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Yankees pitchers have complaints about automated strike zone

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Luis Severino has gotten a glimpse of the potential future and he doesn’t like it.

“It sucks,” Severino said.

That was the right-hander’s review of the automated strike zone that was used during his minor league rehab start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 10.

“It’s way too small,’’ Severino said. “A hitter can stand there and not swing and be [at] 3-1 every time he’s up.”

The automated strike zones are being used at Triple-A this season, and while there’s no set plan to begin using them in the majors, it’s not out of the question they could be there within the next couple of years.

That would add to the game’s makeover that now includes a pitch clock, larger bases, a ban on infield shifts and the automatic runner on second base in extra innings.

Both Severino and Ryan Weber said they were unhappy with the size of the strike zone, which is hardly surprising, but they had somewhat different complaints.

Severino and Weber noted the strike zone they dealt with didn’t go as high as the one they’re accustomed to, meaning that a four-seam fastball up in the strike zone was not being called a strike.


Yankees pitcher Luis Severino walks on the field before pitching in a minor league baseball against the Omaha Storm during a rehab assignment with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on May 10.
AP

Weber, a righty reliever who makes up for a lack of velocity with command and by keeping hitters off-balance, also said he didn’t think the current system accounted for pitches that skirt the edges of the strike zone.

“I go [from] east to west [on the plate] and use the bottom of the zone,’’ Weber said. “I was ready for [the new system] and figured my slider and sinker would clip the zone and I got nothing.”

He took advantage of the challenge system twice and said he went 0-for-2.

“I’ve thrown enough pitches to know what’s a ball and what’s a strike and they were both strikes,’’ Weber said. “I really hope it doesn’t come here. It’s getting sneaky close.”

The system, called Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS), was implemented earlier this month and will be used the rest of the season. MLB remains in the process of testing the system, including the strike zone and how it’s implemented.

Despite many players’ initial misgivings, most of the rule changes since the new collective bargaining agreement have been positively received.

Severino said he hopes they make some changes to the ABS before he sees it again.

“I don’t know how they measure it, but it’s not high enough,’’ Severino said of the strike zone. “You’d have to throw it in the middle and down in the zone. [Justin] Verlander is a monster at throwing in the top of the zone. How are you gonna limit that and have a Hall of Famer like him not throw his four-seamer?”

For now, Severino won’t be impacted by the robo umps, since he doesn’t expect to pitch in the minors again this season.

“Hopefully it won’t be here for seven or eight [years] and I’ll be in my house, retired,’’ Severino said with a laugh.

But he noted it could impact some younger pitchers who bounce back and forth between the majors and minors.


ryan weber yankees
Yankees relief pitcher Ryan Weber (left) reacts after the Yankees defeated the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“How is [Jhony] Brito supposed to pitch in the big leagues with one strike zone and then go down there and either walk guys or throw pitches down the middle?” Severino said of the young right-hander. “I know Deivi [Garcia] has a bunch of walks this year [at Triple-A]. Maybe that’s why.’’

Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake said he’s intrigued by the system and it’s on his “radar,” but he hasn’t looked deeply into the subject.

“We want the most consistent strike zone at every level and from level to level,’’ Blake said of pitchers progressing from the minors to the majors. “It’s on our radar, but we want more data. I like the idea of challenging pitches in big spots, but we need more information.”

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