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View Full Version : Article: Are We Ever Biased Towards Umpire Bias?



John Bonnes
05-16-2012, 08:51 PM
You can view the page at http://twinsdaily.com/content.php?551-Are-We-Ever-Biased-Towards-Umpire-Bias

Teflon
05-16-2012, 09:29 PM
How would it be any different than a ref in the NFL deciding when and where to enforce the out-of-bounds line based on the score of the game or hockey waiving offsides calls for teams that are trailing? Geez Louise. Imagine a crisply played baseball game where at-bats were actually resolved based on the true merit of the pitch being thrown. I would pay more to go to those kinds of games.

Thrylos
05-16-2012, 09:41 PM
yeah
Umpire Bias has no place in sports. These guys act like the sport owes them. They can replace them with cameras these days and have a more fair and better played game. Get a ballboy behind Home Plate to throw in balls.

Oxtung
05-16-2012, 10:56 PM
Donít we want someone who prompts the batter and pitcher to resolve their conflicts themselves?You're overlooking a very large piece of the puzzle. The batter and pitcher DID resolve the play. The pitcher threw the ball and the batter made the decision to not swing. That pitch should be called accurately exactly because the play WAS resolved by the batter and pitcher. This is the exact same problem that occurs at the end of many professional basketball games (with the same argument of "let the players decide the outcome"). The players DID decide the outcome with their actions. If it is a ball or strike with the first pitch then it's a ball or strike with the last. To me the real question here is ... how much emphasis should be given to the pitch f/x by the umpires? Should they try to adjust their calls now that there is a feedback mechanism? Can you adjust your ball/strike calls in those situations just by knowing your biased? That would be an interesting experiment!

jorgenswest
05-16-2012, 11:38 PM
Is data about individual umpires public or at least available to teams?

Perhaps teams might adjust how aggressive they are at the plate based on the home plate umpire.

USAFChief
05-17-2012, 12:20 AM
A few points:

1. I don't think it's necessarily accurate to say that we KNOW a given pitch was a ball or strike based on pitch f/x. We only KNOW where pitch f/x measured it. There's no way to measure whether pitch f/x is accurate, other than blind trust. It might be quite accurate. Then again, it might not. How would we know? Not to mention, as far as I know the top and bottom of the pitch f/x strike zone is still human input guesswork, because that changes with every hitter.

2. Umpires are given pitch f/x data after every game they call behind the plate.

3. Teams have kept "books" on umpires for a long long time. Each individual umpires tendencies are known to hitters and pitchers.

James Richter
05-17-2012, 12:52 AM
You're overlooking a very large piece of the puzzle. The batter and pitcher DID resolve the play. The pitcher threw the ball and the batter made the decision to not swing. That pitch should be called accurately exactly because the play WAS resolved by the batter and pitcher.
Correct. This is why Red Sox/Yankees games take so blasted long to play: everybody in both lineups knows the ump doesn't want to call them out on a borderline pitch. If there has to be bias, it would be better if the umps erred on the side of calling close pitches strikes. Hitters would take more swings earlier in the count, there'd be more balls in play, fewer pitches thrown, and faster games. Maybe we could get back to 11-man pitching staffs!

mike wants wins
05-17-2012, 06:56 AM
Agree with the above, it is an active choice not to swing or to swing. A pitch should always be called for where it was thrown, regardless of the situation. It is the only truly fair way to play a game, by the rules. Otherwise, it is not a fair contest. I 100 percent hate umpire and referee bias.

mike wants wins
05-17-2012, 07:58 AM
To add to my thoughts....bias is one of the reasons I don't watch the NBA. Bias is one reason I stopped watching Braves baseball back in the day. How can we ever know that Jordan was the best basketball player ever, if he got every call? Call the game the same way, for everyone, all the time during a game. That's the only fair way to play a game. If two people are playing against each other, but one is playing by rules that give her an advantage, are they even playing the same game? I have no idea why anyone would like bias. Take the "let the players decide" idiocy of the NFL interference rules. By not calling interference, because you want the play to rule, you are actually not doing so. If it is interference, it is interference. By not calling the penalty, you are not letting the playerd decide the game, you are letting one player play by different rules, and making it an unfair contest. It's logical laziness to say you are letting the players decide the outcome of that play.

Have I mentioned how much I hate unfair application of rules in sports and other competitions? There is no good argument for the bad application of rules. None.*

*in professional or other high level competitions, we aren't talking about little kids here.....

JB_Iowa
05-17-2012, 08:49 AM
While my first reaction would be that I hate umpire bias, my second thought is: "I love the game."

Given that what John is describing is unintentional umpire bias (i.e. human nature), I have to think that it has ALWAYS been present in the way that games have been umped.

Trying to rid the game of this unintentional bias could have a significant impact on the game -- and quite frankly, I'm not sure we'd be happy with the results.

Educate umpires. Keep monitoring performance. Make gradual improvements.

Just because we have technology to make changes doesn't necessarily mean that it would be an improvement. And, as pointed out above, it doesn't necessarily mean that the technology is totally accurate either.

mike wants wins
05-17-2012, 08:58 AM
I would love it if strikes were strike, and balls were balls. A totally fair contest between pitcher and hitter. That would be cool. As jb points out, making the change is not so easy.....and change always has unintended consequences.

Curt
05-17-2012, 09:09 AM
We want the game called as accurately and consistently as possible. Surely we can all agree on that? I am not an advocate of instant replay nor of human umpires being replaced by technology. I am in favor of using technology to help the human umpires improve their performance, in this case, using the f/x technology to remove this bias.

YourHouseIsMyHouse
05-17-2012, 10:31 AM
Very interesting piece John. I really thought about the vaccination question before I read on and decided that vaccination would be the best idea. I would really like to see more commission than omission from home plate. I think borderline strikes should always be called, because the hitter has to know that it's close enough to where he could be caught looking. The 80% to 60% gap because of an 0-2 count is definitely not surprising and frustrating to say the least. Pitchers get squeezed in those situations a lot! Umpires need to stop taking pity upon batters and call the game the way it was designed to. You'd think they'd want to get out as quickly as possible, but that is never the case!

sln477
05-17-2012, 10:43 AM
I was working on an article that addresses this issue, but in a different light. Do umpires "create" great pitchers & relegate others to average or poor pitchers. I have often wondered if umps have biases towards certain clubs/coaching staffs than others. It is human nature to "favor" someone who is favorable to you, while it is also human nature to be "less favorable" to those that may treat you less favorably; even though we are not inclined to admit as much. We have watch countless hours of baseball & probably all agree that we have wondered why pitcher "X" is getting the calls, while pitcher "Z" is not receiving the same calls. It can then be said, that pitcher "Z" now has to be more precise, thus possibly making more mistakes, leading to poorer performances. I can't help but think that some, not all, umpires have this bias towards certain clubs/managers. Any thoughts??

Boom Boom
05-17-2012, 11:02 AM
I was working on an article that addresses this issue, but in a different light. Do umpires "create" great pitchers & relegate others to average or poor pitchers. I have often wondered if umps have biases towards certain clubs/coaching staffs than others. It is human nature to "favor" someone who is favorable to you, while it is also human nature to be "less favorable" to those that may treat you less favorably; even though we are not inclined to admit as much. We have watch countless hours of baseball & probably all agree that we have wondered why pitcher "X" is getting the calls, while pitcher "Z" is not receiving the same calls. It can then be said, that pitcher "Z" now has to be more precise, thus possibly making more mistakes, leading to poorer performances. I can't help but think that some, not all, umpires have this bias towards certain clubs/managers. Any thoughts??

I would imagine that this has more to do with the individual pitchers than the teams. Pitchers with long track records of success will often get the benefit of the doubt on close pitches, while green rookies and journeymen will not. It may also have something to do with the catchers and their ability to frame a pitch. If a catcher has to move his glove much to catch a pitch, even if the pitch is caught in the strike zone, the umpire may have a more difficult time making the correct call because of the extra variable of the moving target.

James Richter
05-17-2012, 12:48 PM
I would imagine that this has more to do with the individual pitchers than the teams. Pitchers with long track records of success will often get the benefit of the doubt on close pitches, while green rookies and journeymen will not.
How about the PJ Walters vs. Jose Bautista AB last weekend? Borderline 2-strike pitch from a marginal big leaguer to a former MVP goes the MVP's way. The AB continues and Bautista hits a HR that decides the game. If Roy Halladay had thrown the very same pitch to Trevor Plouffe, do you think the ump would have called it differently? Should he have?

Boom Boom
05-17-2012, 02:01 PM
How about the PJ Walters vs. Jose Bautista AB last weekend? Borderline 2-strike pitch from a marginal big leaguer to a former MVP goes the MVP's way. The AB continues and Bautista hits a HR that decides the game. If Roy Halladay had thrown the very same pitch to Trevor Plouffe, do you think the ump would have called it differently? Should he have?

Yes, as established pitchers often get the borderline calls, the inverse is also true. An unproven starter isn't going to get as many calls when he's pitching to a big-time hitter. I don't think that should be the case, but it is what it is.

When Joe Mauer takes a close pitch he's more likely to get the ball call than Drew Butera. If the umpire doesn't have a great look at the pitch he might defer to a hitter that he thinks has a good eye.

Come to think of it, that may be an interesting research project. What % of borderline pitches go the way of the hitter when the batter is Derek Jeter, for example, as opposed to Trevor Plouffe?

snepp
05-17-2012, 03:30 PM
Here's an article that I really liked on the topic.

The Compassionate Umpire (http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-compassionate-umpire/)

dwintheiser
05-17-2012, 03:59 PM
So the results here seem to support the idea that umpires, following years of fan and official comment that games should be decided on the field rather than by an umpire's call, are reluctant to make calls that could decide games?

Sounds like we're getting exactly what we asked for.

powrwrap
05-17-2012, 04:05 PM
yeah
Umpire Bias has no place in sports. These guys act like the sport owes them. They can replace them with cameras these days and have a more fair and better played game. Get a ballboy behind Home Plate to throw in balls.

I hope you are using sarcasm here.

John Bonnes
05-17-2012, 11:15 PM
Regarding umpires & how they react to certain pitchers, I've wondered about certain pitches. Say a guy has a curveball that starts in the one but darts out of it late. If that pitcher can't get that pitch called a strike, that might be a significant handicap. Or if it is, he could be nearly unhittable.

Here's another question: should the zone be different for right-handed & left-handed batters? Must it be symmetrical?

@_2244
05-18-2012, 10:07 AM
Ahhh, sports officiating. One of my favorite topics to banter about. Piling on the umpire is one of the easiest things in the world to do. In my opinion, blaming an umpire for costing you a game is the world's biggest "Loser's Lament." I'd be willing to bet the vast majority of the loudest umpire critics are those who have never been behind the plate.

@_2244
05-18-2012, 10:10 AM
I would submit that the vast majority of umpire critics have never been behind the plate in a competetive game.

BeefMaster
05-18-2012, 11:20 AM
Here's another question: should the zone be different for right-handed & left-handed batters? Must it be symmetrical?

If the strike zone varied side-to-side, that implies that home plate no longer defines the zone... that seems like a pretty huge change.

Thrylos
05-18-2012, 11:31 AM
Here's another question: should the zone be different for right-handed & left-handed batters? Must it be symmetrical?

There is a definition of the zone in the MLB rulebook :)
It does not say that the zone should be different for lefties or righties. my answer is no

one_eyed_jack
05-18-2012, 02:43 PM
I would submit that the vast majority of umpire critics have never been behind the plate in a competetive game.

---True, but so what? That's true of pretty much everything, isn't it? The vast majority people who criticize politicians have never served in office - does that mean they don't have a right to speak their disagreement? Can you not say the food at a restaurant stinks if you've never been a chef?

powrwrap
05-18-2012, 04:17 PM
---True, but so what? That's true of pretty much everything, isn't it? The vast majority people who criticize politicians have never served in office - does that mean they don't have a right to speak their disagreement? Can you not say the food at a restaurant stinks if you've never been a chef?

Your comparisons aren't quite valid. Umpires make judgment calls that spectators can witness, oftentimes with the assistance of instant replay. Fans are informed and know the rules of baseball but they've never been in the pressure situation of having to make a split second decision based on something they've seen in real time.

If you were to eat at a restaurant then read a food critic's review of the same food prepared by the same chef your comparison would be legit. Or if you read the same position papers and listened to the same speeches from colleagues that a politician does and still criticize their votes in Congress you might have a comparison.

one_eyed_jack
05-18-2012, 04:59 PM
Your comparisons aren't quite valid. Umpires make judgment calls that spectators can witness, oftentimes with the assistance of instant replay. Fans are informed and know the rules of baseball but they've never been in the pressure situation of having to make a split second decision based on something they've seen in real time.

If you were to eat at a restaurant then read a food critic's review of the same food prepared by the same chef your comparison would be legit. Or if you read the same position papers and listened to the same speeches from colleagues that a politician does and still criticize their votes in Congress you might have a comparison.


---Even if you accept those distinctions as meaningful, I still don't see how it supports the ultimate conclusion that only people who have umpired themselves are entitled to have an opinion about umpiring.


But I do think it's cute that you believe that politicians actually read position papers and listen to speeches from their colleagues before deciding how to vote on something.
:)

powrwrap
05-20-2012, 06:11 PM
But I do think it's cute that you believe that politicians actually read position papers and listen to speeches from their colleagues before deciding how to vote on something.
:)

Real men don't use the word 'cute'.:)

powrwrap
05-20-2012, 06:12 PM
---Even if you accept those distinctions as meaningful, I still don't see how it supports the ultimate conclusion that only people who have umpired themselves are entitled to have an opinion about umpiring.


Sure they can have an opinion. Would be nice if it was an informed opinion...