Fans think umpire accuracy is an oxymoron but it’s not that bad.
I noted during last night’s game that Mike Minor was getting a lot of Tom Glavine type calls; balls that shall we say, stretched the low and away strike zone. I mentioned that then saw someone on Twitter said that the umps were giving all the calls to the Dodgers. I knew that wasn’t the case for called balls and strikes and said so. I was challenged on that point so I thought I’d publish the data and quantify how good umpire accuracy really was in those two games and let you see for your self.
Game 1 – Hunter Wendlestedt
Wendlestedt called 303 pitches on the night, 142 from Braves pitchers and 161 from the Dodger hurlers. Of those 303 pitches Pitch F/X data from BrooksBaseball.net says that 15 were called incorrectly. My math tells me that an umpire accuracy for Wendlestedt of 95.04%.
Pitch F/X says he missed eight pitches thrown by Braves pitchers; two strikes were called balls and five balls were called strikes. Net benefit to the Braves of three calls.
For the Dodgers he missed seven pitches; five strikes were called balls – some of them really, really bad misses – and two balls were called strikes. Net effect for the Dodgers, three lost calls. In other words the Braves benefited from missed calls six more times that the Dodgers. Here’s the chart for that game built from Pitch F/X data. Called strikes in red and balls in green.
Game 2 – Marvin Hudson
On Friday Hudson had similar results. He called 272 pitches and Pitch F/X indicates he missed 14 for an umpire accuracy rate of 94.85%. He incorrectly identified eight Braves pitches and six Dodger pitches. Once again the Braves benefited most from those calls as the graphic indicates.
When the red dots are right up next to the line they are within a whisker of being a strike and those misses are acceptable. The ones that are egregious are those that are clearly strikes like the nine Dodgers pitches on the graphics.
On the nights in question Wendlestedt and Hudson were banging 95% accuracy consistently and there was no discernable bias on ball and strike calls. Does that excuse the horrendous bad calls that happen? No. It does however explain why we notice them; the umps are really good and missing one is out of the ordinary. . .for all but those who shall not be named because everyone knows who they are anyway. What the technology hasn’t yet and may never be able to address are check swings. On Thursday anything that looked like a started swing was called a check by the third base ump but not by the his counterpart at first. On Friday it was much the same story which may indicate that the umpire at third has a better view of home plate because the third baseman isn’t in his way . . . or not. Whatever it is, there needs to be a better way.
That’s A Wrap
I understand the ‘high strike’ isn’t always called. However, both the Braves and Dodgers suffered crucial lost strikes on balls right down the middle just at or below the letters. Some of that is just the umpire being fooled like many batters by a Clayton Kershaw curve or a Kris Medlen back door breaking ball. There really isn’t a fix for that until pitch f/x link is piped directly to the umpires brain. That isn’t such a bad idea. If they did that and one of the notorious ‘you’re here to watch me and not the game ‘ umps goes all ego blast on a player or manager, he could be given a short sharp kick in the … pants.