Mike Trout announced that the Angels were suspending their controversial mechanical “spray zones” for the rest of the regular season in an effort to crack down on player aggression, starting on Monday night’s series opener against the Detroit Tigers.
And that was probably a good idea for Trout and the Angels, but it has caught the ire of baseball fans everywhere.
The term spray zone is a play off the popular Twitter hashtag “here we go”; spray zones have been clearly designated by umpires, as explained here, that play to the opposite field into where a bat has been or a manager’s foot has been. It has also been around for decades, as described in the Giants’ official postseason video.
The phrase was officially recognized by MLB policy in 2013, when the New York Yankees were ticketed for breaking two separate signals from umpires in the fifth inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
On the video, the umpires tell the Yankees to pop up onto the side of the field, with the pitcher throwing in the written instructions. When the Yankees did this, umpires saw arm-flapping moves and shouted at the players, and the game was delayed for several minutes. A few weeks later, the umpires recommended that the pitcher call “10, 4,” or “2, 1, 2” instead of pop up to take the mound.
The spray zone was then officially recognized as baseball protocol for series games, as explained here. (The decision was initially controversial within the baseball community, but that is apparently about to change.)
Don’t expect the league to grant a second life to spray zones after the World Series, in part because next year is already expected to be a watershed year in the history of the sport. The attempt to change the rules for the playoffs just before the season started will likely be revisited in October.
The spray zone is used during major league games in several different ways. It’s used, for example, by the pitcher to instruct the batter, who has no idea where to throw his next pitch. The Oakland Athletics’ staff, for example, monitors the distances that a pitcher and a batter are working together by using infrared, which can tell the distance to the line where the bat meets the ground.
The markings for the spray zone has not always been confined to behind home plate. The New York Yankees have used one of their tools, a ball marker that can be stuck inside the iron rim of a batter’s bat, to mark the places where the bat meets the ground. This is the kind of tool that neither a pitcher nor a batter can know what to throw because no line has been marked behind home plate, which adds to the danger.