MLB umpires agree to electronic strike zone testing and development for 'robot umps' in new union deal

The electronic strike zone, also commonly refereed to as "robot umpires," could make its way to Major League Baseball at some point during the next five seasons. The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball in the development and testing of the electronic strike zone, Associated Press' Ben Walker and Ronald Blum report.

The agreement is part of a new five-year labor contract, according to the Associated Press. If MLB commissioner Rob Manfred decides to test out the automated ball-strike system at the major league level, then the major league umpires will cooperate. The specific details of the deal have not been announced.

The electronic strike zone was tested in the independent Atlantic League (as part of MLB's partnership with the league) and in the Arizona Fall League last season.

Last month, Manfred said the automated strike zone will be used in some minor league ballparks during the 2020 season as MiLB works to improve the technology. Here's the short version of how the technology works: The home plate umpire will wear an ear piece during the game, and they will hear a "ball" or "strike" call on each pitch. The pitch is identified using a Doppler radar system, called TrackMan. The umpire will hear and relay the call. For an in-depth look at the technology, including thoughts from players and personnel, you can read more about the initial experiment with the Atlantic League here.

According to the Associated Press, MLB has discussed installing the system at the Class A Florida State League for 2020. If the technology works well at that level, the next step the following year could very well be implementing the technology at the Triple-A level, putting robot umps just one step away from the big leagues.

Katherine Acquavella joined CBS Sports in 2018. Her work has appeared in Yankees Magazine and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Memories and Dreams magazine. She is a graduate of St. John's... Full Bio

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