MLB announced that they will install the controversial Automated Balls and Strikes system, known as ABS, for all 10 stadiums in the Triple-A West League, as well as for the Charlotte Knights stadium in the Triple-A East League.
The ten teams in Triple-A West include the Giants affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats. The other teams are the Albuquerque Isotopes (Rockies), El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres), Las Vegas Aviators (Athletics), Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces (Diamondbacks), Round Rock Express (Rangers), Salt Lake Bees (Angels), the to-be-renamed team in Sugar Land (Astros), and the Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners). The Charlotte Knights, who will have the only stadium with ABS in the AAA-East, are affiliates of the Chicago White Sox.
The ABS system was first used in the independent Atlantic League in 2019, as part of a partnership with MLB, and then again in a couple of the stadiums in the Arizona Fall League of that year. The ABS system was then used in 2021 in eight of the nine stadiums in the Low-A Southeast League, and the AFL again.
During the system’s first year of use in Low-A, MLB made a mid-season adjustment in July of 2021 after the original strike zone led to some highly offensively-favored results. The changes in July included making the strike zone wider by four inches, eliminating over three inches at the top, and changing where in the strike zone pitches were registered, as some breaking balls in the dirt were being called strikes.
In 2021, players were allowed to “flag” pitches on an iPad that they disagreed with, which led to the changes. It has not been confirmed whether similar flagging will be available in Triple-A in 2022.
In addition to having the ABS system at those Triple-A fields, it will also continue to be used at Low-A Southeast for the second season, and in Grapefruit League spring training games, which also often use the same parks. MLB also announced it could potentially be used in some non-MLB venues as well.
Despite baseball’s testing of the process, the idea of using automated umpires remains a controversial idea among fans. Many abhor the idea with comments like “Why not just take every single human part out of the game and just play it on a video screen” on Twitter.