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

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: October 25, 2019 at 01:14 AM (#5894273)
What happens when the robo-umps decide the flaw in the game is the humans?
   2. manchestermets Posted: October 25, 2019 at 04:32 AM (#5894287)
It's almost as if the definition of balls and strikes doesn't incorporate where the ball is when it reaches the catcher.
   3. PreservedFish Posted: October 25, 2019 at 07:52 AM (#5894296)
Incentivizing wacky loopy wiffle ball pitches is a good thing. I'm not enjoying the recent death of the junkballer.
   4. Rusty Priske Posted: October 25, 2019 at 09:25 AM (#5894310)
So, according to the article, the robo-ump gets the calls right but the hitters don't want them to be called correctly?
   5. Brian Posted: October 25, 2019 at 12:17 PM (#5894462)
Every article focuses on this at bat, does that mean the robot is good the rest of the time? Seems like MLB umps miss a few calls an inning so count me in for the robots.
   6. winnipegwhip Posted: October 25, 2019 at 01:59 PM (#5894523)
Every article focuses on this at bat, does that mean the robot is good the rest of the time? Seems like MLB umps miss a few calls an inning so count me in for the robots.


How good would an individual's umpiring be watching the game without the rectangular box on the television screen.
   7. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 25, 2019 at 02:43 PM (#5894545)
How good would an individual's umpiring be watching the game without the rectangular box on the television screen.
And why do people assume the box on the TV screen is precisely at the top and bottom of the strike zone for every batter? It should get the width of the plate right, but height requires some judgement.
   8. Khrushin it bro Posted: October 25, 2019 at 06:43 PM (#5894681)
Incentivizing wacky loopy wiffle ball pitches is a good thing. I'm not enjoying the recent death of the junkballer.


Isn't there one pitching for the Astros in an hour?
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: October 25, 2019 at 07:20 PM (#5894692)
And why do people assume the box on the TV screen is precisely at the top and bottom of the strike zone for every batter? It should get the width of the plate right, but height requires some judgement.


Did they measure every batter to set the strike zones here? If so, did they do it while standing still, or from their batting stance?

   10. Walt Davis Posted: October 25, 2019 at 08:32 PM (#5894722)
So, according to the article, the robo-ump gets the calls right but the hitters don't want them to be called correctly?

Don't underestimate this phenomenon. Back when they first introduced computer ratings to college football polls, the first time the computer disagreed with what "everybody" knew, the influence of the computer on the rankings was diminished. That one impetus behind the computer rankings had been the questionable ranking ability of the human voters was immediately forgotten.

Or robot cars kill one pedestrian, especially if it's a scenario where a human probably wouldn't have, and we will immediately find ourselves back to square one even if robot cars decrease pedestrian fatalities by 50%.

Humans possibly trust machines (and statistical models) too much ... until they lead to one crazy mistake at which point they don't trust them at all. Or even non-mistake that just looks like an obvious mistake because of the way we humans have always done things.
   11. calming him down with his 57i66135 Posted: October 25, 2019 at 08:54 PM (#5894732)
So, according to the article, the robo-ump gets the calls right but the hitters don't want them to be called correctly?
it depends on your definition of "right".

is the strike zone 3-dimensional, or 2-dimensional?

is there a minimum amount of time a pitch must stay within the strike zone in order to be a strike? or does a pitch only need to graze the strike zone by the slimmest measurable amount? or does the pitch need to enter the strike zone from the front and exit it from the back, in order to be a strike (thus excluding eephus pitch-esque vertical drop strikes).

or maybe different pitches have different profiles for being called a strike. a breaking ball might only have to slice through a portion of the strike zone, whereas a fastball would have to slice through the entire length of it?

or maybe we adjust the strike zone dynamically, so that deciding bordeline balls and strikes is based on the likelihood that the pitch can be put into play?



or maybe we just keep buying assault rifles so that we can fantasize about killing our neighbors' children.
   12. Captain Supporter Posted: October 27, 2019 at 12:27 PM (#5895131)
The good thing about this is that if the "true strike zone" needs adjusting, it can be quickly adjusted. No more having to hope Angel or Country Joe or CB are in the mood to attempt to improve their strike zones (or to hope in vain that they can do so even if they wanted to). I can't wait for this to arrive in the majors.

Walt, of course, is correct about the popular misunderstanding of statistics, but education over time is a better approach to handling that issue than continuing to accept poor results and an umpire's union that resists efforts to improve them.
   13. bobm Posted: October 27, 2019 at 05:23 PM (#5895185)
is the strike zone 3-dimensional, or 2-dimensional?

3 dimensional, see MLB rules below.

is there a minimum amount of time a pitch must stay within the strike zone in order to be a strike?

Yes, something more than zero, having not first hit the ground.

or does a pitch only need to graze the strike zone by the slimmest measurable amount?

Yes. IMO not really an either/or situation.

or does the pitch need to enter the strike zone from the front and exit it from the back, in order to be a strike (thus excluding eephus pitch-esque vertical drop strikes).

No.

[...]A BALL is a pitch which does not enter the strike zone in flight and is not struck at by the batter. If the pitch touches the ground and bounces through the strike zone it is a “ball.” [...]

A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which:
(a) Is struck at by the batter and is missed;
(b) Is not struck at, if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone;
(c) Is fouled by the batter when he has less than two strikes;
(d) Is bunted foul;
(e) Touches the batter as he strikes at it;
(f) Touches the batter in flight in the strike zone; or
(g) Becomes a foul tip.

The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.[...]


   14. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: October 27, 2019 at 05:35 PM (#5895190)
Part of the problem is you play the game one way for your entire life then it changes dramatically. No one on that field has ever played in a game where that pitch is a strike. I’d be annoyed too.
   15. Jaack Posted: October 27, 2019 at 06:57 PM (#5895203)
I feel like the emphasis on getting the call 'right' leads to worse calls than ever before.

The purpose of the strike zone is to incentivize pitchers to throw hittable pitches. The definition of the strike zone was created with this in mind and not the exactness of modern measuring devices. If there is a move to robot umps, the definition of the strike zone should be refined to match the change in technology.

The cleanest solution would be to use this technology in conjunction with human umps. Umps wear an earpiece - when the robot sees a strike it beeps. In borderline situations, or situations where the ump spaces out, the computer gives him a pointer in the right direction. When the computer spits out an unfavorable call, the ump can overturn it. Of course for this to work it would require the computer calls being kept secret, otherwise people will complain every time an ump overturns a call. A secondary plus side is that MLB would have an easy objective method to evaluate umps.

I don't see that much advantage in objective strike zone robot umps as it seems they would be implemented. How many obviously bad ball/strike calls are there per game? Two? It's not really a problem for me.

What would be a problem would be a session of never ending rulemongering like the NFL has with the definition of a catch or pass interference.
   16. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: October 27, 2019 at 07:05 PM (#5895204)
I feel like the emphasis on getting the call 'right' leads to worse calls than ever before.


I don’t know if they lead to “worse” calls but they lead to a worse fan experience. So far the sports I watch have overwhelmingly been made worse for my enjoyment as a fan with the introduction of replay.
   17. Jaack Posted: October 27, 2019 at 10:38 PM (#5895290)
Generally the problem is super slo-mo replay. Sports rules tend to break down when you slice things in 60ths of a second.

The NFL's debacle with defining a catch is the go to example, but baseball and basketball are just as bad. With baseball the worst has been runners' feet bouncing off the bag slightly. For basketball, I hate when a defender knocks a ball out of bounds away from the ball carrier but the ball negligibly grazes off the carrier's finger last. Both are calls that are clearly unintended by the rules and affect the way the game is played in negative ways.
   18. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: October 27, 2019 at 11:11 PM (#5895309)
I say it just about every thread on the subject but there needs to be a 30 second time limit on all replays. You’ll catch the Denkinger, Galarraga type stuff but otherwise just play the game.
   19. Zonk didn't order a hit on an ambassador Posted: October 28, 2019 at 09:27 AM (#5895349)
If people are in agreement that there are two many strikeouts in modern baseball, my strong suspicion is that robot umps would exacerbate that... I think we'll end up there regardless.... but get ready for more Komplaints.
   20. PreservedFish Posted: October 28, 2019 at 09:32 AM (#5895352)
If people are in agreement that there are two many strikeouts in modern baseball, my strong suspicion is that robot umps would exacerbate that... I think we'll end up there regardless.... but get ready for more Komplaints.


My too, it's my one hesitation.
   21. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 28, 2019 at 09:44 AM (#5895358)
Part of the problem is you play the game one way for your entire life then it changes dramatically. No one on that field has ever played in a game where that pitch is a strike. I’d be annoyed too.

Maybe, but I think this is partly a framing issue, too. The pitch missed its target and the catcher had to move a fair amount and catch the ball underhanded. You're right that in that situation the pitch is very rarely called a strike, but if he was set up where that pitch was going I think it would have looked much more like a strike.

I know some people here "like" the existence of framing as a catcher's skill and I can understand that perspective, but I won't be that upset if it goes away with human umps.
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: October 28, 2019 at 09:49 AM (#5895359)
For basketball, I hate when a defender knocks a ball out of bounds away from the ball carrier but the ball negligibly grazes off the carrier's finger last. Both are calls that are clearly unintended by the rules and affect the way the game is played in negative ways.


Texas Tech got hit with this in the NCAA championship game. A play that would have been their ball for the first 38 minutes of the game, without anyone ever giving it a second thought, is reversed because it grazed off their guy before going out of bounds. And, of course, the foul that caused that loss of possession was not reviewable.

I hate replay.


   23. Greg Pope Posted: October 28, 2019 at 09:51 AM (#5895361)
I don’t know if they lead to “worse” calls but they lead to a worse fan experience. So far the sports I watch have overwhelmingly been made worse for my enjoyment as a fan with the introduction of replay.

Replay yes. I would argue that it's the implementation much more than the technology, but I'd agree that as-implemented, replay has made the enjoyment worse.

But robot umps aren't the same thing. They're analogous to the in/out indicator in tennis. It looks like the integration is pretty seamless from the reports I've read. They can adjust the zone. The rule book zone can even be redefined if need be, in order to make the zone as consistent as possible with the currently called one.

The cleanest solution would be to use this technology in conjunction with human umps. Umps wear an earpiece - when the robot sees a strike it beeps. In borderline situations, or situations where the ump spaces out, the computer gives him a pointer in the right direction. When the computer spits out an unfavorable call, the ump can overturn it.

So the when the ump and computer agree, that's the call. When they disagree, the ump makes the call. In other words, it's the exact same as we have now. How would this help anything?
   24. spycake Posted: October 28, 2019 at 10:04 AM (#5895367)
I don't see that much advantage in objective strike zone robot umps as it seems they would be implemented. How many obviously bad ball/strike calls are there per game? Two? It's not really a problem for me.


14 errors per game (9.21% of called pitches), according to the study discussed here:

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand/discussion/mlb_umpires_missed_34294_ball-strike_calls_in_2018_study_shows

They didn't break it down by degree, unfortunately -- some of those might be edge cases we can barely detect either way -- but I'd guess there are more than 2 "obvious" ones per game on average.
   25. flournoy Posted: October 28, 2019 at 10:06 AM (#5895368)
But robot umps aren't the same thing. They're analogous to the in/out indicator in tennis. It looks like the integration is pretty seamless from the reports I've read. They can adjust the zone. The rule book zone can even be redefined if need be, in order to make the zone as consistent as possible with the currently called one.


I don't think that's quite analogous. If robotic umpires are calling pitches differently than human umpires, that will change the way the game is played since hitters and pitchers will both have to adjust their approaches and decision-making. (And sure, you could adjust the rulebook definition to better match reality, but I think a big part of the issue is that there isn't enough consistency in reality to effectively do so.) I don't know a lot about tennis, but I wouldn't think that an in/out indicator would change any player's game.
   26. spycake Posted: October 28, 2019 at 10:09 AM (#5895372)
Replay yes. I would argue that it's the implementation much more than the technology, but I'd agree that as-implemented, replay has made the enjoyment worse.

But robot umps aren't the same thing. They're analogous to the in/out indicator in tennis. It looks like the integration is pretty seamless from the reports I've read


Yup. If anything, automated balls and strikes might speed the pace a tiny bit (although I wouldn't get my hopes up too much!). It certainly won't slow things down.
   27. spycake Posted: October 28, 2019 at 10:18 AM (#5895377)
I don't think that's quite analogous. If robotic umpires are calling pitches differently than human umpires, that will change the way the game is played since hitters and pitchers will both have to adjust their approaches and decision-making. (And sure, you could adjust the rulebook definition to better match reality, but I think a big part of the issue is that there isn't enough consistency in reality to effectively do so.) I don't know a lot about tennis, but I wouldn't think that an in/out indicator would change any player's game.


Presumably, automated balls and strikes would be implemented across the minors first, then spring training, before it ever reaches MLB, so there would be some time for players to adjust. And future players would just have another adjustment to make when entering pro ball.

If automated calls of high and low breaking pitches are a problem (and I'm not sure these anecdotes suggest they truly are), then couldn't they simply shrink the zone a bit vertically? (Not that I advocate that.) An automated zone doesn't need clear real-world boundaries like "belt to knees" or whatever -- it can be whatever relative coordinates we want. And every stadium, practice field, and cage can be outfitted with the same system, so players can practice with the new zone before game situations too.
   28. Rusty Priske Posted: October 28, 2019 at 10:28 AM (#5895384)

I don’t know if they lead to “worse” calls but they lead to a worse fan experience. So far the sports I watch have overwhelmingly been made worse for my enjoyment as a fan with the introduction of replay.


Replay has improved this fan's experience.

There was nothing that hurt my enjoyment of the game more than seeing bad calls. I come away thinking 'what is the point of playing if the umpires get it wrong'. I HATE it. Replay has fixed that. (Could they make it better? Sure.)

(There are issues with the current game for me, but they mostly revolve around player usage.)
   29. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:06 AM (#5895401)
Part of the problem is you play the game one way for your entire life then it changes dramatically. No one on that field has ever played in a game where that pitch is a strike. I’d be annoyed too.

This is easily addressed, though. The zone is whatever you want to program it to be (as others noted).

Also, the MLB strike zone is different (in practice) than the AAA zone, etc... - so adjusting isn't new. This should also reduce in-game and game to game variability, which is a big deal.
   30. Brian C Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5895407)
If automated calls of high and low breaking pitches are a problem (and I'm not sure these anecdotes suggest they truly are), then couldn't they simply shrink the zone a bit vertically?

It seems like the problem here, though, isn't that the strike zone is too low, but rather that the pitch didn't 'look like' a strike because the ball's downward trajectory through the zone makes it seem lower than it was. In other words, if it had been a fastball in the same spot within the zone, it would've looked more like a strike and not gotten the complaints.

I don't know how you program robot umps to say "a pitch in this location is a strike, unless it's a really good curveball, in which case it's a ball." Or why you'd want to.
   31. flournoy Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:25 AM (#5895409)
And every stadium, practice field, and cage can be outfitted with the same system, so players can practice with the new zone before game situations too.


Sure. At what cost? I know MLB teams have a lot of financial wherewithal, but does anyone know the price tag associated with the system, let alone a few dozen of them? That seems a relevant detail when implementing this solution as a sort of trial balloon to a rather nebulous concern.
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:30 AM (#5895412)
Does anyone know the answer to my question in 9 (Der-K perhaps)? How are they determining these zones?

   33. Rally Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:33 AM (#5895414)
What happens when the robo-umps decide the flaw in the game is the humans?


It will be just like the 1999 World Series in my APBA league. Autobots vs Decepticons.

Reminds me of one of my favorite right fielders. Shockwave had a cannon for an arm.
   34. spycake Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:43 AM (#5895416)
It seems like the problem here, though, isn't that the strike zone is too low, but rather that the pitch didn't 'look like' a strike because the ball's downward trajectory through the zone makes it seem lower than it was. In other words, if it had been a fastball in the same spot within the zone, it would've looked more like a strike and not gotten the complaints.

I don't know how you program robot umps to say "a pitch in this location is a strike, unless it's a really good curveball, in which case it's a ball." Or why you'd want to.


I was thinking, if curveballs clipping the top or bottom was a real problem, you could shrink it. So then curveballs couldn't start quite so high, or finish quite so low, to clip the new zone. Not that I think it's necessarily necessary -- rewarding good curves sounds like a good thing.
   35. spycake Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:46 AM (#5895418)
Sure. At what cost? I know MLB teams have a lot of financial wherewithal, but does anyone know the price tag associated with the system, let alone a few dozen of them? That seems a relevant detail when implementing this solution as a sort of trial balloon to a rather nebulous concern.


They've deployed them in the Atlantic League, and now the AFL. I don't think the cost will be too prohibitive.

I suspect they are using the same/similar technology that's already used by MLB teams for their own pitch scouting and evaluation. It could just be an plugin/addon to existing hardware to get the real-time zone feedback.
   36. Brian C Posted: October 28, 2019 at 11:46 AM (#5895419)
I was thinking, if curveballs clipping the top or bottom was a real problem, you could shrink it. So then curveballs couldn't start quite so high, or finish quite so low, to clip the new zone. Not that I think it's necessarily necessary -- rewarding good curves sounds like a good thing.

But that doesn't make any sense. If you're clipping the zone for breaking balls, then you're shrinking it for fastballs, too. And then you end up with the exact same problem - the breaking ball looks too low and everyone complains when it's called a strike.
   37. spycake Posted: October 28, 2019 at 12:08 PM (#5895425)
But that doesn't make any sense. If you're clipping the zone for breaking balls, then you're shrinking it for fastballs, too. And then you end up with the exact same problem - the breaking ball looks too low and everyone complains when it's called a strike.


Maybe I'm not being clear? If you take a theoretical breaking ball that just nicks the bottom of the zone on its way to dropping to the dirt, you could move the bottom of the zone up and that exact same breaking ball won't be a strike anymore. Other breaking balls still will be strikes, but they'll have to start a little higher and won't be dropping quite so low.

But I was just playing devil's advocate. I'm not convinced at this point that such breaking pitches would be a problem. If anything, I like the idea of effectively expanding the zone a bit.
   38. Brian C Posted: October 28, 2019 at 01:49 PM (#5895463)
Maybe I'm not being clear? If you take a theoretical breaking ball that just nicks the bottom of the zone on its way to dropping to the dirt, you could move the bottom of the zone up and that exact same breaking ball won't be a strike anymore.

You're being completely clear, the solution you propose just doesn't make any sense, for the exact reasons that I've spelled out twice now. The problem isn't that the zone is too low - the problem is that breaking balls, by their nature, often end up in a different place by the time it gets to the catcher than when it passed through the zone. No matter where you set the strike zone, you'll still have this problem.
   39. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 28, 2019 at 02:04 PM (#5895470)
Maybe I'm not being clear? If you take a theoretical breaking ball that just nicks the bottom of the zone on its way to dropping to the dirt, you could move the bottom of the zone up and that exact same breaking ball won't be a strike anymore.

Right, and a fastball that passes clean through the bottom of the zone will go from being a strike to being a ball if you raise the bottom of the zone.
   40. Cleveland (need new name) fan Posted: October 28, 2019 at 02:14 PM (#5895475)
I say it just about every thread on the subject but there needs to be a 30 second time limit on all replays. You’ll catch the Denkinger, Galarraga type stuff but otherwise just play the game.


This sounds good, but on many replays you also need to determine the placement of runners, number of outs, the count etc. These accounting measures take a measurable amount of time to go over to ensure accuracy. As one of the former referees said on a football game over the weekend, their replay seems to take a long time because of non-replay issues like ball placement and clock management.

If people are in agreement that there are two many strikeouts in modern baseball, my strong suspicion is that robot umps would exacerbate that... I think we'll end up there regardless.... but get ready for more Komplaints.


Unless there is a systematic bias toward calling legitimate strikes balls, there shouldn't be much effect. If you are talking about an umpire giving an almost automatic ball on a close 0-2 pitch, then its up to the batter to be ready to swing.

I don’t know if they lead to “worse” calls but they lead to a worse fan experience. So far the sports I watch have overwhelmingly been made worse for my enjoyment as a fan with the introduction of replay.


I disagree here about robotic umpires (at least). It should give a better fan experience if only because we won't see star players being ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

   41. Brian Posted: October 28, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5895480)
Part of the problem is you play the game one way for your entire life then it changes dramatically. No one on that field has ever played in a game where that pitch is a strike. I’d be annoyed too.


I think that by the time they reach the majors they have seen every kind of pitch, in every location called either way at random. You think big league umps are bad?
   42. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: October 28, 2019 at 02:33 PM (#5895484)
SoSH: IIRC, the Atlantic League used listed heights and assumed a zone size from there (which isn't ideal but you've got to start somewhere). Accordingly, a few dudes who had lied about being 6-0 when they were 5-10 or whatever got a bad deal.

Dunno about the AFL.
   43. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: October 28, 2019 at 02:39 PM (#5895487)

I think that by the time they reach the majors they have seen every kind of pitch, in every location called either way at random. You think big league umps are bad?


Big league umps have to handle faster pitches with more movement. Minor league umps are not as good but the pitches are easier to call.
   44. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2019 at 02:39 PM (#5895489)
I don’t know if they lead to “worse” calls but they lead to a worse fan experience. So far the sports I watch have overwhelmingly been made worse for my enjoyment as a fan with the introduction of replay.

I agree about replay, but robo-umps aren't replay. (EDIT: coke to Greg and others. And thanks to spycake for linking to that study on the percentage of missed ball and strike calls.)

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

Part of the problem is you play the game one way for your entire life then it changes dramatically. No one on that field has ever played in a game where that pitch is a strike. I’d be annoyed too.

Lots of changes have and will cause whining and force adjustments. Lowering the pitcher's mound, enforcing a pitch clock, moving in (or out) the fences, eliminating excess mound visits, changes in the resiliency of the ball, etc. I have no sympathy for pitchers for whom a robo-ump would effectively reduce their personalized-wide strike zone.
   45. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: October 28, 2019 at 02:44 PM (#5895491)
andy/44--Replay/roboumps: I think that's about right.
   46. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 28, 2019 at 03:08 PM (#5895499)
There was nothing that hurt my enjoyment of the game more than seeing bad calls. I come away thinking 'what is the point of playing if the umpires get it wrong'. I HATE it.

There is no "point", it's strictly entertainment.
   47. spycake Posted: October 28, 2019 at 03:15 PM (#5895501)
The problem isn't that the zone is too low - the problem is that breaking balls, by their nature, often end up in a different place by the time it gets to the catcher than when it passed through the zone. No matter where you set the strike zone, you'll still have this problem.


Sure, but assuming the same degree of break, it's can't go *as* low as before. Maybe ankles instead of in the dirt. Which might make it *less* of a problem for some -- but of course, it would have an impact on non-breaking pitches too. Which is why I said, in my original post, that I didn't even recommend the idea! So I'll drop the tangent.
   48. . Posted: October 28, 2019 at 03:25 PM (#5895507)
Part of the problem is you play the game one way for your entire life then it changes dramatically.


I doubt it's actually happened, but if the actual strike zone weeds out a few players from the major leagues, then they never should have been in the major leagues in the first place.

It also sounds like the non-rule book strike zone has been systematically biased against pitchers with a lot of movement on their pitches -- also a bad thing.

The other option to all of this, and it would apply to other sports too, is to eliminate replay, but also eliminate replays of close calls on television and in-stadium video boards. Essentially, it would just be eliminating the close call as a source of in-game reportage. (*) The model here would be the long-time prohibition in MLB stadiums of showing close calls on in-stadium video boards. I'd prefer this to the current, highly overofficous, humans-in-service-of-technology model.

(*) And thus the solution for people who can't abide seeing bad calls. Just don't show those people the bad calls. Done.
   49. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 28, 2019 at 04:38 PM (#5895535)

There is no "point", it's strictly entertainment.

I'm not an absolutist on any of this, but it's more entertaining to see the contest on the field determined by the efforts of the players, and not the arbitrary whims of an umpire.

Egregiously or systematically bad calls can also call the integrity of the game into question.
   50. . Posted: October 28, 2019 at 05:23 PM (#5895541)
Egregiously or systematically bad calls can also call the integrity of the game into question.


Only if they're focused on and talked about. For decades and decades, they really weren't. The only reason they are now is because of technology and the 24-hour blab cycle.

Not accepting the human frailty and limitation that have always been part of the fabric of these games is a choice, not something baked into the very workings of the cosmos. And in a ####-ton of situations, the refs have replay and the calls still get ###### up. Technology, as it often does, gives merely the illusion of improvement.
   51. Jaack Posted: October 28, 2019 at 05:25 PM (#5895542)

So the when the ump and computer agree, that's the call. When they disagree, the ump makes the call. In other words, it's the exact same as we have now. How would this help anything?


Not all missed calls are because an ump goes rogue - a fair share are going to be either split second decisions on borderline calls or situations when an ump just blanks for a second.

And you also have to account for the power of suggestion. No ump will be instantly sure of every pitch, and the 'suggestion' of the robot ump would push an ump in that direction.

-----
Fundamentally, I don't really see ball/strike calls as a major issue. There aren't a lot of blatantly missed calls and those that do happen rarely matter towards the outcome of the game. There's handwriting over borderline calls, but those matter to me even less.

I don't believe that robotic enforcement of the rulebook strikezone would really be beneficial. The strike zone has evolved overy tike to fit the needs of the game, and by and large, it works fine today. If you could program a robot ump to make the same calls that are currently made but with more consistency and fewer errors, that would be an improvement. But I assume that the implementation would end up something like the balk clarification from 1988 and have visible effects that have no real benefit to the game.
   52. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 28, 2019 at 05:39 PM (#5895543)
Unless there is a systematic bias toward calling legitimate strikes balls, there shouldn't be much effect. If you are talking about an umpire giving an almost automatic ball on a close 0-2 pitch, then its up to the batter to be ready to swing.

As you noted in the second sentence here, there is in fact a systematic bias toward calling a strike a ball on 2-strike counts, and also a bias toward calling a ball a strike on 3-ball counts. (This is the first piece of Pitch-FX research I ever remember reading, over a decade ago now.)

Which means that robot umpires will result in both more strikeouts and more walks. Just what baseball needs at this point: even FEWER balls in play.
   53. . Posted: October 28, 2019 at 05:47 PM (#5895544)
Which means that robot umpires will result in both more strikeouts and more walks.


Unless hitters are taking more pitches knowing that they'll get the ball bias if the count gets to strike 2 -- which seems entirely plausible.

Strikeouts and walks are a problem, but they're more a symptom than the underlying disease. The underlying disease is taking hittable pitches. That should be discouraged by virtually any means necessary.
   54. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 28, 2019 at 05:57 PM (#5895546)

Only if they're focused on and talked about. For decades and decades, they really weren't. The only reason they are now is because of technology and the 24-hour blab cycle.

It is human nature to be aggrieved and complain. People still complain about the Denkinger call 24 years later, people have complained that stars in the NBA got beneficial calls since I was a kid 30 years ago, etc. There would be less of it without replays being shown on tv but everybody pretty much has the capability to Zapruder a play at this point -- there's no putting that genie back in the bottle.
   55. . Posted: October 28, 2019 at 06:11 PM (#5895549)
People still complain about the Denkinger call 24 years later,


That's one call in decades of sports. It's the outlier of outliers.

   56. Cleveland (need new name) fan Posted: October 28, 2019 at 07:22 PM (#5895560)
Fundamentally, I don't really see ball/strike calls as a major issue. There aren't a lot of blatantly missed calls and those that do happen rarely matter towards the outcome of the game. There's handwriting over borderline calls, but those matter to me even less.


Even if it is true that incorrect ball/strike calls are not a major issue (and I think you are wrong), the idea of bad calls is a major problem. It leads to most of the issues between players, managers, and umpires. The player thinks a call is wrong and question the ump, the bench yells at the ump about their calls etc. Enough of these minor arguements either a player of umpire goes rouge and people get tossed. Even when the original call is correct, players sometimes get ejected. My guess is that robo umps will lead to far less stories of umpires doing truly stupid things (cf Joe West) which is a good thing.

See the example of tennis. On courts with Hawkeye, there are no arguments about line calls. On clay courts where the chair looks at the mark on the court, there are arguments about how to interpret the mark of which mark is correct. On courts without either Hawkeye or clay, there are lots of arguments between players and the chair about line calls.
   57. Jose Goes to Absurd Lengths for 50K Posted: October 28, 2019 at 07:36 PM (#5895561)
Hawkeye is just not a good example. It’s a stationary line with a precise point to determine if it crossed or not. The strike zone is a 3 dimensional ever changing from hitter to hitter target and frankly a hitter can adjust his stance to be different (not even talking about radical differences, just the Cal Ripkens and Dwight Evanses of the world). Hawkeye works, more fluid situations don’t. We can see that in all manner of sports replays (soccer fans can watch this past weekend for plenty of examples).
   58. Tin Angel Posted: October 28, 2019 at 07:52 PM (#5895562)
Did they program the robots to feel pain?
   59. Jaack Posted: October 28, 2019 at 08:50 PM (#5895568)
Even if it is true that incorrect ball/strike calls are not a major issue (and I think you are wrong), the idea of bad calls is a major problem. It leads to most of the issues between players, managers, and umpires. The player thinks a call is wrong and question the ump, the bench yells at the ump about their calls etc. Enough of these minor arguements either a player of umpire goes rouge and people get tossed. Even when the original call is correct, players sometimes get ejected. My guess is that robo umps will lead to far less stories of umpires doing truly stupid things (cf Joe West) which is a good thing.


This doesn't really happen all that often though, and it's an established norm that arguing with umpires over balls and strikes is something that gets you ejected. And the amount of incidents regarding the robot umps in the league where they use them lead me to believe that players and managers will continue to argue balls and strikes. And I don't really fear rogue umps as a problem going forward. Yeah, Joe West, CB Bucknor, and Angel Hernandez are bad umps. But all of them are over 55 and likley to be out of the game within the next decade. And while it's possible new bad umps will take their place, I don't see it as likely. Those were the three worst umps ten years ago, and no one has joined their league.

Furthermore, the ump evaluation data that's been published shows that umpires have significantly improved over the past decade. The best umps are missing like 7-8% of pitches when compared to the robot umps. But how many of those were actually 'bad' calls? A good portion were likely fairly borderline calls to begin with. We're essentially talking about 1 or 2 pitches a game that an ump straight up misses. How often does a single missed ball/strike actually affect the outcome of a game? It looks like a pretty minor issue to me, and I haven't really seen any data that contradicts me in this. In fact, I think it's likely to improve without the use of robot ump.s
   60. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: October 28, 2019 at 09:33 PM (#5895578)
I'm not an absolutist on any of this, but it's more entertaining to see the contest on the field determined by the efforts of the players, and not the arbitrary whims of an umpire.


The way I see it is, if an umpire makes the wrong call and it's close, which it almost always is in the big leagues, it could just as easily have gone the other way. It's effective a tie, a coin flip. Same thing in the NFL if a receiver does or does not put his toe on the sideline. You can't get everything right down to the millimeter.
   61. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2019 at 10:59 PM (#5895596)
People still complain about the Denkinger call 24 years later,

That's one call in decades of sports. It's the outlier of outliers.

It is, but calls like the one last night that went against the Nats are only outliers in their relative rarity, and they still happen more than a few times a game, and they're every bit as much or more likely to turn a game around than the even rarer instance of a blown call on the bases that wasn't overturned. We remember the latter calls because they're endlessly replayed and often challenged, but when a blown pitch like last night's takes place in the 3rd inning and kills a prospective big rally that might well have changed the final outcome 6 innings later, it's usually just on to the next pitch and shut up and get over it. If we really wanted to use technology effectively without causing multiple game delays, we'd robotize balls and strikes, do away with all forms of replay and just accept the occasional Denkinger call.
   62. Lassus Posted: October 29, 2019 at 06:53 AM (#5895612)
and not the arbitrary whims of an umpire.

Split-second judgment calls of an inch or two (or much less) are exactly the opposite of an arbitrary whim.

People have such poor opinions of everyone. I find this bizarre.
   63. . Posted: October 29, 2019 at 09:42 AM (#5895634)
People have such poor opinions of everyone. I find this bizarre.


#notmypresident
   64. kubiwan Posted: October 29, 2019 at 09:42 AM (#5895635)
There was nothing that hurt my enjoyment of the game more than seeing bad calls. I come away thinking 'what is the point of playing if the umpires get it wrong'. I HATE it. Replay has fixed that.


Your use of the past tense here is surprising to me, given that one of my reasons for despising replay is that it hasn't (to my eyes) actually made the officiating much better. Or at the very least, fans, players, and coaches in all sports still complain incessantly about getting screwed over.

So, in all seriousness, do you feel the officiating has improved? If so, what has been the percentage decrease in the number of blown calls?
   65. kubiwan Posted: October 29, 2019 at 09:51 AM (#5895637)
the idea of bad calls is a major problem. It leads to most of the issues between players, managers, and umpires. The player thinks a call is wrong and question the ump, the bench yells at the ump about their calls etc. Enough of these minor arguments either a player of umpire goes rouge and people get tossed.


In my mind, it is incontrovertible that players and managers will still think calls are wrong regardless of who/what is actually making the call. And it is just as true that they will be mad about it. I do wonder where that anger will be directed in a robo-ump world; in particular, I think it is quite possible that they will still yell at the human umpire, in which case, nothing will have changed regarding player/manager/umpire relations.
   66. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 29, 2019 at 10:03 AM (#5895639)


Split-second judgment calls of an inch or two (or much less) are exactly the opposite of an arbitrary whim.

People have such poor opinions of everyone. I find this bizarre.


You're right, "arbitrary whims" makes it sound malicious or lazy which I don't think it is. But the umps/refs are fallible and if there's a way to get it right without otherwise damaging the game, it will be a more entertaining product. I'm not sure if that's possible which is why I'm cautious about the use of replay.

I mean, sure, it doesn't happen all the time, and it might happen less so in baseball (where there are fewer calls to make) than in other sports. I can think of more examples in basketball (NBA and college) than in baseball, for example.
   67. Jack Sommers Posted: October 29, 2019 at 10:42 AM (#5895651)
What is the interpretation of this data ?

The Overturned & has dropped a few percentage points since the inception of Replay Review. There were roughly 20% fewer reviews in 2019 compared to previous 3-4 seasons.

Are the guys doing the video reviews for teams getting better ?
Are the umps getting better ?
Is it still just a coin flip and not worth the effort ?
Or is getting 500-600 incorrect calls overturned per year worth it ?

Year Chall Ovt Ovt %
2019 1057 528 50.0%
2018 1204 604 50.2%
2017 1179 601 51.0%
2016 1292 686 53.1%
2015 1155 601 52.0%
2014 1056 560 53.0%
Totl 6943 3580 51.6


Of course all data from Baseball Reference, starting HERE
   68. Rusty Priske Posted: October 29, 2019 at 01:54 PM (#5895716)
So, in all seriousness, do you feel the officiating has improved?


Yes. Dramatically. (Well, not that OFFICIATING has improved, but rather than end result is correct. Umps still make mistakes, because they are only human.)

It is rare to see an incorrect call when replay is involved. The only times I personally disagree with the call, once I see the replay I generally acknowledge that it is too close to overturn. This is an acceptable response.

Balls & strikes are still bad. It seems that there is a bad call every other batter (or worse). The ability to fix this exists, so you bet I am all for it.

   69. kubiwan Posted: October 29, 2019 at 02:35 PM (#5895730)
Yes. Dramatically.


Fair enough.
   70. Gaelan Posted: October 29, 2019 at 03:30 PM (#5895752)

Yes. Dramatically. (Well, not that OFFICIATING has improved, but rather than end result is correct. Umps still make mistakes, because they are only human.)

It is rare to see an incorrect call when replay is involved. The only times I personally disagree with the call, once I see the replay I generally acknowledge that it is too close to overturn. This is an acceptable response.

Balls & strikes are still bad. It seems that there is a bad call every other batter (or worse). The ability to fix this exists, so you bet I am all for it.


Rusty's view is so different than mine that I find it unintelligible, as if it were uttered by an alien creature whose experience is so different from mine that we can never understand each other.

I disagree with the replay calls much, much, more often than I did (or do) with the regular officials. The disparity is massive, so much so that it is one of the main reasons I've stopped watching football.

And the reason for this is obvious. Instant replay creates controversy where before there was none. Most replays are on on plays that no one would have noticed in the past and consequently not cared about, then replay identifies it is as a "close" call and then drills down to some minutia that is impossible to discern and then makes an arbitrary distinction. The result is a far more arbitrary ruling.

Offside in hockey, tag plays in baseball, catch not a catch, no matter the sport the phenomenon is the same.

We all know this to be true. There are not two sides to this issue. There are those that understand and there are those that do not. It has nothing to do with the human element. Instant replay does not get the calls right. This is beyond reasonable dispute. It is the cause of the problem it is supposed to solve. This is also beyond reasonable dispute.
   71. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 29, 2019 at 03:43 PM (#5895755)
Rusty's view is so different than mine that I find it unintelligible, as if it were uttered by an alien creature whose experience is so different from mine that we can never understand each other.

I disagree with the replay calls much, much, more often than I did (or do) with the regular officials. The disparity is massive, so much so that it is one of the main reasons I've stopped watching football.

And the reason for this is obvious. Instant replay creates controversy where before there was none. Most replays are on on plays that no one would have noticed in the past and consequently not cared about, then replay identifies it is as a "close" call and then drills down to some minutia that is impossible to discern and then makes an arbitrary distinction. The result is a far more arbitrary ruling.

Offside in hockey, tag plays in baseball, catch not a catch, no matter the sport the phenomenon is the same.

We all know this to be true. There are not two sides to this issue. There are those that understand and there are those that do not. It has nothing to do with the human element. Instant replay does not get the calls right. This is beyond reasonable dispute. It is the cause of the problem it is supposed to solve. This is also beyond reasonable dispute.


I'm 80% of the way to Gaelan's position.

BTW, good to 'see' you. Long time. You need to come back to TRHL :-)
   72. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 29, 2019 at 03:47 PM (#5895756)

Gaelan, when you use the term "instant replay" are you referring to replays in the game broadcast, or calls made during replay reviews/appeals? Because I don't think changing the latter will change the former.
   73. . Posted: October 29, 2019 at 04:58 PM (#5895777)
Gaelan is of course spot-on, in both the "strong" version of the claim and the "weaker" version ... actually now that I think it through, there are at least three versions.

1. Instant replay does not get the calls it reviews right all the time, or even a reasonable facsimile of all the time.
2. Instant replay is itself the direct cause of some bad calls, frequently reversing calls that were made correctly by the officials.
3. Officiating in general is worse than before replay, even adjusting for the better technology of today that allows us better, clearer access to bad calls.(*)

The NHL reviewing whether a guy was a centimeter offside a minute before a goal was eventually scored by someone else on a play having nothing to do with the offside is so stupid we should all be turned into pillars of salt just knowing it exists. It's unspeakably, unfathomably dumb -- the alpha and omega, the up and down, the north/south/east/and/west of stupid.

Sports fans simply need to be forcibly weaned off replay. The calls by the referees need to be taken off-grid as a topic of interest in the covering and reporting of a sporting event. Yeah, there will still be people with smartphones who do Twitter posts of bad calls, but that will be a drop in the ocean compared to today's absurdity. Being servile to technology when the technology doesn't even work, is downright pathetic. The only replay that works or will ever work is the tennis line replay. Everything else is hopeless and unworkable.

(*) There's never been a worse call in NFL history than the non-pass interference call in last year's Saints-Rams NFC championship game. Hearkening back to my extremely young days, two of the more controversial calls in the NFL playoffs were the possible offensive pass interference on Drew Pearson in the Hail Mary playoff game at Minnesota in 1975 and the roughing the passer call on Sugarbear Ray Hamilton that gave the Raiders a lucky playoff win against the Patriots in 1976. The call last year was way worse. You can add in the absurd "let's just pick up the flag after calling pass interference and calling first down" against the Lions with five minutes to go in the 2014 playoff game against Dallas as the Lions were on a game-clinching drive, also dreadful beyond words.
   74. Jack Sommers Posted: October 29, 2019 at 09:19 PM (#5895848)
I'm sure glad they had replay on the first play of game 6.

That was so obviously a blown call, and would have cost the Nationals a run in the most important game of the year.

   75. Rusty Priske Posted: October 30, 2019 at 09:09 AM (#5896213)
Instant replay does not get the calls right. This is beyond reasonable dispute. It is the cause of the problem it is supposed to solve. This is also beyond reasonable dispute.


This is just so wrong. (In baseball. People keep bringing up football. I have no idea why. The effectiveness of replay in football has zero relevance when talking about the effectiveness of replay in baseball.)

I'm sure glad they had replay on the first play of game 6.

That was so obviously a blown call, and would have cost the Nationals a run in the most important game of the year.


And this is more important than any argument against replay. Get the call right. Replay does that.

(Again, this does not mean the process cannot be improved.)

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