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#pounditTuesday, December 7, 2021

MLB’s automatic strike zone trial has been a total disaster

Rob Manfred

Those who want to see Major League Baseball move to an automated strike zone might want to be careful what they wish for.

MLB has been testing the automatic strike zone during Arizona Fall League action, and Keith Law of The Athletic was able to observe one of the games. That game, between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, was called after seven and a half innings after both teams ran out of pitchers. The two teams issued a combined 22 walks, and those seven and a half innings took three hours.

There were other issues at play as well, to be fair. The game was also played with a strict pitch clock and a ban on defensive shifts. The pitch clock was also a significant issue, and it led to top prospect Spencer Torkelson being called out after facing two strikes in another game.

The big story is the automated strike zone, which Law reports simply isn’t good enough right now. One major reason for that is that the actual strike zone is much smaller than the one frequently called by human umpires, particularly on the inside and outside parts of the plate. That led to a lot of pitches just off the plate — potential strikes in a current MLB game — being consistently called balls.

Calls for robot umps are frequent on social media whenever an inconsistent strike zone pops up in an MLB game, which is admittedly fairly often. We’ve seen some very questionable calls in the playoffs this season, and there will no doubt be more. That said, as frustrating as those calls are, they may be preferable to what the automated umps are capable of right now.

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