Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Manfred Decrees Computers More Accurate Than Human Umpires; MLB to Test Electronic Zone at Spring Training

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says computers are "more accurate" than human umpires, stating the automated ball/strike system (ABS) or similar technology will be used during Spring Training and MiLB's Florida State League season, though an anonymous source told ESPN that the home plate umpire would remain in command.

With the Atlantic League's test failing a significant percentage of the time through its failure to track pitches entirely, amongst others, it would make sense that MLB would walk back Manfred's statement as a "test only" mode, given that the technology appears not to be reliable nor accurate enough to be used on a consistent basis.

Despite Manfred's own previous position of "that technology has a larger margin of error than we see with human umpires," the MLB Commissioner completed an about-face on his prior computerized strike zone stance, telling FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo during an interview at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "we think it's more accurate than a human being standing there."
Related PostManfred Vows Robo-Umps in 2020 MiLB as Players Complain (11/5/19).

Nonetheless, as recently as the 2019, minor league players complained about the ABS used during the Arizona Fall League, while multiple personnel were ejected for arguing about pitches called by the electronic system during 2019 AFL and Atlantic League games. Frank Viola, for instance, was angry that umpires failed to overrule the computer system while Jacob Heyward was frustrated that ABS called several close pitches strikes.
Related PostComputer Strike Call Prompts Navas' AFL Ejection (10/16/19).
Related PostAtlantic League ABS Robo-Ump Ejection Encore (9/28/19).
Related PostHistory - Baseball's First Ejection Due to TrackMan (7/12/19).

We at CloseCallSports routinely documented ABS' shortcomings; whether during the Atlantic League regular season, AFL season, or even the broadcast systems used during the 2019 MLB postseason.
Related PostFoxTrax (PitchCast) Strike Zone Box Fails in ALCS (10/18/19).
Related PostABS Playoff Highlights - Delayed Calls & System Errors (10/1/19).
Related PostAutomated Ball/Strike System Postseason Highlights (9/30/19).
Related PostALPB TrackMan Follies - A Neck-High Strike (7/15/19).

The e-zone continues to suffer errors.
As for Manfred's claim of a three-dimensional strike zone, that must be an allusion to new, untested technology–perhaps related to TrackMan's depreciation and Hawk-eye's impending introduction—for as recently as Fall 2019, ABS was decidedly two-dimensional in nature.

Throughout the 2019 season, we documented the habitual vertical strike zone problem, and even introduced UEFL ZoneCheck in an attempt to correct for the technology's real-time shortcomings. So if MLB was able to shore up all of the system's extensive shortcomings over the 2019-20 offseason, that deserves a kudos.
Related PostPostgame Processing Changes Gibson's Strike EJ QOC (9/21/19).
Related PostZoneCheck - Twins' Ump De Jesus' Ball 4 Call (7/24/19).

Meanwhile, MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre most recently stated his opposition to a robotic strike zone in the major leagues.
Related PostTorre Doesn't Want Robot Umpires in MLB (7/26/19).

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Manfred Says K-Zone Tech to Debut at Spring Training (CCS)


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