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Elephant Rumblings: Robot umps invade Pacific Coast League

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BASEBALL-JPN-ROBOTS Photo by STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

Greetings, Athletics Nation.

No, robot quadrupeds are not going to be barking balls and strikes in the future. For that matter, there’s no guarantee at this point that calls will be made by robots, ever.

But testing of MLB’s Automated Ball-Strike system (ABS) is picking up steam in the minor leagues, and last week it was deployed in the Pacific Coast League, where the A’s AAA affiliate Las Vegas Aviators play. Matt Kawahara at The San Francisco Chronicle sampled opinions from key players on the Sin City squadron after the Aviators’ game in Tacoma, WA on Tuesday.

Naturally, catchers are among the most potentially impacted position players by an automated strike zone. Top prospect Shea Langeliers thinks ABS is “really nice” as a hitter, while admitting that it requires some adjustment behind the plate since it takes the art of pitch framing out of play. Fellow backstop Austin Allen praised the consistency of the ABS zone, saying, “it’s definitely speeding the game.”

On the other side of the battery, pitcher Jared Koenig is “not really a fan,” seeming to prefer the game-to-game give-and-take between players and the plate umpire.

Aviators manager Fran Riordan lauded the transparency of the ABS system, which can be viewed by players and coaches in the dugout.

Be sure to check out Kawahara’s article in The Chronicle for more details! And if you’re looking for a bit more depth on the issue, The Athletic Staff published a great article on the PCL’s new Robot Ump Overlords last week with assessments from the likes of Kris Bryant and Terry Francona.

What do you think, AN? Is robo ump assimilation inevitable? And are you ready to embrace it?

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