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Rob Manfred was asked about automated strike zones again

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As has become ritual whenever commissioner Rob Manfred talks to the press, someone asked him about robot umps and automated strike zones. Such a thing is almost always, arguably anyway, in the news because there is almost always someone, somewhere arguing that balls and strikes should be called by technology rather than fallible human beings. Joe Maddon went on a tirade about it just the other day.

Here’s Manfred on it now (Via CBS and Via Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com):

“It would be a pretty fundamental change in the game to take away a function that has been performed by our umpiring staff, really with phenomenal accuracy. The fact of the matter is they get them right well over 90 percent of the time.

“And there is a human aspect to that, a work aspect to it that’s always been an important part of our game. I don’t think you can just jump to the conclusion that if you have (the) technology to do it that’s the right thing for your product.”

Our view on this remains the same as it has been for a while now. In theory: sure, automated strike zones are cool because who doesn’t want the right calls. In practice, however, it’d probably be a disaster, at least for the short term, because the technology simply isn’t good enough yet. There are calibration issues and inaccuracies, as there are with any sort of technology which seeks to measure very difficult things with precision. Experts in the field believe that, at present, the success rate on ball/strike calls would probably be about the same with an automated system now as it is with human umpires. Big, obviously bad calls from someone like Angel Hernandez might be avoided, but borderline calls would be more dicey, in all likelihood.

I suspect MLB’s internal assessments track these external ones, which is probably why Manfred has always been tepid about this stuff. If it was better, MLB would probably back automated umpiring a lot more than it does.

UPDATE: Some further food for thought regarding the accuracy of humans:

 

 

Joey Votto: “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently.”

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We’ve poked fun often at the spring training trope of players showing up to camp in the “best shape of [their] life.” Reds first baseman Joey Votto has turned that entirely on its head. Talking about his offseason, the 2010 NL MVP said, “I tried to get fatter. I succeeded at that apparently. We did all the testing and I am fatter,” Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto, of course, wasn’t trying to say he’s not in shape; he was just using some of his trademark self-deprecating humor.

Votto did get serious when discussing the state of the rebuilding Reds. As Buchanan also reported, Votto said, “I think we’re starting to get to the point where people are starting to get tired of this stretch of ball. I think something needs to start changing and start going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to help make that change.”

Votto, 34, is under contract with the Reds through at least 2023, so he still has plenty of incentive to help see the rebuild through. He has been nothing short of stellar over the last three seasons. This past season, he hit .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 106 runs scored in 707 appearances across all 162 games. Votto led the majors in walks (134) and on-base percentage and led the National League in OPS (1.032).

Despite Votto’s presence, both FanGraphs and PECOTA are projecting the Reds to put up a 74-88 record. The club had a pretty quiet offseason, expecting to enter 2018 with largely the same roster as last year.