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Robot Umpires Newsbeat

Thursday, January 23, 2020

MLB umpires’ union clarifies use of electronics at spring training sites

Hours after baseball commissioner Rob Manfred indicated that an electronic strike zone would be used in spring training games, the executive committee of the umpires’ union clarified that news, indicating that the electronics would not be used in place of a plate ump’s judgment.

Rather, as umpires go through their regular spring work, MLB will be operating an electronic zone for nine games in Florida as it continues to refine its system that is expected to be implemented in the years ahead.

The umpires’ committee released a statement to ESPN on Wednesday evening that read: “Reports that MLB will use ‘robo-umps’ to call balls and strikes in spring training games this year are completely inaccurate. ... Our understanding is that a camera-based tracking system will be running in the background during some spring training games for technology development and training purposes. But any game in which a Major League Baseball umpire is working will have a human calling balls and strikes.”

A Major League Baseball official confirmed this.

An increased use of technology in baseball? Whatever could go wrong?

 

QLE Posted: January 23, 2020 at 12:30 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: robot umpires, technology

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Pen: How baseball might change in the 2020s

Baseball has such a long history of proud consistency and a culture built on self-referential comparisons between eras. From a distance it’s defined by sameness across centuries, but when you zoom in, it feels like we’re always in a moment of pivotal — and controversial — change. That was true of the last decade (10 years ago there wasn’t even in-season testing for human-growth hormone, only the Los Angeles Angels were interested in a young man named Mike Trout, and instant replay applied only to home runs) and it will certainly be true of the 2020s.

For instance: an overhaul of the way pitch selection is relayed and even who does the relaying. On Monday, I reported on Major League Baseball’s plans to test prototypes as soon as this spring for technological communication of pitches. We don’t know yet what that will look like — wearable random number generators, lights in the mound, or something else entirely — but I’m sure its implementation will be contentious and hand-wring-y and full of opportunities to lament the state of a once-great game.

I, for one, am looking forward to it. Implicit in that news was another forthcoming change. MLB (in this case that means people within the commissioner’s office) expects teams to shift toward having coaches in the dugout calling the game instead of catchers behind the plate. The various trickle-down effects — making the backstop more of a filler role for another offensive powerhouse — are fascinating, both fun to predict and exciting in their exhaustive unpredictability. Baseball doesn’t change so much as evolve — developments in the wider world beget necessary reactions which beget adaptations or even exploitations and counterstrikes and codifications and overcorrections, and the whole process is constantly acting on all areas of the game in perpetuity.

In the spirit of all this and the new decade, here are a handful of (arbitrary and largely uninformed) predictions for baseball in the 2020s

Which of these shifts will we see? Which won’t happen? Which of these will, but that we wish didn’t?

QLE Posted: January 08, 2020 at 12:56 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: montreal, player managers, robot umpires, schedule, the future

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Is MLB Ready for Robo-Umps and an Automated Strike Zone?

We are sad to inform you that the robo-ump looks nothing like you had hoped. A black box, glossy like a television screen that is never turned on, and positioned high behind home plate, it looks like an extremely unsubtle security camera. Tracking pitches using radar, it distinguishes balls from strikes and communicates the determination to the ump on the field—still a standard-issue human, now with an earpiece and an iPhone—who gives voice to the call. Not exactly the robotic overlord of your sci-fi dreams.

The system made its debut just this summer, in the independent Atlantic League, but its march across baseball is starting to look inevitable. MLB followed that initial testing by instituting the robo-ump in the Arizona Fall League in September. And just a week after the conclusion of the World Series—where an automated strike zone became a hot-button issue, thanks to controversial calls in Game 5—commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the tech would arrive in select minor league parks in 2020.

The robo-ump exists in the name of better baseball, offering a strike zone that is totally consistent, not just from hitter to hitter, but from team to team, game to game, season to season. It irons out any potential for human ambiguity. In theory, this should make it impossible to find fault. In practice . . . it’s trickier.

“As my dad put it: You know, for a hundred years, you go to a game, you have a couple beers, you have a hot dog, you yell at the umpire,” Atlantic League ump Tim Detwiler told SI days before the automated strike zone debuted there. “My old man said, “Who’s going to yell at the computer?’”

So, given the news of the last week or so, how long before the robo-umps are corrupted, and for what purposes?

 

QLE Posted: November 20, 2019 at 01:17 PM | 20 comment(s)
  Beats: robot umpires, robots are made of metal, robots are strong, robots in baseball

Monday, October 28, 2019

WaPo: Robo Ump Test Drive

The Blue Crabs let me test out the system before “Fourth of July Do-Over Night” on Aug. 3, about a month before the end of the Atlantic League regular season. Left-hander Tommy Thorpe threw a bullpen to Josh McAdams while I crouched behind the plate wearing an earpiece but no protective gear.

It was me, a former youth baseball catcher and Little League umpire, going head to head with ABS, the RADAR-enabled software that’s the basis for most advanced statistics in Major League Baseball, like exit velocity, launch angle and spin rate. It’s also used to grade umpires.

Bote Man Posted: October 28, 2019 at 04:49 PM | 14 comment(s)
  Beats: robot umpires, umpiring

Friday, October 25, 2019

MLB’s top prospects deal with good, bad of ‘robot’ umpires

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — First baseman Ali Sanchez was standing in the on-deck circle so he had a great vantage point of the two-strike breaking ball to Jacob Heyward. It finished so low that by the time it reached the catcher it nearly bounced in the dirt.

Sanchez — like everybody else who was watching this game on a Tuesday night in the Arizona Fall League — had an immediate mental reaction.

“That’s a ball,” Sanchez said.

Not so fast in the brave new world of “robot” umpires.

Next, the robot umpires shall be eating old people’s medicine for fuel.

 

QLE Posted: October 25, 2019 at 01:02 AM | 75 comment(s)
  Beats: prospects, robot umpires, robots are made of metal, robots are strong

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Watch Giants prospect Jacob Heyward get ejected on call by robot umpire

Getting angry toward an umpire is synonymous with baseball. And during the Arizona Fall League, it’s no different ... even if you’re arguing with technology.

During Tuesday’s Scorpions-Rafters’ game, Giants outfield prospect Jacob Heyward was ejected after striking out on a call made by a robot umpire:

If you scroll to the next photo of the Instagram post, Gameday shows it was indeed a strike.

Who was he yelling at if he was unsatisfied with the call? It appeared he says his displeasure wasn’t with the home plate umpire who was simply relaying the call, but he got ejected nonetheless.

And now the war against the robot umpires begins….

 

 


Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Schmidt: Computer strike zone good, but check your hearing

A hot topic all year has been the idea of computerizing the strike zone, the rise of the robot umpires. It’s drawn even more attention here in October — we’ve already seen a perfect example of a missed call when Marcell Ozuna was rung up in the ninth inning of Game 3 between the Cardinals and Braves.

It was obvious, according to the box on the TV screen, that the pitch was clearly inside. It was a pivotal call that could have altered the outcome.

Should the computer zone be perfected, that would never be the case.

It would change the game for the good, it would continue the effort to eliminate human deficiency. We have replay everywhere else in the game, like it or not, replay gets the call right.

In which Mike Schmidt takes a cue from tennis.

QLE Posted: October 09, 2019 at 12:56 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: mike schmidt, robot umpires, strike zone

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Postgame: Royals’ starter ejected, said umpire “was after me personally”

  Royals pitcher Mike Montgomery was ejected for arguing about balls and strikes on Friday, crew chief Sam Holbrook said. But Montgomery would take exception to that — it wasn’t the calls that made him mad, it was home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s intent.

  “I felt like he was after me personally, and the team,” Montgomery said after a fifth-inning argument with Gonzalez wound up costing him his first career ejection. “He had a bad day. What really just [made me mad] was, he was intentionally trying to screw me over.”

  Montgomery, a five-year veteran who was traded from the Cubs to Kansas City in July, had been complaining about Gonzalez’s strike zone for much of the game, but it boiled over when Mitch Garver led off the fifth inning with a home run. Gonzalez called a couple of low curveballs that might have nicked the strike zone balls, and Garver eventually worked the count to 3-2 by fouling off a fastball. He was was lying in wait for the next one.

  “He threw me a fastball, and I was extremely late. I think that kind of played into my hand,” Garver said. “So then I was sitting dead red, right down the middle, and got it.”

So, if we do go to robot umpires, how long before the pitchers start getting paranoid about them too?

 

QLE Posted: September 21, 2019 at 12:07 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: mike montgomery, robot umpires, strike zone, umpires

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Buster Posey explains why robot umps could call more balls than strike

Robot umps.

Weird thought, right?

But it’s something being implemented and tested in the baseball world. The independent Atlantic League was the first victim to test the newest technology that includes a real-life umpire still manning his or her duties behind the plate while they wear an earpiece connected to an iPhone. That person would then relay the call from the TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

That’s at least how plate umpire Brian deBrauwere executed it back in July as he described it to ESPN. And Giants catcher Buster Posey isn’t too sure about this new technology, specifically if these robot umps would call more balls or strikes.

Worse still, they could all end up under the control of Dick Jones, and wind up doing his nefarious bidding.

 


Friday, August 02, 2019

The Atlantic League is proving that change can be hard for baseball players

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — Immediately following the seventh inning of a game between the New Britain Bees and the hometown Long Island Ducks last week, there was a ceremony on the field at Bethpage Ballpark to induct the newest inanimate member of the Hall of Fame. Even if you were among the small crowd that came out to watch independent ball in person on a warm Thursday night, you might’ve missed it. The whole thing took less than a minute and 45 seconds because it had to — abbreviated time between innings is one of the handful of rule changes that Major League Baseball is piloting in the Atlantic League this season.

Ducks owner Frank Boulton slipped out of the stands to receive the earpiece that home plate umpire Fred DeJesus had been wearing all evening. A couple of pictures were snapped, and then Boulton returned to the stands as DeJesus donned a new earpiece so the game could go on.

From there, the earpiece would head to Cooperstown to commemorate the official league-wide rollout of the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS) powered by TrackMan. Or, as everyone has taken to colloquially calling it, robot umps.

“It’s hard for me to put into words how momentous what we’re watching is ’cause it looks so ordinary,” Atlantic League commissioner Rick White said, watching the small ceremony play out from seats just behind the first-base dugout. “That looks like any pitch you’ve ever seen at any ballpark. When Freddie calls a strike, it looks like any strike call you’ve ever seen at any ballpark. But when I think about what’s gone into this, and the incredible amount of resource and time everyone has put into this, especially our umpires, it’s a hugely momentous thing.”

Interesting article, unfortunate title.

QLE Posted: August 02, 2019 at 01:24 AM | 21 comment(s)
  Beats: atlantic league, change, players, robot umpires

 

 

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