Is an Electronic Strike Zone Inevitable? (Daryll)

As long as Angel Hernandez is “umpiring” in Major League Baseball – there will be a push for an electronic strike zone. Or a completely robotic umpire in his case. Brandon Belt has similar thoughts on Doug Eddings desire to get home for a proper amount of sleep or umpire a baseball game correctly.

The question is how long it will be until we simply have computers telling us what is a strike and umpires merely being the messengers if not completely replaced.

The talk of an electronic strike zone is at least several years old, as technology increases it seems to get more accurate which increases its likelihood.

For a sport concerned about the pace of play, it would also help as one anonymous player pointed out in an interview with Buster Olney last season:

“It could speed up the game at least as much [as the pitch clock],” said one player. “Think about what happens now: You have a close pitch, and the batter steps out to ask the home plate umpire. Or the catcher turns to ask the umpire. Or the pitcher says something, and he slows down because he’s frustrated with a call. The benches yell at the umpire, and the umpire turns to yell back. That would all go away. Nothing would have to be said. It would either be a ball or a strike, and everybody would move on to the next pitch.”

Also, with the new sports gambling that could increase its frequency in openness across MLB ballparks, having an electronic strike zone would be another betting opportunity with no threat (aside from hackers?) of being compromised.

Of course the negatives are also pretty easy to see. First of all, the human element has been part of it. Certain umpires have certain tendencies, and figuring those out has always been one of the games within the game of baseball. What gives baseball character. While watching grown men throw temper tantrums at each other shouldn’t entertain us…it does.

Having an electronic strike zone of course is no guarantee that arguments will slow down or end. After all – we have instant replay which should make arguments extinct and that isn’t the case. People still want people to blame.

My guess is that we will NOT have an electronic strike zone before 2025. That does seem like a long time away, but let’s not forget the planning fallacy in all of this. Baseball has only had instant replay for a few years, some people still complain about interleague play ruining the World Series, and things just take time. The technology would have to be nearly perfect, the players union and owners have to agree – with of course the umpires union having a say in the matter as well!

Ten years from now we might have a perfect electronic strike zone and people simply ask how we could’ve waited for so long. Until then, we have to endure Angel Hernandez and other horrible umpiring calls like the one below:

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