Many Major League Baseball fans may be dreaming of the days of robot umpires given all of the terrible calls they’ve witnessed this season (seriously, there have been so many). However, if they want to see what baseball players think of robot umps, they can already find out from the Pacific Coast League.
In May, MLB expanded its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the top level of the minor leagues. Since then, robot umps have been determining balls and strikes as the sport continues to figure out whether or not it would truly be better for the game if they removed the human element from behind the plate.
The Pacific Coast League’s El Paso Chihuahuas use a sensor to decide if a ball was inside or outside the zone during their games. Once the system determines its call, the home plate umpire is notified via an earpiece. The Chihuahuas also post the location of each pitch on the big screen at Southwest University Park.
KTSM’s Colin Deaver spoke with El Paso manager Jared Sandberg about the robot umps and whether or not he felt like it was a positive change for the game.
“They’ve had to lower the high strike, they’ve made some adjustments throughout the season,” said Sandberg. “I know there’s been some times where there’s been some frustrating calls, a ball clipped the zone or clipped the corner, or is off the plate and clips the line. So there has been some frustration, but it has brought some consistency to the game.”
While the system is still working out the kinks, Sandberg noted that one thing that has changed is the number of player complaints directed at the umpire.
“It’s just less barking and chirping from the players, you can’t yell at a robot umpire,” said Sandberg.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in June that there are no plans to bring robot umps to the Major Leagues in 2023. However, the more missed calls and bizarre decisions that human umpires make, the more likely robot umps become for the near future.