In recent years, the quality of home plate umpires in the Major Leagues has come under fire from pundits, fans, and players.
Using data from UmpireScorecard, a website that tracks the performances of umpires throughout the MLB season, it's clear to see for some of their critiques they have a fair point.
But that's not to say all umpires are as bad as they're made out to be. The likes of John Libka, Tripp Gibson, and Pat Holberg are all examples of umpires who are consistent in their accuracy, all scoring accuracies above 95%.
Just as there are consistently accurate umpires, there are umpires who have been shown to be less accurate. Umpires like Rob Drake, Angel Hernandez, and the retired Joe West are all cases of umpires who scored accuracies between 91-92.7%, which may not sound horrible compared to the 95% of the aforementioned umpires.
However, according to the data, these mistakes would have a run impact of 1.5-1.6 per game, when compared to Libka, Gibson, and Holberg, who all had sub-1.00 run impacts, it shows that they do make a difference in how the games pan out.
With how these mistakes impact the outcome of games, many critics have called for the use of robot umpires behind home plate.
The idea of robot umpires being used isn't an outlandish idea, with MLB previously using them in Low-A Southeast games.
But it seems that in the upcoming minor league season, the robot umpires will be getting a promotion to Triple-A baseball, with MLB hiring employees to work the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters, and Tacoma Rainiers, per the Associated Press.
In the future, if MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred makes the decision to bring robot umps to the major leagues, the MLB Umpires Association will cooperate in the integration of the system as agreed upon in its most recent labor contract.
In the past, players, both retired and active, have had comments regarding the potential integration of an electronic strike zone or robot umpires.
In 2017, following a controversial call at the end of a Cubs-Diamondbacks game, Ben Zobrist stated, "That's something the league is going to have to look at, when you start ending games and games turn on one pitch like that. It's an unfortunate situation, and now that we have the technology, we should probably get it right."
Hall of Famer and Philadelphia Phillies legend Mike Schmidt gave insight from a player and fan perspective on the topic of robot umpiring in an article for the Associated Press in 2019.
"It would change the game for the good, it would continue the effort to eliminate human deficiency," said Schmidt. "We have replay everywhere else in the game, like it or not, replay gets the call right."
For now, the robot umpires will remain in the minor leagues as well as some Floridian spring training facilities, but Schmidt anticipates it's looming major league presence, "The electronic strike zone is at least five years away in Major League Baseball."
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