Earlier this week, history was made in the sport of baseball as robot umpires were used during the Atlantic League's All-Star game.
"Take pictures. Take selfies". After a pitch is thrown, the information is relayed to the home plate umpire who makes the call official. "The game is bigger than you, bigger than any player", Atlantic League umpire Derek Moccia told the Post. Atlantic League players are highly experienced professionals, having progressed through professional baseball developmental levels (A, AA, AAA).
Save for pronounced consternation over one pitch, a tailing fastball that rung up Lancaster Barnstormers designated hitter Joe Terdoslavich in the second inning, the digitally rendered strike zone was barely noticeable. Robots have arrived at home plate, and while they haven't come to Major League Baseball yet, they may very well be the future of baseball.
But players, managers and umpires in the Atlantic League have been quick to endorse the system in the name of consistency, even if the long-established boundaries of the strike zone change because of technology. "But it would be nearly impossible to be consistent with [that pitch without Trackman] because it's at the bottom of the zone, but also because catcher's influence is real".
The umpires have the ability to override the computer, which considers a pitch a strike when the ball bounces and then crosses the zone.
The experiment is a three-year deal that includes TrackMan, increase the size of bases from the tradition 15-by-15 to 18-by-18, banning mound visits and a three-batter minimum for pitchers entering a game, among other rule changes.
"One of our focuses is not to replace the umpire", Sword said. If MLB were to implement robotic strike zones, it would stratify itself not only by talent but also by content: There would be a marked, fundamental difference between the game played by Baldwin High School and its home state's professional team. During those periods, deBrauwere called balls and strikes as if it were a normal game. Sabermetric analysis reveals the startling defensive value that catchers add by their "pitch framing" prowess - what some catchers call "receiving", or "presenting" the pitch to the umpire.
Meanwhile, the players don't seem to mind the technology, with one pitcher telling the AP that TrackMan called high strike zone pitches that human umpires frequently miss.