‘Robot umpires’ debut in independent Atlantic League to call balls and strikes

Chicago Sun-Times | 7/11/2019 | Associated Press
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YORK, Pa. — “Robot umpires” have arrived.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional baseball league to let a computer call balls and strikes Wednesday night at its All-Star Game. Plate umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

Position - Catcher - Balls - Strikes

He crouched in his normal position behind the catcher and signaled balls and strikes.

“Until we can trust this system 100%, I still have to go back there with the intention of getting a pitch correct because if the system fails, it doesn’t pick a pitch up or if it registers a pitch that’s a foot-and-a-half off the plate as a strike, I have to be prepared to correct that,” deBrauwere said before the game.

Delay - Calls - Players - Difference

It didn’t appear deBrauwere had any delay receiving the calls at first, but players noticed a big difference.

“One time I already had caught the ball back from the catcher and he signaled strike,” said pitcher Daryl Thompson, who didn’t realize the technology was being used until after he disagreed with a call.

Infielder - LJ - Mazzilli - Times - Hitters

Infielder L.J. Mazzilli said a few times hitters who struck out lingered an extra second or so in the batter’s box waiting on a called third strike.

“The future is crazy, but it’s cool to see the direction of baseball,” Mazzilli said.

Umpires - Ability - Computer - Pitch - Strike

The umpires have the ability to override the computer, which considers a pitch a strike when the ball bounces and then crosses the zone. TrackMan also does not evaluate checked swings.

Former big leaguer Kirk Nieuwenhuis doesn’t like the idea of giving umps veto power.

Umpire - Discretion - Purpose - Nieuwenhuis - Homers

“If the umpire still has discretion, it defeats the purpose,” said Nieuwenhuis, who batted .221 with 31 homers in 978 at-bats with the Mets, Angels and Brewers.

About 45 minutes before first pitch, the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Chicago Sun-Times
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