'Robot Umpire' Used In Minor League All-Star Game To Call Balls And Strikes
By Bill Galluccio
July 11, 2019
For the first time in a professional baseball game, balls and strikes were called by an electronic system. The Trackman system for calling balls and strikes made its debut on Wednesday (July 10) night during the Atlantic League All-Star game. The Trackman computer tracking system uses Doppler radar to determine if a pitch is a ball or strike. After a pitch is thrown, the information is relayed to the home plate umpire who makes the call official.
While the system is supposed to be more accurate and precise, it still has some flaws that need to be ironed out. The biggest issue is that a ball that bounces in the dirt but crosses the plate is considered a strike. The system is also unable to determine if a player checked their swing, so the home plate umpire will still need to make some calls behind the plate. Additionally, there is a slight delay, which led to some awkward moments as players were unsure if they had struck out on close pitches. The umpire has the final say on whether a pitch is a ball or a strike and can overrule the system.
Despite the issues with the system, the players seemed to like it. One thing pitchers noticed is that pitches up in the zone were being consistently called strikes.
"Technically, they're strikes, but umpires never called them," pitcher Mitch Atkins said.
Home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere is a fan of the new system.
"This is just another plate job, and I just get a little help on this one, so I feel very relaxed going into this one," he said.
The electronic system will be implemented throughout the league, and MLB will evaluate the system before deciding if it will start using it at the major league level.
"We're very excited about what this portends not only for our league but for the future of baseball," Atlantic League President Rick White said. "What we know is technology can help umpires be more accurate, and we're committed to that. We think the Atlantic League is being a pioneer for all of the sport."