Among all the popular sports in the United States, it could be argued baseball has been the most resistant to change in terms of how it uses technology. However, the MLB has made great strides over the years, and there is a chance for more ways to grow the game with new features to keep more fans engaged.
While instant replay is a fixture in a sport like football and has been for many years, the implementation of this type of technology is fairly new to baseball when it comes to changing the calls made on the field by umpires. Baseball was the last of the four major sports to try using replay reviews, and it was introduced in 2008. The rule was strictly used for determining home runs before expanding to other areas of the game a few years later. Slowly but surely, managers can review just about anything during a game from home runs to whether a ball was fair or foul or an out-or-safe call on the basepaths.
When it comes to advanced analytics, no sport was more ahead of the curve on this than baseball. The MLB is a unique sport in that it features 162 games for all 30 teams, so the sample sizes are far greater than any other professional sports league in the United States. To find an edge, scouts and other baseball personnel have long used technology to identify what makes the best ballplayer, and it starts from scouting for the MLB Draft, through the minor leagues to the major-league roster.
Individual pitches can be analyzed in a variety of different ways, and high-level video cameras can determine how fast a pitch was going, the ball’s spin rotation, a home-run’s launch angle and more. MLB front offices have so much data in front of them, and it is up to them to determine what is the most important factor in scouting their next superstar.
Automated Strike Zones
One of the common criticisms of umpires in baseball is the inconsistencies of the strike zone because it is difficult to define, and with so many pitches, umps are bound to get a few of them wrong. It remains to be seen whether automating this will ever catch on at the major league level, but there are some organizations that have taken this element out of the game and are using automated strike zones.
In 2021, the Low-A Southeast League is experimenting with the idea, and you better believe the MLB is taking a close look at how that plays out. Baseball purists love the human element of the game, but many will argue ensuring the call is correct is most important.
This was an automatic strike zone in the Atlantic League last night.— Welcome to the Ump Show (@umpjob) July 9, 2021
We’ve taught the robots well.
Picture Credit: Google Creative Commons Licenses