MLB Handicapping: Top Five 'Over' Umpires
by Aaron Smith - 5/17/2011
Do you study the tendencies of the home plate umpire before placing each baseball wager? If you don’t already do this, I strongly suggest you start right away! The home plate umpire has a huge effect on the outcome of the game. Unlike other sports like basketball and football, where all the referees have an equal influence on the game, baseball’s home plate umpire controls the game while the other three umpires often have a minimal impact.
Some MLB handicappers like to say it doesn’t matter who the home plate umpire is, but the statistics prove that to be far from the truth. The players and managers understand that different umpires call the game in completely different ways. There are some umpires that have a much smaller strike zone than others, and this becomes a great way to get an edge on the books if you have done your homework.
In order to help bettors understand what makes an umpire an ‘over’ umpire, I will give some peripheral statistics that support the impressive trends. 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 all foul balls, balls in play, called strikes, and swinging strikes. In addition, the average strikeout/walk ratio falls somewhere around 2.25 to 1. Comparing an umpire to the average umpire is a great way to get a good read on tendencies. In this article, I want to take a look at the umpires who have proven to be the top five ‘over’ umpires in all of baseball over the last few years.
MLB Handicapping: Top Five ‘Over’ Umpires in Major League Baseball
5. Marvin Hudson- Between 2008 and 2010 Marvin Hudson called 59 games that went ‘over’ the posted total and just 42 games that finished ‘under’ the posted total. In all three of those seasons, he called more games that finished ‘over’ the posted total; so consistency from year to year has been there with Hudson. Hudson has shown that he is often reluctant to ring up a batter over the past few years. In 34 games behind the dish in 2008, Hudson had a ridiculously low strikeout/walk ratio of 1.73 to 1.
4. Angel Campos- If Angel Campos had been in the league for a longer period of time, he would likely be higher on this list. Campos has some very impressive statistics that point to the ‘over,’ but he has only been an umpire in the majors since 2007. From 2008 through 2010, Campos called 45 games that finished ‘over’ the posted total and just 27 that fell ‘under’ the total. In 2010, Campos called just 61.18 percent of pitches a strike. In Campos’ first full year in the league in 2008, games where he was the umpire averaged an amazing 11.33 runs.
3. Tim McClelland- McClelland is a veteran umpire, and he has proven to be difficult on pitchers. Some umpires can change their ways over time, but McClelland continues to call a low percentage of pitches a strike, which continues to make the ‘over’ a solid value when he is behind the plate. In his seven games behind the plate so far in 2011, McClelland has called just 59.48 percent of pitches a strike. That is easily the lowest percentage of any umpire in the majors this year. The ‘over’ is 59-47 in his last 106 games behind the plate. In both 2008 and 2010, McClelland had the lowest strikeout/walk ratio of any umpire in the majors at just 1.6 to 1.
2. Sam Holbrook- The last couple years have seen scoring drop as pitchers dominate in major league baseball, but Holbrook continues to be a hitter’s best friend. Holbrook’s games in 2011 have averaged 9.5 runs per game, which is a full run higher than the league average. The ‘over’ is 6-1 in his seven games behind the plate this year. Over the past five years, the ‘over’ is 79-60 in his 139 games at home plate. Every year since 2007, Holbrook has called a lower percentage of pitches a strike than the average umpire.
1. Jim Reynolds- If you are looking for an ‘over’ umpire, you won’t do any better than Jim Reynolds. I suspect when pitchers see Reynolds behind the plate, they know they are in for a long day. Between 2007 and 2010, Reynolds called a total of 123 games. He called 78 games that finished ‘over’ the posted total and just 45 that finished ‘under’ the posted total. All four years at least 62 percent of his games finished ‘over’ the posted total. While some might tell you this is merely coincidental, I’m convinced it’s a long-term trend worth following.
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