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The MLB Challenge System: Ensuring Fair Calls with Technology

MLB Challenge System: All You Need to Know

If you’ve ever watched a Major League Baseball game, you’ve probably seen a manager stride out of the dugout, point emphatically at an umpire, and make a “challenge” signal with his hands. That’s the manager asking for a review of a play that just happened, and it’s all part of MLB’s challenge system.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how the MLB challenge system works, who’s involved, how many challenges are allowed, and much more.

Overview of MLB Challenge System

The MLB challenge system allows for replay review of select calls made on the field during games. The aim is to ensure that every call is correct, and any mistakes are corrected quickly.

The umpires decide whether to review interesting plays or not, and the manager can request a review of a call that falls under the jurisdiction covered by the challenge system. The system first started in August 2013 and became a standard tool in the major leagues the following year.

Role of Replay Officials

The MLB has six replay officials whose job it is to oversee all outgoing challenges made by managers. They work in the MLB’s Replay Operations Center, situated in New York City, and have access to all 30 major league parks in the US.

The officials work in conjunction with the umpires at each game and have access to various video feeds from each park. They then work to review the challenge requests from the managers before communicating their decision back to the umpire.

Number of Challenges Allowed

Each team has one challenge per game, and if the initial challenge is upheld, they retain that one challenge. If the original challenge is overturned, they receive one more challenge.

Only reviewable plays in specific areas of the game can be challenged, and they all have their criteria based on a rulebook.

The Process of Requesting a Challenge

When a manager wants to challenge a call made by an umpire, they must indicate that they would like a review by making a signal to the home plate umpire. The manager must do this immediately after the play under review is made and must call the umpire’s attention before the next pitch is thrown.

The on-field umpires then communicate with the replay officials in the

MLB Replay Operations Center, who watch replays of the play from various angles to determine whether or not the call on the field was correct. The replay officials then communicate their decision back down to the on-field umpires.

The Success Rate of Challenges

The success rate of challenges depends on the play under review. The average success rate of challenges across all Major League Baseball games since 2018 is around 37%.

One of the most significant determinants of success is the availability of video evidence. If there’s conclusive video evidence showing that an umpire made an incorrect call, the challenge is far more likely to succeed.

Controversy and Criticism

Despite the goals of the challenge system, many baseball fans still criticize it. Some detractors say the system ruins the flow of the game, while others take issue with the fact that the replay officials are situated remotely.

Additionally, people feel the system is not utilized in the way they intend, and because of this, calls not reviewable are being overturned, such as balls and strikes. Critics also argue that the rules for what plays can be challenged are too restrictive, leaving managers with little to no recourse to contest bad calls early in games.

MLB Replay Operations Center

MLB invested millions of dollars in the Replay Operations Center, which opened in 2014. The facility is a state-of-the-art technology center designed to help ensure calls on the field are correct and fair, helping to improve the game’s overall quality.

After the initial success of the challenge system, MLB poured further investment into the Replay Operations Center to improve technology, expand video angles, and upgrade facilities. What Are They Looking At?

The replay center has access to all camera angles being used at any given stadium. These feeds come from varying positions in each stadium, from high above the field to low behind home plate to center field cameras.

Replay officials use these feeds to analyze baseball plays and determine whether or not they were made correctly, checking for crucial details like whether the ball crossed the line or if a player was safe at first base.


The MLB challenge system and the Replay Operations Center have significantly boosted the league’s credibility, and so far, things seem to be running decently fine. Fans appreciate the effort to ensure correct calls are made, but critics continue with their concerns, including the system’s effect on the game’s pace.

Regardless of how you stand on the issue, the current system has given baseball players and fans some form of accountability and consistency that was not in place before. As the system continues, it will evolve with the changing nature of professional baseball.

Play Types and Challenge Percentages

The MLB challenge system is designed to ensure the correct calls are made on the field. However, not all plays are equal, and some types of plays are more likely to be challenged than others.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at specific play types and their corresponding challenge percentages.

Tag Plays on Baserunners

Tag plays are a common sight in baseball. A runner tries to advance to the next base, and the fielder tries to tag them out.

This play type has one of the highest challenge percentages, with about 39% of all challenges being related to tag plays. These challenges often involve close, split-second decisions that are difficult to discern with the naked eye.

The replay center provides the best opportunity to review the footage thoroughly and accurately.

Play at 1st Base

Along with tag plays, the challenge percentage for plays at first base is quite high. This makes sense as first base is often the first point of contact between the offensive and defensive teams during a play.

The challenge percentage for plays at first base is around 30%. These challenges often involve whether the player in question is safe or out.

Home Run

Home runs, one of the most dramatic moments of any baseball game, have a low challenge percentage. It’s rare for a manager to challenge a home run, and of the ones that are challenged, very few are overturned.

The challenge percentage for home runs is just over 2%. This lower percentage is attributed to the clear video evidence generated by the cameras that show the ball passing over the fence.

Force Plays

Force plays happen when a runner must advance to the next base because of a teammate behind them. These play types tend to have lower challenge percentages, with just over 15% of all challenges coming from force plays.

The majority of challenges from force plays come from getting the call about the tag right.

Hitters Hit by Pitch

Another play type with a low challenge rate is when a hitter is hit by a pitch. These challenges very rarely occur, and the challenge percentage is just under 1.5%.

The challenges that are made tend to occur when the hitter believes that the pitch was not intentionally delivered. Remaining 10% of Plays

The remaining percentage of challenges comes from various other play types, such as catcher’s interference, fair/foul ball calls, and trap plays.

The percentage of challenges in this category tends to be low, with the catchers’ interference having the highest percentage at about 2%.

Challenges and Decision Categories

When a play is challenged, one of three decisions will be made: confirmed, stands, or overturned.

Confirmed Decisions

A confirmed decision means that the call made on the field was correct. In this case, there is no change to the original call on the field, and play continues as usual.

These decisions are made when the replay officials do not find conclusive video evidence to overturn the original call.

Stands Decisions

A stands decision is when there is not enough evidence to confirm or overturn the on-field decision. In this case, the call made on the field stands, and play continues as usual.

These decisions are implemented when the replay officials feel that the video evidence is inconclusive, and they lack sufficient evidence to overturn the original call.

Overturned Decisions

An overturned decision means the original call is changed, and the video review confirms the right outcome. The new call is sent down to the field, and the previous call is rectified.

These decisions are made when the replay officials find conclusive video evidence that the call on the field was incorrect.


In conclusion, the MLB challenge system has come a long way since its inception a few years ago. The challenge system has evolved to cover different play types and the video review that occurs in the

MLB Replay Operations Center.

The statistics and data discussed above show that there continues to be room for improvement, but the system has significantly improved the chances of getting the right call in baseball games.

Challenges by Managers

The MLB challenge system has become a pivotal aspect of modern-day baseball. However, with its introduction have come several concerns.

This article will explore some of these issues, including the length of challenges, the amount of challenges used, unchallengeable calls, postseason challenges, and their implications.

Length of Challenges

One crucial aspect of the challenge system is the length of challenges. Challenges can last anywhere from a few minutes to over five minutes, depending on the complexity of the play under review.

Baseball fans often complain that the challenge system disrupts the rhythm of the game, and that long delays weigh on the umpires and players alike. In response, the MLB has taken steps to reduce the time taken to review challenges.

Replay officials now have better equipment and technology, such as slow-motion cameras, to help increase the efficiency and accuracy of the replays.

Using up all Challenges

The challenge system permits each team to use one challenge per game. If the challenge is successful, they get one more.

However, if they are incorrect, they don’t get any more challenges. Since a limited number of challenges are available, managers have to use them strategically.

A common issue for some managers is whether to use challenges early in the game or to wait until late-stage critical moments. If too many of the earlier challenges fail, the manager might end up with no challenges at a critical moment later in the game.

When a game is in its final stages, a manager’s challenge can be the difference between winning and going home.

Unchallengeable Calls

Under MLB guidelines, several plays are unchallengeable. These include balls and strikes and safe/out calls not directly related to first base, tag plays, force plays or calls made without using home plate umpire’s judgment.

Unchallengeable calls can be problematic, especially when they’re critical parts of the game. For example, a player might be wrongly called out on a ball or strike, and the camera angle might show the call is incorrect – but it can’t be changed.

Two Challenges in Postseason Games

Postseason games are exhausting and come with higher stakes. Therefore, MLB permits two challenges to use during postseason games.

These additional opportunities heighten the intensity and make decisions more crucial. The extra challenges provide an additional safety net for managers, giving them extra opportunities to correct a potentially game-changing call that might require more scrutiny.

Technology and Baseball

Technology has positively impacted baseball in various ways. The MLB has applied technology to respond to challenges and improve player safety, fan engagement while safeguarding the game’s integrity.

Technology Improving Fan Experience

Today’s fans enjoy a more interactive experience during games, thanks to technological updates at the parks. Stadiums now incorporate big screens and interactive displays to enhance the fans’ viewing experience.

The enhanced displays offer unique viewing experiences, providing better angles, replays, and behind-the-scenes statistics on camera angles, trajectory, and other crucial pieces of data that add depth to broadcasts.

The Integrity of Baseball

The introduction of technology has improved the accuracy and fairness of the game. The MLB challenge system ensures that every play is correctly handled and adequately reviewed, giving a clear view of any controversy or mistakes.

Technology has also helped the official strike zone application, using cameras and computers that can accurately track the ball’s trajectory that enter the strike zone by a specified margin.

Digital World Job Opportunities

Technology has dramatically impacted many areas of society, and the sports industry is no exception. Digital technologies have opened up new job opportunities, such as data analysis and statistics positions.

These opportunities have brought more individuals into the industry and created jobs for those who have an interest in sports, but an affinity for technology. The growing relationship between technology and sports shows no signs of slowing down and provides plenty of opportunities for those who enjoy the intersection of sports and technology.


The MLB challenge system and the integration of technology into baseball is here to stay. The challenge system is meant to ensure that calls are correct and fair, while advancements in technology have enhanced the fan experience while preserving the integrity of the game.

While challenges by managers and other challenges might create delays, the benefits of having accurate and fair calls is worth the wait. The continuous integration of technology into baseball could also lead to digitization of even more elements of the game, creating new opportunities for the industry and its fans.

In conclusion, the MLB challenge system, challenge categories, and technology in baseball have all played an essential role in improving the accuracy, fairness, and overall experience of the game. While challenges may cause pauses in the game, it’s worth taking the time to ensure that calls are made correctly.

The integration of technology has also created more jobs and enhanced the viewing experience.



What is the MLB challenge system? The MLB challenge system allows for replay review of select calls made on the field during games.

2. How many challenges are allowed per game?

Each team has one challenge per game, and if the initial challenge is upheld, they retain that one challenge. 3.

What is the success rate of challenges? The average success rate of challenges across all Major League Baseball games since 2018 is around 37%.

4. What is the role of the

MLB Replay Operations Center?


MLB Replay Operations Center reviews challenging plays to ensure that every call is correct, and any mistakes are corrected quickly. 5.

How has technology impacted baseball? Technology has positively impacted baseball in various ways, including improving the accuracy and fairness of the game, enhancing the fan experience, and creating new job opportunities in the industry.

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