MLB officials looking to implement automated ball-strike system in 2026

MLB officials expect automated ball-strike system to be implemented in 2026
from Colum Dell, with

Major League Baseball has been flirting with the idea of implementing robot umpires for some time, and it appears that the idea will soon become a reality.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, MLB executives “privately expect” an automated ball-strike system (ABS) and a challenge system will be implemented during the 2026 season.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said at an owners meeting last week that it was unlikely an ABS would be implemented in 2025 due to “some technical issues” and a lack of progress with the system in the minor leagues.

So far, the automated ball-strike system is used at the Single-A Florida State League and the Triple-A level. Additionally, the Triple-A level uses ABS for the first three games of a six-game series and a challenge system for the final three games.

For the challenge system, each team gets three challenges per game, and if a player successfully challenges a call that is overturned, their team keeps their challenge.

MLB has not shied away from making changes to the rulebook over the past few seasons, most notably through the implementation of the pitch clock, the “ghost runner” in extra innings and several base-running rules.

Until there’s enough evidence to prove that these rule changes have directly contributed to the injuries many pitchers have suffered as of late, the majority of these changes have been beneficial to baseball.

Umpires have never been perfect. However, considering how egregious some of their errors and actions have been in recent years, the ABS and challenge system could quickly prove to be two of MLB’s best rule changes.

While one could argue that pitchers would gain a massive advantage with these changes since they could better exploit the strike zone, it wouldn’t be surprising if hitters would benefit most in the long run.

After all, pitchers wouldn’t be able to rely on an umpire making calls in their favor, and it wouldn’t matter how effective their catcher is at framing when there’s an automated strike zone.

Hitters would also be able to gain a better understanding of the strike zone, which could lead to an uptick in their offensive production.

Although the rule changes over the last few years have sparked backlash from fans and players, the ABS and challenge system should be met with a more positive reception.