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Strike zone will grow this season, chief of umpires says

Mar 10,2017
The chief of umpires in the Korean baseball league said Wednesday the strike zone will grow this season to better reflect its rule book definition.

Kim Poong-gi, head of the umpiring committee at the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), said the players will feel the zone will seem bigger than in the past.

“We’re not talking about rule changes and the phrase ‘expansion of the zone’ is not accurate,” Kim said. “It only means that we’ll try to stay closer to the strike zone as it’s defined in the rule book.”

The KBO’s official rule book states that the strike zone is the area over home plate, the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform trousers. The lower level is a line at the bottom of the knees.

“Last season, our umpires called a tight strike zone,” Kim said.

Pundits believe the small zone led to inflated offensive numbers, while pitching stats took a beating. The 10 KBO teams combined to hit for .290, a single-season record, and they produced 40 hitters who batted .300 or better, also an all-time record.

The KBO’s umpiring crew visited the spring training sites of all KBO teams and told them the umps will stick to the rule more this year.

Kim denied, however, the decision is connected to Korea’s offensive struggles at the ongoing World Baseball Classic (WBC). Korea has scored just one run in 19 innings in losing to Israel and the Netherlands, and experts have argued Korean hitters weren’t used to the larger strike zone called by major league umpires.

“It wasn’t because of the WBC; we’d been preparing since before the tournament,” Kim said. “The KBO umpires think consistency is the most important part of their job.”

Yonhap