I've been vocal that I feel like an automated strike zone needs to be a thing in Major League Baseball pretty soon. I would argue we're already past due.￼Cleaning up the strike zone long-term will be for the best. But for now, we can't help but laugh at how awful this call was. We can somewhat dismiss it because it ultimately had little impact on the game. Justin Turner struck out when the game was 5-4 Boston, the final score. Outside of impacting Justin Turner's on-base percentage, nothing came of this, but holy shit, this call was awful.
I typically try to give umpires a fair amount of leeway. I wouldn't say I like giving them leeway, but in the modern baseball age, we have to accept that umpires have their own strike zones. As long as they're consistent with that particular zone, it's the best you could hope for. But I don't care what strikes this umpire had. There is no universe where this last pitch to Turner was a strike. The reaction by the Red Sox dugout was hilarious. They weren't even angry. Sometimes you see something so shocking that all you can do is just put your hands on your head and stand there perplexed.
This is the worst strike-three call of 2023 because this was the conclusion to a great at-bat. If this would've been a strike call on a 1-0 count in the first inning, it still would've been wrong, but this was the conclusion to a 10-pitch at bat. Those have to be the worst as a hitter. You grind out an entire AB, see the ball well, and get punched out on a pitch that's literally a foot off the plate. Justin Turner's a bigger man than I am. I would've not stayed in that game.
In general, and I know many people won't agree with us, but umpires in 2023 are probably better than they've ever been. Yes, we have the Angel Hernandez's of the world, but if you ever go back and watch a game from the 90s, as long as a pitcher hit their spots, the pitch was almost always a strike. It's not to take anything away from the great pitchers of their era, but if you go back to watch Kerry Wood's 20 strikeouts or Livan Hernández's 15-strikeout game in the 1997 NLCS, the number of missed calls is staggering.
The problem with MLB is that they often wait until something catastrophic happens for things to change finally. There should've been an instant replay system in baseball decades ago, and we only implemented it once Jim Joyce blew Armando Galarraga's perfect game. It took four years before safe and out calls became reviewable in Major League Baseball. Something similar is going to happen with the automated strike zone. We can chuckle at that play from last night, but what if that was a high-leverage situation in a playoff game? It could've been the difference between a team winning or a team losing a huge game. Clean your shit up, MLB.