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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

An automated strike zone’s looming, and the Rockies — like all of baseball — are split on the prospect of a robot calling pitches

What comes first- us turning on the robot umpires, or vice versa?

There’s an evolving opinion in baseball that has come to the forefront once again this month, as it has so often in recent every-pitch-matters, Statcast-tracked Septembers.

The strike zone, many in the game and the Twittersphere say, is not safe in the hands of man.

Such was the uproar after the Rockies’ 4-2 loss to open the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers this past weekend, where Colorado fans ripped the lackluster performance of home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher. The ump ended up face to face with Charlie Blackmon in the ninth inning after ringing up the center fielder on three called strikes that, according to Statcast, were all out of the zone.

QLE Posted: September 11, 2018 at 08:06 AM | 102 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: robots in baseball, strike zone, umpires

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   1. bfan Posted: September 11, 2018 at 12:37 PM (#5742206)
three called strikes that, according to Statcast, were all out of the zone.


Did they at least average being in the zone (i.e., 4 inches outside and 4 inches inside)
   2. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: September 11, 2018 at 12:44 PM (#5742211)
No, they were all a couple inches off the outside corner. Given that hrrr had already been two strikes called on pitches in those spots the fact that he kept his bat on his shoulder for strike three is the very definition of cutting off your nose to spite your face.
   3. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 12:50 PM (#5742215)
Easy for Jose to say, maybe, but I suspect sometimes it's wise to hope that the umpire will stop making mistakes, and quite difficult to temporarily rewire your highly tuned fast-twitch response system to account for an incorrect strike zone.
   4. Lyford Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:03 PM (#5742285)
I suspect sometimes it's wise to hope that the umpire will stop making mistakes

Yeah, swinging at a pitch that you can't reach because the ump screwed up a couple similar pitches earlier doesn't seem like a strategy for long-term success...
   5. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:08 PM (#5742291)
Ball and strike Robo-Umps can't come fast enough. There are way too many at-bats, and games, that are turned around by bad calls.

And if they need to toss a bone back the umps' way, then they can do away with all other replays. Missed strike zone calls account for the vast majority of blown calls to begin with.
   6. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:11 PM (#5742295)
I cannot wait for the people begging for RoboUmps to see it in action. We were told replay would fix bad calls, hasn't worked, has been a detriment to the game, so will RoboUmps. First of all it's going to make games longer, not dramatically so but it will be like having Tim McClelland umpire every game and I strongly suspect there will be considerable unintended consequences not the least of which will be a big increase in offense as hitters don't have any uncertainty at the plate.
   7. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:14 PM (#5742298)
First of all it's going to make games longer, not dramatically so but it will be like having Tim McClelland umpire every game
Say what now? You realize there won't be an actual C3PO droid on the field making the calls, right?
   8. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:18 PM (#5742302)
I'm thinking that one of the unintended consequences will be a new breed of sidearmer that steps way way out towards the side and hooks a loopy 83mph slider so that it just barely nicks the front corner of the zone. I think eephi could come back in style too. Basically it'll make it more resemble wiffleball, which is a good thing, wiffleball being the highest form of baseball yet invented.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:21 PM (#5742304)
Say what now? You realize there won't be an actual C3PO droid on the field making the calls, right?


More like the Lost in Space robot, probably. The home team with a slow-working pitcher could gain an advantage by oiling its joints less liberally.
   10. DFA Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:55 PM (#5742319)
I cannot wait for the people begging for RoboUmps to see it in action. We were told replay would fix bad calls, hasn't worked, has been a detriment to the game, so will RoboUmps. First of all it's going to make games longer, not dramatically so but it will be like having Tim McClelland umpire every game and I strongly suspect there will be considerable unintended consequences not the least of which will be a big increase in offense as hitters don't have any uncertainty at the plate.


I for one cannot wait to see roboumps. I mean the less Joe West the better. However, I would try it in AAA and see how it works. You know, if they can put a man on the moon and all...

I also pretty strongly disagree that replay has been a detriment to the game. It's not perfect, but on balance, it's made the game better as it has reduced a lot of errors. The over sliding the base thing is annoying, however.
   11. Shredder Posted: September 11, 2018 at 02:55 PM (#5742320)
Say what now? You realize there won't be an actual C3PO droid on the field making the calls, right?
We need our best scientists and engineers working on a fleet of audio-animatronic Leslie Nielsens!
   12. John DiFool2 Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:00 PM (#5742322)
My question is whether the zone will be modeled in the software as the true 3D pentagonal prism that it in fact is (vs. the 2D ones we see in Gameday and such). And if just any part of the ball intersects it at any point it will be a strike.
   13. Shredder Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:02 PM (#5742325)
The over sliding the base thing is annoying, however.
There's a simple solution to that, of course.
   14. Perry Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:02 PM (#5742326)
Among other drawbacks, it's going to remove pitch-framing as a skill.

I'd get rid of replay, too. Last night's Cardinals-Pirates game ended on a great play by DeJong, backhanding a ball in the hole and just nipping the runner at first with the tying run on second. OUT! the umpire called, then instead of celebrating even for a second the Cardinals and the fans all just stood there, waiting around for the result of the inevitable replay. Took a LOT of excitement and entertainment out of the moment. It'd be worth a few more missed calls to get those moments of drama and release back into the game.
   15. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:05 PM (#5742328)
I think replay has been a clear net negative. It's just flat out boring.
   16. jmurph Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:09 PM (#5742331)
Among other drawbacks, it's going to remove pitch-framing as a skill.

I'm against robo-umps because they seem totally unnecessary to me, but I'd view removing pitch-framing as a huge positive.
   17. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:13 PM (#5742334)
I'm for it. Sick of how much framing matters and to a degree -- batter eye rep.
   18. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:15 PM (#5742336)
Among other drawbacks, it's going to remove pitch-framing as a skill.


That's a bonus, not a drawback.
   19. Man o' Schwar Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:19 PM (#5742339)
I'd get rid of replay, too. Last night's Cardinals-Pirates game ended on a great play by DeJong, backhanding a ball in the hole and just nipping the runner at first with the tying run on second. OUT! the umpire called, then instead of celebrating even for a second the Cardinals and the fans all just stood there, waiting around for the result of the inevitable replay. Took a LOT of excitement and entertainment out of the moment. It'd be worth a few more missed calls to get those moments of drama and release back into the game.

Change the situation slightly - put the tying run on 3rd, and he scores on a ball in play. And now assume the batter beats the throw at first by a half-step, but still gets called out.

You're saying it's better if the umpires call him out wrongly (thus ending the game rather than allowing the tying run to score) with no recourse, because we want the fielders to be able to celebrate a win that they didn't earn? That's nuts.

I like celebrations and jumping around as much as the next guy, but if I were on the losing team in that situation I'd be pretty pissed off given that we tied the game and lost because the umpire biffed the call. That's the kind of thing that led to instant replay in the first place.
   20. Man o' Schwar Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:21 PM (#5742340)
Among other drawbacks, it's going to remove pitch-framing as a skill.

That's like saying soccer rules that make it harder for players to flop on the ground and fake an injury are somehow bad for the sport.
   21. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:22 PM (#5742341)
That's like saying soccer rules that make it harder for players to flop on the ground and fake an injury are somehow bad for the sport.


Yep. Framing is a manipulation of the umpire's call and while it is a skill, just like James Harden or Neymar have similar -- it's not one that should be rewarded.
   22. McCoy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:38 PM (#5742352)
The only issue I have with baseball replay is that teams get to pause the action while they look at replays to decide if they want to challenge or not.

It should be something like you've got 5 seconds to get in the box and once the batter is in the box you have 5 seconds to throw a pitch.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5742363)

You're saying it's better if the umpires call him out wrongly (thus ending the game rather than allowing the tying run to score) with no recourse, because we want the fielders to be able to celebrate a win that they didn't earn? That's nuts.


I would say that, yes. It's not about the players celebrating, it's about the joy you take away from the fans.
   24. SoSH U at work Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5742364)

Whether we get rid of it, I just wish pitch framing would be seen for what it is (catching the ball quietly, with little movement), rather than what is isn't (tricking the umpire by pulling the ball back over the plate).

   25. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 03:57 PM (#5742376)
You're saying it's better if the umpires call him out wrongly (thus ending the game rather than allowing the tying run to score) with no recourse, because we want the fielders to be able to celebrate a win that they didn't earn? That's nuts.


Remember that you have highlighted the best possible situation for replay. Every other replay challenge - thousands of them in a year - will be for lesser stakes, indeed may seem wholly irrelevant, and will cause just as long a delay. I said that it was a "net negative." That doesn't mean it's a negative every single time. In this case, perhaps, it's a positive. In many others, it's detracting from the game, distressingly so.

If I could magically overturn the only the gravest of injustices, I would, even if it incurred a delay. But I can't, at least, not unless MLB puts me in charge of overhauling the entire program.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:00 PM (#5742377)

Remember that you have highlighted the best possible situation for replay. Every other replay challenge - thousands of them in a year - will be for lesser stakes, indeed may seem wholly irrelevant, and will cause just as long a delay. I said that it was a "net negative." That doesn't mean it's a negative every single time. In this case, perhaps, it's a positive. In many others, it's detracting from the game, distressingly so.


Exactly.
   27. Spahn Insane Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:05 PM (#5742380)
Say what now? You realize there won't be an actual C3PO droid on the field making the calls, right?

Of course not. You can't have a limey cyborg officiating 'murca's national pastime!
   28. Moses Taylor, aka Hambone Fakenameington Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:10 PM (#5742385)
Remember that you have highlighted the best possible situation for replay. Every other replay challenge - thousands of them in a year - will be for lesser stakes, indeed may seem wholly irrelevant, and will cause just as long a delay. I said that it was a "net negative." That doesn't mean it's a negative every single time. In this case, perhaps, it's a positive. In many others, it's detracting from the game, distressingly so.

That's a problem with the design of this replay system, not of replay in general.

The very idea of a challenge system is so fundamentally wrong, it taints the entire thing. A well designed and executed system would eliminate many of the problems people hate about replays.

I want to fix the system, not throw it out.
   29. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:12 PM (#5742386)
The very idea of a challenge system is so fundamentally wrong, it taints the entire thing. A well designed and executed system would eliminate many of the problems people hate about replays.

I want to fix the system, not throw it out.


I agree with you. The "challenge" system is a dirty gimmick.

Many, here and elsewhere, have sketched out a far superior system.
   30. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:19 PM (#5742389)
And if they need to toss a bone back the umps' way, then they can do away with all other replays.


Replays actually added to the umpires. It hired another dozen or so to cover the replay booth. Doing away with replays is probably something the umpires union doesn't want.

And heck I have no problem with keeping four umps even with robo umps.
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:24 PM (#5742392)
The thing about robo umps is that it would be basically a light on the scoreboard indicating strike or ball... it's instantaneous and faster than a few umps out there.... and heck within a decade, the job of the homeplate ump would be to verbalize the call. Of course robo-umps would be a five or ten year build up in the minors before it entered mlb.... even though mlb is more equipped to do it right now than the minors.

   32. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:28 PM (#5742396)
Change the situation slightly - put the tying run on 3rd, and he scores on a ball in play. And now assume the batter beats the throw at first by a half-step, but still gets called out.

You're saying it's better if the umpires call him out wrongly (thus ending the game rather than allowing the tying run to score) with no recourse, because we want the fielders to be able to celebrate a win that they didn't earn? That's nuts.


Agree, as a Cardinal fan, I don't even fathom how another Cardinal fan could be bothered by replay on a ninth inning play that matters, slowing the game down. Replay exists partially because of Denkinger and the Cardinals in 1985.... (there are others in the history of course.... but replay was ultimately presented as a situation to fix that, to fix the failed perfect game by Galaragga etc.) Replay is ultimately designed to fix mistakes.... There has of course been mistakes with the design of replay that has caused other mistakes, but the people who are fixated on it, were against any changes, and instead of seeing the dozens or hundreds of improvements it's made, focus on the few dozen mistakes.... it's better than what we had before, but it still needs to be improved on)

   33. Dog on the sidewalk Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:30 PM (#5742397)
I was originally pro-replay, but I absolutely hate the way it's been implemented. There are far too many pre-replay delays as teams mull the decision, and far too many replays take several minutes to reach a ruling. I consider it a net negative right now, too.

And bring on the robo-umps.

I strongly suspect there will be considerable unintended consequences not the least of which will be a big increase in offense as hitters don't have any uncertainty at the plate.

I don't think that would necessarily be a bad thing.

I think we'd also see some increased offense as a result of catchers being selected more for their offensive abilities. A decent arm and an ability to work with pitchers is all you'd really need from your catcher, so we'd quite possibly start seeing the Jose Molinas and Martin Maldonados replaced with guys who previously were considered positionless or 1B-only. That wouldn't bother me, either.
   34. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:36 PM (#5742403)

Many, here and elsewhere, have sketched out a far superior system.


And that is ultimately where we are at, and where we were at in the beginning of the replay system controversy... the challenge system was always idiotic... I could almost see it as a backup for true replay---a true replay situation would have replay be automatically done by an ump at the game, in the booth, with a radio to the crew chief or even a light on the field that he signals he's reviewing, and then reviewing automatically and within an acceptable amount of time depending on the severity of the game situation, and then signalling the crew his result, where the crew chief who is on the radio could hear his explanation, and then the crew chief makes the call from his judgment. The entire conversation on all radios will be saved and available to reporters after the game. If a manager wishes to challenge a call, he can make the challenge, and if he is right the call is overturned, if he is wrong, he's ejected from the game.

This stealing from the nfl a challenge system was always the worst way to go about replay, but because MLB thinks of itself as the little brother of the NFL, it wants to emulate it and hope to gather some of it's popularity. Even though it's the better looking, smarter, more moral little brother, it still has an inferiority complex.

   35. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:39 PM (#5742408)
There are far too many pre-replay delays as teams mull the decision, and far too many replays take several minutes to reach a ruling. I consider it a net negative right now, too.


I think that that has gotten a lot better over the years. I hardly notice the pre-replay delays anymore, vs the way it was a few years ago. I think the league has adapted....which is funny considering how much the league has wanted to reduce time, and still hasn't figured the one thing that we have talked about on this site for at least five years, and that the primary waste of time, is time between pitches...not time between innings, time between pitching changes, time wasted on visits to the mound.... but just reduce the average time between pitches by even two-three seconds, would make a huge difference in time of game and pace of game.
   36. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:41 PM (#5742412)
(and to that end.... the pitch clock was an attempt.... but I would go one step further... keep track of time between pitches and give bonus's to umps that when they are behind the plate produce an average of time between pitches better than the mean---ultimately the umps are the ones allowing the delays--and that management gives a job to the homeplate ump when robo umps take over the strike/ball calling)
   37. Zach Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:43 PM (#5742415)
I cannot wait for the people begging for RoboUmps to see it in action.

Self driving cars, too.

I predict that robo-umps will have slightly greater accuracy regarding the horizontal location of pitches.

I also predict that there will be at least one outrageous corner case that they totally screw up. And then we'll be left hopelessly arguing that that pitch isn't supposed to be a strike!
   38. Dog on the sidewalk Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:49 PM (#5742419)
They're not going to be perfect, and the people opposed to them will pounce on every apparent mistake as proof of the concept's inferiority, but they'll be so much better than humans.

(that statement was meant to be about robo-umps, but it could probably apply to self-driving cars, too)
   39. Man o' Schwar Posted: September 11, 2018 at 04:53 PM (#5742424)
Remember that you have highlighted the best possible situation for replay. Every other replay challenge - thousands of them in a year - will be for lesser stakes, indeed may seem wholly irrelevant, and will cause just as long a delay. I said that it was a "net negative." That doesn't mean it's a negative every single time. In this case, perhaps, it's a positive. In many others, it's detracting from the game, distressingly so.

If I could magically overturn the only the gravest of injustices, I would, even if it incurred a delay. But I can't, at least, not unless MLB puts me in charge of overhauling the entire program.


I don't disagree with any of this. There are too many replay challenges, and beyond that, too many times where the game stops for 30-60 seconds so the umps can wait for the manager to wait for a coach to wait for the signal from the booth as to whether to challenge. I'd get rid of that part, and put an ump in the booth. There are no challenges. If the ump feels something needs to be looked at, he'll buzz the home plate ump during the time that it takes the next guy to come to bat. Maybe adding an extra ump to each crew would make the idea of Robo-pitch calling go down a little easier (plus, 1 out of every 5 games an ump would get to work sitting in a both instead of out on the field; that's got to be a nice change of pace).

But just because the system isn't perfect doesn't mean you throw it out completely, for the reason I stated - MLB history is littered with playoff games that have been impacted by poor umpiring, and I doubt that is something that's just going to magically get better. Plus, no one is perfect. Even the best umpire is going to miss one once in a while. That shouldn't be the end of the story when the game is on the line.
   40. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 05:01 PM (#5742429)
#39 - I've been advocating for the exact same system for at least a decade.
   41. RoyalFlush Posted: September 11, 2018 at 05:49 PM (#5742457)
I'm a huge fan of the concept of robo-umps. Quicker, more accurate and no arguments all seem like positives to me.

However, Effectively Wild did a podcast on this a while ago and talked to some tech experts in the field. It seemed to be the consensus of the experts that what we see live on TV is not accurate enough or quick enough. They basically said the technology wasn't there yet. Obviously, this flies in the face of what we see on TV and what we read in articles like this.

Would be interesting to hear if anyone knows what the technical challenges are - or might be. Because, conceptually, I have a hard time coming up with an argument against.

   42. Dr. Vaux Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:13 PM (#5742469)
I really can't understand why someone who likes baseball would want to eliminate part of the skill involved with playing one of the positions. Does this opinion correlate with liking the DH? (Accepting its demise is a separate matter from actively wanting specifically to eliminate it.)
   43. John DiFool2 Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:32 PM (#5742477)
I'm against robo-umps because they seem totally unnecessary to me, but I'd view removing pitch-framing as a huge positive.


I'm for it. Sick of how much framing matters and to a degree -- batter eye rep.


Fangraphs 1-2 times each year has an article on the worst missed strikes and balls. And each time the reason they missed it (welp, the non-strikes down the middle) was because the catcher was crossed up and caught it awkwardly.
   44. John DiFool2 Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:36 PM (#5742480)
And that is ultimately where we are at, and where we were at in the beginning of the replay system controversy... the challenge system was always idiotic... I could almost see it as a backup for true replay---a true replay situation would have replay be automatically done by an ump at the game, in the booth, with a radio to the crew chief or even a light on the field that he signals he's reviewing, and then reviewing automatically and within an acceptable amount of time depending on the severity of the game situation, and then signalling the crew his result, where the crew chief who is on the radio could hear his explanation, and then the crew chief makes the call from his judgment.


Isn't that how the NHL does it?
   45. John DiFool2 Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:40 PM (#5742484)
[one more half on-topic, then I'll shut up]

In the postseason, they really need to move the outfield umps right under the foul poles. Garcia would have had a much better look/angle at the Jeffrey Maier home run if he had been there instead of 200 feet from the plate.
   46. Dog on the sidewalk Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:40 PM (#5742485)
I really can't understand why someone who likes baseball would want to eliminate part of the skill involved with playing one of the positions. Does this opinion correlate with liking the DH? (Accepting its demise is a separate matter from actively wanting specifically to eliminate it

Maybe, though I'm indifferent to the DH.

Good pitch framing can be somewhat enjoyable to watch. Botched ball/strike calls are infuriating to watch. Getting rid of the former to mostly get rid of the latter is so very worth it to me.
   47. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: September 11, 2018 at 06:42 PM (#5742486)
Fangraphs 1-2 times each year has an article on the worst missed strikes and balls. And each time the reason they missed it (welp, the non-strikes down the middle) was because the catcher was crossed up and caught it awkwardly.


I've watched Omar Narvaez catch all year and while he's had a great year at the plate, behind it he's one of the worst framers in baseball. Sox pitchers are constantly giving away the bottom of the zone because every ball he catches down there is with his glove diving down like it's in the dirt.
   48. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 07:29 PM (#5742503)
sn't that how the NHL does it?


Don't know about the replay challenge part, but the other part is how the NHL and how Japan does it. There is no idiotic challenge system, it happens or it doesn't...and you have two or so officials who's entire job depend on them ensuring the call is right, they need to justify it by actually making calls, at the same time, they aren't obligated simply because a coach asked them too.

Again we have argued for the NHL system on this site pretty much since the beginning. Yet MLB decided to go the NFL way.
   49. cardsfanboy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 07:32 PM (#5742505)
I really can't understand why someone who likes baseball would want to eliminate part of the skill involved with playing one of the positions. Does this opinion correlate with liking the DH? (Accepting its demise is a separate matter from actively wanting specifically to eliminate it


I don't see why it would correlate, this isn't catching a baseball, this is deception of the actual call. You have a guy like Votto or Carpenter up to bat, guys who truly know the strike zone, and the ump's decision is sometimes left in the hands of a guy with soft gloves instead of the players actual ability?

Add in that there is well documented data out there that on a 3-0 pitch, a pitch is going to be called a strike much more frequently out of the strike zone, and on an 0-2 pitch a pitch will be called a ball within the strike zone, and we are stuck with umps who are afraid to be arbitrators, more than we are stuck with arbitrators.
   50. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 11, 2018 at 07:44 PM (#5742514)
But just because the system isn't perfect doesn't mean you throw it out completely, for the reason I stated - MLB history is littered with playoff games that have been impacted by poor umpiring, and I doubt that is something that's just going to magically get better. Plus, no one is perfect. Even the best umpire is going to miss one once in a while. That shouldn't be the end of the story when the game is on the line.

I don't see why not. Players make mistakes, umpires make mistakes. Nobody suffers any real harm because their team lost a game on a blown call.

Since baseball is a zero sum game (one team wins, one team loses, one fanbase is happy, one is sad) I'm perfectly fine with accepting umpire errors if they eliminate the delay, and drama-destroying aspects of replay.
   51. Leroy Kincaid Posted: September 11, 2018 at 07:47 PM (#5742515)
Who might be the first to argue with a robo-ump? Puig?
   52. McCoy Posted: September 11, 2018 at 07:50 PM (#5742519)
Carl Everett.
   53. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 11, 2018 at 08:01 PM (#5742523)
And if they need to toss a bone back the umps' way, then they can do away with all other replays.

Replays actually added to the umpires. It hired another dozen or so to cover the replay booth. Doing away with replays is probably something the umpires union doesn't want.


I was thinking of their injured pride factor when I wrote that "bone" comment.

And heck I have no problem with keeping four umps even with robo umps.

Me, either. Balls and strikes aren't the only function of a home plate ump, and what'd be fun would be to wire the ump's right arm so that it reflexively shoots up in the air when a ball passes through the strike zone, with optional audio.

And while I very much view pitch framing as a laudable skill, when RoboUmps render it obsolete I can't say I'll mourn.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I was originally pro-replay, but I absolutely hate the way it's been implemented. There are far too many pre-replay delays as teams mull the decision, and far too many replays take several minutes to reach a ruling.

I could live with replay if appeals had to be made instantaneously, without any input from cameras relayed to the manager, and with an absolute maximum of 60 seconds from the time the play ends to render a decision. If no decision is reached in 60 seconds, then the original call on the field stands. IMO pace of play is more important than absolute perfection.
   54. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 11, 2018 at 08:04 PM (#5742524)
Who might be the first to argue with a robo-ump? Puig?

Carl Everett.

If Everett had ever managed to extend his career up to the time of Robo-Umps, they should've created a Robo-Ump that looked like a dinosaur.
   55. TomH Posted: September 11, 2018 at 08:24 PM (#5742533)
We mikght have one less perfect game in WS history with robot umps....
   56. Man o' Schwar Posted: September 11, 2018 at 08:32 PM (#5742534)
Nobody suffers any real harm because their team lost a game on a blown call.

Tell it to the 1985 Cardinals.
   57. PreservedFish Posted: September 11, 2018 at 08:37 PM (#5742537)
They lost a game. Didn't cost them much money, their health, or, as snapper is sure to consider, their chances at an enjoyable afterlife.
   58. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 11, 2018 at 10:08 PM (#5742616)
They lost a game. Didn't cost them much money, their health, or, as snapper is sure to consider, their chances at an enjoyable afterlife.

Very drole.

Tell it to the 1985 Cardinals.

Whatever they lost, the Royals gained. Again, zero sum.
   59. Shredder Posted: September 11, 2018 at 10:14 PM (#5742626)
I really can't understand why someone who likes baseball would want to eliminate part of the skill involved with playing one of the positions. Does this opinion correlate with liking the DH? (Accepting its demise is a separate matter from actively wanting specifically to eliminate it
Isn't scuffing up the ball without getting caught also a skill?

I'd prefer a system where the managers don't get to decide on a review, but the players do. Get rid of the pause or 30 seconds or whatever that a manager has to decide. The players involved know whether the ump got the call right.
   60. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 11, 2018 at 10:14 PM (#5742628)
Whatever they lost, the Royals gained. Again, zero sum.
Well, other than that according to the rules of baseball, one side was right and the other was wrong. But hey, you've always been all about the relativism - as long as it's bringing joy, right and wrong don't matter, amirite?
   61. John DiFool2 Posted: September 11, 2018 at 10:38 PM (#5742657)
Me, either. Balls and strikes aren't the only function of a home plate ump, and what'd be fun would be to wire the ump's right arm so that it reflexively shoots up in the air when a ball passes through the strike zone, with optional audio.


"Mein Fuhrer, it's a strike!"
   62. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 11, 2018 at 11:29 PM (#5742702)
Me, either. Balls and strikes aren't the only function of a home plate ump, and what'd be fun would be to wire the ump's right arm so that it reflexively shoots up in the air when a ball passes through the strike zone, with optional audio.

"Mein Fuhrer, it's a strike!"


Seriously, how cool would that be?

And if the batter complains, the ump whips out a cat o' nine tails and commences with the discipline. Here would be your first RoboUmp's Little Assistant.
   63. Obo Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:00 AM (#5742716)
You realize there won't be an actual C3PO droid on the field making the calls, right?

Robo-Earl Weaver will need something to yell at.

I mean, there's no point to technology if it doesn't eventually give us Robo-Earl Weaver.
   64. Perry Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:43 AM (#5742728)
I don't see why not. Players make mistakes, umpires make mistakes. Nobody suffers any real harm because their team lost a game on a blown call.

Since baseball is a zero sum game (one team wins, one team loses, one fanbase is happy, one is sad) I'm perfectly fine with accepting umpire errors if they eliminate the delay, and drama-destroying aspects of replay.


Agreed.
   65. QLE Posted: September 12, 2018 at 05:47 AM (#5742742)
See below.
   66. QLE Posted: September 12, 2018 at 05:48 AM (#5742743)
Tell it to the 1985 Cardinals.


Had Darrell Porter shown any signs of basic competence that half-inning, Whitey Herzog any signs of mental balance, or the entire team made any effort to actually play Game 7, it wouldn't have mattered at all.
   67. manchestermets Posted: September 12, 2018 at 06:52 AM (#5742754)
Whatever they lost, the Royals gained. Again, zero sum.


Okay, I'm going to steal $1000 from you and give it to the first person I see wearing a blue shirt. What you'll lose, they'll gain, so no harm done.
   68. Rennie's Tenet Posted: September 12, 2018 at 07:37 AM (#5742762)
Is there any consensus on how the top and bottom of the strike zone would be marked?
   69. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 12, 2018 at 08:35 AM (#5742775)
Tell it to the 1985 Cardinals.

Had Darrell Porter shown any signs of basic competence that half-inning, Whitey Herzog any signs of mental balance, or the entire team made any effort to actually play Game 7, it wouldn't have mattered at all.

Has there ever been a better example of karma coming home to roost than what happened to the Cardinals in that 1985 World Series?
   70. Dr. Vaux Posted: September 12, 2018 at 08:52 AM (#5742785)
Isn't scuffing up the ball without getting caught also a skill?


But scuffing the ball is against the rules. Being in a particular position when you catch the pitch isn't. If they decided to make rules about that, then that would be a different discussion.

Anyway, as I said, I completely understand being willing to give up the usefulness of the skill of pitch framing as a collateral effect of switching to an automated strike zone. I just don't understand wanting to switch to an automated strike zone in part for the expressed purpose of eliminating that skill's usefulness.

I do think that the way an automated strike zone would probably be defined would lead to fewer called strikes, not more. I'm not sure anymore whether that would increase offense. I still think it would, but maybe not; after all, it would further discourage swinging, and any offensive event that nets more than one base at a time is generated by swinging. It would definitely result in fewer balls put in play.
   71. jmurph Posted: September 12, 2018 at 09:45 AM (#5742806)
The players involved know whether the ump got the call right.

This is something that, to my surprise, has turned out to be extremely wrong. Like almost universally wrong. Practically every single game I watch someone, usually a fielder applying a tag at 2nd or 3rd, but sometimes a baserunner, signals to the manager that they should challenge a call, and they are just constantly wrong.
   72. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2018 at 10:12 AM (#5742820)
Okay, I'm going to steal $1000 from you and give it to the first person I see wearing a blue shirt. What you'll lose, they'll gain, so no harm done.

That's a terrible analogy. Nobody had anything. Nobody lost anything.

A mistake was made that was one factor among 100 that led to the Cardinals losing the series. I'm not sure why that mistake is a cosmic injustice, but every other mistake the Cardinals made to lose the series is peachy keen.

Remember, all Denkinger's call did was put a runner on 1B with none out, rather than one out, bases clear. Jack Clark proceeded to drop a foul pop-up, and Porter allowed a passed ball to put 2 runners in scoring position.

Again, lots of mistakes were made.
   73. manchestermets Posted: September 12, 2018 at 10:19 AM (#5742823)
A mistake was made that was one factor among 100 that led to the Cardinals losing the series. I'm not sure why that mistake is a cosmic injustice, but every other mistake the Cardinals made to lose the series is peachy keen.


What's the word "other" doing there? The original mistake wasn't a mistake the Cardinals made, it was a mistake the umpire made. That's the fairly clear and obvious difference - nobody complains that it's unfair when a team's bad play leads to it losing a game.
   74. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2018 at 10:25 AM (#5742829)
What's the word "other" doing there? The original mistake wasn't a mistake the Cardinals made, it was a mistake the umpire made. That's the fairly clear and obvious difference - nobody complains that it's unfair when a team's bad play leads to it losing a game.

The umpire is every bit as much a part of the game as the players. It's ridiculous to ask perfection of them, when everyone else is imperfect.

All the attempts to get more calls right make the game a less entertaining experience. Since baseball is entertainment, I'd much rather have a better product, and accept umpire mistakes.

   75. manchestermets Posted: September 12, 2018 at 11:17 AM (#5742857)
Balls and strikes being called incorrectly doesn't make for a better product. Nobody is expecting the umpire to be perfect, simply suggesting that there might be a better alternative available for one part of the umpire's job. If the pitch can be called as a ball or strike as quickly as the umpire would, with better accuracy what's the problem? Nobody's suggesting standing around for five minutes while someone in New York checks the ball/strike call. To celebrate pitches being called incorrectly is perverse.
   76. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2018 at 11:33 AM (#5742872)
Balls and strikes being called incorrectly doesn't make for a better product. Nobody is expecting the umpire to be perfect, simply suggesting that there might be a better alternative available for one part of the umpire's job. If the pitch can be called as a ball or strike as quickly as the umpire would, with better accuracy what's the problem? Nobody's suggesting standing around for five minutes while someone in New York checks the ball/strike call. To celebrate pitches being called incorrectly is perverse.

All the history of replay says it won't be better. The current replay in MLB (just like the NFL) is far worse than the small number of blown calls it eliminates.

It has changed the way the game is played (e.g. stupid delayed tags at 2B), introduced delay, and sucked the excitement out of dramatic moments. i.e. I have to wait for replay to know if I can celebrate, by which point, I no longer want to celebrate.

To think there won't be unintended consequences from robo umps is beyond naive.

I don't celebrate blown calls, although they are some of the great talking points of MLB history. I simply believe they don't make the entertainment product worse, and are to be vastly preferred to the various replay schemes that try to reverse them.
   77. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 12, 2018 at 11:47 AM (#5742887)
A mistake was made that was one factor among 100 that led to the Cardinals losing the series. I'm not sure why that mistake is a cosmic injustice, but every other mistake the Cardinals made to lose the series is peachy keen.

What's the word "other" doing there? The original mistake wasn't a mistake the Cardinals made, it was a mistake the umpire made. That's the fairly clear and obvious difference - nobody complains that it's unfair when a team's bad play leads to it losing a game

So far, so good. But you might also respond to the rest of what snapper wrote:
Remember, all Denkinger's call did was put a runner on 1B with none out, rather than one out, bases clear. Jack Clark proceeded to drop a foul pop-up, and Porter allowed a passed ball to put 2 runners in scoring position.

I agree that lumping these events with Denkinger's blown call as "mistakes" confuses the issue, but the point remains that Denkinger's blown call still left the Royals with but a 34% Win Expectancy at that point. Balboni's single increased the Win Expectancy to 52%, but if Clark hadn't screwed up that foul pop-up, Balboni's hit would've been prevented. And after Sundberg's botched sacrifice attempt sent that Win Expectancy back down to 34%, Porter's passed ball jacked it back up to 54%.

And you sure as hell can't blame the umpiring for their game 7 meltdown.

The Cardinals can curse Denkinger all they want, but they blew that Series with only a relatively minor assist from him.
   78. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 12, 2018 at 11:51 AM (#5742890)
To think there won't be unintended consequences from robo umps is beyond naive.

Like what? It's not as if bad calls will be overturned. They just won't be called wrong to begin with. There'd be no delay of the game.

Is your argument that badly called balls and strikes are a net positive? If not, and assuming RoboUmps will have the kinks ironed out before being introduced, what's your objection to them? This isn't replay.
   79. jmurph Posted: September 12, 2018 at 11:52 AM (#5742891)
You guys are making a great case for why Buckner should not be scapegoated by Red Sox fans (sub in all the relevant names and details). It's a very unconvincing case for absolving Denkinger.
   80. PreservedFish Posted: September 12, 2018 at 11:57 AM (#5742896)
I was 4 years old when that WS was played and I always assumed, given the way that people talk about it, that Denkinger's call occurred with 2 outs, which is to say, that the Cardinals had essentially won the game and that victory was ripped from their hands. Surprise surprise, it occurred with zero outs, and in fact the only out that the Cardinals recorded in that inning was a sacrifice.
   81. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:00 PM (#5742901)
What's the word "other" doing there? The original mistake wasn't a mistake the Cardinals made, it was a mistake the umpire made. That's the fairly clear and obvious difference - nobody complains that it's unfair when a team's bad play leads to it losing a game.

The umpire is every bit as much a part of the game as the players.

I see you went to the Joe West school of umpiring. Nobody pays to go see umpires umpire.

All the attempts to get more calls right make the game a less entertaining experience.

No, what makes baseball an entertaining experience, is players making baseball plays, and the result of those plays deciding games.* You can see this quite easily, if you imagine what would happen if every single play was decided 100% by umpire calls, and 0% by actual baseball play. Baseball would cease to exist.

*Note, this is also why people think pitch framing is bad. Pitch framing is not a baseball play. It is an attempt to influence the umpire to wrongly decide the outcome of an actual baseball play.
   82. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:02 PM (#5742902)
You guys are making a great case for why Buckner should not be scapegoated by Red Sox fans (sub in all the relevant names and details). It's a very unconvincing case for absolving Denkinger.

Nobody's absolving Denkinger. We're just making note of his many, many accomplices who showed up over the next 24 hours, after he made that one blown call.

And while I can't speak for Red Sox fans, are any of them absolving Schiraldi or Stanley? AFAICT Buckner was only the final nail in the 6th act curtain.
   83. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:13 PM (#5742913)
I have to wait for replay to know if I can celebrate, by which point, I no longer want to celebrate.
If your sour grapes about replay are strong enough to override your desire to celebrate, that's very much a you problem, not a replay problem.
   84. jmurph Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:16 PM (#5742917)
Nobody's absolving Denkinger. We're just making note of his many, many accomplices who showed up over the next 24 hours, after he made that one blown call.

And while I can't speak for Red Sox fans, are any of them absolving Schiraldi or Stanley? AFAICT Buckner was only the final nail in the 6th act curtain.

My point was these defenses are more appropriate for the Red Sox situation- a number of people, mostly casual fans, think of the Red Sox meltdown as being Buckner's fault, when in fact the team made a number of mistakes/performed poorly to blow the series. But I don't think it makes any sense to equate a clear umpiring blunder with a mistake/bad performance by the team, they're obviously different categories.
   85. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:29 PM (#5742928)
Like what? It's not as if bad calls will be overturned. They just won't be called wrong to begin with. There'd be no delay of the game.

Is your argument that badly called balls and strikes are a net positive? If not, and assuming RoboUmps will have the kinks ironed out before being introduced, what's your objection to them? This isn't replay.


I'm saying the robot umps won't call strikes and balls correctly. They'll be errors, probably systematic. We're talking a bout a three dimensional space that varies by batter, and by the batter's stance.

There will probably be ways to trick the technology. If you're setting the strike zone based on the batters knees and "letters", what if he changes stance before the pitch? If the strike zone is truly 3D, might we (as others here have speculated) see a huge rise in ephus, or extreme sidearm pitches, that are effectively un-hittable, but catch a tiny corner of the zone?

I doubt the technology will be significantly better than the humans.
   86. PreservedFish Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:40 PM (#5742937)
Oh man, the eephus thing would be so great. Snapper you've been trying to kill the parade of 99mph relievers, what better way to incentive memorable, creative pitching? And in turn, to incentivize unusual contact skills?
   87. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM (#5742940)
If the strike zone is truly 3D, might we (as others here have speculated) see a huge rise in ephus, or extreme sidearm pitches, that are effectively un-hittable, but catch a tiny corner of the zone?

You say that like it would be a bad thing. I think it would be awesome! Another way to pitch successfully besides the ability to throw 98 mph for 15 pitches every 3rd day.

Or... what [86] said.
   88. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: September 12, 2018 at 12:56 PM (#5742945)
Oh man, the eephus thing would be so great. Snapper you've been trying to kill the parade of 99mph relievers, what better way to incentive memorable, creative pitching? And in turn, to incentivize unusual contact skills?

It would be great. But I highly highly doubt it will actually happen. Pitchers throwing the ball in a straight line to the catcher already routinely miss their spots by quite large amounts. You are telling me that pitchers will develop much more complex pitching motions, with much more complex pitch trajectories, to try and consistently hit a maybe 2 square-inch window of the 3D strike zone? They are not going to be able to do it.

But if they could, it would be awesome.
   89. PreservedFish Posted: September 12, 2018 at 01:02 PM (#5742950)
Dare to dream! It needn't be a 2-inch spot. Maybe we discover that it's really, really hard to consistently drive a ball that is falling through the strike zone at a >45 degree angle, even if it's going 40 mph. And it only needs to be one tool in an arsenal. We already have LOOGYs that stand on the 1B side of the rubber, and sidearm big sweeping breaking balls that try and catch the outside edge of the plate. I do think that with a roboump we might see more of that type of stuff. Or less, who knows.
   90. Greg Pope Posted: September 12, 2018 at 01:16 PM (#5742961)
If you're setting the strike zone based on the batters knees and "letters", what if he changes stance before the pitch?

In a sane world, MLB would simply redefine the textbook definition of the strike zone. Official standing heights would be measured for players, then the zone would be set to be between 15% and 45% of the body height. Or whatever is comparable, I have no idea what numbers should be. Do that, and your batter can stand upright, do a Rickey crouch, whatever, and they still get the same strike zone.

Of course, I doubt MLB will do that. They will do a half-assed solution to try to appease traditionalists.
   91. Greg Pope Posted: September 12, 2018 at 01:18 PM (#5742964)
The umpire is every bit as much a part of the game as the players. It's ridiculous to ask perfection of them, when everyone else is imperfect.

The umpires should never be part of the game. They're there to enforce the rules. If we can enforce the rules without a human element, we should.

EDIT: Also, without affecting pace of play.
   92. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 12, 2018 at 02:33 PM (#5743025)
Is your argument that badly called balls and strikes are a net positive? If not, and assuming RoboUmps will have the kinks ironed out before being introduced, what's your objection to them? This isn't replay.

I'm saying the robot umps won't call strikes and balls correctly. They'll be errors, probably systematic. We're talking a bout a three dimensional space that varies by batter, and by the batter's stance.


First, there couldn't possibly be more miscalled balls and strikes than there are today.

Second, it'd be easier to make systematic corrections than corrections to 120 different personalized strike zones.

Third, by the time the ball arrives at home plate, nearly all of the direction-bending has already been done.

There will probably be ways to trick the technology. If you're setting the strike zone based on the batters knees and "letters", what if he changes stance before the pitch? If the strike zone is truly 3D, might we (as others here have speculated) see a huge rise in ephus, or extreme sidearm pitches, that are effectively un-hittable, but catch a tiny corner of the zone?

There's a reason the eephus pitch hasn't been seen much since the 1946 All-Star game, when Ted Williams blasted one of them into the next county. For one thing, it may not be the smartest pitch to throw with runners on first or second, because you'd be having Gary Sanchez and Bartolo Colon stealing bases.

And we've already got extreme sidearm pitchers who pitch with varying degrees of success. No three dimensional strike zone is likely to do them much good.
   93. shoelesjoe Posted: September 13, 2018 at 01:16 AM (#5743358)
The umpire is every bit as much a part of the game as the players.


Nuts to that. Umpires are not, and never have been "part of the game". They are a necessary evil, and while their fallibility is understandable baseball should be making every effort to minimize the impact of their mistakes. The "human factor" is baseball has to be limited to the contestants and their coaches, and should never extend to umpires in any tolerable manner. There's a reason the average fan can't name the good umpires, but probably knows the names of several bad ones: because umpires are not part of the game.
   94. SoSH U at work Posted: September 13, 2018 at 07:55 AM (#5743379)

Nuts to that. Umpires are not, and never have been "part of the game".


The fact that several are in the Hall would suggest otherwise.

   95. John DiFool2 Posted: September 13, 2018 at 09:20 AM (#5743404)
There's a reason the eephus pitch hasn't been seen much since the 1946 All-Star game, when Ted Williams blasted one of them into the next county.


You forgot Spaceman Lee and Tony Perez, but yeah.
   96. PreservedFish Posted: September 13, 2018 at 09:41 AM (#5743427)
Tennis is always an interesting example to me, because it's the only sport that seems to have gotten replay right. Tennis replays do have a challenge system, but they happen very quickly, and are accepted as definitive by all concerned. The crowd even seems to enjoy them.

At the same time, major tennis matches employ something like 8 fallible human line judges, all of whom could be made obsolete overnight if people had the will to do it. Why don't they? One reason might just be that it would change the atmosphere - having 8 different people yelling out "fault" in different ways is something we're used to, and a series of lights or beeps would certainly change things.

I think that one lesson we can take from it is that baseball would be better served if the home umpire alone had access to the robo-ump's decision, so we still got to enjoy his idiosyncratic ball and strike calls.

Tennis also has a service clock, which I think is new. It's very unobtrusive. Another good lesson for baseball, as I think that a big obnoxious pitch clock would be an aesthetic disaster. It's not implemented perfectly in tennis - there isn't much consistency with when it starts, and players still have time to lavishly towel themselves off after literally every single point - but I think they got the look of it right, and it undoubtedly must hurry along the worst offenders.
   97. SoSH U at work Posted: September 13, 2018 at 09:45 AM (#5743432)
The one thing about tennis is that play at the highest level was already different than all of the lower levels, where lines were called by the players themselves.
   98. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 13, 2018 at 11:42 AM (#5743565)
It's not implemented perfectly in tennis - there isn't much consistency with when it starts, and players still have time to lavishly towel themselves off after literally every single point -
I assume the Maria Sharapovas of the world are given a little more leeway as far as the lavishly toweling off?
   99. RoyalFlush Posted: September 13, 2018 at 12:16 PM (#5743589)
Tennis is always an interesting example to me, because it's the only sport that seems to have gotten replay right. Tennis replays do have a challenge system, but they happen very quickly, and are accepted as definitive by all concerned. The crowd even seems to enjoy them.


At Wimbledon this year John Isner was arguing with the umpire over replay calls he was sure were incorrect. He was asking why he had to accept the technology. The live replays didn't seem to support Isner's claims.
   100. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 13, 2018 at 04:24 PM (#5743841)
I always wondered what we were watching when they showed us the "replays" in tennis challenges, which were not actually replays at all. It turns out they are simulations of the ball's most likely path based on 6-7 camera angles, and they are accurate to 3.6 mm which I think is good enough when the typical baseball is ~75 mm in diameter.

Since baseball is a zero sum game (one team wins, one team loses, one fanbase is happy, one is sad) I'm perfectly fine with accepting umpire errors if they eliminate the delay, and drama-destroying aspects of replay.

I agree with snapper that we should be wary of robo-umps (we should definitely try them in the minors or spring training before rolling them out in games that count). But I disagree on the zero-sum comment. Anyone who watched the Osaka/Williams US Open match will tell you that a controversial call, while providing lots of fodder for internet discussion, taints the results in a way for the winner as well as the loser (and their fans).
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