitchers who don't throw as hard. Turns out you're still better off throwing really hard. Still, as Golebiewski writes,
this info suggests that even the world's best judges of balls and strikes have their physical limitations. Umpires, like hitters, have less time to process and react as the radar gun readings increase. When near-triple-digit pitches are screaming toward home plate, it's harder for umps to make those fine calls on the edges of the dish.
No question about it. Anybody who's played baseball knows that the faster the pitcher, the blurrier the pitch. And the blurrier the pitch, the harder to track its exact path. One thing this means? Purely in terms of their ability to fool hitters, power pitchers are even better than the statistics suggest. Another thing this means? Maybe this already went without saying, but vision plays a huge role in umpiring. And I'm now wondering -- for just the first time, somehow -- if umpires have to regularly pass tough, baseball-centric vision tests.
The union would scream bloody murder, of course. But if an umpire can't track a 98-mile-an-hour fastball ...