Meet the AI that could replace your baseball umpire

This ump has no feelings, only judgment.

Jeff Bakalar Editor at Large
Jeff is CNET Editor at Large and a host for CNET video. He's regularly featured on CBS and CBSN. He founded the site's longest-running podcast, The 404 Show, which ran for 10 years. He's currently featured on Giant Bomb's Giant Beastcast podcast and has an unhealthy obsession with ice hockey and pinball.
Jeff Bakalar
2 min read

Arguing with an umpire might be a thing of the past. Take it up with this computer umpire who's never wrong.

The introduction of computer-aided refereeing in professional sports has been a mixed bag to say the least. But the hope of inching ever closer to ensuring the right call is made seems like a result worth working toward.

Of course, each sport has its share of subjectivity, but perhaps no mechanic is more overly scrutinized than the strike zone. The interpretation of this imaginary floating rectangle has been the source of countless arguments and ejections over the years, but now Major League Baseball is considering shifting the enforcement of it away from human umpires to Trackman, a radar-based ball-tracking system.


This is Trackman, and it might become the artificially intelligent umpire at your future baseball game.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

The league has partnered with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball to serve as a testing ground for the technology. The plan is for the ALPB to use Trackman this season while MLB observes its impact on the game.

Trackman analyzes a handful of details about the ball as it breaks the plane in front of home plate. It can detect velocity, movement, the type of pitch and more. The Somerset Patriots, based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, let us get full access to the system and we documented our experience in the feature above.

Trackman definitely has potential and it seems like it's just a matter of time before a computer is in charge of the strike zone. Perhaps 20 years from now baseball fans will look back at a time of human umpires calling balls and strikes and think we were absolutely crazy.

Watch the above YouTube video to find out more about Trackman and our brief experience letting it judge a few swings at the plate.

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