MLB News

MLB to use ABS challenge system for remainder of Triple-A season

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MLB's top minor league level is switching to a full-time automated ball-strike (ABS) challenge system for the remainder of the 2024 season.

The league has experimented with the ABS system in the minor leagues since 2019. It has been used at all Triple-A ballparks this season for the second straight year, with the fully automated zone implemented for the first three games of each series and a hybrid challenge system used for the remaining three games.

However, starting June 25, only the challenge system will be used, according to a memo sent Tuesday from MLB vice president of on-field strategy Joe Martinez to farm directors and Triple-A managers that was obtained by The Associated Press.

MLB says 47 percent of challenges have been successful this year.

As part of the change, the number of challenges allowed per team will be decreased from three to two in the International League but will remain at three in the Pacific Coast League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big-league teams with video reviews.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month that robot umpires were unlikely to come to the major leagues for 2025 and refinements were needed.

“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 on May 23 following an owner's meeting. “I think that’s a good decision.”

Coming to a consensus on what a computer strike zone should look like remains an obstacle. There is little desire to call the strike zone as defined in the rule book as a cube. The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5 percent of batter height this year, up from 51 percent.

In data accompanying the memo, MLB said 61 percent of staff and players prefer the challenge system and 11 percent liked the fully automated system. MLB said fans preferred the challenge system by a 2-1 margin.

MLB said almost 40 percent of Triple-A games have had more than six total challenges and that 89 percent of fans said the optimal number was six or fewer.

Robot umpire makes its debut in professional baseball

The Atlantic League introduced the first computer to call balls and strikes, and will install more throughout the league this season.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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