Should Robots Be Calling Balls and Strikes at MLB Games?
Of all of the major North American sports, baseball has come to the party the latest on embracing technology during its' games. Football has had instant replay for years, basketball is using replays for timing and other issues, hockey is using technology to determine whether or not goals count, even tennis has a system in place to make certain line calls.
For the past few years, baseball has finally implemented a limited replay system, but there's one big part of the game that is still 100% in the hands of human beings - calling balls and strikes.
One minor league team is experimenting with something that might change all of that in the future.
The independent league San Rafael Pacifics say they will use the Pitch F/X system, during games July 28 and 29, to call all balls and strikes. The system is already in place tracking pitches in all 30 major league baseball stadiums, but it has never been used to determine balls and strikes in an actual game.
In San Rafael, former player and current MLB Network analyst Eric Byrnes will serve as the 'strike zone umpire' for both games. He will oversee the computer system and relay all balls and strikes calls to the players and fans.
I fashion myself as a bit of a 'baseball purist' and was slow to embrace the designated hitter, expanded playoffs, and even replay, but if this system is good enough for MLB to already use it in its' ballparks, maybe it's time to give it a try. It won't replace umpires completely, just add another dimension to get each and every call right.
The minor leagues are a perfect place to work out the kinks. I will be anxious to see how this experiment goes. This could be the high tech future of a game that has prided itself on being very low tech for decades.