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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) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: robot umpires, robots are made of metal, robots are strong, robots in baseball

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Sunday silence Posted: November 21, 2019 at 02:33 PM (#5903004)
So glad when MLB starts doing this next year.
   2. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: November 21, 2019 at 02:44 PM (#5903007)
A strike zone that is totally consistent from hitter to hitter? Isn't it supposed to depend on the hitter?
   3. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: November 21, 2019 at 04:02 PM (#5903026)
To answer the first question in the intro; almost immediately.

Of course as we’ve seen with replay roboumps will completely eliminate controversy. I have no doubt that roboumps will be every bit the smash hit that instant replay has been.
   4. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 21, 2019 at 04:27 PM (#5903033)
still a standard-issue human
Well...some models are a bit larger than standard.
   5. Greg Pope Posted: November 21, 2019 at 05:12 PM (#5903043)
A strike zone that is totally consistent from hitter to hitter? Isn't it supposed to depend on the hitter?

I think that a strike zone defined as "knees to belt" or whatever could be described as totally consistent from hitter to hitter without that zone being literally the same dimensions for every hitter.

But also, that's just the author speaking, not MLB.
   6. Bhaakon Posted: November 21, 2019 at 05:34 PM (#5903045)
Assuming that the robot ump is, in fact, following a strike zone set vertically for each batter, I can't wait until we see extremely exaggerated crouching stances and inevitable complete standardization of the strike zone.
   7. JJ1986 Posted: November 21, 2019 at 07:14 PM (#5903064)
I can't imagine MLB doing this well when they can't even get the ball to be consistent.
   8. Greg Pope Posted: November 21, 2019 at 07:46 PM (#5903068)
Assuming that the robot ump is, in fact, following a strike zone set vertically for each batter, I can't wait until we see extremely exaggerated crouching stances and inevitable complete standardization of the strike zone.

If they set it based on their standing height like they should, this won't happen.
   9. Bhaakon Posted: November 21, 2019 at 08:30 PM (#5903072)
That's explicitly not the rule, though. By rule, it's their position at the start of their swing. There have been players who have featured exaggerate crouches--Rickey Henderson comes to mind--but I'd be interested to see if the crouch has actually been reflected in the zone enforced against them by meatsack umpires.

At some point, in the desperate search for new competitive edges, some team will be...let's call it "disruptive" enough to challenge the Eddie Gaedel rule.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: November 21, 2019 at 08:37 PM (#5903075)
By rule, it's their position at the start of their swing.


But that itself is not defined. When is a player "ready to swing (I think that's the exact wording)?

The best part of the robo zone will be if they determine each player's strike zone is based strictly on his standing height. Allowing for a crouch (which, as you note, we're not sure how much it is reflected in the called zones) is absurd.

Also, that way, it won't matter if someone tries to challenge the Gaedel rule. Such a player wouldn't be able to be productive enough to warrant a roster spot.

   11. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: November 21, 2019 at 09:26 PM (#5903080)
Allowing for a crouch (which, as you note, we're not sure how much it is reflected in the called zones) is absurd.


Rickey thinks this is bullsh*t and did pretty well with his crouched stance!
   12. Greg Pope Posted: November 21, 2019 at 09:49 PM (#5903082)
That's explicitly not the rule, though.

If they're implementing robo umps, they can change the rule. I don't know if they've done that in the other leagues, or if they're just turning a blind eye.

I would think that we would have heard the details on exactly how they've been setting the zone in the Atlantic League by now.
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: November 21, 2019 at 10:41 PM (#5903086)
I would think that we would have heard the details on exactly how they've been setting the zone in the Atlantic League by now.


During the Fall League season, the zone was set from the hollow of the knee to 4 1/2 inches above the belt, which is in line with the strike zone as defined in the MLB rule book:

I would have to assume they measured each player standing straight up before the season, and set the zone accordingly.
   14. Greg Pope Posted: November 22, 2019 at 08:46 AM (#5903101)
OK, thanks.
   15. manchestermets Posted: November 22, 2019 at 08:54 AM (#5903104)
I can't wait until we see extremely exaggerated crouching stances and inevitable complete standardization of the strike zone.


Wouldn't a player suddenly changing the extent of his crouch be likely to have a much worse effect on his hitting than the benefit of getting some extra ball/strike calls?
   16. Padraic Posted: November 22, 2019 at 11:28 AM (#5903144)
“My old man said, “Who’s going to yell at the computer?’”


Seriously? Basically everyone.
   17. The Duke Posted: November 24, 2019 at 09:25 AM (#5903542)
The biggest problem I see with an automated strike zone is that it will put Jomboy out of business
   18. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: November 24, 2019 at 05:34 PM (#5903589)
Yeah because twitter and the internet won’t explode with sites “proving” that their team is biased against by MLB. That definitely won’t happen.
   19. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: November 24, 2019 at 07:45 PM (#5903606)
“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?’”

Now there's a nice objective opinion......Does his dad yell at the replay cameras?
   20. Sunday silence Posted: November 24, 2019 at 10:57 PM (#5903640)

I would have to assume they measured each player standing straight up before the season, and set the zone accordingly.



Can we really assume this? Is it possible the replay camera can see the batters belt buckle and then measure accordingly??

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