Rowley: Do robot umps dream of automated yelling?

From SABR member Meg Rowley at Baseball Prospectus on February 24, 2017:

Until this week, it didn’t actively occur to me that there would still be a human being standing behind home plate even if MLB put in place an automated strike zone. It did sort of dimly, because of course there still has to be a guy back there. Someone has to call close plays at home, and balks, and grant time, and sweep up. But if I’m honest, my mind’s eye envisioned a literal robot, dressed up in the chest protector (why does it need a chest protector?), bleep blorp blurping its way through games. The degree to which an automated zone could alter the contest between pitchers and batters seemed momentous enough; I guess I just thought it was robots from there on out.

In his flurry of potential rule changes, commissioner Rob Manfred made clear that the implementation of robot umps was a ways out; the technology, to his mind, isn’t reliable enough. We tend to focus on an automated zone at two points in time: the moment when we flip the switch, and the later moment when unknowable but expected unintended consequences begin to present themselves. Less time is spent on the actual workings of the thing. Not how does PITCHf/x work, or how and when do they measure each batter’s strike zone, or what effect will it have on the offensive environment? How does the call actually go?

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Originally published: February 24, 2017. Last Updated: February 24, 2017.