Home Plate Umpires Role in MLB Handicapping
by Dave Schwab - 5/23/2012
A team’s current form as well as its starting pitcher in any particular matchup are two major factors to take into consideration when doing your MLB handicapping, but a third and sometimes overlooked factor is which umpire is slated to be behind home plate calling balls and strikes.
The home-plate umpire brings the human element into the game considering that interpreting the actual strike zone is not an exact science. Every pitch that is not hit is still a judgment call that can have an impact on the outcome of a game. Taking the time to understand an umpire’s tendencies is just as important as knowing the starting pitcher’s ERA.
While no two umpire’s strike zones are exactly the same, MLB looks for consistency in calling balls and strikes. If a particular umpire has a generous strike zone, then it should be that way for every game he calls. Over time, these tendencies are tracked in relation to such measures as called strikes verses balls as well as the average number of runs scored.
The following is a look at a few umpires that are at the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to either favoring the batter or favoring the pitcher with their strike zone. We will also take a look at a few homers in the crowd.
A Hitter’s Dream Team
The name at the very top of this list so far this season is Gary Darling. If you see him listed as the home plate umpire on the betting report make an immediate play on the ‘over’. In 10 called games this season, the total has gone over in nine of them with the average number of runs scored coming in as a whopping 12.3 as opposed to an average of around 8.7 runs per game for the American League and 8.14 runs for the National League.
The next umpire on this list would be Paul Emmel. He has called a total of eight games this season and all but one have gone over the total with an average of 9.9 runs per game. A few other umpires with a stingy strike zone include Mike Estabrook, whose average runs per game are 10.0 in five called games, Andy Fletcher, with seven of nine games going over the total, and Paul Schrieber, whose 10.6 average runs-per-game have sent six of his nine called games over the total.
A Pitcher’s Best Friend
The umpire at the top of this list is Mike Winters. He has called eight games so far and the average runs-per-game have been just 5.6, so it is little wonder that six of them have stayed ‘under’ the total.
Another umpire with a very generous strike zone has been Larry Vanover. In 10 called games the average number of runs scored is just six with seven of the games staying under the total. Jeff Nelson has called 10 games as well with eight staying under the total. He has one of the highest-called strike percentages in the Majors at 65.1 percent and the average number of runs per game comes in at 6.7.
A few other umpires that tend to favor the pitchers are Angel Hernandez, whose average runs per game are 6.3 through seven called games, Jeff Kellogg, with seven of 10 games staying under the total, and Tim Timmons, whose seven runs per game average have kept seven of nine games under the total.
A Home-Town Hero
While no umpire consciously favors the home team, there are a few that would make you believe they do according to their overall record in this category. The home team has won eight of the nine games that Tim Tschida has called this season, earning a healthy +729 return on the money line for anyone who wagered on the home team in his games.
Dale Scott has been behind home plate 11 times this season and the home team has won nine of those games for a profitable +712 return on the money line. A few other homers so far have been Jerry Lane, with an 8-2 record and +549 return for the home team, Mark Carlson, whose nine called games have produced a 7-2 record for the home team and a +504 return, and Doug Eddings, with a 7-2 record as well and a +497 return.
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