Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate to test out brand new challenge system
By Edward Eng
Starting on Friday, May 11, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons will be testing out the new ABS (Automatic Balls and Strikes) Challenge System at Sahlen Field for the first time this year.
Earlier in the year, MLB had proposed a series of rule changes that would take effect during the 2023 Minor League Baseball season. Among the rule changes included the implementation of ABS systems for the Triple-A International League and Low-A Florida State League. This involved a two-part system in which some games would have Full ABS, which meant all balls and strikes would be automated in a way such that it would be solely dependent on the computer system, whereas other games would have what was called the ABS Challenge System.
The ABS Challenge System games would require the presence of a home plate umpire to determine whether each pitch was a ball or strike. For each pitch, each team is provided with the opportunity to challenge the call to the ABS system, and each team is given three challenges in total to work with. The challenge could be initiated by only the pitcher, catcher or batter, since it must be made within two seconds of the home umpire’s call. So ideally, there wouldn’t be enough time for the manager or players/fans to quickly review the play using other sources to impact the challenge call, but if they somehow managed to do so, umpires can nullify the challenge due to the assistance in the call. If a challenge is successful, the team would get retain their challenge and if unsuccessful, they would lose a challenge from their count. In addition, computer tablets would be given to each team to allow them to see the ABS results in real time.
If both ABS-type systems worked well during the 2023 Minor League season, one could expect the eventual utilization of such systems in MLB in one form or another in the near future. At that time, the overall integrity and feel of the game would definitely be at another level, whether accepted or not by the players and the fans.
So the Jays’ minor league players in Buffalo will get their first taste of the ABS Challenge System on Friday, after experiencing just the Full ABS system in all of their previous home games this year. For those that can make it to Buffalo to cheer on the Bisons for this weekend’s series against the Syracuse Mets can check it out too, live in person.