Instant replay improves MLB accuracy

The NBA and NFL have been reaping the benefits of instant replay for years, and the MLB has finally succumbed to the allure of having correct outcomes to games, with minimal human error from umpires every night during the season. The positive effects that instant replay has had in other professional sporting leagues, especially during the postseason , have not become apparent in the first month of instant replay in the MLB.  But over the course of the season, it will improve, and over the years, looking back, people will wonder how baseball was ever played with such uncertainty in the outcome of games, when cameras were readily available to give a second opinion the whole time.

Although I do appreciate the human element of baseball umpires, mainly their dramatic effects, I do prefer instant replay to be involved in determining the outcomes of games. For players and managers, they leave everything on the field. They invest countless hours and their emotions to be the best. They do whatever they can to gain the upper hand on the opponent, and for how much money they are being paid, why wouldn’t they? But with so much effort being put forth by the players on the field, they deserve to have the sense of security that comes from knowing that the only thing standing in the way of success is their own set of skills and athletic ability.

The extensive replay system has just been implemented this year, and it is far from perfect. This is obvious to fans and players, but who honestly expected it to be perfect within only a month of the MLB season starting? Implementing such a drastically revamped system of replay to a league with 30 teams and stadiums is a difficult task, so it is understandable that there will be mistakes. The NBA and NFL still experience mistakes, and both leagues have been using replay for more than ten years. Mistakes will always be part of the game, but at the same time, just like the NFL and NBA, the MLB should continue to attempt to perfect that which cannot be perfected to take the game to its purest form: a game in which the outcome is only decided by the people who are competing.

Besides the new replay system having some flaws, the most ardent detractors of this technology scream that baseball games are already long enough without having to wait for umpires to review the call. This is a fair point, since last year’s MLB games averaged two hours and 58 minutes. But so far, replay reviews have only averaged a little over two minutes, which, when compared to a manager coming over and arguing a call, kicking dirt at an umpire’s feet, gesturing at an inanimate object, and possibly being thrown out, might actually save time.

As far as the human element is concerned, umpires still have the ability to botch calls, but it is up to the manager to challenge the call and put the play up for review.

ESPN Stats & Info’s Doug Kern reported on this issue, concerning instant replay affecting the outcome of a game, “Top of 6th. Ben Revere originally ruled safe on a pickoff attempt at second, called out after replay. Next two batters had base hits that would have scored Revere, had he still been on base.” I disagree with this statement. It is unknown whether or not one call can really affect the game in this exact way. With a runner on base, the pitcher may have thrown different pitches to which the batter would have reacted differently, and there is no way to tell that if the runner wouldn’t have been picked, the runner would have scored.

You could just as easily say that since the runner was picked off, it caused those next two base hits to occur. Maybe the batters saw that there were two, and that there was nobody on base, so in a close game, they became more aggressive which led to their hits. This whole argument deals with ambiguity in chance and causation, which no one can be completely be sure of in the first place.

Baseball has always been resistant to change, and this is reflected by many fans’ resistance to the new instant replay. The process of instant replay is still new to umpires, many of whom have been umpiring for more than 25 years without the aid of this new technology, and this start to instant replay is sure to get better. Instant replay is something that is changing the game, but for the better, and over the course of the season–especially come playoff time–many fans will come to change their opinion.

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