'Robot Umpire' Helps Call Balls & Strikes in Atlantic League All-Star Game

Tanya Simon
July 13, 2019

Are robot umpires the future for baseball?

"The Washington Post's headline following the Asimovian display: "'Robot ump' calls first professional baseball game with one hitch and no controversy". The Trackman computer tracking system uses Doppler radar to determine if a pitch is a ball or strike. The umpire can also override the call.

In the second half of the season, the league will allow batters to steal first base: Any pitch on any count not caught in flight will be considered a live ball, and a batter may run to first base, similar to a dropped third strike.

Mitch Atkins of the York Revolution threw the first pitch, a belt-high fastball on the outer half of the plate for strike one, and then the ball was sent to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The automated zone still has struggles with backdoor sliders and late-moving breaking pitches, and, as was on display in the Atlantic League game, there are still mechanical hiccups and delays with the technology. 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".

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"One of our focuses is not to replace the umpire", Sword said. 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.

If you're one of those fans who have grown exhausted of umpires blow ball and strike calls, we have some good news for you. But we feel it's incumbent upon us - people that play the game raised this as something that could make the game better.

For several pitches early in the game, deBrauwere's earpiece lost connection to the iPhone in his pocket, though the technology quickly recovered.

ABS is supposed to create a consistent strike zone both for batters and pitchers and is expected to speed up the pace of play as managers and batters will no longer need to argue balls and strikes. We kind of feel it's incumbent on us to figure out whether we could make it work.

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