Except, they’re not really robots. They’re human umpires wearing a Bluetooth-connected earpiece, connected to an iPhone, connected to a software program in the press box. The software doesn’t make every call, just balls and strikes. And if it’s wrong, the human umpire can step in to overrule the program, and his decision, not the software’s, is final.
The experiment is part of a three-year agreement with MLB that allowed big league officials to install experimental rules in the Atlantic League to study their effects on game play, strategy, tempo and prospect development. In return, MLB promised to “enhance its scouting coverage of the Atlantic League” and to install hardware to enable advanced analytical study of players.
Some of those rule changes include a prohibition against mound visits, a ban of defensive shifts, a three-batter minimum for new pitchers and larger bases (18-by-18 inches, rather than 15-by-15). In the second half of the season, the league will allow batters to steal first base: Any pitch on any count not caught in flight will be considered a live ball, and a batter may run to first base, similar to a dropped third strike.
Source: Jacob Bogage, Washington Post