Still a challenge: Which umpires are missing the close calls?

This first season of replays has been tenuous for umpires.

Frank Victores/Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

I think we’ve got a new record for time elapsed during a video review, at least under the new-this-season procedures.

 

This one went nearly ELEVEN MINUTES.

This play was so strange that I really don’t want to describe it; really, it’s worth watching yourself, if only for the novelty.

 

And for the mess, which I suppose the umpires got about as right as they could have, considering the initial call was made incorrectly, which resulted in another difficulty.

Anyway, the initial call was reversed, which resulted in this tweet from an A’s broadcaster:

Carapazza must have been feeling pretty good when he was 6 for 6? And maybe slightly less good, now that he’s just 6 for 7.

Is that good, though? Seems like it’s pretty good. Seems like around half the challenged calls have been reversed, which is roughly what we would expect. Since there’s a penalty for challenging calls that aren’t reversed (without a penalty, managers would challenge every close one).

Over at Retrosheet, David Vincent’s been tracking every reviewed play this season (http://retrosheet.org/Replay.htm), and earlier this week he compiled a complete log for every umpire. Carapazza hadn’t been the only perfect umpire. Chris Guccione was also 6 for 6, and Dan Bellino was 7 for 7.

Those numbers almost certainly aren’t big enough to mean anything (or much). I don’t know that any umpire’s numbers are big enough to mean anything. But for the sake of argument, I’ll just tell you that Adrian Johnson leads with the way with 80 percent of his calls getting overturned. It’s only 10 plays, though! Three umpires have had six of eight calls overturned. And then there’s Seth Buckminster, who led all umpires with 16 challenges and 11 reversals.

Do these numbers mean anything, though? Again, I really doubt it.

What about when the numbers get bigger, though? If an umpire demonstrates a pattern of failure over the course of two or three seasons, would that be enough to tell us something important about his decision-making skills?

Probably not. Oh, I suppose that if you had one umpire with 75 of 100 calls reversed over four seasons, and another with only 25 of 100 reversed, we might fairly assume a real difference in their abilities to call the close ones correctly.

I doubt if we’ll see a split like that, though. Seth Buckminster’s reversal percentage will probably drop, and Mike Estabrook — who’s had only two of 12 calls reversed — probably will miss a few this month or next. The great majority of umpires, I suspect, are close enough that you would need a great number of years to find anything meaningful in these numbers.

But not all umpires, I suspect. There must be a few umpires who just aren’t as skilled as their colleagues, and demonstrably so. And at least one or two of those umpires probably aren’t real good at calling balls and strikes, either.

Those are the umpires who should be fired. We’ve now got the data for everything. We — and by we, I mean you and me — now know which umpires are missing the balls and strikes, and which are making calls on close plays that get reversed. For the first time, we know which umpires are the best, and which are the worst. For the first time, we really know. Or will, once we’ve got a few more years to go on.

And yet the worst umpires will remain. That’s just the price we pay for labor peace. Scott Walker for Commissioner, anyone?

Rob Neyer makes bad jokes like that all the time in his Twitter feed.