Is the introduction of ABS good for ‘robot referees’?

I am in charge of commentating on the Australian Professional Baseball League (ABL) this winter. This is because Geelong Korea, a KBO league team based in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, is participating in the ABL.

If there is one embarrassing part while broadcasting ABL for about 8 weeks, it is the call of the referees. There are quite a few scenes that make you tilt your head, narrowly ranging from strikes and ball judgments to saves and outs or game progress rules. Even if you consider the home advantage to some extent, when you broadcast, you realize that video reading is a very necessary system.

One day, I suddenly thought, ‘How will the automatic ball-strike system (ABS) affect the baseball game?’ The US Major League (MLB) Secretariat took the first step to apply the ABS system to the game from the independent league Atlantic League in 2019, fixing errors and applying it to MLB in the future. The referee remains the same, but it is a system in which the robot determines and transmits the ball decision. Gradually, the range of use was widened at the lower level of the minor leagues, and last year, ABS was also used in some Triple-A stadiums.

Robot referees have also been introduced in some lower single A ballparks and the Arizona Fall League. If the pitcher, catcher, and hitter do not acknowledge the strike-ball decision, challenge opportunities such as video reading are given three times per game, and the robot referee reads it to determine whether to correct the ball count. Unlike general video review, which is made by the manager’s decision, only three people (pitcher, catcher, and batter) can appeal the strike-ball decision.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred did not specify a specific date in an interview, but he did confirm that ultimately MLB’s introduction of ABS was inevitable. He even said that this system would be applied to all 30 Triple A ballparks by next year at the latest. If the system has accuracy, I think it will have a good effect on the game, just like the video reading system, which was initially an indispensable element, although there was not a small concern at first.

However, if you look at this problem from the catcher’s side, there are definitely areas of concern. This is because the catch technique called ‘framing’, which often means meat quality, can be useless. Seattle Mariners coach Scott Service, who was catcher during his active career, said he heard advice from the club’s analysis team that ‘two full counts in a game should be viewed as giving or gaining 0.5 points’. This was a symbolic meaning that if the two strikeouts caught by the catcher’s framing were changed to allow runners, they could lead to runs. After the PITCH f/x system was introduced in 2008, which reads pitch velocity and horizontal and vertical changes, catchers paid more attention to framing. However, once ABS is introduced, the variable called framing will inevitably disappear. 토토사이트

A catcher with good defense is one of the elements of a strong team. Martin Maldonado, catcher of last year’s World Series champion Houston Astros, had an OPS+ (Adjusted OPS) of 69. When he averaged 100, he was well below it. However, he kept his home in almost all postseason games, including 113 regular season games. New York Yankees catcher Jose Trevino, whose offensive power is below average, had an fWAR (contribution to victory versus substitute players based on of 3.7. It was higher than home run hitters such as Matt Olsen (Atlanta Braves, 3.1) or Kyle Schwaber (Philadelphia Phillies, 2.6). It was thanks to the good evaluation of the defensive ability including the 1st place in framing.

The pitcher, batter, and catcher are all sensitive to the strike-ball decision. That would be the case, and the OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) in a 2-ball-1 strike situation based on MLB last year was 0.908. However, on the contrary, in the 1-ball-2 strike, the figure fell by more than half to 0.414. We know all too well that a single strike-ball decision can change the outcome of a game.

There is no system that satisfies everyone. Although the catcher’s framing skill is regrettable, I think ABS is a necessary part when looking at the game as a whole.

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