Friday, November 15, 2019

Teachable - Triple Touch & Tag Tasks

Tmac takes us to Baltimore in this Teachable Moment as Orioles batter Rio Ruiz's triple down the right field line led to touch & tag responsibilities for 1B Umpire Jeremie Rehak, U2 Alfonso Marquez, and U3 Dan Bellino, whose safe call was challenged and upheld via Replay Review.

On Ruiz's line drive down the line, 1B Umpire Rehak signaled the ball fair and, while maintaining awareness of the bounding ball's location, pivoted back toward the infield to observe batter-runner Ruiz's base touch at first base.

Meanwhile, 2B Umpire Marquez prepared to take Ruiz through second base, setting up on the outside of the base to observe the base touch and stay out of the runner's way. Because runners generally cut the inside corner while rounding the bases, Rehak and Marquez knew that the most likely part of the base to observe would be that closest to the pitcher's mound.

Runners don't always touch their bases.
Standing on the outside of the base is a great place from which to observe this specific touch while staying out of the players' (runner/fielder) way. Yet unless the defense appeals the base touch, an umpire's work in observing the runner's legality will largely go unnoticed.

3B Umpire Bellino takes the sliding play at third base by setting up in a keyhole angle in line with the runner's path toward the base. By positioning himself in this manner, Bellino spots the daylight (or, nightlight) between the runner's body and fielder's glove, thus enabling him to spy a potential swipe tag or miss.

In this case, the swipe tag is missed, Bellino's safe call is upheld as communicated by Crew Chief Larry Vanover, and all four umpires on the field complete their responsibilities without fanfare: Rehak's fair/foul and base touch, Marquez's base touch, Bellino's tag play, and Vanover's ability to don and remove a Replay Review headset.

This Tmac's Teachable Moment was sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (UmpCourse.com).


Video as follows:

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Podcast - Little League World Series with RichMSN

In 2019, Alan Porter became the second MLB umpire to officiate both the Little League and Major League World Series in a two-month span. We've heard from past guests about the big league fall classic, but now we hear from a bona fide LLWS umpire. Rich Fronheiser (RichMSN) joins the show to discuss the Little League umpiring experience.

Rich walks us through the process for applying for the Little League World Series, beginning with local tournaments and a favorable performance at the regional in years preceding the LLWS, and takes us onto the fields at Williamsport—Volunteer and Lamade Stadiums.

We go through the Williamsport experience, beginning well before the World Series itself and including some training with Gerry Davis (the first MLB umpire to work both the Little League and MLB World Series in the same season), and a minor difference between the Little League and Major League Baseball Replay Review processes.

Click the below play (▶) button to listen to "Episode 21 - Little League World Series with Rich Fronheiser" or visit the show online at https://anchor.fm/the-plate-meeting. You can also access The Plate Meeting on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google, Castbox, Spotify, TuneIn, and other podcast services.

Alternate Link: Episode 21 - Little League World Series with Rich Fronheiser

Additional Links, Videos, and Other Media:
The Plate Meeting is brought to you by OSIP, where Outstanding Sportsmanship Is Paramount.

And by Umpire Placement Course. Continue your career at UMPCourse.com.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

2019 UEFL Final Standings and the Perfect Crew

Awards Season concludes with the 2019 Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's final standings and perfect crew. This year's perfect score was 136 and the lowest score possible was -23, a points spread of 159 (compare to 2018's Perfect Score of 117 and lowest score of -39).
Related Post2018 UEFL Final Standings and the Perfect Crew (11/12/18).

2019 UEFL Perfect Crew (Highest Score): 136 points.
Crew Chief: Sam Holbrook (26 pts).
Primary Umpires: Mike Estabrook (41 pts) & Jeff Nelson (24 pts).
Secondary Umpires: Alan Porter (24 pts) & Bill Miller (21 pts).

PRM Points Leaders:
1) Mike Estabrook (41).
2) Alan Porter (28).
3) Bill Miller, Jeff Nelson, Larry Vanover (24).
6) Carlos Torres (22).
7) Kerwin Danley, Sam Holbrook, Mike Muchlinski (20).
10) Gary Cederstrom, Doug Eddings (19).

2019 UEFL Imperfect Crew (Lowest Score): -23 points.
Crew Chief: Joe West (-5 pts).
Primary Umpires: Ryan Additon (-8 pts) & Gerry Davis (-2 pts).
Secondary Umpires: Gabe Morales (-4 pts) & Dan Iassogna (-4 pts).

Final Standings for the 2019 UEFL Season.
Replay Review Ranking by Umpire (RAP)
T-1) Laz Diaz (.800, 12-for-15).
T-1) Mike Muchlinski (.800, 12-for-15).
3) Bill Miller (.800, 8-for-10).
4) Kerwin Danley (.786, 11-for-14).
5) Greg Gibson (.769, 10-for-13).
6) Manny Gonzalez (.750, 6-for-8).
T-7) Gary Cederstrom (.714, 10-for-14).
T-7) Quinn Wolcott (.714, 10-for-14).
9) Roberto Ortiz (.706, 12-for-17).
T-10) Jeff Nelson (.700, 7-for-10).
T-10) DJ Reyburn (.700, 7-for-10).
12) Marvin Hudson (.692, 9-for-13).
13) Sam Holbrook (.688, 11-for-16).
14) Adam Hamari (.682, 15-for-22).
15) Chad Fairchild (.643, 9-for-14).
T-16) Chris Segal (.636, 14-for-22).
T-16) Hunter Wendelstedt (.636, 14-for-22).
T-18) Lance Barksdale (.636, 7-for-11).
T-18) Alan Porter (.636, 7-for-11).
T-18) John Tumpane (.636, 7-for-11).
T-18) Chad Whitson (.636, 7-for-11).
22) David Rackley (.632, 12-for-19).
T-23) Ted Barrett (.625, 10-for-16).
T-23) Tom Hallion (.625, 10-for-16).
T-25) Ben May (.625, 5-for-8).
T-25) Brennan Miller (.625, 5-for-8).
Full Results: UEFL's MLB Umpire Replay Review Statistics & Sabermetrics

Most Raw Overturns (Greatest # of Overturned Calls)
1) 14: Dan Iassogna.
2) 13: Ron Kulpa.
3) 12: Bill Welke.
4) 11: Dan Bellino, Vic Carapazza, Rob Drake, Alfonso Marquez.
8) 10: Ryan Blakney, Chris Conroy, Mike Everitt, Andy Fletcher, Ed Hickox, Stu Scheurwater, Jansen Visconti, Mark Wegner.

2019 Ejection Leaders
1) Mike Estabrook (13).
2) Larry Vanover (9).
3) Jeremie Rehak, Joe West (7).
5) Alfonso Marquez (6).

2019 UEFL Final Standings (Ties resolved per Rule 5-3)
1) RC2004 (87 pts).
2) trevortinyrichards (78 pts).
3) ralphus95 (68 pts).
4) Umppat (66 pts, 18 PRM-A [Gonzalez]).
5) JROD (66 pts, 14 PRM-A [West]).
6) Twnorton93 (66 pts, 11 PRM-A [Hamari]).
7) UmpBarrett (60 pts).
8) ADUB (59 pts).
9) Bob Abouy (58 pts).
10) ohmlb (57 pts).
11) Chewy6294 (56 pts, 13 PRM-A [Bellino], 41 PRM-B [Estabrook]).
12) BradleyEjAgain (56 pts, 13 PRM-A [Bellino], 14 PRM-B [West]).
13) ref44 (55 pts, 14 PRM-A [West], 24 PRM-B [Nelson]).
14) cyclone14 (55 pts, 14 PRM-A [West], 3 PRM-B [Tumpane]).
15) Fearsome Four (54 pts, 24 PRM-A [Bi Miller]).

Complete Final Standings, points, and results available via the UEFL Portal's 2019 Standings page.
Umpire Leaders available at UEFL's MLB Umpire Replay Review Statistics and Sabermetrics page.

The Rules Summit will begin tomorrow.

Monday, November 11, 2019

2019 UEFL Award for Umpire of the Year - Jim Wolf

Jim Wolf is the UEFL's (Best) Umpire of the Year for 2019 [2018: Ted Barrett].
Voting (Top 5): Wolf (18.3%), Eric Cooper (17.7%), Sam Holbrook (12.8%), Barrett (8.5%), Al Porter (5.5%).

Jim Wolf wins the UEFL Umpire of the Year Award for 2019. Having officiated his first Major League game in 1999, Wolf celebrates two decades in the big leagues, and six consecutive postseasons (2014-19). Wolf's second career World Series in 2019 capped a year that reportedly saw him ranked first amongst all MLB umpires behind home plate.

He finished the season with zero ejections (his second consecutive season with no ejections) and one no-hitter (Houston's combined no-hitter against Seattle on August 6). Wrote Turducken, succinctly, "You get a game 7 WS, you're the best."

UEFL Awards History, Jim Wolf
Noteworthy Umpire of the Year: 2011

Jim Wolf now has 12 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (7 Previous + 5 Award = 12).
Final Standings will be released this week.

Friday, November 8, 2019

2019 UEFL Award for Ejections of Year - Cuzzi & Miller

Phil Cuzzi and Brennan Miller had 2019's Best Ejections of the Year [2018: Joe West & Nic Lentz].
The two umpires' ejected a month apart, but as New York Yankees Manager Aaron Boone and OF Brett Gardner appeared to target minor league call-up plate umpires, the two ejections were every bit related.

Each of New York's seven post-All Star Break ejections in 2019 occurred with a Triple-A call-up behind the dish, pertained to ball/strike calls, and Brett Gardner's three most recent ejections were courtesy of Triple-A call-up umpire Jeremie Rehak (9/9/18), Triple-A call-up umpire Chris Segal (8/9/19), and full-timer Cuzzi (8/17/19).

Voting Results (Top 3): 162 Cuzzi (28.8%), 123 Miller (22.7%), P1 Sam Holbrook (21.2%).

Because MLB Ejections 162 Cuzzi (Brett Gardner) and 123 Miller (Aaron Boone) go rather hand-in-hand, perhaps it is best to discuss them chronologically, even though Cuzzi's ejection garnered more votes.

Call-up umpire Brennan Miller ejects Boone.
On July 18, 2019, Brennan Miller ejected Yankees Manager Aaron Boone following a balls/strikes disagreement that extended through multiple batters.

It all started with a strike three call to batter Brett Gardner, who returned to the dugout and indicated his disproval by yelling and slamming the dugout's bat rack and ceiling with his bat. While Gardner was busy studying the finer points of carpentry, Boone chirped umpire Miller, which continued through a strike one call to subsequent batter DJ LeMahieu.
Related PostMLB Ejection 123 - Brennan Miller (1; Aaron Boone) (7/18/19).

Call-up umpire Chris Segal ejects Gardner.
After an ensuing foul ball, Miller ejected Boone for his continued complaining, resulting in the infamous "savages" in the batter's box meltdown. Miller weathered the storm without crew chief Gerry Davis' assistance until Boone had walked away.

The Gardner-Boone sideshow became a story in 2019, and even necessitated a visit from MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, who publicly backed a different Triple-A call-up umpire's ejection of Gardner after he again banged his bat on the dugout ceiling (Ejection 157 - Chris Segal).

It soon became quite apparent that Boone and Gardner were specifically effecting their respective unsportsmanlike behaviors when a minor league umpire was officiating behind home plate, and the New York tandem's act was making its rounds throughout baseball with a quick pitstop in Toronto.
Related PostJoe Torre Backs Ump Segal in Gardner Ejection (8/13/19).
Related PostWhat We Learned from Segal, Gardner, and Torre (8/14/19).

Triple-A Call-Up Umpires Have No Rights: The MiLB fill-in umpires knew that at the call-up stage of their career, they could ill afford the spectacle of simply standing up for themselves and would need help from an umpire with more clout in order to go beyond a 'standard' ejection.

Full-timer Cuzzi ejects Gardner & Sabathia.
Enter 1B Umpire Phil Cuzzi, who on August 17, witnessed HP Umpire Ben May's ejection of Boone after a strike call to Cameron Maybin. When Gardner started up his bat-banging routine again—again, with a minor leaguer calling balls and strikes—Cuzzi shut it down immediately by ejecting Gardner.

When CC Sabathia—a player on the injured list—argued, Cuzzi tossed him out, too. Leaving zero room for misunderstanding, Cuzzi gestured very clearly that Gardner had been ejected for taking his bat to the dugout canopy, and in doing so, thus protected his crew mate and call-up umpire May.
Related PostMLB Ejections 161-163 - May, Cuzzi (NYY) (8/17/19).

Perhaps an honorable mention in this year's ejection award, given the Yankees' multi-month tantrum, goes to Joe West, who on September 21, ejected Aaron Boone in the very first inning in the Bronx after strike calls and an ejection from HP Umpire Jeremie Rehak—another call-up—who had ejected Hitting Coach Marcus Thames.
Related PostMLB Ejections 213-14 - Jeremie Rehak, Joe West (NYY) (9/21/19).

Angel Campos never did make the MLB staff.
In conclusion, this is the rare Ejections of the Year Award that, although awarded to separate umpires in separate games, very much relates to the same storyline.

Miller wins it for taking care of business and taking the heat while only pausing to inform Boone that his bill had made contact with Miller's cap, and Cuzzi wins it for standing up for a youngster who was somewhat handcuffed in his ability to situation-handle by ejecting more than one person, lest the League mark him down on the situation handling category and sour on him a la Angel Campos.

Phil Cuzzi now has 18 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (17 Previous + 1 Award = 18).
Brennan Miller now has 1 point in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (0 Previous + 1 Award = 1).
The final postseason award, (Best) Umpire of the Year, will be released Monday.

Video as follows:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Teachable - Runner's Lane Interference

After an exciting postseason, this edition of Tmac's Teachable Moments discusses runner's lane interference and an umpire's responsibilities during an RLI no-call during the 2019 Puerto Rico-Chinese Taipei WBSC #Premier12 tournament game.

Play: During this Opening Round game, TPE batter Li Lin stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 5th inning with two runners on (R1, R2) and none on, bunting the ball to Puerto Rico pitcher Fernando Cruz. After a brief hesitation toward third base, Cruz threw to first, hitting batter-runner Lin in the back and sending the ball into shallow right field, allowing the other runners to advance.

The lane looks simple...from the proper angle.
HP Umpire Naoto Shikita, having ruled the batted ball fair, deemed there was no runner's lane interference. Despite Lin being hit while outside the runner's lane, replays indicate Lin ran to first base within the lane until his last stride to first base, thus satisfying the exception to the runner's lane rule (Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(11)'s "A batter is out when...he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire's judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base" and OBR 5.09(a)(11) Comment's "The batter-runner is permitted to exit the three-foot lane by means of a step, stride, reach or slide in the immediate vicinity of first base for the sole purpose of touching first base").

This play runs in stark contrast to HP Umpire Sam Holbrook's invocation of runner's lane interference during Game 6 of the 2019 World Series when Nationals batter-runner Trea Turner failed to run within the runner's lane at any point during his journey to first base. Both Holbrook's RLI/out call and Shikita's no-INT/safe call were correct: Holbrook's runner didn't run in the lane while Shikita's runner did.
Related PostWorld Series Interference - Blame the Rule, not the Umpire (10/30/19).

Lin's is a textbook example of a legal run.
Teachable: As specified, Lin's jaunt to first is a perfect example of legal baserunning within the lane. The responsibilities of each umpire on the crew during this developing play—after the throw got away, the other runners advanced—are as follows, starting with the base umpires:

1B Umpire Ray Gregson: Move into fair territory in anticipation of a play at first base (out/safe, throw or tag). When the throw gets away, be prepared to assist on a potential boundary issue by finding the ball (if it bounds to foul territory), ensure BR has touched first base, and circle around the scrambling fielders and runner. Prepare for a potential play on BR back into first base.

Every umpire has somewhere to be.
2B Umpire Hiyoung Park: Once it's apparent the pitcher will not throw to second, be cognizant of runner R1's base touch and prepare for a potential play on either R1 or BR at second. Position adjustment may be necessary to get a better angle.

3B Umpire Alan Izaguirre: Move into foul territory in anticipation of a potential force play at third base. From there, watch for base touches and prepare for a potential play on R2 or R1 at third base.

HP Umpire Shikita: Move up the line for the fair/foul call. From there, responsibility shifts to ensuring BR's legality re: the runner's lane. Once the throw hits the runner in the back, either call "Time" (if there was interference) or signal safe (to signify "that's nothing"), a verbal declaration may also be helpful. If the ball has caromed into foul territory, keep an eye out on a potential boundary issue while preparing to dash back toward home plate for a potential play on R2.

Though the play may be hectic due to the wild nature of a throw hitting a runner, maintain patience with play-calling and, especially for the plate umpire, don't veer too far away from your base.

This Teachable Moment is sponsored by Umpire Placement Course (umpcourse.com).
Video as follows:

2019 Promising Umpire Award - Hoberg & Porter

Pat Hoberg & Alan Porter are 2019's Promising Umpires of the Year [2018: Hamari & Blaser].
Voting (Top 5): Hoberg (16.4%), Porter (10%), John Tumpane (7.6%), Hamari (7%), James Hoye (5%).

Pat Hoberg & Alan Porter are the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's 2019 Promising Umpires of the Year.

Since his 2017 hiring, Hoberg has worked the postseason in each year of eligibility (2018 Wild Card, 2019 NL Division Series) and scored the highest plate during the NLDS (98.2%) - a plate in his second postseason. Hoberg had one ejection in 2019 (Justin Verlander) and perhaps the reason we don't hear too much about him is because he flies under the radar while steadily climbing the ranks.

Wrote Russ, "I think he often gets lost in the shuffle because he has so few situations to deal with. But he is proving that is a stud and I expect to continue to see him in the Playoffs for years to come."

Like Hoberg, Porter has worked the postseason in every year of eligibility since his 2013 hire: that includes the 2014, 15, 16, 17 & 19 Division Series, 2018 Wild Card Game & League Championship Series, and 2019 World Series.

Porter, who ejected four in 2019 (Marcus Semien, Stephen Piscotty, Bob Melvin, and Brad Miller) dazzled in his first career World Series plate, his 98.2% scoring the highest of the series. As baseballfollower wrote, "World Series assignment for his major league experience is especially impressive. He also had a great WS plate, and think he is going to be one of the next wave of top umpires."

UEFL Awards History, Pat Hoberg
None.

UEFL Awards History, Alan Porter
Noteworthy Umpire of the Year: 2015, 2016.
Fill-In Umpire of the Year: 2011, 2012.

Pat Hoberg now has 8 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (5 Prev + 3 Award = 8).
Alan Porter now has 27 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (24 Previous + 3 Award = 27).
The next postseason award, Ejection of the Year, will be released tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

2019 UEFL Award for Honorable - Cooper & Guccione

Eric Cooper & Chris Guccione are 2019's Honorable Umpires of the Year [2018 Winners: Ted Barrett & Phil Cuzzi].
Voting Results (Top 4): Cooper (31.2%), Guccione (11.4%), Barrett (6.4%), Cederstrom (3.5%).

Eric Cooper and Chris Guccione are the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's 2019 Honorable Umpires of the Year.

When Cooper passed away following his Division Series assignment, prior to the World Series, the compliments and accolades were plentiful from players, coaches, broadcasters, and, of course, other umpires.

Coop's longtime Crew Chief and mentor Mike Reilly spoke of Cooper on The Plate Meeting Podcast in October, saying that one of his fondest memories was how well Cooper treated Reilly's own children. It was Cooper's work off the field through charitable endeavors and and all-around resilient attitude that earns him this postseason award.
Related PostPodcast - Mike Reilly Recalls Crew Mate Eric Cooper (10/24/19).

After a 13-year-old umpire in Colorado presided over a game-ending brawl involving parents on the field during a matchup of seven-year-old players, Guccione reached out and invited the youth umpire to a major league game in Denver, explaining, "I thought it was the perfect opportunity to reach out to Josh, not only to him but his family, to say, 'Hey, I'm proud of you, I'm rooting for you and what you did was the right thing.'"

Wrote Russ, "For Gooch to show Cordova he has his back is special in a way non Officials just cannot understand. I said it at the time and I will say it again, best call Gooch made all season! Oh and he had another fantastic season on the field getting his third straight LCS and being lined up for a Game 7 plate."
Related PostChris Guccione to Host Youth Lakewood Umpire (6/28/19).
Related PostUmpires Host Cordova in Colorado (7/1/19).
UEFL Awards History, Eric Cooper
Most Improved Umpire: 2019.
Disappointing Season: 2018.

UEFL Awards History, Chris Guccione
(Best) Umpire of the Year: 2016.
Noteworthy Umpire of the Year: 2011, 2012.

Eric Cooper now has 14 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (12 Prev + 2 Award = 14).
Chris Guccione now has 1 point in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (-1 Prev + 2 Award = 1).
The next postseason award, Promising Umpire of the Year, will be released Thursday.

2019 UEFL Award for Crew Chief - Gary Cederstrom

Gary Cederstrom wins the UEFL's 2019 Crew Chief of the Year Award [2018 Winner: Ted Barrett].
Voting Results (10%+): Cederstrom (18.2%), Barrett (16.4%), Sam Holbrook (11.3%), Joe West (10.7%).

Gary Cederstrom is the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League's 2019 Crew Chief of the Year, his second time receiving the award (2015). Cederstrom, who made his MLB debut in 1989 (30 years ago), had the first ejection of the 2019 regular season (Eric Thames).

Three of four members of Cederstrom's regular season crew (Cederstrom, Marvin Hudson, Adrian Johnson) made the 2019 postseason, and for Cederstrom, it was his fifth consecutive appearance. He chiefed both the Division Series and World Series.

He finished the year +19 in Crew Division, fourth amongst MLB crew chiefs (Larry Vanover & Sam Holbrook 23, Tom Hallion 21).

UEFL Awards History, Gary Cederstrom
Crew Chief of the Year: 2015.

Gary Cederstrom now has 18 points in the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (17 Previous + 1 Award = 18).
The next postseason award, Honorable Umpire of the Year, will be released this evening.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Manfred Vows Robo-Umps in 2020 MiLB as Players Complain About 2019 ABS

Despite negative reviews from Arizona Fall League players of baseball's Automated Ball/Strike System, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced ABS will debut during the 2020 MiLB season...oh, a video with Manfred criticizing robot umpires has been on the internet for a few years now, but is largely unknown and unseen (137 views) and the Commissioner might not want you to watch it, since this same technology he spoke out against in 2017 is now on his priority list for 2020.

Players Object to Robo-Ump: Baseball America grabbed some exit interviews with players about the subject of ABS at the Arizona Fall League's Fall Stars Game with HP Umpire Eric Bacchus simply relaying ABS' balls/strikes messages as other AFL umpires did throughout the developmental minor league postseason...which collectively drew more than a few double-takes, including Jose Navas' ejection of Geraldo Perdomo after an ABS strikeout call at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick (there were other AFL ejections as well, but none on publicly available video).
Related PostComputer Strike Call Prompts Navas' AFL Ejection (10/16/19).

Angels OF Marsh "not a fan" of ABS.
Baseball America described life with ABS in the AFL: "By the end, two things were clear: Pitchers with arsenals geared toward working from the top to the bottom of the strike zone were at a stark advantage, and nobody—neither hitters nor pitchers—was happy with TrackMan."

The article quoted Angels outfielder Brandon Marsh: "Not a fan," and Mariners pitcher Penn Murfee: "Whether it benefits me or not, I'm just coming at it from a baseball purist standpoint. Umpires are back there and they have a job for a reason. It's to manage the calling of the game—why take out one of the biggest pieces of that?"

Said Rays outfielder Josh Lowe, "I think the weirdest part is just the pause from the pitch hitting the catcher’s glove and then the umpire calling it a strike" (see our video on ABS pitch calling delays in the Atlantic League), continuing, "I think I’d rather deal with a human error rather than a computer error. It’s still really tough to get this zone adjusted to everything."
Related VideoAutomated Ball/Strike System Postseason Highlights (9/30/19).

Josh Lowe "rather deal with a human umpire."
Mariners pitcher Raymond Kerr alluded to an oft-referenced Manfred buzzword, pace-of-play: "I don’t like that. It takes away the catcher’s ability to frame, and umpires are delayed on calls. I just think it slows down the game a little bit."

Torre & Manfred Were Against It, Too: 'Robot umpire' is a concept both MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre and Manfred himself previously criticized—with Manfred going so far as to point out the flaws of tennis' Hawk-eye system as a reason why technology is not better than human umpires.
Related PostTorre Doesn't Want Robot Umpires in MLB (7/26/19).
But something changed in 2019 for Manfred. In 2018, he said his changed position was due to the technology improving ("accuracy is way up"), despite the actual science suggesting the technology had not improved so dramatically...not to mention the 2019 ALPB and AFL experiments essentially confirming the technology's subpar performance.
Related PostManfred Talks Robot Umps - Tech is "Way Up" (5/30/18).

While Torre remained steadfast in his stance ("I'd like the game to stay human...I don't see the robotic strike zone happening"), Manfred jumped ship...seemingly contradicting not just the science, but himself in previous criticism—on video—of using technology to call balls and strikes, and creating a schism between MLB's #1 (Manfred) and #2 (Torre) executives.
Related PostCiting Atlantic Lg, Manfred Ready for Robo-Zone (8/19/19).

Manfred wasn't always a fan of computers.
Manfred told MLB Network, "We have the technology...we need to be ready to use an automated strike zone when the time is right." Considering baseball's plans to introduce said technology in the minor leagues in 2020—one report indicates the Class-A Advanced Florida State League could be a target, due to its stadium's use during MLB Spring Training—Manfred must think "the time is right."

The Umpire Accuracy Video You're Not Supposed to See: About a month before the Sports Illustrated article, "Commissioner Rob Manfred Not in Favor of Moving to Electronic Strike Zone," Manfred appeared on a panel with three other Commissioners—NHL's Gary Bettman, NFL's Roger Goodell, and NBA's Adam Silver—at The Paley Center for Media.

Manfred spoke at a panel of Commissioners.
New York Knicks owner James Dolan speaking from the audience asked Manfred about tennis' Hawk-eye and how baseball can incorporate technology to call balls and strikes ("Why do we have umpires?", generating laughter from the crowd).

Manfred replied, "First of all, let me say, our umpires are really really good at calling balls and strikes, they are...

Let me say something about the tennis technology and then I'll say why it's more difficult in baseball. You should always think about a technology where what they show you as part of the replay is a simulation as opposed to the actual stopped frame, so think about that as you watch tennis and see what conclusion you come to.

During his talk, Manfred said no to robots.
Our strike zone is not a single line on a fixed court. It's a plate, it's three dimensional. The ball passes through the strike zone at different points. We do have a system that we use in broadcast that measures balls and strikes. In all candor, that technology has a larger margin of error than we see with human umpires.

Someday, I think it will be up to the task of calling balls and strikes, but I actually believe that at that point you have to ask yourself a question as to whether you want to take that human element out of the game and replace it with a machine."

Conclusion: For whatever reason (e.g., pressure from teams/fans/owners), Manfred may well believe "that point" has come (despite the mountain of evidence indicating otherwise), and over the past two years, he and Torre (amongst others) have appeared to exhibit a clear disagreement as to the answer of his ultimate question as to the human element.

Will the MLB answer be full automation? A challenge system? Nothing at all? Read on for our Replay Review-inspired challenge system to correct obvious mistakes while acknowledging the computer zone's remaining inaccuracy on border/edge pitches.
Related PostFixing the Strike Zone - Pitch Challenge Proposal (10/28/19).

Video as follows: