One of the more interesting stories that broke over the weekend in the baseball world was that the Major League Baseball Umpires Association has agreed to work with Major League Baseball when it comes to implementing a computerized strikezone according to Zeke Miller of the AP. The agreement was a part of the new labor agreement between the two, which is good for the next five seasons.

Now, before you get excited about seeing this in action, pump your brakes. Heck, you might want to just push the brakes to the floor. This is not happening soon. If you recall, Major League Baseball used Trackman to call strikes this past season in the Atlantic League. There have been talks prior to this announcement that testing could move to the minors in 2020 at certain levels/leagues, too.

The reason this is likely to take a while to make it’s way to the Major Leagues has a few different parts to it. Let’s start with the testing of it. Right now, all that Major League Baseball has tested is the system through Trackman. It’s what has been used for the last five years in baseball. It’s what provides the strikezone on tv, it’s what gives you the exit velocity on hits, the hit tracking – all of that. It has known issues with both pitch tracking and hit tracking. It’s not as perfect as some believe it is.

Trackman is installed across minor league baseball these days. At first there were only a few teams that had paid to have it installed at their home ballparks, but over the last eight years it’s grown and now it’s everywhere. The information provided is simply too valuable for teams to ignore and they’ve all paid to put it in the ballparks. At least for the time being, it’s going to remain in the minor league ballparks, too.

Why did I bring up that it’s going to remain in the minor league parks? Because it’s not going to remain in the Major League parks beginning in the 2020 season. Major League Baseball is moving to the Hawk-Eye system. To this point they’ve never used it at any level. Just like with the Pitch F/X system and Trackman systems before it, there’s going to be a trial period of learning, adjusting, and figuring out how to best utilize the system.

And once that all is figured out, which could take years, then they will begin to test out THAT system. I’m still a bit confused about the whole testing out of an automated/computerized strikezone by Major League Baseball last year in the Atlantic League, and next year in the Minor Leagues on a system that they will not be using in the Major Leagues. It’s like test driving a motorcycle to see if you can drive a UPS truck. They aren’t the same thing. The only thing that makes it make even a little bit of sense is to simply ingrain the idea of an umpire not being responsible for the balls and strikes anymore, so in eight years when they might be able to actually implement the system, most of the league has dealt with the situation before.

That latter part could be vital, too. If players are more familiar with a strikezone that is not called by the umpire, if it’s something they came through the minors with, then perhaps there’s some acceptance there. And that means that Major League Baseball will have less of a fight, less backlash with the players if and when they do finally decide to let Skynet take over the strikezone.

12 Responses

  1. Ronald Larsen

    Seems to me that getting the acceptance of the umpires is more important than the acceptance of the players. The players have already surrendered some agency concerning pitch calls. It is the umpires that must now surrender their agency on balls and strikes.

  2. Colorado Red

    The good thing, would be consistency.
    See way too many calls made by one umpire, and not another.
    In time, this will make it easier for a pitcher and a batter.

    • MK

      Consistency from umpire to umpire is probably more important to fans than players. As a long time high school coach we knew the scouting report on all our local umpires. Whether the had high, low or wide or thin strike zones and we could tell our pitchers and hitters what to expect respectively. The consistency we wanted was during the game. If it is a strike in first inning then it should still be in the 6th. Game consistency is typically not a problem with big league umpires.

      I can not see why umpires would oppose this, as nobody is going to lose a job and their work is going to be easier on their home plate games.

      I find some of the most entertaining parts of games has been the give and take between umpires and players/coaches have been their disagreements. With the challenges that aspect of the game has been removed 80% of the time.

      • Colorado Red

        I have seen a lot of games, where the umpire is not consistent at all.
        I still think it will better.

  3. SaveTheFarm

    Let’s hope the system never becomes self aware…..there has to be a minor leaguer somewhere named James Connor right??? Maybe he can fight the machine that calls balls and strikes.

  4. FreeHouse

    Good, now players won’t get tossed for arguing calls. Accept the call and take a seat or take your base. This will definitely help Joey Votto.

  5. KDJ

    They could have used this in the World Series this year. The inconsistency within games was ridiculous. Too bad it sounds like it will be after Votto’s playing days. It would have been interesting to see how his numbers were affected.

    • Colorado Red

      That is for sure.
      Very good point.

  6. D Ray White

    For the love of God, make Angel Hernandez “cooperate” first. Easily the worst umpire in MLB.

  7. Kevin

    For the idiots who actually want this, go YouTube Atlantic League robot strike zone. It doesn’t even look like baseball. Balls are almost hitting the dirt and getting called strikes. MLB umpires have a 97% average as a staff, according to MLB. That means they miss 2-3 pitches per game.

    • Doug Gray

      Most strikes are easy calls, though. It’s the edges that matter, and the umpires are nowhere near 97% with those.

      But, let’s be sure that we also understand the tech used in The Atlantic League is not what they’ll be using in the Major Leagues – as noted in the article.

  8. Still a Red

    Why have any umpires. Let the players call the obvious balls/strikes/plays and the cameras the close ones. Lets sterilize the game completely.