Rulings on the field

FRAMINGHAM (03/18/2004) - Photo finishes have defined close horse races since before Seabiscuit. Video replays are a momentum-shifting part of National Football League games.

But the sandlots of time move slowly when it comes to using technology to check baseball umpires' judgments about balls and strikes. The pastime known for its afficionados' love of metrics--on-base percentage, walks-to-strikeouts ratios, you name it--has been slow to adopt tech tools. A Bronx cheer greeted Major League Baseball's use of the Umpire Information System from QuesTec Inc. in 2003.

QuesTec's system collects video from cameras at the ballpark to analyze pitches relative to the strike zone (over home plate, and reaching from the hollow beneath a batter's kneecap up to the midpoint between his belt and shoulders). Baseball used QuesTec as a quality control check on umpire's judgments at 13 of 30 ballparks last season. Objections came from the World Umpires Association and star pitchers alike (including Curt Schilling, who smashed a QuesTec video machine during a loss in Arizona). League officials say the system shows umpires are making accurate calls and baseball will continue to use it. The Yankees face the Devil Rays in the season opener March 30. Play ball.

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