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Old 07-10-2019, 09:59 PM
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Robot umpires!


Seriously: Robot umpires!
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The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional baseball league to let a computer call balls and strikes Wednesday night at its All-Star Game. Plate umpire Brian deBrauwere wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

He crouched in his normal position behind the catcher and signaled balls and strikes.

“Until we can trust this system 100 percent, I still have to go back there with the intention of getting a pitch correct because if the system fails, it doesn’t pick a pitch up or if it registers a pitch that’s a foot-and-a-half off the plate as a strike, I have to be prepared to correct that,” deBrauwere said before the game.

It didn’t appear deBrauwere had any delay receiving the calls at first but players noticed a big difference.

“One time I already had caught the ball back from the catcher and he signaled strike,” said pitcher Daryl Thompson, who didn’t realize the technology was being used until after he disagreed with a call.

Infielder L.J. Mazzilli said a few times hitters who struck out lingered an extra second or so in the batter’s box waiting on a called third strike.

“The future is crazy but it’s cool to see the direction of baseball,” Mazzilli said.
I posted the news in the What's new, Atlas? thread but I really wanted to hear what baseball fans think of this. It's already generating some controversy, with some saying that the human ump shouldn't be allowed to change the bot's call.
Quote:
The umpires have the ability to override the computer, which considers a pitch a strike when the ball bounces and then crosses the zone. TrackMan also does not evaluate check swings.

Former big leaguer Kirk Nieuwenhuis doesn’t like the idea of giving umps veto power.

“If the umpire still has discretion, it defeats the purpose,” said Nieuwenhuis, who batted .221 with 31 homers in 978 at-bats with the Mets, Angels and Brewers.
Quote:
The experiment with radar-tracking technology to call balls and strikes was originally expected to begin at the start of the season but experienced some delays.

Atlantic League President Rick White said it’s going to be implemented league-wide over the next few weeks.

“After that, we’re relatively confident that’s it’s going to spread through organized baseball,” White said. “We’re very excited about what this portends not only for our league but for the future of baseball. What we know is technology can help umpires be more accurate and we’re committed to that. We think the Atlantic League is being a pioneer for all of the sport.”

Sword said MLB hasn’t received much pushback from umpires.

“One of our focuses is not to replace the umpire,” Sword said. “In fact, we’re trying empower the umpire with technology. 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. We’re in touch with our umpires union and this is the first step of the process.”

DeBrauwere had no issue with it.

“This is just another plate job and I just get a little help on this one so I feel very relaxed going into this one,” he said.
"It won't replace humans"…. suuuuuuure it won't. By the way, have I mentioned this sure-fire investment opportunity of mine to you yet?

What do y'all think? Welcome change? Hideous idea? A little of both?

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 07-10-2019 at 10:01 PM.
  #2  
Old 07-10-2019, 10:14 PM
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:18 AM
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It's a fantastic idea. Long overdue. The important thing is to get the calls right and now the tech exists to do that.

You still need a home plate ump. Were I the King of Baseball, MLB would have MORE umps on the field, not fewer, even with robot umps calling balls and strikes.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:22 AM
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Correct me if I am wrong, but the technology doesn't exist for an AI to call whether a runner was safe or out. So you still need a home plate umpire. Also for things like catcher's interference.

While I am generally in favor of this, I wonder how well the computer can call the vertical part of a ball/strike. How does it know where the batter's knees are?
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zimaane View Post
Correct me if I am wrong, but the technology doesn't exist for an AI to call whether a runner was safe or out. So you still need a home plate umpire. Also for things like catcher's interference.

While I am generally in favor of this, I wonder how well the computer can call the vertical part of a ball/strike. How does it know where the batter's knees are?
TV cameras? That's how ball tracking works in cricket, and the batsman's knees would be visible on camera. But note that the total system is not completely "AI"; for instance, to figure out whether someone was run out the (human) umpire can bring up slo-mo HD footage, it's not completely automated.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:01 AM
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I 100% endorse using technology to call balls and strikes. It’s going to be more accurate than a human. You still need a human home plate umpire to adjudicate all the other duties though (and there is plenty for them to do).
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:03 AM
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Some say that human umps and vague judgement calls are an inherent part of the game. I'm not one of them. The purpose of the umps is to get the calls right, and if a machine can do that better than the human, then it should be a machine's job.

OK, so this system still can't account for things like bounced pitches, so you still need the human for that. That just means that there's still room for improvement. You have to make the imperfect tech before you can develop the perfect tech.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:04 PM
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I expect that the implementation of an AI strike/ball caller will result in a modification of the strike zone's upper and lower limits, so that those can be easily determined by an AI.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:20 PM
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I am somewhat surprised at the enthusiastic welcome the technology is getting here; that's fantastic!
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:48 PM
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They also talked about stealing 1B and moving the mounds back....fuck that.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zimaane View Post
Correct me if I am wrong, but the technology doesn't exist for an AI to call whether a runner was safe or out. So you still need a home plate umpire. Also for things like catcher's interference.

While I am generally in favor of this, I wonder how well the computer can call the vertical part of a ball/strike. How does it know where the batter's knees are?
You could make tech to call runners safe at 1B. But personally i think replay is close enough without spending millions on chipped balls and bases.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:58 PM
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Looking forward to the day that advances in AI and robotics technology renders the ballplayers themselves superfluous. I'm sure a mechanical batter could do a much better job of knocking 'em out of the park.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Cardigan View Post
Looking forward to the day that advances in AI and robotics technology renders the ballplayers themselves superfluous. I'm sure a mechanical batter could do a much better job of knocking 'em out of the park.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_Wars

Hell yeah, I played that as a kid!
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:18 PM
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First of all, I loved Base Wars. Safe/out calls were settled by robots fighting.
Second of all, yes please, more computers calling balls and strikes. There is no good reason not to in MLB. But the umpires have a fairly strong union.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:22 PM
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Calling balls and strikes should definitely be done solely by computer.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
I expect that the implementation of an AI strike/ball caller will result in a modification of the strike zone's upper and lower limits, so that those can be easily determined by an AI.
If an umpire can figure out where a man's knees and torso are, why can't the guy setting the Statcast machine?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cardigan
Looking forward to the day that advances in AI and robotics technology renders the ballplayers themselves superfluous. I'm sure a mechanical batter could do a much better job of knocking 'em out of the park
Obviously this is a sarcastic argument against the idea - and it's senseless. I have never, ever understood why anyone makes this argument.

Saying that robot umpires is somehow as bad as robot players is like saying that taking a car to the game as as bad as robot players. The umpires aren't the point of the game. I don't pay my money to watch the umps, and in truth, no one does unless they're the ump's family. The game is about the players, and their humanity is what makes the sport interesting. The humanity of the umps does not make the sport better, it makes it worse, because it detracts from the impact of the players. The game should be decided by the actions of the players. When the ump blows a call, the players' actions are rendered irrelevant; the runner beat the throw, but he was called out because of the ump's mistake.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dale Sams
You could make tech to call runners safe at 1B. But personally i think replay is close enough without spending millions on chipped balls and bases.
In addition to the fact that it would be hard to figure out how to do this, it's just not a very big problem.

Umps actually don't blow very many calls on the cases. When they do really, really blow one, there's now instant replay - that system could be wildly improved and sped up, but it's there. They still inexplicably miss calls, but it's very rare.

The accuracy rate of ball and strike calls is dreadful; depending what source you believe and how you define a close call, they probably miss a third of all close ball and strike calls and even the odd one that isn't close at all. Those calls are NOT always evenly distruibuted, either from team to team or situation to situation. Home plate umps affect the outcomes of games a lot more than we are maybe willing to admit, and we have the tech to fix it right now.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:03 PM
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Personally, I'd tell the manager before the game stuff like "I call a high zone, but you probably also know that. And I'm gonna call them if if they cross the GD plate, not based on where they end up. The edge of the plate IS the plate. Thats a strike. If i absolutely blow one, I'll make it right somehow, don't bother bitching at me and cursing at me."

I'd try and be a friendly ump.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
If an umpire can figure out where a man's knees and torso are, why can't the guy setting the Statcast machine?
The point is to make it so that a human doesn't have to get involved in that at all. That way, you don't have any possible complaint that human bias was involved.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:00 PM
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I'm in favor of robo balls and strikes. I wish were far enough along that we could have android umps that would yell steeeeeeeee-rike three and make dramatic yer out gestures.

Take a look at this pic. Will a ball that just kisses the zone like the one on the right be considered a strike on all four sides?

It will be interesting to see what Manfred does with power inherent in determining the zone. Much tinkering will occur, I suspect.
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Old 07-16-2019, 06:30 PM
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Personally, I'd tell the manager before the game stuff like "I call a high zone, ...
And that's why we need technology - too many umps with personal strike zones and not rulebook strike zones.
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Old 07-17-2019, 08:50 AM
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This appears to be one of the most apt uses of advanced technology in all of the major sports.

Incidentally, here's a story in The Atlantic from a little while ago, which had this interesting blurb about (human) umpires in it:

Quote:
Other research has found that the best-performing home-plate umpires in Major League Baseball have 18 years less experience and are 23 years younger than the worst-performing umpires (who are 56.1 years old, on average).
The piece was largely about the decline in certain abilities as we age, an interesting topic for another time and place.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:26 AM
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The partnership with the Atlantic League is an interesting development this year. I go to some of the games of the Somerset Patriots. Itís a good level of play and a fun time. None of the teams have any affiliation with a major league club. MLB has entered into the partnership with the Atlantic League to test new rules and innovation. MLB gets to see how things work and the Atlantic League gets an infusion of cash.

The last game I went to I noticed they were using the rule where in extra innings they start the inning with a runner on second. Apparently thatís now a rule in several minor leagues. I donít hate it.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:27 AM
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I think the inconsistency and downright mistakes in ball/strike calls is the biggest problem in all of sport officiating. There was a time when line calls in tennis seemed to be just as big of a problem but, with the advent of the appeal process made possible by the advancement of technology, that is a thing of the past.
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Old 07-17-2019, 09:29 AM
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OK, that's a completely weird rule, but I can see where it's coming from.

Who's the runner, the guy before the batter in the order?
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jasmine View Post
I think the inconsistency and downright mistakes in ball/strike calls is the biggest problem in all of sport officiating. There was a time when line calls in tennis seemed to be just as big of a problem but, with the advent of the appeal process made possible by the advancement of technology, that is a thing of the past.
Tennis is my go to example of how a sport can be well officiated. Once it was a pretty badly officiated sport because, in all honesty, it's not possible for human eyesight to be all that good at a sport moving that fast. What they've done, though, is

1. Get a LOT of judges. A top tier tennis match has eleven officials, not even counting replay staff, and

2. Use a lot of tech to get it right. This started many years ago with Cyclops but Hawkeye has brought it to a new level.

The result is a MUCH better sport.
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:24 PM
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OK, that's a completely weird rule, but I can see where it's coming from.

Who's the runner, the guy before the batter in the order?
I was wondering that too. Or do they have a designated runner?
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Old 07-17-2019, 12:30 PM
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Has the stealing first been implemented yet? If so, how do they handle when one thinks of trying to go, but stops, like with checked swings? Does it relate to if they leave the batters box or some other line of delineation?
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Old 07-17-2019, 01:28 PM
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I'm a fan of robot umps - long overdue. It's terrible to see how home plate umps have infused their "personality" into the game. Some might argue that the ump's ball/strike tendencies are part of the game, but it's only a part of the game because we've had no other alternative. We've had to tolerate and put up with arrogant asses like Joe West who think thousands of fans come to see him sweat his fat ass off every night when they're there to see Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper.
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Old 07-17-2019, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
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OK, that's a completely weird rule, but I can see where it's coming from.

Who's the runner, the guy before the batter in the order?
Yes. The runner at second is the batter in the order prior to that inning's leadoff hitter, and players removed from the game will be ineligible to return. A runner who starts an extra inning at second is counted as reaching on an error for purposes of determining earned runs, but no errors are charged.

Last edited by Loach; 07-17-2019 at 04:10 PM.
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