“Robot umpires” have arrived.
The independent Atlantic League on Wednesday became the first US professional baseball league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game.
Plate umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.
He crouched in his normal position behind the catcher and signaled balls and strikes.
“Until we can trust this system 100 percent, I still have to go back there with the intention of getting a pitch correct, because if the system fails, it doesn’t pick a pitch up or if it registers a pitch that’s a foot-and-a-half off the plate as a strike, I have to be prepared to correct that,” deBrauwere said before the game.
It did not appear that deBrauwere had any delay receiving the calls at first, but players noticed a big difference.
“One time I already had caught the ball back from the catcher and he signaled strike,” said pitcher Daryl Thompson, who did not realize the technology was being used until after he disagreed with a call.
Infielder L.J. Mazzilli said a few times hitters who struck out lingered an extra second or so waiting on a called third strike.
“The future is crazy, but it’s cool to see the direction of baseball,” Mazzilli said.
The umpires have the ability to override the computer, which considers a pitch a strike when the ball bounces and then crosses the zone. TrackMan also does not evaluate checked swings.
Former big leaguer Kirk Nieuwenhuis does not like the idea of giving umps veto power.
“If the umpire still has discretion, it defeats the purpose,” Nieuwenhuis said.
About 45 minutes before first pitch, the public address announcer directed fans to look up at the black screen hanging off the face of the upper level behind the plate and joked they could blame the computer for any disagreements over calls.
“This is an exciting night for MLB, the Atlantic League, baseball generally,” MLB senior vice president of economics and operations Morgan Sword said. “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.”
The experiment was originally expected to begin at the start of the season, but experienced some delays.
Atlantic League president Rick White said it is going to be implemented league-wide over the next few weeks.
“After that, we’re relatively confident that it’s going to spread through organized baseball,” White said. “We’re very excited about what this portends not only for our league, but for the future of baseball.”
Sword said the MLB has not received much pushback from umpires.
“One of our focuses is not to replace the umpire,” Sword said. “In fact, we’re trying to empower the umpire with technology. The home plate umpire has a lot more to do than call balls and strikes, and he’s going to be asked to do all of that.”
Strike zones are determined according to the average for players of that height unless there is already information on a player’s particular strike zone if they have played in the majors at some point.
Pitcher Mitch Atkins noticed pitches higher in the strike zone were called.
“Technically, they’re strikes, but umpires never called them,” Atkins said.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said there is no timeline on when the technology would be used in the majors.
“We need to see how it works, first in the Atlantic League and then probably other places, meaning other parts of minor league baseball, before it comes to Major League Baseball,” Manfred said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that he had called in the “third umpire” as he announced that recreational cricket would be allowed to resume next weekend. In a radio interview earlier on Friday, Johnson angered thousands of club cricketers by saying that the amateur game was still not safe to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues surrounding communal teas and dressing rooms. “It’s the teas, it’s the changing rooms and so on and so forth. There are other factors involved that generate proximity which you might not get in a game of tennis,” he said. Johnson had already
Hong Kong media reported that police briefly detained a man in a Liverpool team jersey who shouted “long live Liverpool” during anti-government protests on Wednesday, over suspicion that he was inciting independence. In-Media reported that the man was across the street from police officers who were conducting stop-and-searches on a group of protesters, when he shouted: “Long live Liverpool.” Others reportedly cheered and joined in the chant, before officers detained him. The man told In-Media that police had accused him of inciting Hong Kong independence, which now is a punishable crime. He said that he has been a fan of the English soccer
Indian police are investigating an alleged betting scandal in which a sham cricket tournament was held in an Indian village and passed off as a Twenty20 contest played in Sri Lanka. Players portrayed as Sri Lankan cricketers played two matches on Monday last week that were broadcast with live commentary on YouTube, media reports said, along with ball-by-ball coverage on top Indian sports Web sites. The organizers hung Sri Lankan advertisements at the ground for added authenticity and put up tents to block the view from outside the remote rural venue, set in farmland next to a busy highway. Police said that they
Taipower on Sunday charged to their third straight win and took over first place in the Taiwan Football Premier League as previous leaders Taichung Futuro suffered their first defeat of the season, while Hang Yuan rallied from two goals down to complete a thrilling 3-2 victory over National Taiwan University of Sport (NTUS). Heading into the 10th round of matches, unbeaten Taichung Futuro led the league with 21 points, but they fell to their first defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to Tatung at the National Stadium in Kaohsiung. In a match in which both defenses were on top and there