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There are reportedly changes coming to the automated strike zone used in Triple-A baseball games.
According to Ronald Blum of the Associated Press, the robotic strike zone that is used in some Triple-A games will change to adjust for individual batters instead of using overall averages. The changes will go into effect Tuesday.
Unlike the major league level, robot umpires call balls and strikes in half of Triple-A games.
Thus far, the robotic strike zones used were two-dimensional ones that used the average of batter heights after MLB reduced the top of the strike zone from 56 percent of a batter’s height to 51 percent. It also made the calls based on where the pitched ball crossed the midpoint of the plate.
Blum explained that the new changes will use data for individual players gathered from the Hawk-Eye pose-tracking system. It will put the bottom of the strike zone at the batter’s back knee and the top at 5.5 inches above the midpoint of the measurement of the batter’s two hips.
MLB believes the new system will add a half-inch to the top of the automated strike zone.
That’s not the only change, as the pitch clock will be a uniform one of 17 seconds regardless of whether anyone is on base. This season, the Triple-A clock has been 14 seconds with nobody on base and 19 seconds with someone on base.
In the major leagues, it is 15 seconds with nobody on and 20 seconds if there are runners on base.
MLB will surely monitor how the new pitch clock system and automated strike zone unfolds at the Triple-A level like something of a test ground.
The league used the minor leagues as something of an experiment before instituting rule changes of the pitch clock, defensive shift limits and bigger bases for the 2023 campaign.
“The rule changes we’re announcing today have been thoroughly tested and refined for years in the Minor Leagues,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a press conference before the season. “Each of these rules have been tested in approximately 8,000 Minor League games dating back to last season, which is the equivalent of three and a half complete Major League seasons.”
Given the league’s track record of eventually implementing minor league rules at the major league level, it wouldn’t be a surprise if balls and strikes were eventually automated on the sport’s biggest stage.