Is It Time? [technology assisted umpiring in baseball]

** Yankees’ CC Sabathia critical of umpire Angel Hernandez after loss.**

Tennis has proved beyond a doubt that we have the technology in terms of accuracy and time to review anything and make the proper call. Technology can call balls and strikes so that the strike zone is universally consistent, and it can certainly make fair/foul and first base calls accurately. Why aren’t we doing it? Will we do it and, if so, WHEN?

I will die on the hill of less technology in umpiring and reffing sports. If the human eye can’t tell the difference, then it’s a difference that doesn’t need told. Of course, Angel Hernandez is a special case since his strike zone is always an inch and a half inside. No idea why MLB doesn’t correct that for him, but it’s a very consistent pattern with him that breaking balls inside get called for strikes. He’s the worst ball-strike caller in the pros.

I don’t know much about Baseball, but it probably IS time. For a long time, Soccer avoided technology in their matches, because of the terrible example set by American Football. In AF, every play is followed by lengthy delays; to limit this, there’s a limit on the number of times a coach can request to challenge a ruling, but they just save up all of their challenges for the last few minutes of the game, which stretch ON AND ON AND ON endlessly, making [IMHO] an already boring game even more boring.

But things got pretty bad in soccer. the 2010 World Cup had some of the worst officiating I’ve ever seen, including the qualifying match between Ireland and France where France advanced only due to bad calls by the ref. Even in the game proper – England at one point should have been ahead of Germany, but two legitimate goals were not counted. While Germany ended up demolishing England by more than 2 points anyways, you have to wonder how much of that was due to low morale.

Eventually they added not just goal-line technology to truly tell if the ball went into the goal or not, but also the Video Assistant Referee. This system could definitely use some work, but it’s already a big improvement. There were some unnecessary delays in the 2018 Cup, but it really wasn’t too bad, and the officiating was much better than before.

Cricket reviews allow for “umpire’s call”, which seems reasonable. That is, only gross errors get reversed. Anyway, the ball-tracking technology (via multiple cameras) should work for baseball.

The umpire’s strike zone and the rule book strike zone are so different that switching will significantly alter the game. Judging whether the ball or the foot reached the bag first, or whether that long fly skirted just to the left or the right of the foul pole don’t seem as big a deal to me. On the third hand, the game needs to go faster, not slower, so I’d just as soon there not be cameras and play reviews stretching these games out even longer than they already are.

So I lean towards no replays. It worked for Cy Young, it can work for C.C. Sabathia. Baseball isn’t that different of a game than it was a hundred years ago. Basketball and football are completely different games than they were just a few years ago, so they can change things up however they see fit, but baseball is supposed to stay essentially the same game Babe Ruth played.

Sports is entertainment. Bad umpiring doesn’t add to the entertainment value. High quality video and pitch tracking technology make it obvious when umps are inconsistent. It makes the viewer feel that the product is defective, they’re never as happy when the call goes their way as they are unhappy when it goes against them.

Baseball should implement automated ball/strike calls, and have replay for fair/foul, bang-bang plays. If the booth umpire wants to hold play for a moment to review a call, then that’s what happens.

American Football is making a mistake with using super-slo-mo to determine things like whether possession was maintained on a catch. It tries to make a somewhat subjective call rigidly defined and scrutinized to the smallest detail.

There are two ideas here, but they’re pretty contradictory.

The reason to use technology for things like this isn’t that humans can’t tell the difference. It’s that humans are incredibly inconsistent. Even humans who have trained for years to be consistent are much worse at it than high-speed cameras and algorithms.

I agree that the way that Football does this is stupid. Making getting the call correct be a strategic decision that’s time limited and lengthens play is basically the worst way to do this.

The sane ways to implement this are that the machine makes the call in the first place, the machine overrides the umpire/ref fast enough that there’s no delay, or there’s no machine.

OR… and I’m just spitballing here. Maybe you get a person, we’ll call them an umpire, that observes the game and makes a judgement call. And sometimes that call will be right and sometimes it will be wrong. Either way, when it goes against our team, we’ll probably say some blue words and perhaps throw something towards our screen of choice. We will then spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about how ‘we were robbed’ which is infinitely more fun than saying, “Welp, computers don’t lie.”

In this particular case with Angel Hernandez, the Yankees were going to lose this series. It was written in the stars. The objectively better team won. So it goes. Now though, their fans get to sit around for the next five months and complain about how awful Hernandez was and ‘if coach would have just put them in they’d be in a hot tub with their soulmate.’ and what not. The point of sports is not clinical adherence to a standard. If it were, we could just plug everyone’s stats into the magic box and it could simulate the season and we’d be done with it. Sports is about drama and luck and sometimes a touch of unfairness. I don’t really want to know if ‘The Immaculate Reception’ was legal or not. It was amazing and wonderful or horrible and heartbreaking depending upon which team you rooted for. The objective truth of the play is irrelevant to the emotions that it produces. Give me those flawed umpires and those feelings of stolen championships and illegitimate crowns. Leave the clinical world of cleanliness and perfection in the lab where it belongs.

^ Good post, senoy!

Speak for yourself. I don’t watch sports for the goddamned officials.

First of all, CC wasn’t the only guy complaining about Angel Hernandez. A couple Red Sox players took issue with his strike zone, as well.

To answer the question, yes I think it’s time to let robots call balls and strikes. Even if they arne’t technically perfect, you hop they’ll at least they’ll be consistent. And that’s all anyone asks from human umpires. Just be consistent.

Exactly! But some officials seem to think they are the star of the show. I want robo ball and strike calls.

And Angel Hernandez is the absolute worst ump in any form of baseball, and that includes Tball.

Have you ever watched a game of American football at all? Because you’re wrong on almost every point you made.

There’s no need to worry about cleanliness and perfection in any sport played by humans: human nature and performance are delightfully and consistently imperfect. Indeed, any sport worthy of the name must regularly expose the imperfections of its athletes - while also allowing them to show human excellence.

I think it follows that there’s no benefit to adding more imperfection and uncleanliness in the form of unnecessary instances of bad officiating.

How does the technology account for the different heights of the batters, since the strike zone depends on their particular statures/etc?

One of the people running the system sets the zone based on the batter as each one comes up.

Sabathia was bellyaching.

With that said, I think it would speed up the game if we had a red light/green light indicator for balls and strikes.

I also think we should also tighten up the strike zone A LOT and smooth the laces on the ball so that we see more hits. The only people who enjoy pitcher’s duels are the ones in the expensive seats behind home plate and the hard core baseball fans.

Wait, are you comparing Soccer favorably to Football in the “boring” department?

Soccer is the only sport that gets nominated for Oscars. So I suppose at least there is drama.

What? No, we should make the laces protrude even more for wackier pitches. :smiley:

Watch the NBA sometimes. James Harden will actually set up plays that he can flop on. It’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve seen. At least in soccer, the flops happen because of actual gameplay. They aren’t setting up situations for themselves to flop in. The NBA has become ridiculous with it. People make fun of baseball’s ‘unwritten rules.’ but they keep that kind of ridiculousness to a minimum.

I suppose we should get rid of the professional umpires and just have random folks from the stands call the game. Just think about how much time you can spend picking apart their terrible calls?

Ok, that’s silly, but so is suggesting that bad calls make the game more fun. The umpires exist to ensure the game is run by the rules. That is their entire purpose. If the game isn’t fun without THEM mucking up the rules, your game has an intrinsic problem.

The perfect umpire is invisible.
I also agree that Basketball is worse about flops than Soccer.