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Thursday, May 25, 2023

ESPN Insider: Robo umps in MLB? Inside baseball’s latest ABS experiment

In Triple-A games this season, the day of the week matters. On Tuesdays through Thursdays, the strike zone is adjudicated by Major League Baseball’s automated ball-strike system (ABS), which tracks pitches using a dozen ultra-high-speed cameras and spits out the result into an earpiece worn by the home-plate umpire in less than half a second. Even though Hendriks’ fastball appeared to clip the edge of the zone on the digital rendering of the pitch seen in MLB’s app and on its website, ABS deemed it a ball—and the system, which the league says is accurate to less than one-tenth of an inch, is judge and jury.

The next day, as the Charlotte Knights again hosted the Durham Bulls, another borderline call. Charlotte catcher Evan Skoug snatched a low 1-1 pitch and froze his glove in the strike zone. Paul Clemons, the home-plate umpire, didn’t bite and called it a ball. Immediately, Skoug tapped his head—a motion that only matters on Fridays through Sundays.

Over the weekend (no Triple-A games are scheduled on Mondays), balls and strikes are judged by the umpires’ eyes, but players are allowed to challenge a call three times per game and retain their challenges if correct. During Skoug’s challenge, which from start to finish took less than 10 seconds, the scoreboard displayed a graphic of the pitch’s trail toward home plate, shown from the catcher’s perspective. As the pitch neared, the screen pivoted 180 degrees, to the pitcher’s perspective, to render the definitive judgment. The call stood. It was a ball, and it wasn’t particularly close.

Two varieties of the future of balls and strikes are playing out in Triple-A this season, and whether either wins out in the eyes of MLB will offer a fascinating insight into the league’s priorities going forward. The league’s faith in the ABS system’s fidelity and accuracy is clear. After nearly 20 years of tinkering, upgrading, testing, failing and repeating the process, the current incarnation of ABS is a technological marvel, its pieces and parts big league ready. But installation at the major league level breeds a bevy of philosophical hesitations, all perfectly practical, each a sub-issue of the overarching question that continues to puzzle league officials and owners who aren’t quite sure of the answer.

Would robot umps really make baseball better?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 25, 2023 at 10:28 AM | 102 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: robot umpires

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   101. SoSH U at work Posted: May 29, 2023 at 06:40 PM (#6130628)
Howie is clearly correct here. Or at least he is not wrong. I am watching my third game today and on virtually every close pitch of each game the catcher moves his glove into the strike zone to "influence" the umpire to call the pitch a strike. Of course, this has been going on for more than 100 years. So it is nothing new and nobody can possibly doubt its occurrence.

No one has ever said catchers don't do that. What we suggest is that pulling the glove back isn't what works.

I think the particularly skilled catchers are really good at what Misirlou describes - catching the ball in a suboptimal part of the mitt, but that's just a variation on the larger theme that it's the absence of movement (or minimization of movement, to be most accurate), rather than post-pitch movement, that gives the appearance of a strike.

or frankly, much more "unpleasant" than what you just typed yourself.

Misirlou didn't type that. I did. But I didn't say you were being unpleasant, just that I couldn't comprehend the point you were trying to make.

So I don't know what you're waiting for, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
   102. NaOH Posted: May 29, 2023 at 06:57 PM (#6130632)
If the catcher sets up an inch outside the zone and the pitcher hits the spot precisely, that's going to look like a perfect pitch and frequently deceive the umpire.

Quoting SoSH but not directing this at him... It's important for everyone to remember what's being measured by the idea of pitch framing. Statcast only credits a catcher's pitch framing marks on pitches in what has been defined as the Shadow Zone, "the edges of the strike zone, roughly one ball width inside and one ball wide outside of the zone. See what that looks like here."

The leading catcher so far this year in pitch framing is the Rangers' Jonah Heim. He's credited with 5 runs, equal to 40 pitches out of nearly 1,100 received. The key is to remember that the shadow zone is about pitches as likely to be barely a strike as barely a ball. So it's not necessarily catchers "stealing" strikes as it's just as much catchers "ensuring" strikes.
Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2

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