Scouting Umpires

If someone within your organization, or even someone who’s proactive for your organization, might want to spend some time scouting umpires and their particulars when behind the plate.

There’s umpires who have a strike zone that is as different as night and day, from one umpire to the next. A strike, low and outside to a right-handed batter may work on some, but not on others. I remember one umpire that wouldn’t call strikes on the right-hand corner of the plate when a catcher stuck- out his left-hand mitt reaching for the pitch. He claimed that the catcher’s mitt blocked his observation of that pitch – thus he called a ball. That happened 100% of the time, regardless of how good the pitch was. “If I can’t see the pitch, I can’t call it!” was his reasoning.

It made little or no sense to argue with the man. So, I made it my business to learn if and when that umpire was doing the honors, and I would advise our rotation that day to adjust as necessary – don’t cry, p*** and moan about something that you can’t control.

Perhaps in the amateur ranks this is not something that is common place- I don’t know. But I would venture to say that human beings have common traits, regardless if they’re armature or professional. I assume that the professionals are much better at their trade, but still, being prone to calling a high strike zone, or not, must overlap somewhere along the line.
I would suggest tracking your umpires on a regular basis and learn how to adapt and feed their persuasions and tendencies. I think it’ll make your job just a little bit easier. It did mine.

MLB maintains stats on all of its umpires. Who calls more balls and strikes, who has more walks and strike outs, who gives up more home runs, double plays, hits and runs per inning, era, tons of stuff. Some stats vary wildly and can easily be difference-makers in games.
At all levels, the plate umpire is impacting the game. Strategies should consider who will be calling the game.

Here’s two experiences that I had with two of the games best.
Whenever we had an umpire that we called “big Jerry” we knew that down-and- in were sure fire strikes, 100% of the time with certain batters. Why. Because when they had a down-and-in pitch to deal with, they would always bend their back leg down to the point where their back knee would bow right into the pitch’s downward arch. STRIKE! In other words, these guys would literally strike themselves out. Then, like clockwork, they’d
snap a dirty look back at “big Jerry”, with that a not so nice remark. 20% of the time… ,”yerrrrr out of here, “ would come next. But that tossing didn’t work in our favor, cause it took a 99% strike out away from us next time around the horn with the same batter. Our two catchers would act like shop stewards trying to smooth things over. In fact, that earned them (catchers) a lot of respect around the league that we were in. The truth
be know, looking out for number one, was the real deal.
So, you got a batter that bends his back knee all the way down on a down-and-in pitch, and your plate ump calls STRIKE, go for it. BUT, don’t repeat that pitch too often to the same batter, pitch after pitch while still at bat. Let’em fester for a while so he’ll come back and go down again for ya!
Also, very few plate umpires will explain the rules of the game to a batter. Oh, mentioning down and away, or just away if a batter asks … Strike, is not all that unusual. A lot of plate umps feel that it’s their job to make calls – not conduct a briefing session on the rules of baseball.

It’s true that personalities are not suppose to enter into calling balls and strikes, fair and foul. We had a catcher that was married to the niece of an umpire. We made an effort not to put this backstop in the same game that his relative was scheduled to attend. As things would have it, the marriage didn’t go well and they separated. Wouldn’t you know it, our catcher scheduled for a game that this plate ump was calling got hurt, and really badly, during the fifth inning, so guess who slotted in his place. The strain at the plate was really evident. At first things went like any other game, but as batter after batter came in and out of the box, one word or another was said or assumed and our pitcher couldn’t hit the strike zone if he fell on it. Now it’s easy for me to sit here and point fingers… but then I didn’t have to that night, with our catcher turning and passing the bird right in the man’s face.
So, if you have a relative or a good friend of yours that has had, or is having, relationship problems with an individual or individuals with common ground with an umpire, think twice before mixing that cocktail – shaken not stirred.

And as we all know, in the major leagues there are two -brothers, Randy Wolf and Jim Wolf—and it’s a given that they can not appear in the same game. If more amateurs would observe the same regulation there would never be as much trouble as what you described! :slight_smile:

Oops—I forgot to mention that Randy Wolf is the pitcher and Jim Wolf is the umpire, and that’s the reason that the two can’t appear in the same game. That should clarify the matter. 8)