In the major leagues, there are four umpires on the field — one behind each base, and one behind home plate, who has arguably the most important job, calling balls and strikes. A strike is basically any hittable pitch — something over the plate, between the batter’s chest and his knees. And a ball is everything else. But one study from 2018 found that umpires blow about 14 calls every game. That’s 34,000 bad calls every year. And it makes a difference.
A blown strike call can decide a win or a loss, a championship or six months at home, wondering what could have been. And while umpires are about 97% accurate in calling balls and strikes, Major League Baseball has been considering something drastic. Something to take us up to 100% accuracy. They have a plan to replace human umpires with robots.
The “robots” – a series of HD cameras connected to AI – are going to be used at the highest level of minor league baseball this coming season. Some games will use a full robot umpire system, while others will use the robot umpire as an appeal system if a player doesn’t like a call. The expectation is that robot umps will be in the major leagues in the next few years. But while robot umpires are more accurate than their human counterparts, baseball purists have asked if “accuracy” is truly what we want, in a game marked by human quirks and inconsistencies.