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MLB switches to challenge system full-time for robot umpire experiment at Triple-A – Saratogian

FILE – A radar device is seen on the roof behind home plate at PeoplesBank Park during the third inning of an Atlantic League All-Star minor league baseball game in York, Pennsylvania. Baseball’s top minor leagues are switching to a challenge system full-time for their test of robot umpires. Major League Baseball has been experimenting with the automated ball strike system in the minor leagues since 2019. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

By RONALD BLUM (AP Baseball Writer)

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball’s top minor leagues are switching to a challenge system full-time for their test of robot umpires.

Major League Baseball has been experimenting with the automated ball strike system in the minor leagues since 2019. It was used at all Triple-A ballparks this year for the second straight season, with the robot only for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three.

Starting June 25, only the challenge system will be used, according to a memo sent Tuesday by MLB vice president of on-field strategy Joe Martinez to company directors and Triple-A executives and obtained by The Associated Press.

MLB says 47% of challenges have been successful this year.

As part of the change, the number of challenges allowed per team will be reduced from three to two in the International League, but will remain at three in the Pacific Coast League. A team retains its challenge if it is successful, similar to the rules for big league teams with video reviews.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said last month that robot umpires are unlikely to come to the major leagues in 2025 and that refinements are needed.

“There is a growing consensus, largely based on what we hear from players, that the challenge format should be the form of ABS if and when we take it to the big leagues, at least as a starting point,” Manfred said in May. 23 after a meeting of owners. “I think that’s a good decision.”

Reaching consensus on what a computer attack zone should look like remains an obstacle. There is little need to call the attack zone, as defined in the rulebook, a cube. The ABS currently calls strikes based solely on where the ball passes the center of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of the strike height this year, up from 51%.

In data accompanying the memo, MLB says 61% of staff and players prefer the challenge system and 11% like the full robot system. MLB said fans favored the challenge system by a 2-1 margin.

MLB said nearly 40% of Triple-A games have had more than six challenges and 89% of fans said the optimal number was six or fewer.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB