(Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

STUDY: MLB umpires made the wrong call on 34,294 pitches in 2018

A research team at Boston University analyzed more than four million pitches from 11 MLB seasons and the findings aren't great for human umpires

April 24, 2019 - 1:06 pm
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(KMOX) - Every sport has subjective calls that aren't reviewable by replay, and in Major League Baseball, the biggest one is umpires calling balls and strikes.  Obviously, they botch some of those calls, but exactly how often does it happen?

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A new study by Boston University looked at the results of nearly four million pitches from the past 11 MLB seasons and concluded that baseball should begin moving towards an electronic stikezone. 

"High-tech aids and greater recruitment of competent younger umpires is another important step. Imagine player and fan experience and what baseball would look like if each year the more than 34,000 incorrect calls vanished. Fans could focus more on umpire standouts and rising stars and applaud the veterans who are able to withstand the test of time, just like the best aging ballplayers are appreciated."

Here are some of the things they found out:

1.  Just last season, umpires made 34,294 incorrect ball and strike calls.  That's an average of 14 per game, or 1.6 per inning.

2.  Umpires ARE influenced by the count, particularly when there are already two strikes.  In those cases, umpires were twice as likely to call a BALL a STRIKE. Balls are mistakenly called strikes 29% of the time when there are two strikes, compared to 15% of the time at lower strike counts.

3.  Fans love to ask umpires if they're "going blind," and there might actually be something to that . . . because there was a clear difference based on AGE.

Last year, the 10 most ACCURATE umpires averaged 37.8 years of age, with 6.3 years of experience.  The 10 LEAST accurate averaged 56.6 years of age, with 23.1 years of experience.

4.  NONE of the 10 most accurate umpires were selected for last year's World Series. And Ted Barrett, the 20-year veteran who was the crew chief in the World Series, ranked as the WORST umpire in 2018 with a bad call rate of 11.5%.

Joe West, a 40-year veteran, was also selected to do the World Series, despite having the second-worst bad call rate in last year.

5.  Last year alone, 55 games ended with incorrect ball-strike calls.

6.  On the plus side, things are improving.  In 2008, the bad call rate was 16.4%.  Ten years later, in 2018, it was down to 9.2%, and the missed call rate had improved each season . . . meaning that baseball IS doing something right to address the issue.

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