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Old 01-22-2020, 01:56 PM
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MLB Using "Robot Umps"


MLB plans 'robot umps' to call balls, strikes during spring training games.

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Commissioner Rob Manfred said Major League Baseball plans to use a computerized camera system to call balls and strikes during spring training games this year, expanding the sport's implementation of "robot umpires."

Manfred announced MLB's plans Wednesday during an interview with Fox Business Network, saying that the "camera-based system" will be "more accurate than a human being standing there."

"We believe over the long haul it's going to be more accurate," Manfred said. "It will reduce controversy in the game and be good for the game."
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Last edited by Jasmine; 01-22-2020 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 01-22-2020, 02:48 PM
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They should have both people and robots to start. It would be interesting to look at accuracy. I imagine that they would still have home plate umpires for safe/out calls at the plate and for foul balls. It would be a way more boring job.

Last edited by hajario; 01-22-2020 at 02:48 PM.
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Old 01-22-2020, 03:11 PM
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I CALLS 'EM As I ANALYZES THE 3D DOPPLER RADAR CALIBRATED TO THE SIZE AND STANCE OF 'EM.
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Old 01-22-2020, 03:20 PM
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They should have both people and robots to start. It would be interesting to look at accuracy. I imagine that they would still have home plate umpires for safe/out calls at the plate and for foul balls. It would be a way more boring job.
Of course they will. A plate umpire does more than call balls and strikes. In addition to what you mentioned, they also need to evaluate check swings and look for various forms of cheating.

But using tech for balls and strikes is overdue. I’m glad it’s actually happening. It’s sad when you are watching a game on TV and the onscreen indicator makes it clear that the ump is consistently off on those calls. I’m sure that doesn’t make the MLB look good.
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Old 01-22-2020, 03:35 PM
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They should have both people and robots to start. It would be interesting to look at accuracy. I imagine that they would still have home plate umpires for safe/out calls at the plate and for foul balls. It would be a way more boring job.
It's not really robots. The system just sends the call to the umps earpiece.
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Old 01-23-2020, 07:02 AM
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It's not really robots. The system just sends the call to the umps earpiece.
Be kind of cool if it was though.

I wonder if the (human) umps will still "punch him out" on a called third strike? Or do it as dramatically...
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:01 AM
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I'm hoping this will eventually lead to other improvements, such as adding more officials to make calls umps currently have trouble with, like checked swings and calls at the wall. Why isn't there a home run official or two?
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:02 AM
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I wonder if the (human) umps will still "punch him out" on a called third strike? Or do it as dramatically...
Yes. First you have to call them out visibly somehow but more to the point the ones who do it dramatically do so because they like to.
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Old 01-23-2020, 09:13 AM
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If the ump is getting balls and strikes related via earpiece that raises some questions...

1) Can the ump overrule what they hear if they are “absolutely sure” it’s wrong? (I hope not.)

2) If there is a technical glitch (the earpiece has no sound or is garbled, etc.) does play stop until it’s fixed or does the ump just do it the old-fashioned way?

3) Will batters still argue over calls? I can imagine a batter insisting the ball was outside and maybe the ump says, “I agree with you pal but the tracker said it was over the plate.”
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Old 01-23-2020, 09:30 AM
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"We believe over the long haul it's going to be more accurate," Manfred said. "It will reduce controversy in the game and be good for the game."
Ah hah ha ha ha ha. Sure it will.

Not that I'm opposed, it's just that everyone will find fault with the tech too.
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Old 01-23-2020, 09:51 AM
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Be kind of cool if it was though.

I wonder if the (human) umps will still "punch him out" on a called third strike? Or do it as dramatically...
Steeeeee-riiiiike 3!!!
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Old 01-23-2020, 10:43 AM
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I'm hoping this will eventually lead to other improvements, such as adding more officials to make calls umps currently have trouble with, like checked swings and calls at the wall. Why isn't there a home run official or two?
The extra postseason umps should be parked under each foul pole, no idea why they are not.
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:03 AM
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There will certainly be some issues, for sure. I believe that the "robot umps" call a lot more low breaking balls strikes than human umps do (some that even almost hit the ground before being caught), but fewer tailing fastballs on the corners. We may need to have an adjustment to the strike zone to compensate. You also get a lot of "looks bad" strikes, where the pitcher misses his spot badly but it's still technically a strike. Human umps miss those pretty often.

Another unintended(?) consequence is that pitch-framing technique goes out the window, so who cares how good at receiving your catcher is. A robot can't be fooled. Expect to see more "hit first" catchers that don't have the type of receiving techniques we are used to seeing, which may lead to more offense. A big change in catcher valuation for sure.
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Old 01-23-2020, 11:24 AM
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I'm hoping this will eventually lead to other improvements, such as adding more officials to make calls umps currently have trouble with, like checked swings and calls at the wall. Why isn't there a home run official or two?
I doubt that they'd move the umpire, because of tradition, but if he's not actually calling balls and strikes, the Ump could stand in a more advantageous spot to see checked swings himself. He'd have to hustle over to the third base side for lefty batters, but most umps could use the exercise.
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Old 01-24-2020, 12:37 PM
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I'm hoping this will eventually lead to other improvements, such as adding more officials to make calls umps currently have trouble with, like checked swings and calls at the wall. Why isn't there a home run official or two?
They can't exactly argue that it would break the bank to pay for another ump or two per game. It would be pocket change for MLB.

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The extra postseason umps should be parked under each foul pole, no idea why they are not.
Hell, robots should be able to make foul line calls just as easily as strike zone calls.
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Old 01-24-2020, 12:55 PM
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They should have both people and robots to start. It would be interesting to look at accuracy. I imagine that they would still have home plate umpires for safe/out calls at the plate and for foul balls. It would be a way more boring job.
Ump's job is to call plays at the plate and most importantly keeping the game moving quicker and managing disputes. Also being the fall-back option on balls and strikes if the robot glitches out due to weather or another malfunction.

Freeing them up to get a better handle on the pitcher and batter wasting time will be hugely valuable.
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Old 01-24-2020, 12:58 PM
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It's not really robots. The system just sends the call to the umps earpiece.
This is a really stupid implementation. Will waste a bunch of time and energy. Just wire up a visual indicator in the plate & backstop that the players can see instantly.
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Old 01-24-2020, 01:24 PM
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This is a really stupid implementation. Will waste a bunch of time and energy. Just wire up a visual indicator in the plate & backstop that the players can see instantly.
The ump still has to call swinging strikes on pitches out of the zone.
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Old 01-24-2020, 02:41 PM
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Ah hah ha ha ha ha. Sure it will.

Not that I'm opposed, it's just that everyone will find fault with the tech too.
No, they won't. The tech already exists and works well. After a year or two, maybe less, of getting used to it, no one will argue with it at all.

No one watching the Olympics argues with the electronic timing system for runners or swimmers. No tennis fan argues with Hawk-eye.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:07 PM
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The ump still has to call swinging strikes on pitches out of the zone.
Home plate umpires already let the third and first base umps overrule them on appeal about whether a swing actually happened, though.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:10 PM
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Or rather, those few who would argue are already arguing everything. Most of the fans who argue now will shut up and accept the impartial machines, and almost none will start arguing who weren't already. The net amount of controversy will go down significantly.
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:09 PM
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Home plate umpires already let the third and first base umps overrule them on appeal about whether a swing actually happened, though.
In the small minority of cases where there's an appeal, yes. Most swinging strikes are called by the home umpire, and as I understand it this system can't detect a swing at all. Neither will it detect foul balls, foul tips or hit-by-pitch. There's still a lot for the plate ump to do.

To be clear, I'm not criticizing the system -- I've been advocating for it for years -- just responding to a suggestion that there was no longer any reason to have the plate ump making calls.
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:32 PM
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The ump still has to call swinging strikes on pitches out of the zone.
Technology can and should do that as well. Swinging strikes and foul tips are not difficult to measure and even check swings should be straightforward.
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:51 PM
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I wonder if the (human) umps will still "punch him out" on a called third strike? Or do it as dramatically...
You could tape/implant electrodes to various muscles/muscle groups and then use electrical pulses to cause specific movements. Might look a bit herky-jerky but that might be a plus. Kind of an umpire/marionette.

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If the ump is getting balls and strikes related via earpiece that raises some questions...

1) Can the ump overrule what they hear if they are “absolutely sure” it’s wrong? (I hope not.)
What if the pitched ball bounces on the way to the plate, but is in the strike zone?
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Old 01-24-2020, 06:01 PM
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What if the pitched ball bounces on the way to the plate, but is in the strike zone?
That’s an obvious ball, though now that I think of it, it shouldn’t be. If someone can throw bouncing strikes consistently from the mound then that’s an awesome skill that should be encouraged.
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Old 01-24-2020, 06:47 PM
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Will the computer adjust the strike zone based on the size of the player; e.g. Aaron Judge vs. Jose Altuve? How about for barring stances; e.g. Rickey Henderson vs. Don Baylor?
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:52 PM
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That’s an obvious ball, though now that I think of it, it shouldn’t be. If someone can throw bouncing strikes consistently from the mound then that’s an awesome skill that should be encouraged.
Sounds like we need a cricket bowler. They do that. In fact as I recall the pitch must bounce.
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Old 01-24-2020, 09:01 PM
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Sure, there are plenty of other things an umpire does that this particular technology doesn't do, but none of them are any harder than defining the strike zone. Probably they're just starting with the strike zone because that's the cause of the most controversies, but it won't be too long before they have a machine doing all of those routine tasks.

You'll still need at least some human officials, for the odd cases like "Conduct Unbecoming of the Game" or whatever it is baseball calls it, but it won't be a human making a discrete call for every single play of the entire game, like we have now.
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Old 01-24-2020, 09:01 PM
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Sure, there are plenty of other things an umpire does that this particular technology doesn't do, but none of them are any harder than defining the strike zone. Probably they're just starting with the strike zone because that's the cause of the most controversies, but it won't be too long before they have a machine doing all of those routine tasks.

You'll still need at least some human officials, for the odd cases like "Conduct Unbecoming of the Game" or whatever it is baseball calls it, but it won't be a human making a discrete call for every single play of the entire game, like we have now.
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Old 01-25-2020, 01:42 AM
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Sounds like we need a cricket bowler. They do that. In fact as I recall the pitch must bounce.
I was thinking about that, but I doubt a cricket bowler would be able to do it. He’d have to throw from a static position, is throwing a different kind of ball, has grass between him and the batter, and is tossing from a mound.

I’m not saying either pitching or bowling is easier but they are different enough that a cricket bowler isn’t going to be able to get into a MLB game and just bounce balls successfully into the strike zone the way they normally bowl in cricket.

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Old 01-26-2020, 12:54 PM
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Sounds like we need a cricket bowler. They do that. In fact as I recall the pitch must bounce.
As it happens, no, they don't have to bounce the ball. Such a delivery would be called a "full toss" and is legal as long as it is below a certain height but seeing as a non-bouncing ball is much easier to hit they tend to be avoided as a tactic.

Regarding ball tracking technology, it has been in use in cricket for many year and is used primarily for LBW decisions. That is probably relevant for baseball as it does track the flight of the ball to see if it is within the relevant "area" and predicts the path in order to see if the ball would have hit the stumps had the batsman not had his legs in the way.

It has its detractors but generally it is able to give a quick answer and the reliability is high enough not to be a source of rancour. It isn't used every ball of course, what happens is much like in tennis, both teams are given a number of "challenges" that mean they can refer a decision to the off-field technology but they have to be carefull as an unsuccessful challenge risks being lost. That tends to discourage speculative challenging.
Not a perfect system but does seem (Again, like tennis) to have settled into an accepted part of the game and doesn't raise that many complaints.
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Old 01-26-2020, 02:13 PM
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I’ve always been fascinated by how there are almost never any complaints with the ball-tracking tech used in cricket. This is especially true when considering that the computer must sometimes predict the future path even before the first bounce. Thus, spin, speed, bounce and swing must all be predicted, which would seem to be the source of many disputes. But the screen shows the ball tracking’s predicted path, which seems to resonate as “fact” in most people’s brains.

This is why I think it would be great for baseball. That said, I’d still like to know how the strike zone will be adjusted for player size, body type, and stance. Unlike cricket stumps, the strike zone is not meant to be a fixed size.
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Old 01-26-2020, 05:28 PM
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That said, I’d still like to know how the strike zone will be adjusted for player size, body type, and stance. Unlike cricket stumps, the strike zone is not meant to be a fixed size.
Exactly the same way it is now.
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Old 01-26-2020, 06:16 PM
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Exactly the same way it is now.
Impossible. Right now, the home plate umpire makes a determination based on his subjective assumption of the height of the knee for the low pitch and an even less-defined point on the torso for the high pitch.
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Old 01-26-2020, 06:28 PM
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Impossible. Right now, the home plate umpire makes a determination based on his subjective assumption of the height of the knee for the low pitch and an even less-defined point on the torso for the high pitch.
So not impossible. The robot should be able to find the knee and use an algorithm to find the torso point.
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Old 01-26-2020, 06:29 PM
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Impossible. Right now, the home plate umpire makes a determination based on his subjective assumption of the height of the knee for the low pitch and an even less-defined point on the torso for the high pitch.
And the person setting the strike zone for the tracker does the same. What are you talking about?!

I mean, they’ve already been doing this for years, so clearly they’ve already accomplished the “impossible”. That’s ridiculous.
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Old 01-26-2020, 06:55 PM
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Will the computer adjust the strike zone based on the size of the player; e.g. Aaron Judge vs. Jose Altuve? How about for barring stances; e.g. Rickey Henderson vs. Don Baylor?
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Exactly the same way it is now.
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Impossible. Right now, the home plate umpire makes a determination based on his subjective assumption of the height of the knee for the low pitch and an even less-defined point on the torso for the high pitch.
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So not impossible. The robot should be able to find the knee and use an algorithm to find the torso point.
The system has been in use in the Atlantic League during 2019. According to this, the automated system adjusts the strike zone for each player, although they don't give details on how it is done.

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Using a three-dimensional strike zone, TrackMan is able to calibrate each batters' size and stance, adjusting the strike zone accordingly. So, the system works so that it doesn't allow a 6-foot-7 player to have the same strike zone as a 5-foot-7 player.

Last edited by Colibri; 01-26-2020 at 06:58 PM.
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Old 01-26-2020, 07:08 PM
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And the person setting the strike zone for the tracker does the same. What are you talking about?!

I mean, they’ve already been doing this for years, so clearly they’ve already accomplished the “impossible”. That’s ridiculous.
A person setting the strike zone, based on a computer algorithm on where to set the high and low boundaries, is not the same as a single human basing it on his subjective interpretation of the strike zone. Even the “easier” low boundary varies by umpire. So that’s what I’m talking about.

A Fox or ESPN box that we currently see is not scrutinized to the centimeter, but when used to determine game outcomes, it will be. There is no exact line on the torso or even at the knees. Will uniforms be altered by batters to trick the computer into a smaller zone? Will there be other tricks to game the computer by pitchers? Perhaps a low frisbee-like slider that nips a corner of the zone, but would be called a strike by the computer? These are my concerns.
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Old 01-26-2020, 07:15 PM
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A person setting the strike zone, based on a computer algorithm on where to set the high and low boundaries, is not the same as a single human basing it on his subjective interpretation of the strike zone. Even the “easier” low boundary varies by umpire. So that’s what I’m talking about.

A Fox or ESPN box that we currently see is not scrutinized to the centimeter, but when used to determine game outcomes, it will be. There is no exact line on the torso or even at the knees. Will uniforms be altered by batters to trick the computer into a smaller zone? Will there be other tricks to game the computer by pitchers? Perhaps a low frisbee-like slider that nips a corner of the zone, but would be called a strike by the computer? These are my concerns.
That's why they test it for a couple of years in spring training or the lower leagues before they bring it to the big leagues.
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Old 01-26-2020, 07:56 PM
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A person setting the strike zone, based on a computer algorithm on where to set the high and low boundaries, is not the same as a single human basing it on his subjective interpretation of the strike zone. Even the “easier” low boundary varies by umpire. So that’s what I’m talking about.
I expect the strike zone to be more accurate now.

Quote:
A Fox or ESPN box that we currently see is not scrutinized to the centimeter, but when used to determine game outcomes, it will be. There is no exact line on the torso or even at the knees. Will uniforms be altered by batters to trick the computer into a smaller zone? Will there be other tricks to game the computer by pitchers? Perhaps a low frisbee-like slider that nips a corner of the zone, but would be called a strike by the computer? These are my concerns.
Again, umpires suck at this (any human would) and I am confident this will be better, more consistent, and less subjective than before.
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Old 01-26-2020, 08:08 PM
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If you need to, you get all of the players wearing nothing but shorts in a room with a tape measure, and record the relevant heights for all of them, then enter them into a database. Much easier than doing it at the plate.
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Old 01-26-2020, 08:56 PM
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Perhaps a low frisbee-like slider that nips a corner of the zone, but would be called a strike by the computer? These are my concerns.
If it's in the strike zone, it's a strike.
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Old 01-26-2020, 09:25 PM
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If you need to, you get all of the players wearing nothing but shorts in a room with a tape measure, and record the relevant heights for all of them, then enter them into a database. Much easier than doing it at the plate.
I could be wrong, but I think strike zone isn’t defined by raw height, but rather by the position of the knees and upper body of the batter’s stance. This leaves even more reason for batters to artificially create a smaller zone by crouching. I guess my point is that all of this has to be carefully defined now. Also, is the determination made before the batter even takes the plate, or when he’s first setting up for the delivery, or at the point the pitch is released by the pitcher, or the stance at the time the ball crosses the plate? Not sure if any of this is in the rule book.
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Old 01-26-2020, 10:13 PM
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The problem isn't that it needs to be carefully defined now. The problem is that it has always needed to be carefully defined, but up until now, it hasn't been.
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Old 01-26-2020, 10:45 PM
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The strike zone shouldn’t be defined by a player’s stance. It should be defined by his height. If he has a stance that puts him in a position where he’s unable to hit balls that go into an objectively defined strike zone, then his stance is wrong and needs to be fixed.
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Old 01-26-2020, 11:07 PM
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Didn't bother Rickey.
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Old 01-27-2020, 04:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atamasama View Post
The strike zone shouldn’t be defined by a player’s stance. It should be defined by his height. If he has a stance that puts him in a position where he’s unable to hit balls that go into an objectively defined strike zone, then his stance is wrong and needs to be fixed.
That would seem to be the easiest solution. You know the height of every player that comes into bat, just specify a standard definition based on that.
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Old 01-27-2020, 06:55 AM
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I'm not sure how the issue of the definition of the strike zone is a problem specifically relevant to robot umpires. That's how the strike zone is defined now, and it's applied subjectively. Computer umps sure aren't going to make it worse.
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Old 01-27-2020, 07:51 AM
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You could tape/implant electrodes to various muscles/muscle groups and then use electrical pulses to cause specific movements. Might look a bit herky-jerky but that might be a plus. Kind of an umpire/marionette.



What if the pitched ball bounces on the way to the plate, but is in the strike zone?
Sounds cricket to me.
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Old 01-27-2020, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
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I'm not sure how the issue of the definition of the strike zone is a problem specifically relevant to robot umpires. That's how the strike zone is defined now, and it's applied subjectively. Computer umps sure aren't going to make it worse.
I actually agree with you, and have always been a proponent of it. However, with human umps, we chalk up the variability of the strike zone to the subjective determination of the ump. I guess we just accept this.

By the way, if you watch enough baseball with the strike zone box shown, you'll often see a pitch that is called a 'ball' by the umpire, with no complaint from the pitcher, even if the box shows that it clipped the zone. The low frisbee-like slider that I referenced earlier is usually this type pitch. I think there is just a level of acceptance from everyone that the ball is "unhittable" and thus not called a strike. If these types of pitches will be called strikes by the computer, then will we see more of these types of pitchers (esp relief pitchers) in MLB?
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