"Robot umpires" debut in independent Atlantic League


It's hard to imagine "stealing first base" becoming the norm, but Major League Baseball clearly is looking for ways to spice things up in the future.

Umpires will remain responsible for making other calls on the field, including foul tips, check swings and plays at the plate.

A computer officially called balls and strikes for the first time in the game's history in the United States at a minor league all-star game. Sabermetric analysis reveals the startling defensive value that catchers add by their "pitch framing" prowess - what some catchers call "receiving", or "presenting" the pitch to the umpire.

Infielder L.J. Mazzilli said a few times hitters who struck out lingered an extra second or so in the batter's box waiting on a called third strike. For what it's worth, the Major League Baseball claims the technology is meant to help busy home-plate umpires and pinky swears that human umps are still needed and is working with the union to keep everyone happy.

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Among the first changes discussed was an automated balls and strikes regime, run via a panel above home plate made by sports data firm Trackman. It's also interesting to think about what other experimental rules MLB might ask the Atlantic League to play around with moving forward. To some would-be revolutionaries, this is a positive development - the Boston University study balked at the notion that "umpires continue to call balls and strikes like they did 100 years ago when Babe Ruth reigned supreme and the Ford Model T ruled the roads". "We're in touch with our umpires' union, and this is the first step of the process".

"This is just another plate job and I just get a little help on this one so I feel very relaxed going into this one", he said. It's just different. Every pitch I've thrown (high in the strike zone) has been a ball my whole career, since I was 6 years old until now.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said there's no timeline on when the technology will be used in the majors. The umpire does have the authority to change the call. Baseball needs to speed up to keep up with the world. It obviously has broadcasting uses. Whether you're watching Georgia's Baldwin High School Braves or the Atlanta Braves, there's a noticeable congruity - both games involve the same basic dynamics, the real-life (if unintentional) human drama between player and official. We kind of feel it's incumbent on us to figure out whether we could make it work.