Giants

Buster Posey explains why robot umps could call more balls than strike

Buster Posey explains why robot umps could call more balls than strike

Robot umps.

Weird thought, right? 

But it's something being implemented and tested in the baseball world. The independent Atlantic League was the first victim to test the newest technology that includes a real-life umpire still manning his or her duties behind the plate while they wear an earpiece connected to an iPhone. That person would then relay the call from the TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.

That's at least how plate umpire Brian deBrauwere executed it back in July as he described it to ESPN. And Giants catcher Buster Posey isn't too sure about this new technology, specifically if these robot umps would call more balls or strikes.

"I would venture to say that more pitches would be called balls that are called strikes now," Posey told The Athletic's Jayson Stark.

The human element or emotions would no longer exist -- that's the main factor here. Stark says some of the calls catchers are used to getting "would disappear with an electronic zone."

Not all pitches are created equal which means the calls, no matter how consistent they are, won't always be accurate in the types of pitches. 

Stark also added that Posey's right, but only to a point.

Once again ... emotions.

James Skelton, now pitching in the Atlantic League, has seen this firsthand. He said pitchers could be frustrated as well -- especially those veteran players who typically get said calls. Because of the specifics of this robotic umpire.

A portion of the baseball will have to cross over the 17-inch span from one side of the plate to the other.

"Period," Stark wrote.

That means the high and low areas of the strike zone may not matter as much. Pitchers, who typically love the fact that this zone is opened up, are amazed how much the zone feels with that extra space up top and on the bottom.

But other pitchers don't agree with Posey's thoughts. Mitch Atkins has pitched in the bigs before, but even with the Atlantic League, he said he would accept any strikes he was given. He doesn't feel the system would give more balls than strikes.

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It just goes to show without the human element, it could make a huge difference.

Whether that's for better or worse remains to be seen.

How D-backs' Madison Bumgarner would've done vs. Giants per simulation

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How D-backs' Madison Bumgarner would've done vs. Giants per simulation

Giants fans missed out on seeing Mason Saunders Madison Bumgarner pitch against his former team Tuesday, as the MLB season's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic delayed what was scheduled to be Bumgarner's first career start against San Francisco.

They didn't miss much, according to Strat-O-Matic's 2020 season simulation.

Bugmarner pitched a gem against his old club, winning for the first time with his new one while the Giants fell to 0-5 in Strat-o-Matic's sim. The lefty struck out 10 in 7 innings, allowing six hits and walking just two.

"When he reached 10 strikeouts, the fans showed him their appreciation with a loud cheer," Strat-O-Matic's write-up said D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said after the game.

Bumgarner pitched for the Giants for parts of 11 seasons, winning three World Series and earning four consecutive All-Star nods from 2013 through 2016. He signed a five-year contract with the Diamondbacks in December.

How have the Giants gotten off to such a poor start sans Bumgarner in the simulation? Strat-O-Matic head of operations and director of research Len Schwartz told Newsday last week that the company is creating its player cards each day for the simulation, utilizing an algorithm including "projections and recent performance."

Losing all five games to start a season literally is, at least in terms of wins and losses, a worst-case scenario, but well within the Giants' expected range of outcomes this season. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections pegged the Giants as about a 94-loss team, while FanGraphs had San Francisco losing 91 games. Either, surely, would have included a few five-game losing streaks.

[RELATED: Crawford creates Giants fan favorites bracket]

Whether Bumgarner dominates the Giants when baseball resumes -- and, when baseball resumes -- remains to be seen due to the spread of COVID-19.

MLB and the players association agreed to a wider deal last week that reportedly included the provisions that the season won't resume until it is deemed medically safe to do so and there are no outstanding bans on travel or mass gatherings.

Shawn Estes advises Giants starters on how to stay ready during hiatus

Shawn Estes advises Giants starters on how to stay ready during hiatus

Every day seems to bring a new round of terrifying updates regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and as baseball players sit home and digest the news, they have no idea when they'll be able to play again. But they're staying ready, as many, including several Giants players, have made clear on their social media pages. 

Evan Longoria recently posted a video of a session in his indoor batting cage and Mauricio Dubon has been working out on his balcony. Dereck Rodriguez's wife posted a clip of a portable pitching mound the right-hander now has. 

The starting pitchers are the ones who have the most work to do right now, and a former Giants starter gave his suggestions on how to stay ready on this week's episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. Shawn Estes, who pitched in the big leagues for 13 years and now is an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, said starters should try to replicate their normal routine as much as they can given what they're working with. 

"I would try to keep it as a starting pitcher as close to (my) every-five-day routine," Estes said. "You can still go out and get your cardio in, you can get your lifting in, you can throw a bullpen if you have that opportunity ... On your fifth day go out there and kind of do a simulated game, obviously without hitters there. Throw to a catcher and sit down, and I would probably do that for 80 pitches. 

"You know there's still going to be at worst a three-week spring training that you can actually get your arm ready to throw 100 pitches. I wouldn't overdo it until they announce that there's going to be a spring training but I would try to be at 80 pitches if at all possible. I would try to keep it as close to my five-day routine as I could."

[RELATED: Crawford creates fan favorites bracket]

Giants starters were getting into that range just as camp was shut down. If there is a season, the biggest baseball issue for teams will be making sure pitchers are ready to restart and throw at least four to five innings right away without getting hurt. Rosters are sure to be expanded to add coverage, but starting pitchers will still carry a heavier load than others, and they won't have a six-week spring training to ramp back up. Some on other teams have posted clips where they've thrown to catchers recently, although those guidelines might soon be changed. 

Estes talked about what a spring training might look like on the podcast and also touched on how a shortened season might help the Giants, the current vibe in his hometown of Scottsdale, and the possibility of pitchers getting hurt. You can stream the podcast here or download it on iTunes here.