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Are the official stike zones always the same?

This article on the official strike zone serves as a primer for general baseball rules, namely as they relate to the strike zone, and the interaction between the hitter, pitcher and umpire.

While there is an official strike zone, and all umpires who determine balls and strikes are to abide by them, many factors outside of the rules do come into play when calling balls and strikes.

Factors may include the difficulty of accurately judging blazing fast pitches with split second decisions, the umpire’s own personal preference of the strike zone, the reputation of the hitter, as well as how adept the pitcher is at “working the plate”.

What is the official strike zone?

Home plate is shaped like a pentagonal prism, or in layman’s terms, a square with a triangle on top. The triangle, or point, of home plate is on the back half of the plate, pointing toward the catcher and home plate umpire.

The plate is 17 inches in width. The definition for a strike is that the ball must not only cross over the plate, but also cross at a vertical level between the top of the hitter ’s knees and his upper chest. The upper chest level is typically considered to be approximately equal to the height of the hitter’s armpits.

Are the official stike zones always the same?

Also, the ball is considered a strike if the pitch crosses above any area of the seventeen-inch wide home plate. This does not mean a ball has to cross the front of the plate. If a ball with a lot of break crosses the strike zone through the back half of the plate, this is still considered a strike.

If a player receives three strikes, he is considered out. A team is granted three outs when on offense prior to the opposing team gaining a chance to hit.

Height of official strike zone can vary.

Due to the height of the official strike zone being equivalent to the hitter’s armpits, the strike zone can differ vertically based on the height of the batter.

Theoretically, even with this vertical difference, your stance should not affect the strike zone. However, some umpires may be slightly fooled into calling a strike in a way that benefits the hitter. This is in regards to players with condensed stances, usually through a combination of a lot of knee bend and the upper body being angled toward the plate. This severely lessens the height of these players while in their stances, and makes unseasoned umpires prone to lowering their strike zone.

Receiving a walk.

Any pitch outside of the official strike zone is counted as a ball, subject to the umpire’s discretion. If the player accumulates four balls before they have registered three strikes or have hit the ball into fair territory, the batter is awarded a walk. A walk is a free pass to first base for the hitter.