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MLB settles on automated ball-strike challenges in Triple-A

Tue Jun 18 4:57pm ET
Field Level Media

The automated ball-strike (ABS) challenge system will be used in all Triple-A games effective June 25, Major League Baseball said on Tuesday in a memo.

The move comes after Triple-A has recently used two variations of the ABS system.

The full ABS system, which communicates every ball-strike call to the home plate umpire through an earpiece, has been used during Tuesday-Thursday games.

Under the challenge system, used in Friday-Sunday games, home plate umpires call balls and strikes as normal. However, each team can appeal calls made by the umpire. For each challenge, the umpire is quickly relayed the correct call through an earpiece.

Calls can be challenged by a batter, pitcher or catcher. A team is ineligible to challenge after their third unsuccessful appeal.

According to ESPN, surveys revealed that players and fans prefer at least some human element to ball-strike calls.

About half of fans and 60 percent of team personnel favor the challenge system, while roughly 30 percent of both team personnel and fans want technology-free umpiring. Nine in 10 team personnel are opposed to full ABS, as are about three-quarters of fans.

An automated ball-strike system is unlikely to reach the major league level by the 2025 season, commissioner Rob Manfred said last month.

Should a system reach the majors, Manfred suggested it may incorporate human umpires instead of fully relying on technology.

"There's a growing consensus in large part based on what we're hearing from players that the challenge form should be the form of ABS, if and when we bring it to the big leagues, at least as a starting point," Manfred said.

The commissioner said that "technical issues in terms of the operation of the system" have delayed the potential installment of a system in MLB to at least 2026.

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