“Strikes and balls were badly officiated.”
Kim Sung-geun (83), the head coach of the Choi Kangbaseball Monsters, appeared on the YouTube channel of Lee Dae-ho (42, broadcaster) [RE:DAEHO] on the 13th and made some bitter comments about the automatic strike and ball judgment system (ABS) that the KBO is rolling out in the KBO League and Futures League this year.
ABS, along with PitchClock, is considered a key change in the KBO’s baseball revolution. The AI stores the physical data of all registered batters in the KBO and then calls strikes according to the rules of the game. While this will solve the problem of consistency, there are many concerns that the calls will be very different from those made by human umpires.
For example, if a pitcher throws a ball with a lot of movement near home plate, and it crosses home plate as per the KBO rules, it will be called a strike even if the ball veers wildly left and right. A pitch that is on a course that is difficult for a batter to hit may be called a strike, or conversely, a pitch that was previously implicitly called a strike may be called a ball.
Kim Sung-geun, Lee Dae-ho, and Jung Geun-woo (42), who appeared on the program, expressed their opposition in unison. “During the Korean Series (Game 2), the KBO commissioner asked me, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘I’m against it. I watched three high school games with robot umpires, and the strike and ball calls were terrible. He said, “What are you going to do next year?
He criticized the board of directors, which consists of the presidents of 10 clubs. Kim Sung-geun said, “The presidents of the 10 clubs didn’t say anything about it? This is a big problem. The umpire has to listen to the machine, and the game is bound to be delayed. In a high school game, if there are 30 total balls on both sides, then how much is technically out, and the batter shouldn’t hit. Then the pitcher has to throw it right in the middle of the plate.”
He pointed out that batters were using ABS to pick out balls more thoroughly, which made the game longer. “In Korea, we think that if something is bad, we can change it. If something is bad, we can find a way to solve it. I told them to separate the KBO and the umpires. Let the umpires do their own thing. If there’s a problem, you have to do something new, not replace people with machines,” he said.
However, the ABS system has reportedly been significantly overhauled. It’s unlikely that it will delay the actual call of the ball, and some argue that if ABS is to be implemented, it should be given time for both batters and pitchers to adjust to the new strike zone. It’s the first of its kind in the world, and there are many opinions. It should be respected.