The digital umpire, and digital strike zone debate has been an argument that has come up in recent baseball conversation. MLB has tried to solve this umpires missing calls with instant replay so calls like Armando Galarraga's near perfect game but blown by Jim Joyce, or Jerry Meals 19 inning catastrophe don’t happen again, but even then only solve so many problems, and wrong ball/strike calls aren’t solved by instant replay. So let's see one major problem occasionally arises when balls are called strikes, and if the digital strike zone should be implemented into baseball.
The major problem over wrong ball/strike calls was widely seen on Sunday. Umpire Angel Hernandez have been widely criticized before for having an awful perception of the strike zone, and Hernandez showed his flawed strike zone perception again in The Padres@Cubs game. It was the bottom of the 9th with two outs with The Cubs losing 10-6. There was a runner on third and Anthony Rizzo came to the plate. Rizzo worked a 3-2 count against Padres closer Kirby Yates. Yates threw a pitch that seemed to be ball 4 that trailed off the outside edge of the plate. Instead of 1st and third with two outs, the game was over, and The Cubs lost 10-6. For The Padres, the win may not help their playoff chances, as their clearly out of contention. But for The Cubs, this could be a year changing loss. As of Tuesday, The Cubs have a 1 and a half game lead over The Brewers, and if Hernandez called the pitch ball-four, it’s very possible The Cubs could have made a late inning comeback attempt.
So that gets us to our main question. Should a digital strike zone should be implemented into today’s game? HBO made a “Real Sports” special on this topic. In their show, they showed off how this technology works. A few people are set up in the booth use a laptop set up with pitch tracking technology, and can determine from an on screen strikezone whether the pitch was a ball or strike. Once the information is displayed, they state the call to the umpire, who is wearing a small earpiece under his mask. Former MLB player Eric Byrnes was the umpire testing the technology. According to Byrnes in an interview about how the game went with the technology, Byrnes stated that the game went “as flawlessly as it could have ever been, or imagined”. He also states that the technology is barely noticeable. The only thing that fans would notice the most is a red light in center field that indicates if the ball was a strike or not. I do think that if this technology is available, affordable, and where most fans will barely notice it, why not implement it into the game? Fans, players, and coaches alike have gotten frustrated over blown strike/ball calls. It’s time for a change, so we aren’t affected by blown calls, that could overall even hurt the outcome of the season.
This is a technology that needs to be implemented into baseball. We’ve seen too many times with bad umpires blown calls, with some eventually lead to ejected players, lost games, and seasons changed. MLB needs to evolve and implement more technology into how games are called. Maybe not to the point of robot umpires, but at least the digital strike zone should be greatly considered.