MLB Trying Tech To Call Balls And Strikes

Damon Parks - 04 Nov 2021

Technology need not necessarily be the enemy of tradition, and Major League Baseball may soon prove why.

The league is currently trying out a new way for settling those age-old disputes involving balls and strikes, and this time round, the aim is to remove human decision-makers from the mix. Enter the robot umpires.

Since the MLB has long favoured the Atlantic League as a testing ground for new ideas, it should come as no surprise that this is where the new tech is being tried out. A system involving an iPhone and a cord reaching into the ear of the home plate umpire may soon bring an all new era to a sport traditionally regarded as resistant to change.

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How It All Works

The system works with the help of a sensor that detects the exact pitch location before transmitting the date to the iPhone. Once transmitted, it’s then converted into audio file format that will tell the umpire to either call a ball or a strike.

ABS technology, which is short for “Automated Ball-Strike System” was first introduced in 2019 when it made its maiden appearance during a regular-season game. That year, Fred DeJesus became the first umpire to make use of the automated way of calling balls and strikes – but not without a healthy dose of initial hesitancy.

DeJesus says he clearly remembers thinking how he had simply spent too much time and money trying to perfect the art of calling. It’s well-known that this takes years – even decades – to learn. And even after it has been perfected, each umpire’s strike zone remains a matter of personal application.

The Big Trade-Off

Exactly how and when the MLB plans on making the big switch to robot umpires isn’t yet clear. And even when it is rolled out on a bigger scale than the Atlantic League, the process will for what could be a considerable amount of time remain a thing of trial and error.

While he says he’s certain the technology will work and eventually take hold, Morgan Sword, the man in charge of ABS in the MLB, admits making the transition will be no small change. This is because even though it’s a system driven by technology, the biggest transition will be of a mental nature. Since many coaches and players believe in the significance of a relationship between the umpire and the batter, suddenly taking orders from an algorithm instead of a (trusted) human umpire will be a huge change to adapt to.  

But then again, who wants excitement when you can have clinical accuracy instead? uses cookies to give the best experience possible. Please read our Cookie Policy for more details