Sports

Robot umpires make their professional baseball debut

Robot umpires make their professional baseball debut

After debuting a "robot" plate umpire in its All-Star Game, the league on Wednesday announced four more changes for the second half of its season. The iPhone was loaded up with the TrackMan computer system, which uses a Doppler radar to track the pitches. deBrauwere, positioned right behind home plate, called the pitches as he received the information from the program.

"Technically, they're strikes, but umpires never called them", pitcher Mitch Atkins said.

OK, so maybe it's a long shot the rule ever goes into effect at the big league level, but the Atlantic League - an independent baseball league that recently entered into a three-year agreement with MLB to serve as a testing ground for potential rule changes - will allow batters to "steal first base" in the second half of its season, according to The Washington Post. "The game is changing". But even aside from special pleading for those wielders of the tools of ignorance, there is the problem that a robotic strike zone would eliminate a distinctly human reprieve within a mechanistic and data-soaked sport; that timeless interplay between catcher, umpire, and pitcher would cease, ceding to the same soulless impulse of revolution overtaking America's other professional sports. The human behind the plate simply was relaying the call on the field. "What we know is technology can help umpires be more accurate, and we're committed to that". During those periods, deBrauwere called balls and strikes as if it were a normal game.

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"If that was the one blunder", Terdoslavich said, "I didn't really hear any complaints from anyone".

DeBrauwere and others told the Record that TrackMan tends to create a strike zone higher than what umpires would call and that players are used to, while also regularly eliminating the outside corners and calling those pitches balls. The biggest issue is that a ball that bounces in the dirt but crosses the plate is considered a strike. This includes pass balls or wild pitches.

"This strike zone is different than what every player has known in the past", said Atkins, the York pitcher. "But it's not surprising that the computer is going to call these pitches". 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.


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