After test runs in the Atlantic League and the Arizona Fall League, the automated strike zone will be used in some capacity in Minor League Baseball next season, according to a report in The Athletic.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said the technology used for the automated strike zone will be upgraded over the winter, and will make its way into Minor League stadiums at some point next summer.
“Here’s our thinking on the automated strike zone: The technology exists. We have the technology,” Manfred said in an interview on the Major League Baseball Network. “We’re actually going through a big upgrade of that piece of our technology during this offseason. I think we need to be ready to use an automated strike zone when the time is right. That’s why we experimented in the Atlantic League. It’s why we went to the Arizona Fall League. It’s why we’re using it in Minor League Baseball next year, in some ballparks at least.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to see if we can get the system to the point we’re comfortable it can work. I only would go to an automated strike zone when we were sure that it was absolutely the best it can be. Getting out there too early with it and not having it work well, that’d be a big mistake.”
The Athletic reports it remains unclear whether umpires in the minors would use the ABS as a guide for calls, or if the system would be used as the final arbiter on balls and strikes.
The ABS was first used in the Atlantic League last summer by teams like the York Revolution and the Lancaster Barnstormers.
“We thought the Atlantic League was a really positive experience,” Manfred said. “Positive in the sense that it worked well a very, very large percentage of the time. When it didn’t work, they were identifiable problems with the system, things that we can work on. I think a major kind of breakthrough with the Atlantic League deployment was the idea that you put an earpiece in the umpires and you don’t change the appearance of the game from the fan’s perspective. He’s getting the call in that earpiece, but it looks the same from the fan perspective. I think that’s important. And it does give you that human backup.
“You know, technology — no matter how good it is, every once in a while, right, you’re going to have a problem. We’re positive on the experiment and we’re going to keep working on it.”