## Linkin' Ballpark: The Psyche Of The Umpire Edition

My apologies for the late posting today.  My security team have been going a bit overboard after the death threats I received for questioning Roberto Alomar’s defensive abilities.  That, and I may have gotten caught up looking at some WAR Graphs.

No, you’re a nerd.

Anyway, a fantastic baseball blog called Beyond The Boxscore has been attempting to find patterns to how umpires call a game during certain situations.  For years, we’ve seen data that suggests umpires are more willing to call a pitch that favours the batter when the pitcher is ahead in the count, just as he’s more likely to call a pitch that favours the pitcher when it’s a hitter’s count .  It makes sense, considering that it’s still 2011, and robots don’t call balls and strikes.  We, as fallible humans, most often see what we want to see.

It was assumed that this pattern of benevolent umpireship would also emerge when ball and strike calls were compared to base-out states.  Base-out states refer to all the different possibilities that could happen during an inning, whether it be runners on first and third with one out, or none on with two out.

Bear with me here for a second.  Obviously, there are three outs in baseball, but there are also eight different base states: none on, guy on first, guy on second, guy on third, guys on first and second, guys on first and third, guys on second and third, and the bases loaded.  Combining outs and base states together means that there are twenty four possible situations that a batter will face when he comes to the plate.  These are referred to as base-out states.

In comparing these situations to an umpire’s calls, Beyond The Boxscore found that umpires actually squeeze the zone when the likelihood of scoring a run increases.  In other words, the more friendly that the base-out state is to the hitter (think men on base with none out), the more likely the umpire is to favour the hitter with his calls. This is the exact opposite of what an umpire does when he considers the count when calling balls and strikes.

Likewise, when the base-out state favours the pitcher (think bases empty with two out), the umpire’s strike zone is larger.

I can only speculate as to why this occurs, but my guess is that the umpire’s unconscious mind desires a pattern, and so it tricks him into making calls that would best inspire a pattern of scoring runs or getting outs.  Perhaps this is what commentators thoughtlessly refer to as momentum.

And The Rest

The Cincinnati Reds believe that Edgar Renteria is still worth \$3 million.  Surprisingly, the Cincinnati Reds front office was not taken over by members of Edgar Renteria’s family before this deal was offered to the veteran shortstop.

You can win a third of Renteria’s salary by pitching a perfect video game.

I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but seriously, don’t ever shoot a firearm into a crowd on New Year’s Eve.  The results are never worthwhile.

Gary Sheffield got his widdle feewings hurt by the Rays.  Now he’s 99.9% done.

Does a strikeout wizard have to have such supple wrists?

A graphical account of salary arbitration.

The Cubs convention is a go.  I can’t wait to see the toddler’s birthday party exhibit.

Finally, as Walkoff Walk takes its victory lap around the bases, they stop long enough to say goodbye to one of the newest Blue Jays.

2. Things were heated, but that’s definitely an exaggeration.

3. As far as a reason for this, to get to the point of bases loaded, 0 out, which is less likely than 1st and 2nd, 0 out since a hit will score a run from second more often than not (I’m assuming here, correct me if I’m wrong), an issue of pitcher control comes up. As a pitcher misses the strike zone, the umpire will start thinking he CAN’T hit the strike zone, and so a pitch must be more perfect to be called a strike. As was said, fallible human nature. Conversely, if a pitcher is mowing down batters, he is more likely to get the benefit of the doubt on a close pitch.

Recall the early June Jays-Rays game where Kevin Gregg couldn’t throw a strike. Not particularly uncommon for him, I know, but some of the pitches were close. As he keeps missing, though, the idea of a close pitch being a ball gets ingrained in the home plate umpire’s head. And so you have one walk leading to another. Which leads to pitches needing to be thrown closer to the heart of the plate to get a called strike. Which perhaps lead to the reason that “walks come back to hurt you”? Just an idea.

4. Very well put. That makes complete sense.

5. I actually wouldn’t have been surprised if someone actually had threatened that. That dude on Twiiter late last night who said all new-age statistics were bullshit and stats don’t win championships seemed like a prime candidate to say such a thing.

Also, I did one of those WAR Graphs last night with Robbie, Ryne Sandberg and Lou Whitaker and I thought it was amazing that Lou dropped off the ballot. He probably should be in the Hall of Fame. He seemed to be far more consistent than any of those middle infielders.

http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=860&playerid3=1011411&playerid4=&playerid5=1013846

6. Problem with these perfect game contests is that I think you have to be an American to participate, to go along with having to purchase and then play a 2K game. I sure hope the world doesn’t end in 2012, so we can (maybe) once again play an EA-made baseball game.

I haved pitched 2 perfect games in my XBox career, but playing MVP 2005. Both with Halladay; once against the Devil Rays, and once against Jason Bay and something called the Pittsburgh Pirates.

7. Does the licence run out after this year for 2K?

8. I thought it went until 2015, but I could be wrong…that might have been the NFL exclusive for EA.

9. Wikipedia can’t be wrong about anything, right?

“In 2005 … Take-Two Interactive signed an exclusive third-party licensing contract with Major League Baseball (MLB), MLBPA and MLBAM to produce MLB games. The agreement, which runs from Spring 2006 to 2012 … third party developers such as EA Sports from continuing or developing their own MLB games.”

10. sorry…”bars third party developers”

11. Your data is incomplete. You can’t just separate by base out states, realistically. You’re discounting too many other variables.

Off the top of my head:

Perhaps certain umpires are squeezers and, thereby, the pitcher has an advantage and gets into less of the less desirable situations, skewing the data toward more lenient umpires.

Perhaps in a well pitched game, the umpire calls more strikes as the game moves on.

You know, in both instances, a variable you are setting as a constant, is not.

12. You include everything so that the sample size is big enough, and it will eventually regress toward the mean.

You could say the same thing about pretty much any statistic. For instance: splits vs. left handed pitching. What’s the arm slot of the pitcher? How many innings has he thrown?

13. It’s not that simple.

Also, I can say whatever I want.

14. Stop arguing you two.

15. I agree with beau. This isn’t a case of a clear cut depenedent variable and independent variable. It’s quite possible that the “bases loaded 0″ out state occurs more often when a particular umpire has a very narrow strike zone on a particular day for whatever reason, and the “bases empty 2 out” state is skewed towards situations where the umpire has a wide strike zone for whatever reason. In this explanation, the strike zone is the independent variable and the state is the dependent variable, as opposed to the situation you described where the state is the independent variable, and the strike zone is the dependent variable. In reality, the truth is probably somewhere in between.