Why Robot Umpires Aren’t Welcome In Baseball

We currently have the technology to automate officiating in baseball, and machines can do it better than humans. So why don’t fans and players want robot umpires officiating baseball games? If it can be automated, it should be automated, right?

Testing the waters

Major League Baseball uses the Atlantic League as its guinea pig for testing out new rules and technologies. It’s in this minor league that robo umps are making calls at the plate.

There’s still a human umpire suiting up behind home plate, but he relies on an automated system called TrackMan to make the calls. The system tells the ump whether to call a ball or strike through an earpiece. TrackMan uses lasers to determine whether pitches are inside or outside of the strike zone. Each player has their own unique strike zone according to a rule book definition — just below the chest to the bottom of the knee caps.

At the moment TrackMan just calls pitches at home plate. However, there are no technological obstacles preventing the rest of the game form being called by robots. Virtually 100% of baseball officiating could be automated with current camera and sensor technologies.

Baseball is a sport with straightforward officiating; most of the calls that an umpire has to make in a game of baseball are binary. Is it a ball or a strike? Is it fair or is it foul? Is he safe or is he out? Machines thrive when there are clearly defined rules with little chance of variation.

People make mistakes. Machines don’t.

Automation provides consistency. Machines are accurate and precise. They aren’t swayed by personal feelings, emotions of others, situational context, environmental factors, or outside pressure. They have a predetermined set of rules and that they follow, and they those rules to the letter.

The same can’t be said for humans. No matter how hard a person may try, no one is above bias and influence — it’s the human condition. Maybe the human umpire didn’t see the play from the best angle, maybe he’s having an off day, or maybe the crowd is really letting him have it. Assuming that the machine is programmed to get the call right, it’s going to get it right.

But there’s pushback from players, coaches, and fans alike. The coaches don’t trust the technology, and they think that there are flaws in the software. The players like the fact that the umpires adjust to the situation when making calls. Of course, yelling at the umpire and criticizing his decision making is part of the fun for fans.

It still makes sense to automate factory jobs

Machines are more accurate, more efficient, and more affordable than humans. Automation makes our lives easier and more convenient. It makes work safer, and it frees us up to pursue more worthwhile uses of our time. While it generally makes sense to automate things that can be automated, sometimes the human element is irreplaceable.

Umpires may still have job security, but it makes sense to automate factory jobs. Machines work faster, more accurately, and harder than people do. They cost less, they don’t need breaks, and they don’t get tired, sick, or injured. You simply tell your industrial machines what to do, and they perform the task flawlessly. Unless your machines are defective, that is.

Error codes and warning messages lead to preventable downtime, and downtime puts a huge financial burden on your business. We can help you avoid downtime with preventive maintenance and inspection for Indramat motion control systems. We also offer fast emergency support when it’s too late to prevent downtime, and your machines stop working. Call 479-422-0390 for Indramat service and support.