Connect with us

MLB

Robo umps? Not so fast. Here’s what MLB’s technology upgrade means

Published

on

Major League Baseball hopes to refresh its ball- and player-tracking technology with a new optical-based system that could add even more statistical bells and whistles to the game — but won’t necessarily bring the league any closer to replacing ball-and-strike umpires with an automated strike zone.

The league’s plan to switch from its current radar- and camera-based systems to a single device manufactured by Hawk-Eye — the company whose electronic line judge revolutionized tennis — was outlined in a memo sent to teams and first reported by The Athletic. While no signed contract for the Hawk-Eye system is complete, sources tell ESPN, MLB is aiming for all 30 major league stadiums to be fully outfitted with it by the All-Star Game.

The current technology, which marries TrackMan’s radar system following the ball with six cameras that track player movement, provides the backbone for the league’s Statcast system. Since its introduction in late 2014, Statcast has revolutionized the game and introduced into its lexicon the concepts of exit velocity, launch angle and spin rate.

Optical tracking uses cameras to capture movement, whether a ball or human beings, and the Hawk-Eye system will require up to 12 additional cameras to be installed around stadiums. Between the expected accuracy of its spin-rate data and tracking of both pitches and players, Statcast 3.0 using Hawk-Eye could deepen team and public understanding of the game being played — and do plenty more.

Track the kinematics, or movement patterns, of every player on the field, including pitchers, whose injuries could potentially be mitigated? Perhaps. Give greater insight into the path that bats take during swings and allow hitters superior control? Certainly.

Lead to robot-ump revolution? Probably not.

The calls for an automated strike zone have grown louder in recent years as technology helped turn fans into instantaneous umpiring ombudsmen. The Hawk-Eye system could be accurate to within a few millimeters, perhaps a centimeter, an improvement upon the current one. The far greater concern regards the concept of the zone itself and how certain calls could play publicly.

If the strike zone is three-dimensional – 17 inches wide, 17 inches deep, with the back corners cut at an angle, from the hollow of the knees to around the belly button – an automated zone runs the risk of rewarding pitches that simply don’t look like strikes. Such scenarios are not particularly common but could threaten the credibility of an automated zone with the public. Sliders can clip the front corner of the prism as they’re bending outside. High curveballs can drop into the zone at the back of the plate. There is, of course, a relatively easy fix for this: change the strike zone to a fixed plane, whether it’s the front of the plate, the middle of the plate or perhaps the area where the most strikes would be called.

While there are a number of proponents for an automated strike zone, sources said, currently it is not a high priority for MLB. There almost certainly would not be buy-in from players, either, and baseball is typically deliberate with such fundamental change. The solution could be a combination of humans and technology, which MLB plans to test in the independent Atlantic League this year by having automated strike-zone calls piped into earpieces worn by umpires, who then would use their judgment whether to overrule a call. Since home-plate umpires won’t be going away anytime soon – they’re still needed for plays at the plate, interference calls, check swings and more – the success of the human-tech combination would help the automated zone would receive increased consideration.

More important in the short term is keeping up with rapidly evolving technology. Because MLB prohibits teams from installing their own systems in stadiums, the onus is on the league to pursue bleeding-edge technology. Statcast was refreshed in 2017 with the introduction of the TrackMan radar, and MLB’s desire to upgrade again — almost like people do with their phones — led to the likely adoption of Hawk-Eye.

Technology in particular has evolved rapidly. Nearly every organization in MLB uses high-speed, slow-motion versions to capture pitch grips and frame-by-frame mechanical breakdowns. Others are tooling with machine-learning technology in hopes of unearthing the next great advantage.

And MLB anticipates the next version of Statcast being a literal and figurative game-changer likewise. The camera system is far likelier to capture every ball hit — the league says today’s tracks only nine of 10 batted balls — and will test that hypothesis and plenty more in the second half.

That’s when the Hawk-Eye system is expected to be functional. Teams will be given access to the data, according to sources, when it’s installed in all 30 stadiums. And if the data is solid and its fidelity confirmed, Hawk-Eye is expected take over in 2020 and offer the newest iteration of the technology that helped change the game.

Source link

MLB

Longtime Texas baseball writer Fraley dies at 64

Published

on

DALLAS — Gerry Fraley, a longtime baseball writer who spent most of his career with The Dallas Morning News, has died. He was 64.

Fraley died early Saturday after a two-year battle with cancer, the newspaper reported.

After covering the Braves for the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Fraley joined the Dallas paper in 1989 to cover the Texas Rangers. Fraley also wrote about football, basketball and NASCAR among other assignments for the Morning News.

Assistant managing editor for sports Garry Leavell said Fraley’s versatility “is what separated him from his peers.”

Former President George W. Bush, who was part of the ownership group of the Rangers before going into politics, said, “It always seemed to me that baseball was his real passion, thereby establishing a kinship and a lasting friendship.”

Former baseball commissioner Bud Selig also was among those who respected Fraley’s no-nonsense approach to reporting, saying, “He was fair, honest, a great reporter.”

Source link

Continue Reading

MLB

Yaz’s grandson to make MLB debut with Giants

Published

on

After more than six years in the minor leagues, Mike Yastrzemski — the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski — will make his major league debut Saturday after being called up for the first time.

Yastrzemski will start in left field for the San Francisco Giants and will bat seventh against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Yastrzemski, 28, was traded to the Giants in March by the Baltimore Orioles, with whom he made his first big league spring training this year.

Drafted by Orioles in 2013, Yastrzemski rose quickly in the organization before his career stalled. Three years after he was drafted, he was playing for Triple-A Norfolk but then split time between Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, never making the leap to the majors.

“It’s all a learning experience,” Yastrzemski said in March, prior to the trade. “Everybody’s got their own path to get where they want to go; whatever path that is for me, I’m fine with it. As long as you see some light at the end of the tunnel and you put everything into it, it’s rewarding in that sense.”

In seven minor league seasons, Yastrzemski has a .263 average but has never hit more than 15 home runs or had more than 75 RBIs. He was hitting .316 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs for Triple-A Sacramento this season.

His grandfather, 79-year-old Carl Yastrzemski, spent all 23 years of his major league career with the Boston Red Sox and retired having played the most games (3,308) of any player in major league history to that point. He was an 18-time All-Star, seven-time Gold Glove winner and won the Triple Crown in 1967, when he helped lead the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox to a World Series appearance.

To make room on the roster, the Giants designated outfielder Mac Williamson for assignment. Williamson was hitting .118 in 15 games this season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source link

Continue Reading

MLB

A’s designate reliever Rodney for assignment

Published

on

The Oakland Athletics have designated relief pitcher Fernando Rodney for assignment, the team announced Saturday.

Rodney, 42, has seen his ERA balloon to a career-worst 9.42 this season. He had returned to Oakland for 2019 after the A’s exercised a $5.25 million club option.

Rodney has pitched for 10 teams in a 17-year career and ranks 18th in MLB history with 325 saves.

The A’s called up left-hander Wei-Chung Wang from Triple-A Las Vegas. He has 22 games of major league experience, all with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending