Skip to content

News recently surfaced that balls and strikes will be called by machines in half of Triple-A games next season. In the other half, the cars will be used for ball and strike call challenges. This is big news considering that many of the changes adopted at the MLB level this year, such as clocks and larger bases, were tested last year in Triple-A.

This news, according to sources, is definitely good for the game. Anyone who has watched tennis over the last few years has probably noticed that the number of disputes over whether shots are on or off has dropped dramatically. This is because everyone in the stadium can look at the scoreboard and know immediately what the correct call was. It’s not hard to imagine that in a few years, every MLB stadium will display a virtual strike zone in center field, so detailed that there’s no real-time doubt as to whether the ball went through. belt

Getting from here to there won’t be an entirely smooth process. One: Do you know where the strike zone is? What we see on TV every day is rectangular, but the area over home plate is three-dimensional. Does a pitch hit if it goes somewhere through that three-dimensional space… or does it just have to go through the square in front of the plate? Another question: the square we see on TV is the same size for Jose Altuve as it is for Aaron Judge (although Judge should have a strike zone that’s a few inches larger), so will the robot be able to adjust to that?

The other issue that will become sticky is what happens to current clouds. Executing this plan in the minors is relatively simple because minor league umps don’t have the leverage that MLB umps do. The point of being a Triple-A ump is to make it to the majors, and making a fuss about new technology is just going to get in the way of that. The major leaguers have a moderately effective union and a CB that expires after the 2024 season. If they’re not thrilled with how the ABS system performs or how it compares, those negotiations can get sticky. Even the hint of such conflict can be enough to slow turnover.

After all, what else can a robot do? Any choice that is completely binary should be made more accurately by a robot than by a human. Fair/safe calls should be as technologically simple as tennis in/out calls. If there is a clear rule about check swings (which shouldn’t be judgmental), then it shouldn’t be too hard for the sensors to tell us if the bat has left a certain point.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *