With technology getting better, the popularity of robot umpires continues to gain traction. But what about android umpires?
Major League Baseball is testing out whether a computer-assisted strike zone could help or replace umpires by somewhat controversially implementing it in the independent Atlantic League. Colorado Rockies starter Jon Gray, for his part, believes a computer-assisted strike zone could carry some merit as an assistive device for umps.
"I was thinking about this driving home the other day," Gray said, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com. "In a car windshield, there's something called a heads-up display. You can see through the windshield, but it's not really there.
"Maybe the umpires can be assisted. It gives them a visual of what the strike zone really is. It's not necessarily taking over for them, but they're getting assistance."
Instead of removing the home plate umpire altogether, a computer-assisted strike zone would aid the current umpiring crews who have trained for years before even reaching the major leagues.
As well as testing a computer-assisted strike zone based on TrackMan radar, MLB plans to test a series of other potential rule changes in the Atlantic League, including moving the mound back by two feet, banning infield shifts, installing a three-batter minimum for pitchers, increasing the size of bases, and imposing a further limit on mound visits, among other things.
MLB and the Atlantic League struck a three-year agreement to experiment with potential rule changes, meaning no changes to the major-league or even minor-league game seem to be imminent. The current collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLBPA is set to expire following the 2021 season, the same time the partnership with the independent league is set to expire.