The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that automated ball and strike calling is now inevitable, and we may see it as early as 2022. He writes, “The mental games used to inch the strike zone this way or that has long been a tool of the game’s best – from the hitters whose impeccable eye define it, to the pitchers’ whose pinpoint control push to expand it – but an automated zone will all but abolish the in-game politicking of the strike zone, giving hitters a new advantage they have long been without: certainty. Robot umpires will define the strike zone with better precision than their carbon-based forerunners – but first the humans must decide what they want that strike zone to be. For those particularly fond of strike zone drama, appreciate it now, because deciding on the parameters of the automated zone might be one of the last great strike zone debates before the robots take over.”
Once computer graphics allowed TV viewers to see blatantly botched ball and strike counts in real time, this development became a serious matter of trust and integrity. The baseball Luddites who continue to argue that missed ball and strike calls are part of baseball’s charm and should be retained as “the human factor” have sounded progressively more desperate and ridiculous as the seasons pass.
Statistical analysis has shown decisively how much a bad ball or strike call even early in the count can change the outcome of an at bat and a game. Look at this chart:
A one ball one strike count, or 1-1, results in an average batting average of .332. But if that one ball is miscalled a strike, the average plummets to .157, less than half. This or the reverse occurs many times in most games. No, it doesn’t “even out.” It’s wrong, and it changes games constantly, even more frequently than the strikeout or the base on balls that a replay shows was the result of a bad call. For decades, the losse talk about how this umpire had a high strike zone and another umpire had a “tight” zone caused fans like me to tear our hair out—yes, even back when I had hair. There is only one strike zone, and allowing umpires to have their own personal strike zones is crazy, especially when there is technology that eliminates the problem.
The robo-umps cannot arrive quickly enough for me.
I wonder if someone can develop robo-journalists?