Explaining How The Low-A Southeast League Will Set Its Automated Strike Zone
If you play in the Low-A Southeast league this year, it will not pay to have lied about your height.
Over the years, there have been plenty of players listed at 6 feet tall even if in reality they were 5-foot-10 or 5-foot-11.
Players tempted to add an inch or two to their height to be listed at 6 feet tall are better off sticking with their accurate height because their strike zone is going to be set by their height.
To use the new automated ball-strike (ABS) system, hitters’ strike zones will be programmed into the ABS system based on their height. The top of the zone will be 56% of the player’s height and the bottom of the strike zone will be set at 28% of the player’s height.
So, a 6 foot tall player’s strike zone will stretch from 20 inches above the plate to just over 40 inches above the plate. A Jose Altuve-sized (5-foot-6) hitter will have a strike zone from to 18.5 to 37 inches tall. An Aaron Judge-sized hitter (6-foot-7) will have a strike zone that begins 22.1 inches above the plate and tops out at 44.2 inches.
Since home plate is 17 inches wide, it means the zone is 340 square inches for a 6 foot tall hitter, 314.5 inches for a 5-foot-6 hitter and a 6-foot-7 hitter’s zone will be 375.7 square inches.
There are no allowances for having a Raimel Tapia or Rickey Henderson crouch. It’s based on a hitters’ full height, and MLB will be checking listed heights to make sure they are accurate. That may be significant for hitters who signed as teenagers and have kept growing, even if their listed heights haven’t kept up.
In the Low-A Southeast League, MLB will be using the Hawk-Eye visual tracking system to measure the strike zone. In the Atlantic League, which also uses ABS, the pitches are tracked by the Trackman doppler radar system. The strike zone will be measured as a two-dimensional box at the very front of the plate. Since this is an experiment, there is a chance that eventually it may be tweaked.
For instance, while the strike zone in the rule book is a box with right angles, the strike zone as called by humans is more of an oval with rounded corners.
The system will not be in place in every Low-A Southeast stadium. Daytona is not an MLB spring training home and as such does not have the Hawk-Eye system installed. There, umpires will call balls and strikes the old fashioned way.