Now that we’re fairly deep into the MLB playoffs, MLB umps are under more scrutiny than ever, and with good reason. The umps are responsible for fairly adjudicating decisions (even on new rules), and they can often be responsible for who wins or loses a game. Now, no ump is going to get every call perfect. Baseball moves too fast, and there are too many calls to nail. Even so, many MLB fans have long suspected that some MLB umps are better than others, and now, we have proof.
The Instagram account @umpireauditor is carefully tracking every umpire across the league, and chronicling their missed calls. The account also provides statistics on how often each umpire gets it right and gives each umpire a rating as to how good they are at nailing calls.
Across the league, umps get 92.5% of their calls right, and Angel Hernandez, who this account says is the worst umpire in sports, nails just 90.4% of his calls on average. While these may sound like high percentages, the number of missed calls in a given game can rise into the teens, meaning that batters can be walked or struck out based on calls that were incorrect, which of course, has a massive impact on the overall outcome of the game.
As the videos in this account often make clear, umps can often blow calls at the most crucial moments for teams, like during a game between the Twins and the Astros when an incorrect strikeout kept the tying run from moving to second base. Appearing on this account is surely every umpire’s worst nightmare, but it also provides plenty of fuel for fans who believe that their team was robbed of the chance to win a game.
While it’s definitely worth being honest about whether an official or umpire is blowing calls, it’s also true that every umpire and official in every sport across every league is going to make mistakes. Fans can hop all over these officials for blown calls or claim that the umps are biased against their team, but that’s often just a mechanism to avoid the harsh realities that come with a loss, especially one that means the end of a season.
Umpires have undoubtedly gotten better in an era when they can be checked by computers and review certain plays, but they’re never going to be perfect. Even if the MLB someday replaced them with computers that called balls and strikes, fans would still find a way to complain that that piece of AI had been programmed to be biased against the Dodgers or whatever.
Baseball is among the more subjective sports out there, and while certain calls are obviously wrong or obviously right, others are much more marginal. Umps have always existed in part to be the subject of every team’s hate, and this account proves that’s the case. What’s also true, though, is that the sport would be way worse off without them.
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