Sports | June 30, 2022 11:01 am

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Says Robot Umpires Are Coming to Baseball in 2024

The automated strike zone system will be introduced following testing in the minor leagues

Home plate umpire John Libka during a game between the Yankees and Astros
Human home plate umpires could be going the way of the dodo.
Jim McIsaac/Getty

In yet another move that will likely have baseball purists grinding their dentures and pounding the arms of their recliners in outrage, Major League Baseball is getting ready to introduce an automated strike zone system in time for the 2024 season, according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

In other words, robot umpires are less than two years away from calling balls and strikes.

While the exact nature of the automated system has yet to be determined and multiple options are being tested out in the minor leagues before the cyber setup hits the majors, it will likely involve a robot determining balls and strikes and then relaying the call to a human home plate umpire through an earpiece. A second (and terrible) possibility is a replay review system of balls and strikes that would grant managers several challenges per game. The latter option would almost certainly add additional game time to a sport that currently averages almost two minutes for video-replay reviews of umpire calls and is already dragging compared to its competitors.

“We have an automated strike zone system that works,” Manfred told ESPN. And that system is already in place at some Triple-A ballparks.

“I think people have the misconception that it’s going to be a robot behind the plate. Lost in Space is one of my favorite shows. It’s not the robot from Lost in Space back there,” Jim Gemma, the media relations director for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators, told Fox News Digital. “The umpire is going to have AirPods in, and the ball comes over…That basically tells them instantly if it’s a ball or strike.”

As is usually the case when MLB tries to implement changes to speed up the pace of play and make the game flow more smoothly, there will be protests and complaints. To those complaints, we’d simply submit the following examples of what a few human umpires have done this season behind the plate.

Once the system does get implemented, there will surely be some glitches and bumps in the road and those who are against the eventual rise of our robot overlords will turn those molehills into mountains. But with the wheels in motion and the robots on the way courtesy of Manfred and the league office, it won’t really matter. Like the pitch clock, which is already shaving time off of games in the minor leagues, the robot umpires are coming. Like the human umpires they’ll be replacing, they won’t be perfect — but they’ll certainly be better than Doug Eddings.