Robot umpires are on the way with Triple-A parks to use electronic strike zones in 2023

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Baseball’s experiment with robot umpires is taking another step forward, with the electronic strike zone plugging in at all 30 Triple-A minor league parks in 2023.

The electronic strike zone, known primarily as the Automatic Balls and Strikes (ABS) system, will be introduced in two ways, according to ESPN.

Half the ballparks will have the ABS determine all calls. The other half will allow teams three challenges per game to the ball and strike calls made by the plate umpire.

As opposed to Triple-A, made up of the International League on the East Coast and in the Midwest and the Pacific Coast League on the West Coast and in the Southwest, the major leagues haven’t collected much support for the electronic strike zone. 

In fact, Major League Baseball held the MLB Umpire Prospect Development Camp on Thursday in Vero Beach, Florida, training a new crop of plate umpires. As big league officials, they wouldn’t be training to do their job with the assistance of ABS.

Full use of ABS was given a trial run in some Pacific Coast League games in 2022. Colorado Rockies third baseman Kris Bryant was in the league on a rehab assignment at the time and offered feedback on how it performed, mentioning that the system marked any part of any ball crossing into the zone as a strike.

“I wish there was more of, you have to have X percentage of the ball that crosses the zone for it to be a strike,” Bryant told The Athletic.  “Because the ones that just nick the corner, that’s the gray area. As a pitcher you’re like, ‘Maybe it’s a strike?’ And as a hitter you’re like, ‘I don’t know either.’”

In October, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred noted on FS1’s “The Carton Show” that he saw ABS in the big leagues as a matter of when, not if.

“You’re going to see the automated system in one form or another. … There’s a good chance we’re going to be using it at the big league level at some point,” Mr. Manfred said.

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