MLB Handicapping: Top Five 'Under' Umpires
by Aaron Smith - 5/20/2011
The baseball season is a long grind and a wise bettor will look for any chance to get an edge over the oddsmakers. While some MLB handicappers like to say that umpire statistics don’t matter, I beg to differ. The numbers don’t lie, and the numbers prove that not all umpires are created equal. Considering the tendencies of an umpire is one of the single best ways to profit in the long haul when betting on baseball. Recently, I wrote about the top five ‘over’ umpires in the league. Now, it is time to look at the top ‘under’ umpires in baseball. These are the guys that the pitchers love to see behind the dish!
As you read this article, keep in mind that the average umpire generally calls about 62.5 percent of pitches a strike. This strike percentage includes foul balls, balls in play, swinging strikes, and called strikes. In addition, the average strikeout/walk ratio is about 2.25 to 1.
MLB Handicapping: Top Five ‘Under’ Umpires
5. John Hirschbeck- Hirschbeck has been an MLB umpire since 1984, and he has consistently proven to have a wide strike zone. From 2009 through 2011 to this point, Hirschbeck has called 22 games that have gone ‘over’ the posted total and 39 games that have gone ‘under’ the posted total. These years are more the norm than an aberration, as his 43-22 record to the ‘under’ in 2001 and 2002 shows us. In 2010, Hirschbeck called 64.03 percent of pitches a strike, and his strikeout/walk ratio was 2.31.
4. Phil Cuzzi- Cuzzi has called more strikes than average for four straight years. So far in 2011, Cuzzi is calling 64.25 percent of pitches a strike. Cuzzi has a way of keeping the game low scoring, as evidenced by his four straight years of the average runs scored per game of 8.7 runs or fewer. In the last three years the ‘under’ is 44-28 in Cuzzi’s 62 games behind the dish. Cuzzi clearly has a wide strike zone, and that generally leads to a low-scoring affair.
3. Doug Eddings- Eddings has some revealing peripheral numbers that show he is a long-term ‘under’ umpire. In the last five years the ‘under’ is 78-62 in his 140 games behind the plate. In 2007, Eddings called an amazing 65.43 percent of pitches a strike, which is the highest percentage of strikes called by any umpire in the last five years. In that same year, Eddings had a strikeout/walk ratio of 2.88 to 1. Batters better be ready to get that bat off their shoulders when Eddings is the home plate umpire.
2. Brian Runge- Runge’s grandfather and father were both umpires in the majors, so it should come as no surprise that he calls balls and strikes for a living. It is hard to argue against betting the ‘under’ when Runge is behind the plate. Runge has a penchant for ringing up batters on marginal pitches. In 2010, Runge had 2.9 strikeouts to every one walk issued, which was the highest ratio of any umpire in the league. For two straight years, he has called more than 64 percent of pitches a strike. The ‘under’ is an impressive 53-31 in his last 84 games behind home plate.
1. Bill Miller- Miller certainly deserves the top spot on this list of ‘under’ umpires. In his last 109 games behind the plate, the ‘under’ has cashed in 71 times while the ‘over’ has cashed in just 38 times. The consistency at which his games go ‘under’ the posted total is unrivaled. Each year since 2004 the majority of his games have finished ‘under’ the posted total. In each of the last four seasons, he has called at least 63.5 percent of pitches a strike. So far in 2011, 64.82 percent of pitches have been a strike and the strikeout/walk ratio is an impressive 2.61 to 1. If you see Bill Miller listed as the home plate umpire, you’ll want to give the ‘under’ a long look.
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