Published: Sat, July 13, 2019
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

New Atlantic League rules include robot umpire, stealing first, and more

New Atlantic League rules include robot umpire, stealing first, and more

As the independent minor league prepares to expand the use of "robot umpires" leaguewide, Major League Baseball and the Atlantic League added four more rules to the second half of the season. The home plate umpire has a lot more to do than call balls and strikes and he's going to be asked to do all of that. Of course, players will only agree with the umpire until they disagree with the call, but that's just part of baseball.

Earlier this week, history was made in the sport of baseball as robot umpires were used during the Atlantic League's All-Star game. They love the hitter telling the umpire he's wrong after he strikes out.

"If that was the one blunder", Terdoslavich said, "I didn't really hear any complaints from anyone".

Pitch Mitch Atkins, who plays for the York Revolution - the squad which hosted the All-Star Game - was the first to face the new technology. "So if this helps the game and the officiating of the game, that's what we're here for", deBrauwere told the Record.

But players, managers and umpires in the Atlantic League have been quick to endorse the system in the name of consistency, even if the long-established boundaries of the strike zone change because of technology.

The most talked-about changes to date have been the idea of banning defensive shifts, moving the pitching rubber back a couple of feet to mitigate hard-throwing pitchers which have led to a strikeout boom and to work with electronic ball-and-strike calls. The consensus among players and umpires who have tested it is that Trackman squeezes the corners of the plate where human umpires might not, and grants strikes higher and lower in the zone. Each iteration of the automated strike zone (from Pitch F/X to the new TrackMan software) requires some third party - whether it be a ballpark "stringer" calibrating the zone at the park or something embedded into the software - to make the subjective "prepared to swing" determination. This includes pass balls or wild pitches. If MLB were to implement robotic strike zones, it would stratify itself not only by talent but also by content: There would be a marked, fundamental difference between the game played by Baldwin High School and its home state's professional team. "The game is bigger than you, bigger than any player", Atlantic League umpire Derek Moccia told the Post. Trackman, though, was not the most extraordinary aspect of the evening.

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