I mentioned the April 24 incident between Kyle Schwarber and umpire Angel Hernandez in Philadelphia after Hernandez called Schwarber out on strikes on a terrible call in my former Cubs update article earlier today.
That wasn’t the only terrible call Hernandez made that night:
Many fans have been calling for “robot umpires,” which more accurately should be called the “automated strike zone.” Here are some results from the latest SB Nation Reacts survey of fans around the SB Nation MLB network:
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that the national survey was just over half of fans voting that umpires are worse now than previously, and about that many would support the automated strike zone. We’ve done similar polls here and in general BCB readers have been about two-thirds in support of the automatic ball-and-strike calls.
We’re getting there. The automated strike zone is being used in some minor leagues in 2022, as follows:
Triple-A: In Triple-A West, umpires will call balls and strikes through May 15th, and the ABS system will be utilized in all games beginning May 17th. In Triple-A East, ABS will be used throughout the season in all games played in Charlotte. In both leagues, the ABS strike zone will approximate the strike zone called by high-level umpires.
Low-A: In Low-A Southeast, MLB will test a “Challenge” system in select games, in which umpires call balls and strikes, and the pitcher, catcher, and batter have an ability to appeal the umpire’s call to the ABS system. In Challenge Games, each team will receive three appeals. Successful appeals will be retained.
So we should have more data starting soon, as the ABS (“automated ball/strike”) system will be used in about half the Triple-A games starting next Tuesday.
This data will be used, among other things, to determine exactly what should be called a strike. Should a pitch that has the tiniest fraction of the baseball nick the automated zone be a strike? This is something management and players and umpires will sit down and discuss after the data is in.
I wouldn’t expect this to happen in the major leagues in 2023; they probably need more than one year’s worth of data. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see it tried in Spring Training in 2023, at least in some parks, and also in the Arizona Fall League, where it was used in some 2021 games.
The earliest ETA for the “robot umpires” would be 2024, then. It can’t come soon enough for me.
To vote in the Reacts surveys and have your voice heard, sign up here.