The beginning of a ball game is always exciting. By the time the ninth inning rolls around, though, the game can feel like a slog. The average major league contest lasts more than three hours, but that could change with the introduction of "robot umpires" at ballparks around the US. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said this week that he wants to introduce them in the 2024 season.
Robot umpires are officially known as "automated ball-strike systems." The technology isn't super new: It's already been debuted in minor league baseball games over the last couple of years. The automated systems track pitches and call balls and strikes, and they do it faster and more accurately than human umpires.
There's no need to have a large robot looming over the batter and catcher, though. One option is for human umpires to remain at their typical spot and simply use an earpiece that transmits the robot's determination. Another way this could be implemented is by having a "replay review system of balls and strikes with each manager getting several challenges a game," according to ESPN.
In any case, Manfred told ESPN that the implementation of robot umpires isn't a decree on the performance of human umpires but that it would help speed up ball games. Umpires reportedly take an average of 1 minute and 37 seconds to review video-replays. According to ESPN, MLB data shows that using the robot tech has cut games by nine minutes in the minor league.
"We have an automated strike zone system that works," Manfred told ESPN.