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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022

obot umpires have been given a promotion and will be just one step from the major leagues this season.

Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the highest level of the minor leagues.

MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball and Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. It also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 20, 2022 at 05:38 PM | 49 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: robot umpires, robots are made of metal

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   1. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: January 20, 2022 at 07:02 PM (#6061784)
MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball and Strike system.


Awesome. So instead of over weight, middle aged men with delusions of grandeur; we will now have weedy, nerdy know-it-all, liberal elite doucheb*gs who couldn't score a date in high school, deciding balls and strikes! The hits just keep coming..
   2. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 20, 2022 at 07:07 PM (#6061786)
There will be a fair number of players with prior MLB experience doing time in AAA, including current MLB players on rehab assignments. It will be interesting to see if their reaction is any different than those who are just happy to have made it to AAA.
   3. DFA Posted: January 21, 2022 at 01:47 AM (#6061815)
This is a pretty significant development. Seems like it's just a matter of time before this is coming to a major league ballpark near you. 2024?
   4. Bret Sabermatrician Posted: January 21, 2022 at 07:40 AM (#6061817)
Can't wait for this Angel Hernandez discrimination suit.
   5. DL from MN Posted: January 21, 2022 at 08:28 AM (#6061821)
That's going to be a jarring adjustment for prospects moving from an automated strike zone in AAA to the non-automated zone in the majors.
   6. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 21, 2022 at 09:07 AM (#6061823)
I dislike this. It's coming so I'm not getting too worked up but I don't like this at all.
   7. Adam Starblind Posted: January 21, 2022 at 09:11 AM (#6061825)
Awesome. So instead of over weight, middle aged men with delusions of grandeur; we will now have weedy, nerdy know-it-all, liberal elite doucheb*gs who couldn't score a date in high school, deciding balls and strikes! The hits just keep coming..



Can we discuss the meaning of the word "automatic"?
   8. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 21, 2022 at 11:56 AM (#6061834)
That's going to be a jarring adjustment for prospects moving from an automated strike zone in AAA to the non-automated zone in the majors


Like when the 3-0 pitch that just barely misses is called "ball four." thats going to be so disconcerting.
   9. John DiFool2 Posted: January 21, 2022 at 12:46 PM (#6061847)
Yeah, eliminating one of the more pernicous examples of human umpire bias is going to be so bothersome to everybody, the horror. Will take them 3 weeks to adjust, and the game goes on.

I'm sorry, but "eveners" have always made me stabby. "Oh, I'll consistently call the pitches which will keep the plate appearance going, thereby pissing off the fewest people." And don't even get me started on pitch framing.
   10. BDC Posted: January 21, 2022 at 01:07 PM (#6061848)
I'll keep an open mind. It could work great.

It could work very futzily and inconsistently (because humans still have to program and align the thing, and because sometimes technology doesn't work great). It could also lead to long-term structural changes that help certain types of players and harm others. I can't even predict how. How will guys who adopt exaggerated crouching stances be affected? Pitchers who rely on backdoor breaking pitches, or knuckleballs - will it help or harm them? I have no idea, except that it's likely to be a bit different than human umps.
   11. DL from MN Posted: January 21, 2022 at 01:59 PM (#6061851)
I have doubts that an automated strike zone would match the average strike zone called by human umpires. Humans tend to call an oval zone and the rule book is a rectangle. Do we really want a rectangular zone or do we want a more consistent oval zone?
   12. The Duke Posted: January 21, 2022 at 07:12 PM (#6061904)
I’m much more ok with an automated strike zone than replay. The first one will be fine-tuned to perfection and we won’t notice a pace of play issue. Replay interrupts the flow of the game at critical times and focuses on making an imperfect game perfect to the detriment of the game and the in-stadium fans.

   13. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: January 21, 2022 at 07:31 PM (#6061906)
The first one will be fine-tuned to perfection and we won’t notice a pace of play issue.


And if you're really good this year, Santa will give you a Unicorn.
   14. Lassus Posted: January 21, 2022 at 09:28 PM (#6061919)
I dislike this. It's coming so I'm not getting too worked up but I don't like this at all.

I am with my BBTF twin on this one.
   15. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2022 at 08:40 AM (#6061968)
About bleeping time. Let home plate umpires stick to personalized Weight Watchers diets and leave the strike zone alone.
   16. bookbook Posted: January 22, 2022 at 01:44 PM (#6062006)
weedy, nerdy know-it-all, elite doucheb*gs who couldn't score a date in high school, tend to be libertarian.
   17. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 22, 2022 at 06:29 PM (#6062029)

I have doubts that an automated strike zone would match the average strike zone called by human umpires.


I think that's sort of the idea.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: January 22, 2022 at 07:47 PM (#6062044)
Unlike replay, which just sucks and was obviously going to, this could make for a better game. But there's no guarantee. It could increase TTO, which would definitely make the game worse.

   19. rr would lock Shaq's a$$ up Posted: January 22, 2022 at 08:39 PM (#6062049)
I dislike this.


Me too.
   20. DL from MN Posted: January 23, 2022 at 10:05 AM (#6062089)
I think that's sort of the idea.


I don't think we have really discussed the problem that automated strike zones are supposed to fix.

Are we interested in reducing noise variation between umpires? That seems the most compelling use. Inconsistency is usually what gets people irritated.

Are we interested in calling the rectangular rule book strike zone instead of the more oval strike zone umpires have called for over 100 years? That I'm not so sure about. Umpires "widen" the plate when the pitch is belt high and call higher/lower when the pitch is down the middle of the plate. They also tend to round off the corners. This makes intuitive sense. They're calling pitches that are easier to hit strikes and pitches that are harder to hit balls. If we alter that and start calling the rule book strike zone we could end up with even more at-bats ending in walks and strikeouts than the currently high rates that are a plague on baseball.
   21. John DiFool2 Posted: January 23, 2022 at 11:00 AM (#6062093)
It could increase TTO, which would definitely make the game worse.


Once pitchers and hitters realize that they can't rely on the ump to bail them out on a borderline call (when the count is against them), they'll become more aggressive and end plate appearances earlier than they do now.
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: January 23, 2022 at 11:43 AM (#6062099)
21. Well that’s certainly a theory.
   23. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 23, 2022 at 06:33 PM (#6062148)

Are we interested in reducing noise variation between umpires? That seems the most compelling use.


why dont we first define: "noise variation" before deciding whether or not that is compelling?
   24. DL from MN Posted: January 23, 2022 at 06:46 PM (#6062151)
There will be two main types of noise - differences in the strike zone between umpires and differences in strike zones of the same umpire depending on other factors (handedness of the pitcher, day/night game, weather, handedness of the batter, inning, how many balls/strikes in the count, etc).

Making the strike zone more oval instead of rectangular is a form of bias (not noise), but it may be something we want to keep.
   25. Lassus Posted: January 24, 2022 at 09:30 AM (#6062204)
This is the sort of idea I want to arrive in MLB too early and then watch fail catastrophically.
   26. . Posted: January 24, 2022 at 09:56 AM (#6062209)
I don't think we have really discussed the problem that automated strike zones are supposed to fix.


The dozens and dozens of balls that are called strikes and strikes that are called balls every single baseball night. Pre-modern technology, these could be lived with, but in today's ultra-high-def era where personnel decisions literally turn on how well a catcher is at tricking an umpire, they're entirely untenable. If you happen to be one that watches several other sports, the fake strikes and the fake balls and the framing make baseball come across as pretty much clownshoes. Let's repeat that: to any educated sports fan of multiple sports, the idea that a catcher that can't hit very well would be chosen over one who can because the former is better at faking out the umpires is big red nose, big red afro, joy buzzer in each palm, clownish.

So before this all gets rolling and statements become turned into things they're not, let's do a short cheat sheet:

1. Analog TV, fast-paced game, cultural norm to swing the bat, very expensive data making analytics prohibitively expensive, no replay in other sports: OK, we can live with a few missed calls and personalized strike zones.
2. UHD TV, slow as molasses game, cultural norm to scratch your package until the perfect pitch comes along, cheap data making analytics cheap, UHD frame by frame replay in every other sport, personnel decisions impacted: No, we can't live with fake balls and strikes.

We can mix and match those factors between the poles of the spectrum for all manner of permuations, but we are in reality where we are.
   27. Lassus Posted: January 24, 2022 at 10:02 AM (#6062211)
Let's repeat that: to any educated sports fan of multiple sports, the idea that a catcher that can't hit very well would be chosen over one who can because the former is better at faking out the umpires is big red nose, big red afro, joy buzzer in each palm, clownish.

I assume you have at least a couple examples of these catchers, and the better-hitting ones that were beaten out.
   28. BDC Posted: January 24, 2022 at 10:52 AM (#6062214)
1. Analog TV, fast-paced game, cultural norm to swing the bat, very expensive data making analytics prohibitively expensive, no replay in other sports: OK, we can live with a few missed calls and personalized strike zones.
2. UHD TV, slow as molasses game, cultural norm to scratch your package until the perfect pitch comes along, cheap data making analytics cheap, UHD frame by frame replay in every other sport, personnel decisions impacted: No, we can't live with fake balls and strikes.


There's something to that, although there's also an element of "The technology was never used before the technology existed."

A similar development has been underway in tennis for awhile now. Is there much controversy there? I haven't heard of much but it would have to be a very loud controversy to reach me, given how little attention I pay to tennis.

Tennis of course has the simplifying factor of fixed lines. The strike zone is partly scaled to the batter, which is why I wonder if the robots will impact all batters equally.
   29. DL from MN Posted: January 24, 2022 at 10:58 AM (#6062218)
I get tired of flopping and phantom foul calls in basketball and those lead to actual points. It bugs me to see a wide receiver whining about interference every time he doesn't make a catch.

BTW - catchers are selected mainly for pop time. If your catcher turns walks into doubles he won't be your catcher long.

I'm just saying there could be unintended consequences of calling the rectangular rule book strike zone. If your favorite thing about the current game is all the walks and strikeouts you might get even more of what you love. I'd much rather improve consistency of the oval strike zone called by umpires for over 100 years. Isn't that inconsistency what gets people irritated when it comes to umpires?
   30. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 24, 2022 at 04:03 PM (#6062282)
Do you not believe that MLB could adjust the computer strike zone if it were shown to have some sort of problems? Either in the size of the zone or the shape or whatever.

Is that the premise to all this?
   31. DL from MN Posted: January 24, 2022 at 04:23 PM (#6062288)
Do you not believe that MLB could adjust the computer strike zone if it were shown to have some sort of problems? Either in the size of the zone or the shape or whatever.


I'm sure they could but I haven't heard anything except calling the rule book strike zone with computer vision tech.
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: January 24, 2022 at 04:26 PM (#6062289)
I think it would be an awfully long time before the game was willing to tweak the zone to the oval DL is talking about.

   33. Greg Pope Posted: January 24, 2022 at 04:51 PM (#6062291)
How does the actual calling work at the minor league stadiums? Are the umps told via buzzer or something and they make the call known? Or does it show up on the scoreboard? Anyone who’s been to a game have an idea of lag time?
   34. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 24, 2022 at 05:05 PM (#6062294)

I'm sure they could


OK so if its some huge problem like there are too many Ks or too many walks or too many HRs or something they will just tweak it right? Like theyve done with tons of other things such as the mound, or gloves, or the strike zone or wotever.

Whats the problem then?
   35. SoSH U at work Posted: January 24, 2022 at 05:58 PM (#6062304)
OK so if its some huge problem like there are too many Ks or too many walks or too many HRs or something they will just tweak it right? Like theyve done with tons of other things such as the mound, or gloves, or the strike zone or wotever.


There are far too many Ks now, and have been for a decade, and they haven't done a thing to address it. The game moves at a snail's pace, which MLB knows, and they've done nothing to address the core problem, instead fiddling around with inconsequential changes.

Why do you have such confidence they would both identify and provide the correct fix to the automated zone?
   36. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 24, 2022 at 06:55 PM (#6062309)
well that is a point, yes. Obviously if something is really out of whack they can tweak it. And I just think a computer generated hologram or whatever it is is more amendable to tweaking then say making human umpires enforce the 20 sec.

Still, with Manfred at the helm I guess anything is possible, so ok yeah.
   37. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 24, 2022 at 06:58 PM (#6062310)
Its also not some platonic-idea oval shape that they are effectively calling as a strike zone is it?

It seems to have rounded corners at the upper corners but I think the lower corners are still approximately a corner. And it varies for handedness, so like the RH batters are getting a strike zone that is rounded in the upper right corner and vice versa. So its not some perfect oval either.

At least this is what I came up with googling this for a few minutes last night.
   38. John Northey Posted: January 24, 2022 at 07:12 PM (#6062312)
With an automated strike zone the owners can shift it during the season if needed, or the offseason (ideally). I remember in the 80's when they talked of shifting it slightly for some reason (forget why) this way they could just do it and not worry about umpires 'human factor' messing it up. Make it the bottom of the knee to the letters then the machine will call exactly that. Base it only on the front of the plate, or the middle, or anywhere over the plate and boom, there it is. Run simulations based on what happened for real the season before to see how much it might change things before hitters and pitchers adapt (as they always will).

I know I won't miss seeing Angel Hernandez call a pitch down the middle a ball, or one a foot outside a strike.

To reduce K's and get more balls in play but not home runs I suspect a slight increase in the balls weight might do the trick - makes it harder to throw at 100 mph and when contact is made it shouldn't go as far. No idea how to test (maybe pitching machines using exact same strength over and over again with todays balls, heavier ones, and other options). Maybe a humidor in every park to deaden it more ala in Colorado. Also would increase stolen bases (harder to throw out runners) although it would cut down outfield assists (sad as I love watching those... price of growing up with Jesse Barfield in RF for the Jays - so much fun to watch) and reduce what currently works for throws from deep short as a tiny reduction in speed would let a few more runners make it.
   39. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 25, 2022 at 07:35 AM (#6062363)
why would it cut down on OF assists?
   40. BDC Posted: January 25, 2022 at 08:12 AM (#6062366)
why would it cut down on OF assists?

Because the robot would only call a runner out at the plate if the throw went through the robot strike zone.
   41. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 25, 2022 at 08:17 AM (#6062367)
OK so if its some huge problem like there are too many Ks or too many walks or too many HRs or something they will just tweak it right? Like theyve done with tons of other things such as the mound, or gloves, or the strike zone or wotever.


The last change to gloves was when? The mound was 1968, a mere 54 years ago, strike zone...theoretically 1988 I think? 34 years ago. And if you think the current system is confusing and frustrating I'm not sure why you'd think just changing things up on the fly in season would be an improvement.

When replay was implemented it was meant to get the obvious mistakes corrected. Instead a sizable percentage of replays are for "guy sliding into a base and coming off the base for a billionth of a second" plays that no one gave a #### about for 140 years of Major League Baseball. But yeah, they're going to get the strike zone right and everything is going to be perfect. Color me highly skeptical.

As I said initially, it's coming and I get that. Replay was similarly inevitable and I didn't like it originally and I don't like it now. Hell, you talk about changing on the fly but replay still takes ####### forever 8 years later.
   42. Jose is Absurdly Correct but not Helpful Posted: January 25, 2022 at 08:38 AM (#6062370)
why would it cut down on OF assists?


I think he's talking about increasing the weight of the balls impacting the throwing speed, not the roboumps.
   43. DL from MN Posted: January 25, 2022 at 10:36 AM (#6062391)
There should be some rule for replay that the replay umpire only gets to look at the play 3 times and only once in slow motion. If it isn't obvious looking at it right away then it shouldn't be overturned.
   44. Greg Pope Posted: January 25, 2022 at 11:12 AM (#6062396)
There should be some rule for replay that the replay umpire only gets to look at the play 3 times and only once in slow motion. If it isn't obvious looking at it right away then it shouldn't be overturned.

I'd definitely sign on for this. Or any sort of limitation, really. 30 seconds but no slow motion works for me, too. As much as I'm a proponent of "get the call right", current replay has gone way, way too far.
   45. John Northey Posted: January 25, 2022 at 11:32 AM (#6062404)
42 has it right - my outfield assists comment was on unintended consequences of a heavier ball. I'm not talking one that is 2 lbs or something, but that is an ounce or so heavier than todays - not sure how much is needed to slow a 100 mph fastball to 95 say and how much that would affect everything - more balls in play though would be a big plus, more stolen bases also a plus (mid 80's Cardinals were fun to watch even though I wasn't a fan of theirs), as are other potential effects - making it so slower runners have less value leading to more athletic players (strong on defense, speed, and can make contact). Fewer 3 true outcomes (stronger incentive for pitching to contact would cut walks and K's down), big hitters still would get their dingers but 50+ HR hitters would be rare again - 46 50 home run seasons all time, 18 before 1995, 28 since with 5 in the 2010's, the most pre 1990 was 4 in a decade - the 20's all Ruth and 30's (2 by Jimmie Foxx). 12 50 HR seasons in the 00's, 11 in the 95-99 period. Yeah, it was nuts and slowly getting better but this would force it down. I suspect Vlad Guerrero Jr would still get there for a season sometime but few others would.

I suspect most here would LOVE to see fewer dingers and more stolen bases, more defense, etc.
   46. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 25, 2022 at 11:32 AM (#6062405)
If there was any significant change to the game that was believed to be caused by an automated strike zone, the "tweak" would be to return the strike zone to the purview of the human umpire.
   47. DL from MN Posted: January 25, 2022 at 11:49 AM (#6062409)
not sure how much is needed to slow a 100 mph fastball to 95


F=ma

Force is constant so to get 95% of acceleration would need about 5% more mass or 1/4 ounce.
   48. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 25, 2022 at 03:00 PM (#6062447)

I think he's talking about increasing the weight of the balls impacting the throwing speed, not the roboumps


Right, but if the ball is heavier than obviously more runners are going to try for an extra base. So once again there's some dynamic in play and runners will attempt more extra bases until there's a point of diminished returns. But the assists should probably stay about the same, otherwise runners wouldnt be trying hard enuf to take another base.
   49. SoSH U at work Posted: January 25, 2022 at 04:25 PM (#6062457)
Sunday is correct. You would have more extra bases taken, but OF assists shouldn’t change.

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