FanPost

The Simple Argument for Robots


I do not intend this post to be a place to whine or complain about bad umpiring as something that is 'unfair.'  There is nothing to suggest that if umpiring were perfect the Mariners would win any more games.  However, in my opinion, bad umpiring is 'unfun.'  Rather this post presents one simple analogy based argument that I use when having this conversation.  It has helped me begin to convince the more 'traditionalist' fans I know.   

I just focus on the idea of using a computer to call balls and strikes.  This is because arguments about replay on base path calls have a lot of other factors (the system, delays etc.). 

There have been lots of arguments about robot balls and strikes, and these arguments will continue.  I won't try to encapsulate them here.  But, one of the arguments against robots is that the 'human factor' is part of the game. 

The idea, as I understand it, is that pitchers and batters must read an umpire, test him out, figure his tendencies, and his idiosyncricies, and incorporate this.  That adjusting to a wandering or non regulation strike zone, is a skill to be appreciated. Also, there is the idea that human umpires place a certain unpredictability into the game which makes it better. 

So here's what I say when someone presents me with this argument:

'Let's pretend that I start a new umpiring school. This school uses advanced eye excercises and meditation in order to train umpires who are near prefection.  These new techniques allow umpires to continualy improve in the accuracy and consistency of their calls.  Are you going to create a rule banning umpires from going to my school?'

It usually gets them thinking in the right direction.  It really helps people realize that they just generally feel more comfortable with people being involved, the way they always have, and that claims about 'human factors' are really just justifications to excuse a general sense of unease with robots being better than people at stuff. 

I know it's not original, or 'my idea,' or anything, it's just a useful analogy that I thought I would share.  Of course it isn't a coincidence that I felt compelled to share this after watchign Angel Hernandez butcher the 'strike zone.' 

 

EDIT: After reading some insightful comments, I believe I can summarize my point in a clearer fashion.  Imagine a world where umpires never make any mistakes.  Where replays never contradict a call, and where pitchfx data shows the correct strike/ball call was made on every pitch.  Would we complain about such a world?  Would we lament our inability to relate to the umpires because of their unwavering perfection?  Would we wish that they got a call wrong every now and then, just to keep the game interesting?  Would we long for a wandering and slightly less predictable strike zone?  Or, would we happily relate to the fallibility of the *players* as they played the game as impressive, but still mistake prone, humans?  My suggestion is that we would not have an issue with such a world.  To me, this means that an aversion to computer or computer assisted umpiring is based on a psychological unease toward technology, and that any claims of 'human aspect to the game' are justifications of this general unease.   

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