Friday, July 26, 2019

ALPB's Strike Zone Change & 1st ABS Call

The Atlantic League rolled out its Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS) to all teams on a full-time basis Thursday, marking the first day the electronic K-zone pitch calling tool will be used on a consistent basis in the ALPB. The league also changed the definition of the strike zone (well, the computer definition of the strike zone, anyway) and full-time ABS' first-ever pitch call on the first pitch of the first ABS game at High Point had an interesting visual translation.

Ball one indicated by the attached graphic ushered in a new era in professional baseball (I surmise the Atlantic League's prior ABS use was deemed irregular or somewhat of a beta test, whereas the league put out a press release announcing Thursday, July 25 as a "landmark day for the Atlantic League and professional baseball," according to ALPB President Rick White.

ALPB also apparently changed the strike zone, or at least its computer definition. According to a local reporter covering Lancaster, PA's team, under ABS, "vertically, a pitch has to be completely within the strikezone [sic] to be called a strike. Horizontally, a pitch only needs to be partially in the zone."

Frank Viola's dispute from July 12, 2019.
By now, we're all familiar with the definition of STRIKE, which includes, "if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone," which suggests the ABS strike zone parameters are somewhat at odds with the Official Baseball Rules.

Ball One at High Point: The first pitch of the game to Sugar Land Skeeters batter Rico Noel from High Point Rockers pitcher Michael Bowden was ruled ball one by ABS, despite the ball appearing on ALPB gameday-style graphics to be partially within the illustrative strike zone. Despite the aforementioned ABS strike zone definition, this graphic indicated that Pitch #1 was located entirely within the graphic's vertical strike zone, but only partially within the horizontal zone, not that we haven't dealt with this problem before.
Related PostReviewing Atlantic League's Automated Strike Zone (7/11/19).

At least Frank Viola's ejection a fortnight prior regarding ABS-visualization incongruence waited until the bottom of the 1st inning...
Related PostHistory - Baseball's First Ejection Due to TrackMan (7/12/19).

When in doubt, just blame TrackMan!
Sidebar: What's most notable about the ALPB press release announcing the full-time ABS (which, unlike previous releases, does not purport itself to be a partnered memo with MLB) is that it neglects to mention the company TrackMan whatsoever—everything is "ABS" with no reference to the Danish golf-tracking company whose radar technology MLB has used for the past several years. Even as recently as early July, ALPB had been putting out material with reference to TrackMan as the vendor responsible for ABS.

Gil's Call: This could be an excellent PR hedge by MLB/ALPB. If ABS underwhelms, divesting from TrackMan early and often makes it easier for MLB/ALPB to blame/scapegoat/invoke TrackMan as the problem, which would in turn make it easier for the league(s) to ditch TrackMan and institute a technology like Hawk-Eye, presumably telling the public the switch would be for the purposes of accuracy or some similar technological development reason. Put a pin in this thought for now; we might pick it up again in the future.


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