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Sunday, August 15, 2010

ESPN: Major League Baseball umpires miss 20 percent of close calls

It’s a complete morgenwreck!

As calls to expand instant replay in the game continue, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” conducted a two-week study to get a sense of how often umpires made the right call on close plays—and how often they were wrong.

Researchers used broadcast footage of all games from June 29 to July 11—184 in total—and reviewed every call, with the exception of balls and strikes.

The overwhelming majority of the calls (fair or foul, safe or out) were so obvious they did not require any sort of review.

But the “Outside the Lines” analysis found that an average of 1.3 calls per game were close enough to require replay review to determine whether an umpire had made the right call. Of the close plays, 13.9 percent remained too close to call, with 65.7 percent confirmed as correct and 20.4 percent confirmed as incorrect.

“That’s high,” said U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame pitcher. “They shouldn’t be allowed to miss [that many].

“I have seen some calls this year that just—that curl your hair.”

Repoz Posted: August 15, 2010 at 02:41 PM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, media, special topics

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. StHendu Posted: August 15, 2010 at 03:23 PM (#3616770)
Another way to look at the data is: 1 blown call every 4 games - 40 per team each year. I have 2 points to make, even though both are completely obvious:
1. there is no indication ESPN (Disney) took steps to perform an objective study, rather than one that would support their predetermined 'shocking' conclusion. and;
2. Jim Bunning is still a complete idiot who should not be asked any questions more complex than 'which flavor Jello would you like?'
   2. Dudefella Posted: August 15, 2010 at 03:25 PM (#3616773)
So the outrage here is that the umpires are getting 20 percent of 1.3 calls per game, over 184 games, wrong? And that these calls were close enough to require replay review to determine whether or not the umpire got it right?

I'd say that rather demonstrates that the umpires tend to do a pretty good job on close plays.

I think the bigger problem is the calls that the umpires whiff on that aren't particularly close.
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 15, 2010 at 03:33 PM (#3616775)
I think the bigger problem is the calls that the umpires whiff on that aren't particularly close.

That, and the far more basic problem of the designer strike zone, which probably accounts for 99% of missed calls to begin with.
   4. bobm Posted: August 15, 2010 at 03:51 PM (#3616782)
Please.

How many calls did umpires blow before the use of instant replay on game broadcasts, the proliferation of video as a learning tool, and the implementation of QuesTec, etc.?
   5. Gamingboy Posted: August 15, 2010 at 03:52 PM (#3616783)
there is no indication ESPN (Disney) took steps to perform an objective study, rather than one that would support their predetermined 'shocking' conclusion.


That said, at least OTL is one of, what, two (maybe three?) shows on ESPN that still actually try to avoid "shocking" stuff unless it actually comes up.
   6. akrasian Posted: August 15, 2010 at 04:06 PM (#3616786)
So on plays so close that they could only be called with certainty using slow motion replay, possibly from multiple angles, the umps only missed one in five, or the equivalent of one every four games? That's damn good, imo.
   7. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 15, 2010 at 04:30 PM (#3616794)
In Jim Bunning's day, men were men, and the idea that an umpire would have such an astounding lack of moral fortitude that he would miss a call, on average, every fifteen games that he officiates was unheard of. Why, in the absurd hypothetical that such an umpire were found, he would certainly be tarred and feathered (literally), and then shipped back to where he came from, i.e. the People's Atheistic Republic of Islamofascist Commiefagistan.

I blame the welfare queens, and the solution is obvious: Cut the taxes of rich people.
   8. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 15, 2010 at 04:33 PM (#3616798)
the umps only missed one in five, or the equivalent of one every four games?
Just to be clear, that's a missed call (about) every four games per umpire crew, not per umpire. Per umpire, it's just about one missed call every fifteen games.
   9. adenzeno Posted: August 15, 2010 at 04:50 PM (#3616802)
Just to be clear, that's a missed call (about) every four games per umpire crew, not per umpire. Per umpire, it's just about one missed call every fifteen games.


Some one explain this to the guy on XM radio please.
   10. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 15, 2010 at 04:56 PM (#3616808)
I think this actually evidence of two somewhat counter-intuitive observations:that:

1) Umpires are doing a pretty darned good job, and

2) there are few enough "reviewable" calls per game (a little over one per game) that instant replay would not be the end of the world, especially if you had somebody up in the booth ready to review. I think it is ridiculous how fast you could review such a call if you wanted...
   11. Frisco Cali Posted: August 15, 2010 at 05:29 PM (#3616821)
I'm willing to bet that the umpires themselves are not surprised by these results. They usually know when they miss calls.
   12. sunnyday2 Posted: August 15, 2010 at 05:31 PM (#3616822)
I think it's a great little bit of research. Just because the conclusion isn't obvious. But, yeah, umps do a pretty good job. It's just:

1. Is 80 percent good enough or isn't it? Clearly in the eye of the beholder.

2. And why do most umps have to be such absolute jerks when the choke on one? A little humility might help re. #1. (Yes I remember some humility on that blown call in the perfect game. I mean, you know, like that. That is too rare.)
   13. Mat Gleason Posted: August 15, 2010 at 05:52 PM (#3616841)
It's the Strike Zone, stupid.
   14. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 15, 2010 at 05:57 PM (#3616847)
But the “Outside the Lines” analysis found that an average of 1.3 calls per game were close enough to require replay review to determine whether an umpire had made the right call. Of the close plays, 13.9 percent remained too close to call, with 65.7 percent confirmed as correct and 20.4 percent confirmed as incorrect.

How many of those ended up being even somewhat related to a team scoring/not scoring a run in a game?
How many of them were close plays at 1B with 2 outs, and then the next batter pops the ball up on the very next pitch?
   15. cardsfanboy Posted: August 15, 2010 at 06:06 PM (#3616857)
2) there are few enough "reviewable" calls per game (a little over one per game) that instant replay would not be the end of the world, especially if you had somebody up in the booth ready to review. I think it is ridiculous how fast you could review such a call if you wanted...

exactly, assuming this is a valid study, this is the strongest piece of evidence for reviewing of plays. Of course not every one of those missed calls would be reviewable under any system, I think only plays that end a play should be reviewable
   16. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 15, 2010 at 06:12 PM (#3616860)
I would wager what missed calls do happen are concentrated on a subset of umpires.

On a separate note I am wondering if anyone has studied which umpires, if any, shrink their strike zones at the end of games. It is something I have noticed for some time. There are some guys who refuse to call anything not down the middle a strike come the potential last 3 outs of a game.
   17. Lassus Posted: August 15, 2010 at 06:29 PM (#3616865)
I'm going to clearly state that I don't trust ESPN's objectivity, judgment, and interpretation of data here. I'd need to see a lot more, and with greater transparency.

I also know for a fact that increased instant replay will cause me to watch a lot fewer games.
   18. AJMcCringleberry Posted: August 15, 2010 at 06:57 PM (#3616879)
I also know for a fact that increased instant replay will cause me to watch a lot fewer games.

Watching fewer Mets games could only be good for your health.
   19. catomi01 Posted: August 15, 2010 at 06:58 PM (#3616880)
how much actual governance has U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning performed? i hear his name more often through ESPN than any other outlet.
   20. jwb Posted: August 15, 2010 at 07:27 PM (#3616890)
i hear his name more often through ESPN than any other outlet.
We are all better off for this.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: August 15, 2010 at 07:28 PM (#3616891)
"Senator Bunning, I've got one of your constituents on the phone and he wants to talk to you about pending tax legislation."
"No, time for my nap."

"Senator Bunning, I've got Senator McConnell on the phone. He says he wants to talk to you about pending tax legislation."
"No, got to take my pills."

"Senator Bunning, I've got President Obama on the phone. He wants to talk to you about pending tax legislation."
"No, nearly lunchtime."

"Senator Bunning, I've got ESPN on the phone and they'd like your opinion of umpires."
"Put 'em through!"
   22. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 15, 2010 at 07:38 PM (#3616901)
Sen. Bunning is retiring. As far as Washington is concerned he is irrelevant.
   23. Ellis Valentine's Bright Future Posted: August 15, 2010 at 07:44 PM (#3616907)
It just goes to show that the old 80-20 rule applies to everything.
   24. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 15, 2010 at 08:16 PM (#3616927)
Sen. Bunning is retiring. As far as Washington is concerned he is irrelevant.
Due to the rules of the Senate, no Senator is ever irrelevant, until he or she actually is no longer a Senator.

Case in point: Bunning (post-retirement announcement) singlehandedly prevented the Senate from making an emergency extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits during this recession.

The extension eventually passed the Senate, but only because Bunning relented, not because the other 99 Senators had any real power to push it through above his objections.
   25. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 15, 2010 at 08:35 PM (#3616929)
will:

Sigh. I was speaking as to why nobody hears about him in the news. And why Sen. Bunning has to go to extremes to garner any attention.
   26. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 15, 2010 at 08:38 PM (#3616930)
Sen. Bunning is retiring. As far as Washington is concerned he is irrelevant.


Sen. Dodd is retiring too, and he just spearheaded the passage of an important, far-reaching piece of legislation.
   27. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 15, 2010 at 08:54 PM (#3616936)
I heard about him in the news. Maybe you need to read better news.
   28. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 15, 2010 at 08:55 PM (#3616937)
And Senator Bunning going to extremes is not a recent phenomenon.
   29. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 15, 2010 at 09:00 PM (#3616941)
Well, recent for me goes back 10 years. And it's only in that time period has Sen. Bunning has begun to earn the regard of wandering 'off the reservation'.

And it's also how one's politics tilt.
   30. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 15, 2010 at 09:04 PM (#3616942)
Jim Bunning has a lifetime 9% rating from the ACLU and a lifetime 95% rating from the ACU. If you don't think he's extreme, in the universe of American Senators, then your politics "tilt" extremely.
   31. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 15, 2010 at 09:12 PM (#3616945)
will:

Oh, I don't know about that but certainly my politics are not the norm for BBTF.

Being a fiscal conservative Republican and all.

Granted, I am for immigration. And I am not keen on the whole "God is with us" attitude. And I think Gov. Palin is shall we say not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Neverthless, I am heavily involved in various GOP causes. And have a sense of how Sen. Bunning is currently regarded by his own party.

Sen. Dodd is well ahead in that respect.
   32. bfan Posted: August 15, 2010 at 09:41 PM (#3616959)
wait a minute...don't you have to take the 13.9 per cent out of the sample, because there is no conclusion one way or the other (whether the calls are right or wrong)? This brings the error rate (comparing wrong calls to correct calls) to 23.7%, wrong.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: August 15, 2010 at 10:31 PM (#3616975)
#32 - Then you are penalizing umps for outcomes that are, even with instant replay, impossible to get right.
   34. villageidiom Posted: August 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM (#3616978)
Nate Silver has his take on it, which compares baseball umpires to referees in other sports. Same conclusion as here, which is opposite of ESPN.
   35. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 15, 2010 at 10:45 PM (#3616981)
I think the bigger problem is the calls that the umpires whiff on that aren't particularly close.


Was there such a category in the study? The way it's described, it sounds like all calls were divided into two categories:

1) Calls the umps obviously got right.
2) All other calls, which were then subject to replay review.
   36. Captain Joe Bivens, Pointless and Wonderful Posted: August 15, 2010 at 10:56 PM (#3616983)
HW is a member of the GOP, but he's one of the "good ones". ;-)
   37. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 15, 2010 at 11:06 PM (#3616990)
Joe:

You will be happy to know I have seven healthy beagle pups. Month old. And that explains why all of the sudden my farm is crawling with graddaughters and their friends.

I tell you young fellas, either learn to ride horses or work with animals. You will never lack for female companions.

Of course, they end up staying and taking up my television watching old musicals with my wife.

So I am in the den cutting off my left big toe with a hacksaw. Less painful than "Oklahoma"......................
   38. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 16, 2010 at 12:16 AM (#3617007)
why do most umps have to be such absolute jerks when the choke on one?

I think it's because most of them used to be ballplayers.
   39. CrosbyBird Posted: August 16, 2010 at 01:18 AM (#3617031)
You will be happy to know I have seven healthy beagle pups. Month old. And that explains why all of the sudden my farm is crawling with graddaughters and their friends.

Congrats! I know it's the responsible thing to do as an urban dog owner, but I have some moments where I wish my dog had not been spayed. She's got such a wonderful personality and the world is worse off without her passing on those genes. Then again, she had hip dysplasia, which I wouldn't want to pass on to offspring.
   40. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: August 16, 2010 at 01:24 AM (#3617033)
Crosby:

Thanks.

Just checked on the little ones. Everyone is snoozing. Big surprise.
   41. Dudefella Posted: August 16, 2010 at 01:49 AM (#3617040)
Was there such a category in the study? The way it's described, it sounds like all calls were divided into two categories:

1) Calls the umps obviously got right.
2) All other calls, which were then subject to replay review.


No, I think you're right.

Which, it seems to me, if anything points out how well most umps usually do. If you're including the obvious whiffs (and I think everyone can agree that there are some -- though perhaps I'm wrong) with the "ehhhh this is really close but on slo-mo it looks like blue got it wrong" calls, then presumably there's a lesser number of the latter than the description of the study would indicate.
   42. BWV 1129 Posted: August 16, 2010 at 05:22 AM (#3617119)
Honestly, I think the 24% certifiably wrong is pretty high, and I don't think it should be considered acceptable.
   43. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 16, 2010 at 05:45 AM (#3617126)
Honestly, I think the 24% certifiably wrong is pretty high, and I don't think it should be considered acceptable.


In contrast, of the first 42 posts in this thread, a mere 2.4 percent were certifiably wrong, which is a damn fine number.
   44. villageidiom Posted: August 16, 2010 at 10:50 AM (#3617144)
why do most umps have to be such absolute jerks when the choke on one?
IIRC they're taught to be obstinate. Not jerks so much, but pretty much insist their call is correct and final.

I guess the thought is this: After you make a close call, a manager will come out and argue. Often they'll argue simply because they don't know what the right call was but want to find out if you have any doubt. If you show any doubt he won't let up, and if you reverse your call you'll have the same thing all over again with the other manager in a few seconds. Except now you can't choose that moment to say you're sure of your call, since you've already demonstrated you are unsure. And the game will never resume if you don't draw the line and say this is it, I'm going with this call. To keep the game running smoothly you really should just do that with your original call. And, really, the best way to keep the game going smoothly isn't just to do that from the start, but to get the damn call right in the first place.

Replay is another nice way to break the cycle of arguments and get the call right.
   45. Karl from NY Posted: August 17, 2010 at 02:41 AM (#3617854)
IIRC they're taught to be obstinate. Not jerks so much, but pretty much insist their call is correct and final.


Which they have to do at lower levels. Only in MLB do we have the omnipresent cameras and video to prove all the calls after the fact. For anything from Little League up to AAA, to keep the game in line, umpires have to behave that way.

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