MLB Fully Implementing Automated Ball-Strike Challenge System In Triple-A

The 2023 MLB season introduced a lot of new rule changes in an effort to make the game more exciting and flow better. The pitch clock, limits on defensive shifts and bigger bases were some pretty drastic changes for a game that is over 100 years old.

The changes have been positive for the most part and more changes could be implemented somewhere down the line. The main one on the way is the introduction of some form of an electronic strike zone.

After some experimentation with both a full automated ball-strike (ABS) system and the ABS challenge system during the first half of the Triple-A season, MLB has decided on using the challenge system full-time in the highest levels of the Minor Leagues, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN:

Major League Baseball sent a memo to farm directors Tuesday indicating that beginning on June 25, all Triple-A games will use the automated ball-strike (ABS) challenge system as opposed to full ABS, which was previously used for half the week.

MLB has often utilized the Minor Leagues to play test many of their potential rule changes to make sure they affect the game in a positive way before they officially implement them into the Major League rulebook, like with the pitch clock and other rule changes. If the ABS challenge system yields good results, it could eventually be implemented in MLB in another season at the earliest:

The move is another indication that the league is inching toward implementing the challenge system at the major league level, though commissioner Rob Manfred has said that move is still at least another season away from happening.

It is an important first step for its possible implementation in the future, but MLB is sure to take its time for such a sizable change to how the sport operates at the Major League level.

The difference between the full ABS system and the ABS challenge system comes down to whether or not the human umpire has any say over balls and strikes.

In a challenge system, the hitter or catcher can challenge any call made by the human umpire and the correct call according to ABS would be told to them. In the full ABS system, the human umpire has all calls made for him.

MLB chose the correct system to fully implement, according to players, coaches, and fans:

The memo, obtained by ESPN, says the league’s research indicates that both in-uniform personnel (players and coaches) and fans prefer a challenge system over full ABS.

It is easy to see why this option is preferable to baseball organizations and fans. The ABS challenge system allows the human element to stay in the game, but now gives hitters or pitchers the ability to reverse missed calls.

MLB enforcing obstruction calls during 2024 season

As part of the changes this year, MLB has placed a focus on enforcing the obstruction rule around the bases to prevent infielders from blocking runners’ paths to the bag.

MLB nearly began enforcing the obstruction rule last season, but wanted to see if the bigger bases would dissuade infielders from blocking the basepath.

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