What Has Gotten Into MLB Umpires?

John Bell, Courier Staff

 

The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing as the league championship series games are headed to game three. There have been many memorable moments from the 2021 playoffs, but the real topic of discussion that has everyone talking has been the umpires. It has been some of the worst umpired games during the postseason that we have seen in a few years.

 

Many people have become aware of the problem with umpires in professional sports, and in baseball, there are some who are calling for “robot umpires” to call balls and strikes during the games. The way the system would work is there would be an automated strike zone, determined by a computer system. The system would determine if the pitch was a ball or strike  The call would be relayed to the home plate umpire and then the call would be signaled to the players on the field.

 

Personally, I dislike the idea of a robot umpire. Umpires have been part of the game for as long as we can remember, and I believe you will be ruining the game by taking that privilege away from them. But, after watching the first 2 rounds of the playoffs this fall, the case for the MLB to move towards the automated pitch callers is starting to gain followers. Social media, especially twitter, has become the hub for the baseball community to discuss their thoughts, and after many of the games during the postseason, there has been a lot of talk about the umpires. Many baseball fanatics have found the umpire scorecards page on twitter, @UmpScorecards. The twitter page rates MLB umpires after every game they call behind the dish, during the regular season and postseason. Each umpire gets 4 grades, one for overall accuracy, one for overall consistency, one for outside the zone accuracy and the final grade is for inside the zone accuracy. Overall accuracy is based on the total number of pitches that were called correctly off the basic strike zone, used by all broadcast and statisticians to determine a true strike and true ball. It would be the zone used if MLB was to implement the robot umpires. Overall consistency is based off of the established strike zone, which is marked in red on the graphics. It is the zone the umpire establishes throughout the game. Outside and inside the zone accuracy is based on the “robot” zone.

 

For instance, Tripp Gibson was behind the plate for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Braves and the Dodgers. He was 96 percent on his overall accuracy, 99 percent on his overall consistency, 96 percent on his calls outside the zone and 97 percent on his calls inside the zone. One of the better games that we have seen so far this postseason. The worst performance we saw this postseason was Ted Barrett in Game 3 of the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants National League Divisional Series. Barrett scored an 88 percent on overall accuracy, the lowest by any umpire this postseason, with the average being 94 percent. 

 

The umpire scorecards have been a topic of discussion for many hardcore baseball fans and have been the center for the robot umpire movement. After a blown check swing call in Game 5 of the NDLS that sent the Giants packing for the season, many people have hopped on the bandwagon. It begs the question, does Major League baseball make the switch to the automated strike zone, and change a part of the game that was there from the beginning. It will be something to follow along closely over the next few years, especially during the collective bargaining talks between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.