Rob Manfred downplays likelihood of MLB adopting robot umpires for 2023 season


Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred downplayed the chances of the automated ball-strike system being installed at the big-league level ahead of next season on Thursday, according to Evan Drellich. Manfred, who held a press conference to mark the end of owners meetings, said he did not consider the automated ball-strike system as an issue for the competition committee to discuss this winter. 

The league has experimented with the automated ball-strike system, or robot umpires as they’re affectionately referred to, at a variety of levels and for a number of years, including (to pushback) in the Atlantic League, the top independent baseball league in the country. This season, for example, they expanded their usage to the Triple-A level. The viability of using the automated ball-strike system in the majors has been questioned before, however, because of the limits in technology.

A team of authors at Baseball Prospectus wrote about the drawbacks and the potential efficacy of robot umpires in January 2018, and concluded the following: 

Even with all the potential issues, there are potential solutions for them. Technology could be employed to reduce subjective calls made in error with a redundant system. After all, everyone wants the calls made both quickly and correctly. Even so, we would never be in favor of a purely robo strike zone without an umpire.

The competition committee’s creation was part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association. The committee includes four active players, six members appointed by the league, and an umpire. They’re expected to discuss the implementation of a pitch clock, restrictions on defensive positioning, and the installation of larger bases, among other topics. Any rule the committee approves of can go into play after 45 days’ of notice.

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