Many people have been clamoring for an automated ball-strike system in Major League Baseball (the so-called “robot ump”) and things have been edging in that direction.
An ABS has been tested in some of the lower levels of the minor leagues and in the independent/MLB partner Atlantic League over the last couple of years, and now that sort of testing will be expanded in 2023:
MLB plans to have the Automated Ball/Strike (ABS) technology in all 30 AAA parks in ‘23. Current plan: Multiple times a week games will be only ABS. Multiple times: ABS with hitter/pitcher challenge system— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 9, 2022
If the second part seems a bit confusing, here’s a better explanation from the replies:
The way I understand from somebody who saw this in action. Human umps are calling balls and strikes but there's an automatic strike zone in place, so if a team wants to challenge the ump they can then check the ABS and get the correct call.— Anne Campbell (@filmgatereviews) November 9, 2022
It’s not clear exactly what “multiple times a week” means, but I’d read it to say that the majority of games in Triple-A will be either called by an ABS or have an ABS available for challenges.
Which leads me to the idea that a challenge system in MLB sometime in 2023 would be a good idea. It has been used in some Triple-A games already to good effect, as well as in some games in the Arizona Fall League.
I don’t see anything here that would preclude the use of such a system in MLB in 2023, and I hope it happens. Teams wouldn’t use it for every missed call, likely just the most egregiously bad calls or in situations where it might be important late in games.
We are getting closer to having balls and strikes called by the book strike zone, which is far better than the current system, where every plate umpire has his own zone. Will pitchers and hitters have to adjust to this? Of course they will, but baseball players have been making adjustments to rule changes for as long as the game has been played. They’ll manage.
I welcome the ABS in MLB as soon as they can get it up and running, and the sooner the better.