HomeTrending MLB NewsFans Had Mixed Feelings After Seeing MLB’s Ball-Strike Challenge in Action

Fans Had Mixed Feelings After Seeing MLB’s Ball-Strike Challenge in Action

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MLB is putting a spotlight on the next generation of players this week with a series of games called the Spring Breakout that feature rosters of franchises’ top prospects. And because the games are being played under minor league rules, fans were treated to another look at the future of the game. 

The minor leagues use the so-called “challenge system” to call balls and strikes, under which the home plate umpire calls the pitches but both teams have the ability to challenge a call. When a challenge is made, the final call is made by the Hawk-Eye pitch tracking system. 

In the second inning of Thursday’s game between the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates prospects, Baltimore’s Cade Povich delivered a pitch near the corner of the zone that the umpire called a ball. Catcher Silas Ardoin wasn’t sure the ump made the right call, so he challenged it. Hawk-Eye determined that the ball just barely nicked the corner of the strike zone, and so the call was overturned. 

While the challenge system isn’t entirely new (it was first used in the minors in 2022), the higher profile of these All-Star prospect games means that this is the first time many fans are being introduced to the concept. A lot of them loved what they saw. 

But reviews were not exclusively positive. 

Most complaints seemed to be about the amount of time the review took. That’s a valid concern, but it’s important to note that challenges are typically much faster than this example was. Here is a compilation of eight pitch challenges from last season where you can see that the typical review only takes a matter of seconds. 

MLB has been signaling for years now that the traditional system where the home plate umpire is solely responsible for calling balls and strikes will eventually be replaced. As the league attempts to appease both traditionalists and those who prefer the “human element” of the umpires’ calls, the challenge system seems like a reasonable middle ground. 

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