MLB Week in Review (May 25-31)

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The idea of taking the human element out of sports has long been a debate among the big leagues in North America.

Of course, it never comes in terms of the players but rather the referees who many consider to be one of the biggest problems in all of the major sports.

It has always been a complaint in every sport as the referees have been the centre of controversy since professional sports began.

As technology has increasingly been introduced into the league the last few years have seen a bigger call to take referees out of the equation.

It is pretty tough in many of the sports as there is very little that they can do to take those jobs out of the games.

Every league now has video replay as a way to ensure that the referees get things right and even then they cause a lot of controversy.

The one sport that seems to have an actual alternative to the referees is baseball where the idea of robot umps has been a popular topic over the last few years.

There is no chance that the MLB gets rid of all of their umpires but the idea of “robo umps” centres around home plate.

If there is one place that the umpires in baseball get the most heat it is all around the calling of balls and strikes.

It is no secret that the strike zone is a pretty relative thing as it can change from game to game depending on the umpire.

Sometimes they will call things a little looser and other a little tighter, it is just an accepted part of the game.

The problem arises more so when the strike zone seems to change throughout the game for each team.

Most players won’t be completely happy with most of the calls but they can take some comfort in the fact that it is equal for both teams throughout the game.

That isn’t always the case as sometimes a pitcher will start struggling and then seemingly they have a harder time finding the strike zone no matter how close they are.

Sometimes umps make you prove that you can throw a strike before they start giving you a little leeway.

That is frustrating for players and for fans as the consistency is lacking in terms of balls and strikes.

It can truly change a game and for some, the only solution is to take humans out of that decision-making process.

People make mistakes but in these games, a mistake could make all the difference in a win or a loss.

Unlike the rest of the sports looking to make changes, the MLB actually has a real option when it comes to balls and strikes.

The “Robo Ump” idea springs from the PITCHf/x technology that the MLB placed in every stadium a few years ago.baseball-sidebar

That system uses three cameras around the stadium to track the ball and determine what kind of pitch was thrown and where it ended up in relation to the strike zone.

The system is currently used mainly for broadcasts to give information to the television teams in order to show a visual representation of the pitch.

It gives those broadcasts another way to show the pitches and provide viewers with a better experience.

It is also used to provide feedback to the umpires as they are evaluated every game and PITCHF/x can be used to do those evaluations.

That system would also become the basis for the reduced role of a home plate umpire as it could potentially be used to call balls and strikes.

When Rob Manfred took over as the commissioner he was immediately asked about the potential of replacing home plate umpires.

At the time Manfred claimed that the technology didn’t exist to reliably use as the main source to call balls and strikes.

The technology has come a long way and in a recent interview, Manfred seemed to be looking at the system as a real possibility.

He claimed that things have come a long way in a few short years and that they are closer than ever to that potential.

When it eventually does come the MLB will have a decision to make and an umpire union to deal with.

Many fans and players want this to be the new normal but the MLB will have to see if it is reliable enough, and even then the complaints likely won’t stop.

Extra Innings

Rizzo’s Slide

Sliding has often been a heated topic in the last few years leading to a rule change that requires players to slide into the base. Before that time the general practice was to slide into the base unless you were not likely to be safe, then you slide into the player and hopefully break up a play. It isn’t the case anymore because players were getting injured thanks to slides far off the base. That exact type of slide was seen this week when Anthony Rizzo de little effort to slide into home and instead took out Elias Diaz. On review, it was determined legal until the MLB took a look a day after and determined that it was interference.

Trout’s Career Day

Mike Trout is already considered one of the best players in the league and there isn’t a lot for him left to achieve aside from records that are much further away. Yet this week he did get to put his name on a career day only adding to his legend in Los Angeles. Last Saturday Trout went 5-for-5, the best he has ever hit, which included a home run and three doubles while coming in three times to score. It was one of his best games and continued his reign as one of the best players ever in WAR while also adding to his league-leading totals.

Hanley Out

The Boston Red Sox are playing some great baseball right now but a former star is no longer a part of their plans. With a host of young talent leading the way for the Red Sox, they were able to look at veteran Hanley Ramirez as an expendable piece. Last week they designated him for assignment and with no takers throughout the league this week they outright released him. Now the former power hitter will look for a new home as a free agent although it could also be an unceremonious end to what was a good career.

 

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