The independent Atlantic League announced that it will continue using robot umpires for the rest of the season, beginning on Thursday. Robot umpires, or the electronic strike zone, is a system that uses the TrackMan, a network of calibrated lasers that work to call strikes and balls that (if all goes well) are accurate to each hitter's unique strike zone.
The system made its debut in the Atlantic League All-Star Game earlier this month. Since then, the system has been installed at the league's eight ballparks. The technology was originally set to start at the beginning of the Atlantic League season but experienced some delays.
"This is a landmark day for the Atlantic League and professional baseball," Atlantic League president Rick White said in a statement. "After successfully unveiling the ABS (Automated Ball-Strike System) at our All-Star Game in York, Pa., and following positive feedback from managers, players, umpires and fans, we are eager to implement the consistent strike zone accuracy offered by ABS technology."
TrackMan doesn't evaluate checked swings, it deems a bounced ball that crosses the plate as a strike due to a glitch and umpires will have the ability to overrule the computer's call. Ultimately, the goal of using an electronic strike zone is to lessen the chance of a wrong call.
Last week, Marlins manager Don Mattingly referenced the use of robot umpires after a one run loss to the Padres in which the final out was a called strike that appeared to be out of the zone. "Those things (robot umps) are going to happen, it almost has to happen. It's moving, and hopefully the technology gets there quick," Mattingly told reporters after the one-run loss.
"What we know is technology can help umpires be more accurate, and we're committed to that," White said. "We think the Atlantic League is being a pioneer for all of the sport."
The use of Atlantic League "robot umps" is one of many experimental rule changes that are part of a three-year agreement with Major League Baseball. One of the other rule changes being tested is that batters will be able to try to steal first base on any pitch that was not caught by catchers. Just days after that rule was implemented, an Atlantic League player