Sounds like the automated strike zone will take one step closer to Major League Baseball next season. During a recent MLB Network appearance, commissioner Rob Manfred said the automated strike zone will be used in some minor league ballparks next season as the league works to improve the technology.
So far the automated strike zone -- robot umpires, essentially -- has been tested in the independent Atlantic League and the MLB-run Arizona Fall League. Here's what Manfred said during his MLB Network appearance, via The Athletic's Evan Drellich:
"Here's our thinking on the automated strike zone: The technology exists. We have the technology," Manfred said on MLB Now with Brian Kenny. "We're actually going through a big upgrade of that piece of our technology during this offseason. I think we need to be ready to use an automated strike zone when the time is right. That's why we experimented in the Atlantic League. It's why we went to the Arizona Fall League. It's why we're using it in Minor League Baseball next year, in some ballparks at least.
"I think it's incumbent upon us to see if we can get the system to the point we're comfortable it can work. I only would go to an automated strike zone when we were sure that it was absolutely the best it can be. Getting out there too early with it and not having it work well, that'd be a big mistake."
. As for how it works, an umpire stands behind the plate, the system tracks the pitch, and the umpire is notified whether to call a ball or strike.
"As I've had the opportunity to do it now, it's great," umpire Freddie DeJesus told CBS Sports. "It's a great opportunity and it's good for the game. I can see it down the line getting to the next level. It's just an opportunity for bigger things to happen within baseball."
Arizona Fall League players, who wrapped up their season last month, were not advocates of the automated strike zone. Angels prospect Brandon Marsh told Baseball America's Josh Norris he is "not a fan," and several players -- both hitters and pitchers -- said they essentially had to re-calibrate their strike zone because more high pitches were being called strikes.
It will take some time to perfect the technology but clearly, the automated strike zone is something Manfred and MLB are eager to implement throughout baseball. Getting the calls correct is the most important thing -- for you fans of the "human element," that's what the players are for -- and an automated strike zone can help do that, even if it is a shock to the system initially.
The best approach may be the gradually implement the automated strike zone in the minors until it reaches every level, then wait a few years. That way, when it is introduced to the MLB level, many players will already have experience with it in the minors. That could shorten the leaning curve. Either way, robot umpires are coming, folks. Sooner or later.