The question hovered over both MLB Championship Series Tuesday, as it inevitably would on some October day. It may be the central debate about how games will be governed in the future. Is the fairest version of baseball the best version of baseball? The obvious answer is yes. The correct answer is no.

In Game 3 of the NLCS, Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler rifled an 0-2, 92-mph cut fastball to Joc Pederson. The TBS broadcast’s strike zone plot immediately identified a strike, low-and-inside corner, that would give the Atlanta Braves two outs with a runner on second, a navigable situation for Buehler in a game the Dodgers controlled. But home plate umpire Jerry Meals called ball one. Two pitches later, Pederson laced a single to right. The first of a four-run barrage scored.

Later Wednesday night, in Game 4 of the ALCS, Boston Red Sox Nathan Eovaldi twirled a curveball and took three skips toward the home dugout, certain he had thrown a strike that had ended top of the ninth inning with a 2-2 tie maintained. Radar technology would prove him right – the curve nipped the top-right corner of the zone. Umpire Laz Diaz, though, called it a ball. Two pitches later, Jason Castro swatted a run-scoring single. The Astros scored six more runs in the ninth and even the series at two games apiece.

The two pitches did not decide either game, but they influenced both outcomes. Both calls were missed by the rule book definition of the strike zone, a clear fact immediately available to everybody except the umpires themselves. Those calls, and others like it this postseason, will spark the latest round of pleas for MLB to cede control of balls and strike to an automated system, to make robot umps a reality.

MLB has experimented with automated ball-strike systems in lower leagues, often an indication of a change it desires in the next collective bargaining agreement. The creep toward robot umps often appears inevitable, especially after a dizzying, draining night of high-stakes baseball like Wednesday.

Unlike a ball-strike decision, the question of whether to introduce an automated strike zone is not a simple binary. Calls would be delivered with certitude. But pieces of the game would be lost, and aspects of the pitcher-hitter confrontation would be changed for the worse. Baseball is better off living with missed calls, as it has for 150 years, than altering the sport in ways it may not even see coming.

Start with the still frame of Buehler’s 0-2 pitch to Pederson. The pitch hissed over the plate at the knees and over the inside edge. Catcher Will Smith yanked it into the middle of the strike zone and held his mitt there. The inelegant frame contributed to Meals’ impression the pitch had been a ball. Smith never let him clearly see the location.

The sport is more interesting when the way a pitch is received by the catcher matters. An automated strike zone would remove a skill that makes the game richer. Meals may have missed the call by the black-and-white rule book. And yet the photo is an argument against, not for, robot umps.

The ability to manipulate an umpire’s human set of eyes is part of the game’s artistry. Pitches like Livan Hernandez and Tom Glavine made careers out of nibbling at the corners, finding out what they could get away with and slowly inching pitches further out, making the umpire widen his zone without even realizing it.

Robot umpires would eliminate the possibility anyone could thrive with that style. If pitchers could not steal strikes on the edge with their catcher’s framing or their own guile, the preponderance of extreme velocity would only increase, along with all the problems it begets – more injured pitches, more strikeouts, fewer balls in play, more pitching changes. If pitches have to live in the zone, stuff rules. We’ve seen the downstream issues that creates.

An automated zone may lead to unappealing pitching uniformity in other ways. Certain rule book strikes have always been called balls, to the acceptance of all parties involved. The pitch that crossed the very front edge of the plate and dives near the dirt by the time it hits the catcher’s glove – that’s always been a ball. An automated zone would deem it a strike. The sport would see an army of pitchers who specialize in throwing those difficult-to-hit pitches.

The pitch Diaz missed that extended Castro’s at-bat was far from egregious. ESPN’s Joon Lee noted that umpires call curveballs that cross the zone at that point a strike only 23 percent of the time. Those kind of borderline errors would be eradicated by robot umpires. Is a margin that small, that has been built into the sport for a century and a half, worth fundamentally changing the pitcher-hitter dynamic? A miss like that can’t be shrugged off, but it can’t be addressed without understanding the consequences of “fixing” it.

The biggest obstacle to keeping robot umpires at bay is the information gap between umpire and literally everyone else. Broadcasts feature a strike zone plot and instantly mark on the screen whether each pitch fits inside or not. Anyone with an Internet connection can forensically study each pitch seconds after it is thrown. Players can watch replays on tablets in the dugout and know immediately if they have been swindled. The only person without access to the technology is the umpire – the person tasked with making calls that decide games, influence seasons and shape careers.

The predicament strengthens the urge to use robot umpires. It is one baseball should resist. Accuracy matters, but not at the cost of making the sport less compelling. To an aggrieved fan base, an automated zone may seem like a clear-cut call. It is anything but.

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