Robot Umpires Make Their Debut

The independent Atlantic League used technology in their All Star game to call balls and strikes. A real umpire actually stood behind the plate with an ear piece connected to an Iphone in his pocket and made the call after it was received from Trackman that relied on Doppler radar. It all sounds a bit complicated for one call.

The technology is not perfect as the home plate umpire can still over rule calls, or must be prepared to make a call if the Doppler radar goes down and a call is not made. Balls that bounce in front of the plate and cross the plate high enough in the strike zone could be called strikes and the human umpire can over turn those calls. Check swings can not be detected by the technology so humans are needed for that. If a pitch sails a foot outside the Trackman may not detect the pitch and the human umpire needs to call it.

There were some delays in calls. Some pitchers thought the Trackman called a higher strike, which they claim human umpires never call. The experiment was originally supposed to be used at the start of the season but some technical glitches had to be resolved. Now that it has been brought out in the All Star game the second half will use the robotic strike call until the end of the season.

There is no time table for when the major leagues will use the technology. A lot will depend on the success or failure of the robotic calls in the Atlantic League.

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