At the Atlantic League’s annual midsummer showcase, the league will show off one of the major headline items to come from last winter’s experimental rule-testing agreement with Major League Baseball.
Balls and strikes will be called using electronic assistance at the Atlantic League All-Star Game, scheduled for Wednesday in York, Pennsylvania. The system, which was delayed throughout the first half to allow for a more comprehensive installation and better umpire training, will feature plate umpires wearing an earpiece to relay the ball or strike call after receiving it from a radar system, known as ABS (automated ball-strikes)
“The working relationship between MLB, ABS vendor TrackMan, the umpires, and our teams has been terrific,” said Atlantic League president Rick White in a news release. “After carefully installing, testing, and tweaking the system to make the transmission of the information to the umpire quick and reliable, we feel ABS is ready for prime time.”
Although the system will be used in the All-Star Game, an official start date for its use in regular-season games has not been announced, but will come sometime in the second half, White told Newsday on Friday.
“We have a board meeting next week and we’re going to determine if we want to do it on a club-by-club basis or if we want to do it all at once across the league,” White said.
The system has been tested during some first-half games, but has not been officially used yet.
“We tested it when we were in Somerset,” Ducks manager Wally Backman said. “They did it for five innings and I was impressed with what I saw and the feedback that I got from the hitters, especially on the balls that were inside and outside. The hitters are going to have to make an adjustment up and down a little bit, but I think the hitters can do that…
"The hitters like it and I think the pitchers like it as well, because they’re going to get some low strikes, especially on the breaking ball. If it just clips that [automated strike zone] square, it’s a strike. I didn’t see a big difference in the high strike in those five innings that we played, so when they get everything calibrated right, I think it’s going to benefit both. I think you’re going to get a better strike zone, a more consistent strike zone, and I think that’s what the players want.”
Ducks outfielder D’Arby Myers sees an added benefit to the system: fewer arguments.
“I’m anxious to see it,” Myers said. “They said the zone will be from your armpits to your knees. I mean, you can’t argue anymore. It’s a computer... It’s like having that box that we watch on TV with MLB. We’re living it.”
Umpires still will have discretion on check swing situations.
Ultimatly, the system, which theoretically will eliminate human error, will attempt to answer the age-old question: Should umpiring mistakes be considered part of the game?
““Well, it has been for a 100 and something years,” Backman said. “.…Hypothetically if [ABS] is 98 percent right and an umpire is 92 percent right, there’s six percent improvement. I think it’s a good improvement for the game.”
Islip’s Rogers among Ducks All Stars
Six Ducks will get to experience ABS in the All-Star Game firsthand. Reliever Rob Rogers, an Islip native who missed a full calendar year after having Tommy John surgery, was selected to the league’s version of the midsummer classic, the Ducks announced Friday.
It is Rogers' first Atlantic League All-Star Game nod. In his first nine appearances since returning from the surgery, Rogers was 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA. He allowed one earned run, six hits, and has struck out five in nine innings, entering the weekend. Rogers did not allow a run in his first six outings of the season.
Other Duck All Stars are former Met Kirk Nieuwenhuis, former Met and Yankee prospect L.J. Mazzilli, first baseman David Washington, newly acquired infielder Deibinson Romero, and pitcher Joe Iorio.