NY. Computer arbitration could be used in the major leagues at some point in the next five years.
The referees agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball in the development and testing of an automated ball and strike system as part of a five-year labor contract announced on Saturday, two people familiar with the matter were told The Associated Press. The Association of Major League Referees also agreed to cooperate and assist if Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to use the system at the senior level. People spoke on condition of preserving anonymity because the details of the agreement, subject to ratification by both parties, have not been announced.
The independent Atlantic League was the first professional league to allow the use of a computerized system of balls and strikes, in its All-Star Game on July 10. The plate referee Brian deBrauwere wore a headset connected to a cell phone in his pocket that allowed him to receive messages from a TrackMan computer system using a Doppler radar.
The Atlantic League experimented with the system in the second half of its season and the Arizona Autumnal League for the best prospects used it in a few dozen games this year.
The MLB has discussed installing the system in Class A in Florida by 2020. If that test goes well, computerized arbitration could be used in Triple-A by 2021 while problems are eliminated before taking it to the majors.
“It would be a change for the good of sport. It would continue efforts to eliminate human deficiency,” the legendary slugger Mike Schmidt wrote in an article for The Associated Press in October. “We have video reps on all other aspects of sport. Like or not, repetition corrects decisions. ”
It was not clear if the Major League baseball players’ union would have to approve the change.
“We are aware of the referees and MLB are negotiating a new collective agreement,” said the head of baseball guild Tony Clark. “MLB will have its negotiation with them and then they will have to discuss it with us.”
Several prospects in the Arizona Autumnal League praised the TrackMan system for decisions at the outside and inside corners, but said they spent jobs with low bends and throws up near the strike zone.
“This idea has been under consideration for a long time and is the first time it is fully implemented,” said Morgan Sword, vice president of economics and operations at MLB, the night the experiment began in the Atlantic League.
Human referees will still be necessary to determine content swings and ensure that TrackMan does not decree strike in a pitch that bounces and passes through the area.