World Series Preview: The Umpires

World Series Preview: The Outfield
World Series Game 1: Phillies at Yankees

For our final World Series preview post before the Game 1 game thread, may I present to you the umpires…

Amidst increased scrutiny, Major League Baseball yesterday evening announced the umpire crew for the World Series. After a series of controversial and obviously bad calls during the ALCS, MLB decided to go with a veteran crew. The crew chief for the World Series will be 28-year veteran Gerry Davis, and joining him are Joe West, Dana DeMuth, Brian Gorman, Jeff Nelson and Mike Everitt.

Now, an ideal world, we would never hear about the umpires. The men in blue are supposed to go about their jobs by making calls and generally staying out of the way. Over the last few years, though, umpires have taken over more and more of the spotlight. It probably started with the Roberto Alomar spitting incident when our collective attention turned to the umps, and it grew worse when, in 1997, Eric Gregg’s NLCS home plate was about 15 inches wider than it should have been, thus allowing Livan Hernandez to strike out everyone.

Since then, umps have grown in infamy for things they say or do. We saw one ump refuse to call a strike down the middle of the plate against the Red Sox in Boston this year because the Angels’ catchers supposedly moved their mitts too frequently and too far. We saw one ump call Derek Jeter out and then tell the Yankee Captain that he didn’t need to be tagged as long as the ball got there first. We routinely see umpires take too long to call balls and strikes and generally showboat all over the place.

Until this week, fans had no real way of judging the umpires, but all that has changed thanks to Larry Granillo at Wezen-Ball. Granillo compiled 11 years of data — from 1998-2008 — to assess how umpires judge strike zones. In his post about the project, he discusses his methodology:

Using the current Retrosheet database (which still only goes through the 2008 season), I found all umpires who worked the plate 10 or more times last year. I then went through the database and gathered all relevant stats from the games the each umpire worked behind the plate between the years of 1998 and 2008. These are the “Umpires’ Stats” …

With the “umpires’ stats” calculated, we could now take a look at an individual umpire to see how many plate appearances he umped per game, or how many balls and strikes he called per plate appearance. Without more information, though, we wouldn’t be able to do much with it. How could we know, for example, that Umpire X’s tendency to rack up a lot of strikeouts per nine innings was a result of a wide strikezone and not merely because he was behind the plate for too many Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander starts? Without knowing the performance of the pitchers that Umpire X saw in games that someone else was behind the plate, there are very few conclusions that we can draw. So I went ahead and made those calculations. For every pitcher that a particular ump called in a given year, I went through the database and gathered all relevant stats from the games in which the pitcher pitched in and in which Umpire X was not behind the plate. These are the “Pitchers’ Stats.”

In the end, Granillo made the raw data available at his site but also provided a link a Google spreadsheet with the World Series info. That data shows very little discrepancies amongst the umpires. Gerry Davis, tonight’s home plate ump, calls fewer strikes than the pitchers on the mound generally receive. The difference though adds up to only one called strike per 20 plate appearances. Interestingly, though, with Davis behind the mound, pitchers’ K/9 IP drops by around 0.54 while BB/9 IP rates increase by 0.41. Of the World Series umps, only Jeff Nelson rings up more batters than his pitchers do overall.

On the surface, these differences are small, but with more data available, we can begin to assess how an umpire behind the plate can impact a game. Hopefully, during the World Series, we won’t suffer through any egregious bad calls, and Davis and his crew will ump a fair Fall Classic.

email
World Series Preview: The Outfield
World Series Game 1: Phillies at Yankees
  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    We saw one ump refuse to call a strike down the middle of the plate against the Red Sox in Boston this year because the Angels’ catchers supposedly moved their mitts too frequently and too far.

    Fire him.

    We saw one ump call Derek Jeter out and then tell the Yankee Captain that he didn’t need to be tagged as long as the ball got there first.

    Fire him.

    We routinely see umpires take too long to call balls and strikes and generally showboat all over the place.

    Fire all of them that do that.

    I have no tolerance for bad umps. You’re paid to call the game correctly and get the fuck out of the way. Someone’s showing you up? I don’t give a shit. Getting disrespected? I don’t give a shit. Players trying to pull fast ones on you? I don’t give a shit. Taking abuse from the fans? I don’t give a shit (although, those fans should probably lighten the hell up in most cases: lots of fans shock me with their ignorance.) Your calls are getting second-guessed with the benefit of technology after the fact? I don’t give a shit. Be better and you’ll get second guessed less.

    You can’t make the right call because you didn’t see it? Find a way to see it. Ask for help, or petition the league for more umps per game because your job is impossible to do correctly. Or pound on every desk for instant replay to help you.

    If you’re bad at your job, fuck off. If you’re bad at your job because there are logistical barriers that prevent you from doing your job well, fight against those barriers. Be proactive. Tell us why you suck so we can help you not suck anymore.

    Just know, we don’t care about you. We demand that you do your job right, and when you do, you’re not gonna get shit besides a continued paycheck and a continued job.

    You’re hired help.

    • donttradecano

      +27

  • http://pinstripepalace.blogspot.com/ Brien Jackson

    “We routinely see umpires take too long to call balls and strikes and generally showboat all over the place.”

    I’ve maintained for a while that cracking down on this would go along way to reigning umpires in.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      HEY, IT’S ENRICO PALLAZZO!

  • http://dinosaursneverexisted.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/melky.jpg Drew

    It’s sad that it has come to the point that we must “preview the umpires.”

    Shut up, do your job, make the right call. plz!?

  • http://kikojones5.blogspot.com Kiko Jones

    …and don’t even bring up the ’85 WS to Cardinals fans.

    I don’t mind the showboating, I just want to see solid accuracy.

    Speaking of which, I thought I read/heard sometime during this regular season that MLB umpires have a 93 or 97 percent accuracy rate…anybody know about this?

    • donttradecano

      seems high. if i had to guess id say 85-90

      • Bing baby

        it’s 96.5 percent officially…they’ll never admit that publicly…but I have inside info…

    • http://dinosaursneverexisted.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/melky.jpg Drew

      Yeah. 75% of the time they’re 93% accurate.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        The umps are made with real bits of panther, so you know they’re good.

  • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

    This might be a silly question, by why cant someone simply compare Pitch FX data with actual Ball/Strike calls of each umpire and give them a rating of some sort?

    “% Correct according to Pitch FX” or something like that. Then we can also further see which ones they tend to miss. This guy calls high strikes, this one inside strikes, etc.

    • JM

      but Pitch F/X Is good, but it only shows where the catcher caught it. The ump can judge if it went over the zone but came down in the catchers mit behind the zone.

      • Salty Buggah

        What? does Pitch f/x really work that way? I thought it showed where it went over the plate, not where the catcher caught it?

        • whozat

          It registers where it crosses the front of the plate. It does not, at all, register where the catcher caught it. That would make no sense.

          • Salty Buggah

            That’s what I thought. Thanks for the clarification.

            • Bing baby

              Pitch F/X is a joke…it assumes that the strike zone is static from pitch to pitch…it’s fluid…the batter’s zone, up and down, not inside and out, of course, is established every time he prepares to swing at the pitch, so you can’t tell that from pitch f/x…and as far as catching the ball…MLB throws out pitches that are caught in the dirt, regardless of whether or not they are in the zone, because it would be ridiculous to call a pitch that bounces a strike…all the douchebag fans would scream bloody murder even worse if someone called it “correctly”

      • Marcus

        For Pitch f/x, I believe the location of the pitch is when it crosses the front plane of the plate, not where the catcher caught it.

        At least that is what they say here:

        http://www.beyondtheboxscore.c.....f-x-graphs

  • vin

    “We routinely see umpires take too long to call balls and strikes…”

    Yeah, Sterling, we know. No need to keep mentioning it after every third pitch.

    • http://dinosaursneverexisted.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/melky.jpg Drew

      I think the ump usually tells the batter/catcher verbally pretty quick. The hand motions are what are delayed.

  • ansky

    I’m not too happy about “Country” Joe West being part of the crew. That guy always likes to make himself “part of the game” in one way or another.

    • http://dinosaursneverexisted.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/melky.jpg Drew

      The worst was win Fieldin Culbrith fielded a bunt!

      / http://www.instantcrickets.com ‘d

      • http://dinosaursneverexisted.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/melky.jpg Drew

        ugh. “Win?” I meant when. FAIL

    • ShuutoHeat

      ugh…not Joe West

      • slappy white

        maybe cuntry joe can sign God Bless America….I hear he’s quite the crooner

  • Eirias

    No Angel Hernandez? Darn.