View Full Version : Wall Street Journal looks at the umpires

10-15-2005, 01:33 PM
The link below may or may not work :?:

but I am allowed to retransmit the abstract from Friday's WSJ

interesting theory

Document 1 of 1

WEEKEND JOURNAL; Sports -- On Sports: Blame the Umpires; In Postseason, the Power Player Is the Guy Calling Strikes; Red Sox Draw Hirschbeck
Sam Walker. Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). New York, N.Y.:Oct 14, 2005. p. W.1 Author(s):Sam WalkerPublication title:Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Oct 14, 2005. pg. W.1Source type:NewspaperISSN/ISBN:00999660ProQuest document ID:911289031Text Word Count1783Document
URL:http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=911289031&Fmt=3&clientId=14444&RQT=309&VName=PQD (http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=911289031&Fmt=3&clientId=14444&RQT=309&VName=PQD)
Abstract (Document Summary)Interchangeable as they seem, home-plate umpires can be surprisingly individualistic, even a bit eccentric, in the way they call balls and strikes. According to baseball's rulebook, the standard strike zone is a rectangle the width of the plate that runs from a batter's chest to the hollow below his kneecap. But no two umpires see it the same way. Some interpret it to be a commodious place while others seem to shrink it to the size of a Triscuit. A small strike zone tends to favor hitters, because the onus is on the pitcher to throw the ball right down the heart of the plate, rather than trying to nibble at the corners. On the other hand, an ump that sets a larger target makes it easier for pitchers to throw pitches in awkward spots where batters can't hit them cleanly. Since these tendencies can have an impact on games, adjusting to them is one of the oldest duties of a manager. "It's definitely a factor," says Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels.

Straight away, Mr. [Mike Port] says it would be wrong to assume that the statistical leanings of this or any umpire crew are the fruits of a conspiracy. All umpire assignments for the postseason are based on a combination of experience and merit, as judged by the league's traveling crew of umpire supervisors. Moreover, he says, he's "99% sure" these crews had been picked before it was determined that Boston would be playing Chicago in the first round. Any statistical leanings this group may have had, he says, should be placed squarely in the realm of "coincidence and happenstance."

It's not always clear what impact umpires' tendencies will have. While Mr. [John Hirschbeck]'s track record might seem to favor the strong White Sox pitching staff, it could be argued that a generous strike zone would be even more beneficial for Boston's pitchers, who've had more trouble finding the middle of the plate. And despite his tendency to squelch offense, Mr. Hirschbeck's game saw the unremarkable White Sox offense erupt for five homers and 14 runs.