The Atlantic League is restoring its pitching mound to 60 feet 6 inches from home plate and returning judgment of the strike zone to umpires after experimenting with moving the rubber back a foot and using an automatic system to call balls and strikes. .
The independent league announced the changes Thursday as part of its partnership with Major League Baseball. The sides have been evenly matched since 2019, with the Atlantic League agreeing to test rules and equipment that could one day make it to the majors.
The automated strike and ball system (ABS) debuted in the Atlantic League for the second half of the 2019 season and has since been tested and fine-tuned in the lower affiliated Class A Southeast League. So-called robo-umps could still make their way to the majors one day, though a switch to ABS there doesn’t seem imminent.
The 61-foot, 6-inch mound appears dead. Neither the data nor the comments from Atlantic League players or coaches last season suggest the extra foot had much of an effect.
The Atlantic League will continue to use larger 17-inch bases; anti-shift rules; and an extra-inning change that puts runners on first and second to start the first inning after regulation and then loads the bases for subsequent innings.
The league said in a statement Thursday that it will announce other rules experiments for 2022 later this spring.
“We are honored to pioneer the future of the game with Major League Baseball,” said Atlantic League President Rick White. “We are proud that many tests from today will come to the Major Leagues in the future. We will continue to closely corroborate the tests with MLB.”