The independent Atlantic League continued its commitment to the Trackman automated ball-strike technology, first used in the league’s All-Star Game earlier this month, by implementing it in all league games, beginning with last night’s slate.
Throughout the second half of the Atlantic League season, home plate umpires will be assisted calling balls and strikes by the ABS, which utilizes radar technology to provide a reliable, precise, “rule-book” strike zone for pitchers and hitters. Umpires will use their judgement for limited ball-strike issues such as check swings, while continuing to perform their other normal duties.
The use of the Trackman automated ball-strike technology is part of the three-year partnership between MLB and ALPB, which tests experimental playing rules and equipment initiatives throughout the Atlantic League’s regular season.
There doesn’t appear to be much controversy over the use of the technology, and most involved seemed pretty sanguine about the situation. From Newsday:
Thursday night marked the league-wide rollout of the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS) powered by the Trackman advanced analytics program, and prior to the Ducks’ 9-1 win over the New Britain Bees at Bethpage Ballpark, Ducks manager Wally Backman spoke about the viability of the new technology.
“My whole thing is, let’s say just to throw numbers out there, if TrackMan is 98 percent right and the human is 92 percent right, then you have to use TrackMan because it makes the game better,” Backman said.
Home plate umpire Fred DeJesus was “plugged in” with an earpiece that received information from someone operating a computer program that called balls and strikes by utilizing radar. The league announced that the earpiece will be donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Still, it may be moot: MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre doesn’t think automated ball-strike technology will be ever be deployed on the Major League level, as stated on an interview with Dan Patrick: “I like the game staying human. Since we put in replay everyone expects to get everything perfect and I don’t think our game is that way. To me it’s an imperfect game. I would hate to see us try to be too perfect… I don’t see the robotic strike zone happening.”
Before this season began, the independent Atlantic League announced a three-year agreement with Major League Baseball to effectively serve as a testing ground for various rule and equipment changes being explored by MLB.
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