For years, we’ve ridiculed the inconsistency of umpires like Joe West and Angel Hernandez, infuriating managers and players alike with their frequent gaffes. Though MLB has not taken the drastic step toward “robot umpires” quite yet, the minor leagues have been more than willing to serve as guinea pigs, experimenting with Automated Ball and Strike systems behind the plate. Baseball’s quest to eliminate human error will continue with Triple-A—the sport’s highest minor league level—enlisting robot umpires to call balls and strikes this upcoming season, the Associated Press reports.
Per the league’s website, MLB is seeking seasonal employees to operate its ABS technology in Albuquerque, Charlotte, El Paso, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Reno, Round Rock, Sacramento, Salt Lake, Sugar Land and Tacoma. The independent Atlantic League was the first to experiment with ABS during its All-Star Game in 2019 with the Arizona League and Low-A Southeast quick to follow suit. The Atlantic League would later discontinue its use of robot umps, while many in the Arizona League questioned its accuracy, particularly on breaking pitches.
Along with its testing sites in Triple and Low-A, MLB will also employ automated strike zones at select spring training venues throughout Florida. Despite MLB’s current work stoppage, which could bleed into the regular season if the sides don’t reach a compromise soon, the minor leagues should be relatively unaffected with games at all levels continuing as scheduled.