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Twins Blogosphere


Josh Donaldson Continues to Call Out Umpires, Is He Right?

Josh Donaldson is sick and tired of poor umpiring and he doesn’t care who knows it. In one of the team’s most memorable moments this season, Donaldson was ejected after hitting a home run and kicking dirt on the plate as he touched home. It might not have been the best way to respond, but he was unhappy about a bad strike call. Now, the Twins third baseman is calling out umpires during the MLB Postseason and he might be right about how poor balls and strikes have been called in recent years.
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Former Twins player Trevor Plouffe started the conversation on Twitter when he brought up the fact that umpires “aren’t held accountable” and thy have “as much job protection as a Supreme Court justice.” Josh Donaldson responded by saying, “It’s embarrassing. It’s tough to watch any game.” He went on to say, “This isn’t high school where you can say that’s too close to take. As a MLB hitter our job is to take close pitches that are out of zone.”

Plouffe went on to talk about the difference between a hitter’s count or a pitcher’s count and Brandon Warne brought up some interesting numbers.

First, let’s examine Donaldson and his 2020 season. Not all the pitches he took went against him. In fact, he took 10 pitches in the zone that were called balls, which is very similar to his numbers stretching back to 2017. His biggest discrepancy was on pitches outside the zone that were called for strikes. From 2017-2019, Donaldson saw 2.7% of those pitches called for strikes. In 2020, that percentage jumped all the way to 3.8%, the highest mark of his career.

Complaining about umpires has been part of the fabric of baseball. One of the biggest changes is the fact that technology has allowed fans from home to see pitches and plays multiple times in slow motion where an umpire must make a call in real-time. Baseball broadcasts also put up a strike zone box, which makes it easy for fans to see if an umpire made the correct call. So, how have umpires fared when calling balls and strikes in recent years?

During the 2019 season, MLB umpires made 33,277 incorrect calls which means there were 13.8/game and 1.5/inning. Looking back to 2018, MLB umpires made 34,294 incorrect calls for an average of 14/game and 1.6/inning. While those numbers may seem high, a 2019 Boston University study showed that bad calls have been declining every year since 2008.

The 2020 season was unique in many ways with most teams playing 60 games and other rule changes for extra-innings and double-headers impacting how long games lasted. This meant umpires had fewer opportunities to make mistakes and the data backs that up. In 2020, MLB umpires made 11,920 incorrect calls for an average of 13.3/game, but with fewer innings the bad calls per inning was up to 1.54/inning.

Do you agree with Donaldson? Do you feel umpires have gotten worse at calling balls and strikes? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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21 Comments

I think Josh is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I think the Twins will soon be regretting that contract.

I think they have always been guessing poorly. Worse? I don't count, but I remember and see far too many wrong calls. If they used the tools that have been developed to get better, and actually reviewed their work for an hour after a game, it seems it would show. But why use a guesser, when you can use the tool that teaches the guesser? It was time years ago..... 

    • adjacent, Ben Noble, chpettit19 and 1 other like this
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ToddlerHarmon
Oct 15 2020 04:09 AM

If bad calls decline every year for 12 years, then:

 

1) there are skills that can be learned to be more accurate

2) those skills are being learned by MLB umpires

 

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VivaBomboRivera!
Oct 15 2020 05:01 AM
It’s because there are good umpires that we know there are bad ones. Call them out. “Tighten it up!”
    • chpettit19 and wabene like this

The problem isn't only the bad call, rather, how it affects the outcome of the game. A bad call that doesn't change an at bat or lead to a run scored or not scored is a bad call that you can live with. But, a bad call making the count 0-2 rather than 1-1 in a close game with no outs and a runner on first can be huge.

 

The difference this year is that I remember way to many bad calls that led to shutting down an inning the Twins were looking at potentially scoring. For that reason, I believe MLB must go to robo umps as soon as 2022...assuming there is a 2022. Hopefully, there are enough Donaldson's out there so that the players union will push for this change in the next CBA. 

    • diehardtwinsfan, h2oface, chpettit19 and 3 others like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Oct 15 2020 07:41 AM

I understand a trend, but balls and strikes is one technology can fix and one that quite frankly will end the frustration that a lot of fans have. It's a game integrity issue. Perhaps it changes the outcome, perhaps not. We don't know, but the idea that it shoudln't be fixed is preposterous in my opinion. 

    • adjacent, h2oface, Major League Ready and 3 others like this
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terrydactyls1947
Oct 15 2020 08:10 AM
Until MLB moves to automated pitch calling, I think it should implement standards for umpires. If Joe West and Angel Hernandez fall below a minimum requirement for correct calls, they are sent to the minors or fired. Borderline "incorrect" calls that may have nicked the edge of the plate can be tolerated. But it's the pitches clearly within the strike zone called balls or pitches three or four (or more) inches off the plate that are called strikes that have to be eliminated.
    • h2oface, Ben Noble, chpettit19 and 3 others like this
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Doctor Gast
Oct 15 2020 08:26 AM

 

The problem isn't only the bad call, rather, how it affects the outcome of the game. A bad call that doesn't change an at bat or lead to a run scored or not scored is a bad call that you can live with. But, a bad call making the count 0-2 rather than 1-1 in a close game with no outs and a runner on first can be huge.

 

The difference this year is that I remember way to many bad calls that led to shutting down an inning the Twins were looking at potentially scoring. For that reason, I believe MLB must go to robo umps as soon as 2022...assuming there is a 2022. Hopefully, there are enough Donaldson's out there so that the players union will push for this change in the next CBA. 

I agree. Umps are human so they make mistakes & are bias (some more than others). Some favor hitters, some pitchers, some players & someeven teams & many times Twins get the short end of the deal. It`s hard to make the umps accountable so why not go w/ robo umps? 2020 would`ve been the political correct thing to do. I know there are bugs to work out but w/ the hyped will of distancing there should`ve been a way. Robo umps is the fair way, so everyone knows what to expect & no bias

    • adjacent, rdehring and Nine of twelve like this

It make no difference if Donaldson is right or wrong on bad calls. The problem is that his reaction to these calls is hurting his team particularly when he or another player is ejected because of it. In addition, no matter what umpires may say, it is human nature that calls that they make "assuming that all things are equal" will go against Donaldson's team.

Side thought. I've noticed this year how much the fatter, out of shape umps contrast with the younger, fitter umps. I don't believe the fatter umps can keep a good, steady base behind the plate. Their bodies do a lot more leaning. Also, umps getting bad looks at steals of second. Not being in a good position to see tag. Thank god nobody steals anymore

I'm fine with the "human factor" involved with umpiring. It's when it becomes biased or when a pitch that has been called one way all game suddenly changes late in the game. Call it the same for both teams the whole game.

 

I believe it was Joe West that once told a young player that he hadn't earned that call yet. That's the stuff that has to go.

Bad calls happen and I have a bigger problem with umpires being so damn sensitive. nba and nfl refs get yelled at every game and don't react alot of the time. Ejecting a player for questioning a bad call is not always necessary
    • jjswol and wabene like this
Yes he’s right.

We can find ruins buried in the jungle that are tens of thousands of years old from space. There are cars driving around by themselves as we speak. Most of you are probably wearing a watch that can tell you the oxygen levels in your blood.

There’s no reason to sit and watch these umps butcher games anymore.

Also, it’s kind of talking out of both sides of your mouth if you’re a purist that needs people umping, but gets bent out of shape about people arguing calls and getting into it with the ump. Lou Pinella, George Brett, etc. That’s as much a part of “old school” baseball as anything.
    • IAMNFan and SkyBlueWaters like this

I'm fine with the "human factor" involved with umpiring. It's when it becomes biased or when a pitch that has been called one way all game suddenly changes late in the game. Call it the same for both teams the whole game.

I believe it was Joe West that once told a young player that he hadn't earned that call yet. That's the stuff that has to go.

You can’t have the “human factor” without bias. It’s basically a fundamental law like gravity.

Bias and error are the only two components of the “human factor” that differentiate it from a computer. There isn’t a human being walking the planet right now, or ever, that is free from bias.
    • diehardtwinsfan, Nine of twelve and IAMNFan like this

I'm tired of the mistake calls. It use to be that Umps stood directly behind the plate thus giving them a better perspective of the entire plate. Now they stand over the inside corner and can't see the outside part of the plate, so they guess. I would venture to bet that 90% of the wrong calls are on the outside part of the plate. Too bad they can't move back over 1 foot so they are centered behind the plate like they use to be. 

 

As for being biased we only have to look back to the playoffs this year where the 1st base ump called 2 consecutive Astros runners safe at 1st base only to have both calls reversed on replay. 

 

Take your "human factor" and shove it you know where. If the umps aren't going to be held accountable then it's way past time to go with computer technology. When the announcers and the fans can tell within an instant after the pitch crosses the plate if it was a strike or ball then there is no excuse NOT to use it. Something as simple as a red and green light on the scoreboard, red for ball, green for strike, that lights up after each pitch could be used by an Ump sitting behind a monitor screen/TV making the call. The homeplate Ump would only have to work the plate like the other base Umps work the bases. Problem solved. 

    • Nine of twelve likes this

 

I'm tired of the mistake calls. It use to be that Umps stood directly behind the plate thus giving them a better perspective of the entire plate. Now they stand over the inside corner and can't see the outside part of the plate, so they guess. I would venture to bet that 90% of the wrong calls are on the outside part of the plate. Too bad they can't move back over 1 foot so they are centered behind the plate like they use to be. 

 

As for being biased we only have to look back to the playoffs this year where the 1st base ump called 2 consecutive Astros runners safe at 1st base only to have both calls reversed on replay. 

 

Take your "human factor" and shove it you know where. If the umps aren't going to be held accountable then it's way past time to go with computer technology. When the announcers and the fans can tell within an instant after the pitch crosses the plate if it was a strike or ball then there is no excuse NOT to use it. Something as simple as a red and green light on the scoreboard, red for ball, green for strike, that lights up after each pitch could be used by an Ump sitting behind a monitor screen/TV making the call. The homeplate Ump would only have to work the plate like the other base Umps work the bases. Problem solved. 

 

 

So let's just have the managers sit in separate rooms with their xbox's or playstations and play the games that way. 

One question I ponder: how fair is it to the history of the game to start robot umpires for today's players? Some random guy went out there and hit .265 in 1982. Another dude hit .216 in 1935. They had bad calls go against them also, as did the hundreds of thousands of other guys. It's not like umpires have just gone downhill all of a sudden - in fact they might be better than ever with the current scrutiny. 

 

The main problem I have is do you tarnish the game's history by making this huge change? I suppose the argument could be made in the NFL with the instant replay as well. I think in the end, getting the call right is the most important thing....but in the NFL, you really are only using replay for catches/fumbles, maybe a couple times per game. Even in the MLB's replay system, we're only using it once or twice.

 

The ball/strike thing would be used on every play. I'm not sure we comprehend exactly what would happen here. Would guys hit better? Worse? Way worse? Way better?

    • USAFChief and wabene like this
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Nine of twelve
Oct 18 2020 04:30 PM

 

One question I ponder: how fair is it to the history of the game to start robot umpires for today's players? 

OK, well then let's go back to the rules as they were in 1869, which is when professional baseball began.

The point I'm making is that the game evolves, the rules evolve and technology evolves. How fair is it to the future of the game to use an inferior method of calling pitches just because "that's how we've always done it"? It is my understanding that electronic pitch calling is more accurate than human pitch calling, and for that reason alone it should be implemented.

And by the way, I think it's wrong to refer to these systems as "robot umpires". It's inaccurate.

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Nine of twelve
Oct 18 2020 04:45 PM

 

The ball/strike thing would be used on every play. I'm not sure we comprehend exactly what would happen here. Would guys hit better? Worse? Way worse? Way better?

The better hitters would hit better, the worse hitters would hit worse, the better pitchers would pitch better, and the worse pitchers would pitch worse. Exactly as god intended.

    • diehardtwinsfan likes this

The better hitters would hit better, the worse hitters would hit worse, the better pitchers would pitch better, and the worse pitchers would pitch worse. Exactly as god intended.

I doubt it.

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