dodgersnation.com file photo: MLB Umpire Angel Hernandez and the rest of the MLB umpires will be replaced at home plate by an auto ball strike system anytime as part of a five-year deal.
By Amaury Pi-González
There should be little surprise we knew it was coming, it was not “if” but “when”. It was announced Saturday that umpires agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball on a new system of an automated ball and strike system at the plate, as part of a five-year deal.The computer plate umpires could make an appearance in MLB anytime during the next five years.It will be the independent Atlantic League the first organized professional baseball league to let a computer call balls and strikes at their All-Star Game on July 10. A plate umpire wore an earpiece that is connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar. (More on that below)
A Doppler radar is a specialized radar that uses the Doppler effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance. Most people are familiar when they learned that is the common practice use by TV meteorologist in on-air-weather reports. Decades ago,the umpires only knew Doppler when they were checking the weather for a game, the possibility of a rainout, rain coming or not. Stuff like that.
“This idea has been around for a long time and it’s the first time it’s been brought to life in a comprehensive way,” Morgan Sword, MLB’s senior vice president of economics and operations, said on the night the Atlantic League experiment started. Humans still will determine checked swing and making sure TrackMan doesn’t call a strike on a pitch that bounces and goes through the strike zone. And other crazy stuff that always finds its way to a baseball diamond.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt said in October: “We have replay everywhere else in the game. Like it or not, replay gets the call right.” Meanwhile, MLB has discusses installing the system at Class-A Florida State League for 2020 season. If the test is satisfactory,the computer umpires could be used in Triple-A in 2021 as if it works there, then they will come to the Major Leagues. It is not clear whether the Major League Baseball Players Association would need to approve computerized ball and strikes.
Soon, an umpire could ride in a car that drives itself to the park and then another computer that tells him what happened. Yes, we are on the eve of another decade.
This time, it is all about TrackMan!
Best wishes during these holidays! Felíz Navidad!