Baseball has always had a hard time getting with the times and that has left them playing catchup when compared to other sports, but when it comes to robot officials. they have a chance to make history and use them in a game.
One of my favourite-baseball related Twitter accounts is @UmpScorecards and you should definitely check them out. They estimate that umpires in baseball are about 94% accurate and 96% consistent. These umpires are world-class and if you believe that you could step out on the field and do a better job than they can, I can tell you with ease that you are dead wrong.
This won’t be a piece for bashing the umpires. It’s hard, and I know that first hand. We always see pitches with crazy movement and think how hard that would be for the batter to see and hit, but you normally don’t think about how difficult it is for the umpire to see the ball and call it as it crosses the plate. It is not easy whatsoever.
That being said, there have been some downright horrible calls this season. Here are a couple of pitches that have been judged wrong by the umpire this season.
Mistakes like these are far too common in today’s game. It is completely understandable that umpires will make a mistake or two like this during the course of the game when they are charged with the job of calling 300 or more pitches every single night, but wouldn’t it make sense to give them some help then?
The system hasn’t been used in MLB before obviously, and if you aren’t a fan of a team in the Atlantic League, you might be wondering exactly how this system would work. It’s really not all that complicated and it can be summed up in this video by Stadium.
Help and not replace, that is the key for umpires. We are still going to need them, but if we have the ability to take the game out of their hands and allow the play of the field to dictate the game, why shouldn’t we? Baseball has already seen instant replay introduced so that they can get the right call on close plays, but they ignored the biggest problem.
Umpires will still need to call balls and strikes, but the computer will help them with it. They will still need to be prepared to call a game the old-fashioned way, however. Technology isn’t always reliable and could break down, but this should be an infrequent occurrence. Calling things like foul balls, plays at the plate, and infield fly would still be the responsibility of the human umpires, but they have never really had a problem with those things that instant replay couldn’t fix.
The system is discrete and doesn’t change the look of a traditional baseball game. Unless you are looking for the earpiece in the umpire’s ear, you wouldn’t even notice a difference. If there is a way that you can get non-player human error out of the sport, it seems like a good idea to do so, especially in the era of legal sports betting.
MLB seems interested in potentially going down the path of robot umpires sometime in the future, but it would need to be tested more before it becomes normal. Spring Training and the All-Star game are the perfect places to make it happen. It would likely be costly to fit all of the Spring Training facilities with the technology to make this work, but that’s a price MLB is going to need to pay at some point.
A bad strike call can cost a team a chance at a win like Blue Jays fans saw with a low strike call on Rowdy Tellez ended the game, but robot umpires could help end that problem. The sooner MLB gets on board, the sooner the better team on the night will win more games. The fewer avoidable mistakes the better.