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The baseball trend towards robot umpires is accelerating.
Controversy around umpiring mistakes has grown in recent years, thanks in large part to visible strike zones during TV broadcasts.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has supported the idea, although opinions have been mixed throughout the league.
Some managers have openly encouraged it out of frustration with the current system of balls and strikes.
But others around the game, including many players, prefer to keep the human element.
There may not be much time left for those debates to unfold.
ESPN reported on Thursday that all 30 Triple-A ballparks will have robo umps, marking the most substantial, high level expansion of the system.
MLB Umpires Next?
Robo ump systems have already been tried, with generally positive results.
Many prefer the objectivity of computer driven calls, leading to fewer arguments and decreased importance of catcher framing.
Some though enjoy being able to discuss calls with umpires, potentially leading to a different zone. Not to mention teams who have a competitive advantage with catchers who have elite framing skills.
While nothing’s been officially decided, ESPN said that MLB intends to consider the results of the AAA experiment.
“MLB’s intention is to use the data and feedback from both systems, over the full slate of games, to inform future choices,” according to Buster Olney.
There certainly are legitimate arguments on both sides of the robo ump debate.
Anyone who’s watched their favorite team be affected by poor human umpiring has almost certainly longed for an automated system.
But over the course of the season, bad calls generally even out. That said, few things are more infuriating than watching a playoff game seemingly decided by bad umpiring or an inconsistent zone.
Entire Twitter accounts are dedicated to showing how umpires perform each night, and the results are often very disappointing.
Yet there will always be those who defend the human element in baseball out of tradition, and rightfully so.
This will be a fascinating experiment, to see how the system performs and is reviewed at the second highest level of baseball.
If it’s popular, there may be game-changing alterations coming soon to an MLB ballpark near you.