There have been plenty of big sports news stories to hit the airwaves since the beginning of 2022, but one of the biggest has come from Major League Baseball and the technology industry. New technology in baseball is not a new story, but advancement in that technology is set to make headlines this year.
Robot umpires are likely coming to MLB at some point in the very near future, and they are just one step away in 2022. League officials have announced that robot umpires will be behind the play at Triple-A games this season, and this will provide the final test before they get up to the Major League level.
The official name of this new program is called the “Automated Ball-Strike” system and it has been around for a few years. Major League Baseball has been testing this program out at the lower levels and it was actually the Atlantic League that first began using this system.
The Arizona Fall League was introduced to the ABS system back in 2019, but there were plenty of complaints at the time. The COVID-19 pandemic kept the league from expanding the use to other minor league levels, but it’s clear that MLB is committed to it.
There are still plenty of logistical concerns to process before this is implemented at the MLB level, but umpires have already signed off to work with the new program. Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to implement robot umpires at the MLB level at any time, but this will be a big year in terms of testing.
One major issue with the ABS system is trying to determine if the pitchers or batters will have an edge over robot umpires. MLB continues to look for new ways to speed up the game and make it more exciting and it believes that robot umps might be the future.
Technology Ruling MLB
MLB managers used to fill out their lineup cards each day based on feel, but that hasn’t been the case for the last 10 years. Analytics and technology now drive the decisions made by managers, and it might leave some fans scratching their heads.
The movie, “Moneyball” is perhaps the best example of this as franchises are looking to put the best team on the field based on advanced stats. Computer programs and other forms of technology spit out data in real-time and it allows managers and front office executives to make key decisions.
Not only are managers using this technology to fill out the lineup card each day, but they are also using this information to move defensive players around the field. Baseball is a game that has been played for more than a century, but data and technology are now driving the industry.
Other Rule Changes
It was a long and difficult process in getting the latest collective bargaining agreement signed by the owners and the players, and it was one that could change the face of baseball for years to come. Most of the discussion was centered around salary and other financial terms, but some other rule changes were put into place as well.
For one, the designated hitter will now be used in both leagues, and this is a major change to the traditional rules. The American League has always had the DH, but the pitchers will no longer be forced to bat in the National League.
MLB will once again use a designated runner at second base in extra innings, although the rules are a bit different from what was done during the COVID-19 era. There was also a talk about banning the shift, but an official ruling has not yet been agreed upon.
Having a robot umpire is the biggest technological news in baseball over the last few weeks, but don’t expect this to be the last. If the league ever adopts robot umps then you can expect other forms of technology to follow.