The 2019 season marked the first year of MLB’s three-year contract with the Atlantic League. The collaboration brought sweeping changes to the sport, as numerous rule changes were implemented in independent league games.
Among them included a three-batter minimum for pitchers, the ability to steal first base and the elimination of mound visits. Perhaps most intriguing, however, was the addition of an automated strike zone that assisted umpires with calling balls and strikes.
After a successful test run, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred revealed that the concept would be introduced to Minor League Baseball games this season.
The announcement was met with a mixed reception, as traditional baseball fans believe the sport is not in need of any drastic changes. The idea of robots calling balls and strikes for some has raised questions about how effective it could be in actual Major League games.
Manfred recently clarified that the electronic strike zones are more centered around the use of cameras and believes the ‘robot’ terminology is exaggerated, via Fox Business:
“Robots may be overstated. What the system actually is, is a camera-based system, and it does call balls and strikes. We experimented with it in the Atlantic League — which is an independent league — last year. We’re going to be using it in Spring Training and some of our Minor Leagues this year.”
MLB began experimenting with automated strike zones in the Arizona Fall League two years ago and rolled out the system in the Atlantic League during the second half of the 2019 season.
After reaching a five-year labor agreement with the MLB Umpires Association (MLBUA), umpires have agreed to assist the league with the implementation of an electronic strike zone in Minor League games season.
While the umpires appear to be on board with such a groundbreaking change, multiple players have been outspoken about automated strike zones being installed in Major League games.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill has been one of the harsher critics, previously deeming that human umpires are more than sufficient to continue calling balls and strikes behind home plate.
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events and more!