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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Automated ball-strike (ABS) system, pitch timer, bigger bases tested at Triple-A

I’d watch and attend more games if this were the norm.

But this 2-hour, 17-minute game was also a much crisper, faster-paced brand of baseball than many of us are accustomed to. The MLB Network cameras were trained on Truist Field on this summer night because the Minor Leagues this year are a professional baseball petri dish. And in the ongoing evaluation of various rule change experiments that could one day be implemented at the big league level, it is essential to generate opinion from an important and influential observer:

You.

I like this idea.

THE ABS CHALLENGE SYSTEM

How it works: In the challenge system, the home-plate umpire calls balls and strikes in the traditional manner, but teams can appeal to the Hawk-Eye “robot ump” on certain calls they deem to be incorrect.

• Each club starts the game with three challenges.
• A correct challenge is retained; an incorrect challenge is lost.
• Challenges may only be made by the batter, the catcher or the pitcher (i.e., no help from the dugout).
• Challenges must be made immediately following the umpire’s call.

jimfurtado Posted: August 21, 2022 at 09:57 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rules

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Space Force fan Posted: August 21, 2022 at 11:01 AM (#6092439)
The ABS challenge system described above seems a poor compromise between human and robo umps. If the review is fast enough, then why limit the challenges, just use the robo ump. If the review isn't fast, then the value of the challenges isn't enough to add the review time.

A manager in such a system would have to institute very stringent rules to keep all the challenges from being exhausted in the first inning.

My rules would include:
1. Only the catcher could make a challenge, sorry pitchers
2. No challenges in the first 3 innings
3. Only specific hitters can make a challenge, based on how good a hitter they are, how good an eye they have, and how much baseball instinct they have
4. Prior to the 8th/9th innings, no challenges with nobody on base except a 2-strike count which results in a strike out
5. No challenges on 3-0 count or 0-0 count (leverage just no high enough to risk losing a future challenge in a higher leverage position)
   2. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2022 at 11:26 AM (#6092442)
#### it. There's no rational reason for having scores of personalized strike zones instead of a single strike zone that would treat all batters and pitchers equally. This is traditionalism at its worst.

I admire pitch framing as a skill, but then I also kind of admire the art of pickpocketing. Doesn't mean I want to encourage either exercise in theft.
   3. HBO disappeared Oscar Posted: August 21, 2022 at 03:35 PM (#6092481)
Cannot have roboumps soon enough. I am sure the umps doing their best but SOOO many calls that completely change tenor of at bats and by extension innings and then games. Plus seeing catchers jerk their mitts around in obvious attempts to get strikes and sometimes getting rewarded on BS calls needs to stop. See this stuff now at all levels of baseball. I umped little league this summer and holy #### every catcher was doing this. Incredible

I welcome our robotoverlords
   4. sunday silence (again) Posted: August 21, 2022 at 06:03 PM (#6092506)
If the review is fast enough, then why limit the challenges, just use the robo ump.


OK I sort of agree with this part.

If the review isn't fast, then the value of the challenges isn't enough to add the review time.


how do you reach that conclusion? You only get 3 mistakes when you challenge, then you're out of challenges. So in the early part of the game, you should only challenge blatant bad calls and/or highly leveraged calls. So what makes you think "value of challenge" isnt enuf?

It actually sounds like a decent way to do it, if you dont go full on robo calls. There are union issues involved I presume.
   5. The Duke Posted: August 21, 2022 at 06:23 PM (#6092509)
The faster we get rid of umps the better. Stop trying to preserve jobs.

In fact, just outsource the whole thing to Bangalore and let the two managers deal with a call center when they are complaining and scroll the transcript on screen. Now that would be entertaining.
   6. Pirate Joe Posted: August 21, 2022 at 06:36 PM (#6092512)
Plus seeing catchers jerk their mitts around in obvious attempts to get strikes and sometimes getting rewarded on BS calls needs to stop.



I don't understand why the umpires don't just tell the catchers that they assume when the catcher jerks his glove around to try to buy a call that the catcher thinks that the pitch is a ball, so it will be called that way.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: August 21, 2022 at 06:45 PM (#6092515)
Plus seeing catchers jerk their mitts around in obvious attempts to get strikes and sometimes getting rewarded on BS calls needs to stop.


The idea that umpires are fooled by players jerking their mitts is an amusing little myth.
   8. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: August 21, 2022 at 07:00 PM (#6092519)
I only ever umpired at the HS level and below, but I was never fooled by the catcher. Obviously, higher level catchers were better, but I assume so were higher level umps. So I don't get it either.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 21, 2022 at 07:21 PM (#6092522)
The faster we get rid of umps the better. Stop trying to preserve jobs.

You do realize this won't get rid of a single ump, and will probably lead to extract umps in the review booth?
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 21, 2022 at 08:53 PM (#6092538)
Link the automatic ball-strike system to the scoreboard - umpire gets too many calls wrong, fans riot. Pretty good incentive to get ‘em right.
   11. John Northey Posted: August 22, 2022 at 01:31 AM (#6092548)
Dumb situation - challenges seem silly to me. Ball-Strike can be automated and done quickly - I could see some players using up a teams 3 challenges in the first AB of the game. Others who wouldn't use it even if they called a strike on a bounced ball. Make it show up on the scoreboard and over the PA with a clear indication of what each pitch is so there is no doubt. Maybe even a special indicator for super close ones (different animation on the screen) for more fun. I love bigger bases, timed PA's, and a limit on throws to first (the most boring part of a game quite often).
   12. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 22, 2022 at 08:25 AM (#6092555)
Link the automatic ball-strike system to the scoreboard - umpire gets too many calls wrong, fans riot. Pretty good incentive to get ‘em right.

That assumes that umpires are deliberately missing calls. I don't think even their worst critics would go that far.

The real point is that there's no reason other than stupid "tradition" why home plate umpires should be calling balls and strikes, when a uniform strike zone called by a robo-ump is an option. Too many umpires are simply incapable of distinguishing a borderline strike from an obvious ball, and it's been well documented that certain players are disproportionately affected by those blind spots.
   13. HBO disappeared Oscar Posted: August 22, 2022 at 08:29 AM (#6092556)
7--up way too early to catch a flight. If umps are not fooled then why does the effort continue? Legit question. Because it doesn't matter what game I watch but this practice is super common.

And do we 'know' it doesn't work? Because just yesterday Caratini was called out on a strike that per the MLB app was well inside and Contreras didn't jerk the ball back into the zone but he fluidly did the left to right slide of the glove. Now maybe the ump was going to call it anyway but sure seemed like WC got his pitcher that strikeout. And that is one of man I don't know how many I see watching games. And by the Crew too.

Seems if it didn't work teams would stop over time.
   14. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 22, 2022 at 09:33 AM (#6092563)
Of course pitch framing can work. Some catchers are just better at it than others.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: August 22, 2022 at 10:01 AM (#6092566)
7--up way too early to catch a flight. If umps are not fooled then why does the effort continue? Legit question. Because it doesn't matter what game I watch but this practice is super common.


Catchers pull the ball out into the zone out of instinct, or perhaps because they've seen others do it.

But that's not what effective pitch framing is. Framing is catching the ball with little movement. It's the absence of catcher movement that can fool the umpire into thinking a ball is a strike (or too much movement causing a catcher to lose a strike that should have been one).

If the catcher sets up a half-inch outside the zone and the pitcher throws it right to the that spot, chances are that's what's going to get called a strike, not any post-pitch trickery from the backstop.

   16. Howie Menckel Posted: August 22, 2022 at 10:05 AM (#6092567)
how is this NOT known as a "BS detector?"
   17. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2022 at 10:14 AM (#6092570)
when a uniform strike zone called by a robo-ump is an option.

Assumes facts not in evidence.
   18. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 22, 2022 at 01:25 PM (#6092596)
. . . a uniform strike zone called by a robo-ump
The robo-ump should do better on inside-outside calls, since the 17” plate-width could be tracked precisely, but I’m not so sure about high & low. How are the parameters set for each batter? Seems like MLB would need to be alert for mischief there.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2022 at 01:29 PM (#6092598)
The robo-ump should do better on inside-outside calls, since the 17” plate-width could be tracked precisely, but I’m not so sure about high & low. How are the parameters set for each batter? Seems like MLB would need to be alert for mischief there.

It also may struggle with the concept of the strike zone as a cube. There really are six borders to the zone, and the "robo-ump" needs to be able to monitor a ball crossing any of them. Of course, we don't know how that would compare to what umpires have been doing IRL, so you might get fewer strikes called, or massively more. If pitchers figure out how to nick the edge of the robo-zone with uhittable pitches, baseball could quickly become an unwatchable K-fest.
   20. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: August 22, 2022 at 01:39 PM (#6092602)
I always wonder how these robo-umps account of the batter. Does it take into account the batter's stance? Would "Rickey" get the stance of regular player standing up, or in the crouch? Pete Rose? Oscar Gamble? George Brett? I cannot think of, off the top of my head, a preset-day batter with an exaggerated crouch, but I'm sure there are.

Also I wanted to say that I didn't always think Rickey's stance something that shouldn't have been used to construct his strike zone, since he generally stood up when he swung.
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: August 22, 2022 at 01:44 PM (#6092603)
Also I wanted to say that I didn't always think Rickey's stance something that shouldn't have been used to construct his strike zone, since he generally stood up when he swung.


The crouch should never have any influence on a batter's strike zone. It should simply be knees to breast (or whatever measure you use).

   22. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: August 22, 2022 at 01:52 PM (#6092604)
baseball could quickly become an unwatchable K-fest.


"...could...become"?
   23. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: August 22, 2022 at 02:29 PM (#6092606)
How does the robo-ump figure out "knees to breast" or whatever? Does it figure that out as the player walks to the plate? Does it use preset numbers based upon the players' listed height? What about players with unusually short or long legs?
   24. Jay Seaver Posted: August 22, 2022 at 02:50 PM (#6092609)
23 - I imagine it would be the easiest thing in the world to do during Spring Training. It's picture day, someone from MLB shows up with a booth that sets the height of their knees and chest. Heck, for all I know, the folks with video game licenses is already having players stand for a laser-scanner to get their likenesses right.
   25. Karl from NY Posted: August 22, 2022 at 03:26 PM (#6092612)
It also may struggle with the concept of the strike zone as a cube. There really are six borders to the zone, and the "robo-ump" needs to be able to monitor a ball crossing any of them. Of course, we don't know how that would compare to what umpires have been doing IRL, so you might get fewer strikes called, or massively more. If pitchers figure out how to nick the edge of the robo-zone with uhittable pitches, baseball could quickly become an unwatchable K-fest.


Seven borders, right? The five-sided pentagon, plus the top and bottom planes.

Anyway... If this happens, then the right answer is to fix it in the rules. Redefine the strike zone away from the cube or pentagonal prism, to be some kind of ellipsoid that better reflects the actual hittability of each ball. If the robo-ump is accurately tracking the ball in 3d space (which has been done for decades for tennis and cricket), it can determine the ball's intersection with any defined shape. I'd also be pretty sure that AI vision these days can also determine the height of the armpits and knees.
   26. Perry Posted: August 22, 2022 at 04:52 PM (#6092634)
I don't understand why the umpires don't just tell the catchers that they assume when the catcher jerks his glove around to try to buy a call that the catcher thinks that the pitch is a ball, so it will be called that way.


That is EXACTLY what umps tell catchers. Framing (catching the ball smoothly, not jerking, maybe turning or angling the mitt before catching the ball) is one thing. It helps the ump call a strike a strike and maybe gets you a small benefit of the doubt. Pulling a ball into the zone is something else entirely and doesn't help at all, in fact it may hurt.

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