Monday, June 4, 2012

Yankees, Granderson: The Call for Umpire Accountability

An MLB umpire incorrectly calls a runner out on the bases and is disciplined, suspended or even sent down to Triple-A. If the Yankees had their way, this is exactly what would happen if an umpire were to be wrong one too many times.

Davidson and Girardi. Photo: Rick Osentoski/US Presswire
After Yankees batting coach Kevin Long and manager Joe Girardi were ejected by plate umpire Bob Davidson over the weekend after Davidson incorrectly called a strike on a pitch located outside of the strike zone, the affected batter, Curtis Granderson, took to the New York Times to request greater umpiring accountability.

Said Granderson, "You’ve seen a lot of missed plays. They’re humans back there. They’re going to make some mistakes. But part of the game is, sometimes there have to be some consequences for it. As players, if we make mistakes, there are consequences for us. You get errors; you get pulled out, possibly sent down. Different stuff happens to us. There has to be a similar type of situation on the other end."

In 2010, ESPN released a study declaring that umpires miss one out of every five non-balls/strikes close calls, though as further analysis was quick to point out, only 1.3 calls per game were deemed "close," and of these 20 percent were missed: In other words, an average of 0.26 calls per game were missed.

A regulation baseball game must have, at the very least, 55 calls per game (27 outs + 27 outs + 1 run-producing play that does not result in an out [e.g., a home run]): most ballgames feature considerably more than 55 calls, but for illustrative purposes and because several calls may be via the called third strike, 55 it is. Based on ESPN's study, umpires missed 0.26 out of these 55 calls. For the sake of clarity, 0.26 is assumed to be one-fourth of a call, which is multiplied by four to allow for whole unit analysis. 55 multiplied by four is 220.

In other words, an umpire misses one non-ball/strikes call every 220 chances, an accuracy of 99.545 percent, which seems rather high given that of the 18 non-balls/strikes, non-fighting/throwing at ejections thus far in 2012, just 10 of them have resulted from a correct call—eight of the 18 ejections resulted from a conclusively incorrect call, which is just a 55.6 percent accuracy rate, less than the ESPN study's 65.7 percent confirmed correct rate for those 1.3 close calls per game.

Nonetheless, 219-of-220 chances may be most comparable to a player's fielding percentage: Ironically, it is another Yankee, first baseman Mark Teixeira, that currently leads the major leagues with a 1.000 fielding percentage for all fielders who have had at least 400 chances in 2012.

For non-first basemen, Nationals catcher Jesus Flores leads with 241-of-241 successes, though Russell Martin is 333-of-334 (99.7 percent): The majority of every-day players fall below the 99.545 umpiring benchmark and fatigue certainly appears to play a role: The highest fielding percentage for a player who has had over 500 chances in 2012 belongs to San Diego's Yonder Alonso, who with six errors out of 518 chances, holds a 98.8 percentage.

In 2011, Tampa Bay's Casey Kotchman once again impressed and led qualifiers with just two errors in 1201 chances—a 99.8 fielding percentage, while Martin drew the league average of 98.9 percent. For those not familiar with Kotchman's work, he also holds the MLB record for 2,379 consecutive fielding chances without an error.

So as Granderson called for greater umpire accountability, we revisit Saturday's ejection at the hands of Davidson, the most recent umpire and first since 2008 to receive a suspension for what the Baseball Office of the Commissioner referred to as, "repeated violations of the BOC's standards for situation handling." Davidson had gone nose-to-nose in an animated argument with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel last month.

Though Davidson did not appear to act aggressively when ejecting Long and Girardi on Saturday, the Yankees still questioned his conduct; Girardi specifically second-guessed Davidson's looking into the Yankees dugout after a foul ball landed in the camera well directly adjacent to said dugout: "Davidson turned toward our dugout and looked like at K-Long instead of going back to the plate. He said not to say anything else, Kevin [Long] did, and he got thrown out. That's what made me so hot."

For New York, the ejections capped off a week that also featured a dispute between umpire Laz Diaz and Yankees catcher Russell Martin. Martin had argued balls and strikes, an ejectable offense; however and in lieu of ejection, Diaz allegedly punished the catcher by not allowing the backstop to throw new balls to his pitcher.

Martin had previously been ejected late last season after baiting umpire Paul Schrieber into a "poor perception ejection."

Should umpires be subject to performance-based punishment? Should a high-profile missed call subject an umpire to suspension, fines or even demotion? Or, perhaps, should MLB raise the league minimum for umpires to $480,000, to match their player minimum, so that umpires do have a financial incentive for such scrutiny?

Should umpires be disciplined for bad calls?


UmpsRule said...

Should umpires be subject to performance-based punishment? We'll re-visit that question when players are fined and suspended for mistakes. And before someone points out that players do get sent down, let us consider that even the best hitter is going to fail over 60% of the time. No Major League umpire comes anywhere near that level of ineptitude. When the worst umpire is better than the best hitter, we shouldn't be putting the two on the same level.

Anonymous said...

You're going to say that Martin baited the umpire? Are you kidding me? Schreiber came around front to the umpire. The catcher gets ejected for doing that!

Yes, umpires should be subject to performance-based punishment. And there should also be an age limit on umpires too. There are other sports with one.

UmpsRule said...

@ Anon 2:14

Did you click on the link and read the story or did you just immediately reject it?

Anonymous said...

UmpsRule, I've watched the video a few times.

Tell you what-- when a player or manager gets ejected and the umpire is wrong (8/18 times so far) that umpire should be fined. If he would not have missed the call, the player or manager would not have reason to argue therefore he doesn't get ejected.

UmpsRule said...

a) Just because you watched the video does not mean you know what was said.

b) There are plenty of arguments that occur after perfectly good calls.

MattAB said...

@Anon 2:45
Will you then support that every time, ejection or no ejection, that a player, coach, or manager argues with an umpire, and the umpire's call was correct, that that player, coach, or manager should then be fined and/or suspended?

Anonymous said...

Matt, I'm pretty sure that every time a player or manager is ejected, they are fined! The comment is often made, "might as well get his money's worth"

UmpsRule said...

Umpires are human, and anyone who states that an ump should be fined for blowing a call forgets/ignores the umpire's imperfectness. No one should be fined for an honest mistake. However, one should be fined/suspended for attacking an authority figure.

Anonymous said...

One should be fined/suspended for attacking ANY figure on the field. Yes, I'm looking at Joe West bouncing managers around!

UmpsRule said...

Oh, so Joe West putting his hands on Terry Francona is considered bouncing him around?

Anonymous said...

Yankees are just upset they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar

Anonymous said...

Money talks. Give the umpires selected for the post season the same amount that the winning player of that series gets. Next do away with the BS that part of the umpire earnings for post seasdon is put in a pool to be distributed to the rejects.

Next review those in the lower 10% of ratings and if they are there two years in a row, send them to AAA work on their weaknesses.

Harlan said...

Wait a minute! There needs to be more accountability in umpiring, but not performance-based. The problem is NOT missed calls. The problem, which Bob Davidson exemplified with both of ejections this year, umpires with quick triggers on ejections. What's worse is when umpires go looking for a fight and basically create their own ejection. Last year, Joe West ejected Jim Leyland:
1. In between innings
2. As a 1B umpire when Leyland was barking at HP over the strike zone
3. Came over to the Tigers dugout and got in Leyland's face. Only then did Leyland get really mad and get tossed.
That's a self-fulfilling prophecy that ANY Little League umpire is taught to avoid on day 1 of training. THAT is worthy of more discipline.

Jimmy jack said...

I agree. If the issue is to improve performance, fines and suspensions do nothing. Fans who suggest those are usually bitter about a call and want some sort of validation. Sending umpires back to the minor leagues, though, that could be a learning experience, teachable moment, that is productive.

UmpsRule said...

I do not agree that Davidson had a quick trigger. Long and Girardi deserved what they got, making this the wrong time for them to raise the argument.

Anonymous said...

You are assuming that these umpires are replaceable. Much like judges, are they replaceable too? So everyone an appellate court overturns a judge, should he be sent back to law school?

I think too many people forget that these guys are the best in the world at what they do, and they do it every day. Some may have lost a step or two, and there may be very qualified replacements in triple A. But to hire someone into the MLB, they have to have proved themselves time and again. I don't care what anyone says, even the best D1 umpire isn't qualified to umpire in the MLB. It is a different game, and the pressure is way more than any of us will ever understand. If you believe otherwise, you are lying to yourself. These guys are in the trenches and doing the job at the fastest level possible.... And their mistakes are magnified. I think some of you are lying to yourselves about the difficulty of this job. Not to mention they are on the road doing it and likely have situations at home that are equally as difficult because of their time away. I think we need to accept that they are there for a reason. That reason being, they are the very BEST in the world. And yes, that definitely includes Bob Davidson.

Anonymous said...

D.J. Reyburn just ejected Don Mattingly and another Dodgers coach

Anonymous said...

I am concerned and confused by what I am reading here. It is ridiculous to fine an umpire for a mistake. But, (for example UmpsRule and Harlan), are you taking the position that umpires should not be evaluated based on performance? That is just as ridiculous. You cannot have the people who "control the game" be free from a quality based evaluation. Surely you are not advocating that.

red said...

Why could there not be some kind of promotion/demotion scheme like in many sports competitions? At the end of the season, the bottom 10% (say) of umpires (based on some measure of performance), would be demoted to the minors. At the same time, you bring up the top 10% of minor league umpires to replace them. This way you naturally evolve to having the best umpiring crews possible, and it can be done in a relatively objective fashion.

There may be some subtleties here that would inhibit this process. Some of the umpires here want to comment? Is this just a total non-starter?

Anonymous said...

Sending.umpires down will never happen. They have a union just like the players. And FYI players that have been in the league long.enough do not get sent down to the minors at all unless for rehab.

MLB and MiLB are two different entities. MiLB can't afford to pay an umpire the wages a full time guy would get. If you think those guys are going to go back down to AAA and make that wage your kidding yourself.

Anonymous said...

I think the system of accountability that is currently in place is fine. Umpires should be held accountable when they display conduct unbecoming of an umpire, or they violate the standards for things such as situation handling. As a non-umpire, the only thing I am unsure of is if there is accountability for consistently poor performance. Would anyone be able to answer that?

UmpsRule said...

@ Anon 6:15

I do not believe that any big league umpire is so bad at his job that it would be merit him being sent back down to the minors.

MattAB said...

@Anon 3:31
I realize that people who get ejected are fined. What I said was "Will you then support that every time, ejection or no ejection, that a player, coach, or manager argues with an umpire, and the umpire's call was correct, that that player, coach, or manager should then be fined and/or suspended?" I asked this because Anon 2:45 suggested that "when a player or manager gets ejected and the umpire is wrong (8/18 times so far) that umpire should be fined. If he would not have missed the call, the player or manager would not have reason to argue therefore he doesn't get ejected." If Anon 2:45 wants to fine umpires for being wrong it also seems to make sense to fine players, coaches, and managers who are wrong, regardless of whether or not they are actually ejected. If someone comes out, and delays the game, arguing a call that is correct, shouldn't that person be punished? I personally don't think that we need to go this route, and start cracking down on arguing, but if, as was suggested, we fine umpires for being wrong wouldn't it make sense to then also fine team personnel who argue incorrectly. Furthermore, I suppose, if as Anon 2:45 wants to do, you fined umpires for being wrong, shouldn't we also fine broadcatsers who are incorrect in their criticisms of umpires, or who do not properly know or understand the rules? This is the problem with trying to fine honest mistakes in judgement, where do you stop? And is everyone equally accountable, or do people just want to see umpires punished?

Anonymous said...

I think Granderson should give back half his salary because he hasn't lived up to the expectations on the field when they signed him. Or how about the teams not guarantee the contracts. If he goes for that....I'll accept his re-evaluation of umpires. Or even better.....deduct a certain amount for every strike out.....

Big Marc said...

Rule 9.05


You are the only official representative of baseball on the ball field.

You no doubt are going to make mistakes.

Make all decisions as you see them and forget which is the home or visiting club.

If your going to start suspending umpires for mistakes, you'll need to completely omit this portion of the rule book.
You'll have to change it to:

You no doubt you are going to make mistakes, and you will be suspended.

Big Marc said...

umpire mistakes are not "part" of the game.

Umpire mistakes are covered in the F-ing rule book. Deal with it, you little fluffy furry small cute rodent family members.

Curt Crowley said...

Disciplining an umpire for missing a call is asinine. Even the best, most-level headed and conscientious umpires miss calls (see Jim Joyce). This notion would turn officiating on its head.

On the other hand, MLB must be more vigilant in busting the butts of umpires wth nasty attitudes. Things such as grabbing/pushing a manager except in necessary self-defense to prevent a physical assault (joe west), leaving position to argue or escalate an argument with a manager then ejecting him because the umpire doesn't like the inevitable response (joe west), failing to turn and walk away after an ejection (bob Davidson), bowing up to a player or manager when the SHTF (bob Davidson) should ALWAYS be disciplined.

Anonymous said...

Don't we have AAA call-up umpires. Isn't this exactly what Granderson is referring to? The only difference that the Grandyman isn't taking into account is that these guys get all their "option years" up front--some of them being AAA call-ups for several years before getting hired on permanently by MLB. Just like players, when one's options are used up, you can't send one back down to the minors. I assume that MLB has the full authority to fire an umpire when his services are no longer beneficial to baseball. This isn't a presidential appointment to the federal bench (but wait, that might spark another debate altogether).

Nice of players to get into the media and debate how well MLB does at handling Umps. I think, though, that this article proved a little rationalization needed to be done. I think it was written very well, flat in terms of bias. I didn't even see the author point out Granderson's fielding percentage--which I figure is well below the umpiring threshold.

I'll leave with one thought. I don't expect this to change, but I do think we need to challenge ourselves not to forget this circumstance. The majority of professional athletes are not recipients in public relations, media relations, or communications degrees in college. Honestly, they are well trained, athletically gifted humans. No doubt it takes incredible work ethic to make it as a pro athlete! But just because one can hit a baseball, I wouldn't necessarily want them doing brain surgery on me; or for that matter, running the business side of the MLB. We won't every get away from seeing microphones in the faces of athletes, but one player harping on this issue is, frankly and in my own opinion, as bad as Davidson picking a fight with Manual or West picking his battles for stardom.

Oh, and one last thing. You think these guys don't hear from the league all year long on their performance? It's just work a game; play for 20 hours and work another? You better believe they are seeing film, hearing from supervisors, being asked to second guess themselves. I've worked with many football crews in my lifetime. The crews that were in demand and booked for advanced playoff games years out were the ones that spent the most amount of time critiquing ourselves. These guys want to get it right. Sure, there are a couple Perzynski's out there--isn't that true in every office?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks Bill Hohn shouldn't have been suspended in 2009 is nothing more than a home-team umpire apologist. If there was ever a case where an umpire should've faced an announced suspension, that was it.

From all appearances he was suspended, but it wasn't announced. He then returned on a different crew.

Curt Crowley said...

Add this to my previous list of offenses that should result in umpire discipline:

Any umpire who hires a publicist and pimps himself out for interviews during the season should be suspended for the remainder of the season (allhatnoCowboy Joe).

Anonymous said...

He also returned with glasses and no mustache. It was a whole new Bill. But Anon 10:15, he still remained on Darling's crew to end 2009 and for all of 2010. He spent one week on Crawford's crew in 2009 but then returned to Darling.

Anonymous said...

@Curt- why? Having a publicist has nothing to do with your on the field work. He did nothing suspension worthy. I did not love the radio interview he did, but it is not against the rules and shouldn't be.It is clear from other posts of yours along with this one that you hate Joe West. That is your opinion which is fine, even though I don't agree with it, but suspending someone for something as incosequential as doing a radio interivew is just absurd.

Anonymous said...

To me, accountability is all about owning up to mistakes. I am not against fines or suspensions for substandard work. If I mess up at work over and over, my compensation would be adjusted. But rather, I would simply like to see some owning up to mistakes. Take Adrian Johnson...he missed the call, yes. It happens. It looked like he knew it, too, since there were no ejections. Good job on that, but why the yelling BACK at Matheney? Why, after looking at the replay did he say, "No comment." How about taking the argument in stride and saying you were wrong after the game. If they are allowed to make mistakes, they should have to answer for them. Why allow them a pass just because "they get most of them right?"

Jon Terry said...

I enjoyed MattAb's devil's advocate position. Can you imagine how poor Gardenhire would be if he were fined every time he argued incorrectly? ;-)

I also enjoyed the post right above mine, claimed by no one. However, I must differ on one point - Major League umpires can't be fired. Once an umpire receives a full-time Major League contract, it is for life, just like federal judges. And yes, it has been speculated that some MLB umpires get lazy or out of shape once they really feel like they've made it. I do think it is likely, however, that if someone gets bad enough, there is some quiet way that PBUC and the league can get together to 'force' someone into early retirement.

Demoting umpires is ridiculous, for reasons that have been mentioned. No one sent Albert Pujols down in either of the last two years for a slow start, and despite his claims, no one is going to send Jonathan Papelbon down. Experienced MLB umpires should not be sent down either.

We do have, to a certain extent, a performance-based system. Better rated umpires get All-Star Games and postseason, and get promoted to crew chiefs. And this does work, to an extent. For all the Davidson haters, he is the most experienced umpire in the league to not be a crew chief. Wonder why? Sure, they can't get fired, but they don't get the perks and they do get privately fined (just like players.)

Finally, as I said on another discussion, I don't think that players and managers are qualified to discuss umpire performance. They only make a big deal when they lose or otherwise feel slighted. Granderson wants Davidson punished for essentially one pitch. Papelbon wants a AAA umpire demoted for one at-bat. These guys are far from fair in their judgements, and as such their complaints hold little water.

Jon Terry said...

Ok, took me a while to write. By "the post right above mine" I meant Anon 9:17am. There have been several posts since.

That said, Anon 11:25 isn't far off the mark either. Accountability does include owning your mistakes. It could well be that Adrian Johnson did own his mistake on the field to Matheny and his coach, and then lost his cool when they wouldn't shut up. You can be the coaches won't tell the media that Johnson owned up, because they want him in the worst possible light.

It has also been posited on this site in previous discussion that rank and file umpires may not be allowed to comment to the media. After all, Tim McClelland spoke the other day, but he's a CC. Johnson, on the other hand, is roughly 63 of 68 on the totem pole, based on when he was hired.

I imagine it would also have to do with how a journalist puts his question. I know that if some moron with a mic looks at me and essentially says, "Hey Blue, why'd you fuck up that call?", I'm going to point to the next guy in line.

Anonymous said...

Jon Terry, I agree (As Anon 11:25 writer). If I am going to stick with my accountability argument, then Matheney should be required to say, "He apologized to me on the field for missing the call, but I wanted to put him in the worst possible light, so I kept arguing." Also, if Adrian Johnson could not comment, then the CC should, or the head of umpires should say "After reviewing the play, Mr. Johnson admits he missed the call. He has apologized to the Cardinals, and will not accept his 'No-han No Hitter' shirt that was offered to him by the Mets." How hard could it really be to make either one of these scenarios happen? Until people put their pride out of the way, it won't.

Eric said...

I don't care about ESPN's Study...What does the UEFL say about how many correct calls have led to ejections this season?

MattAB said...

@Jon Terry
I'm glad you enjoyed my hypothetical musings. The only problem is that you then had to point out that the manager of my team would be broke under my scenario. As if, as a suffering Twins fan, I needed any more reminding about how terrible things have gone the last couple of years in Minnesota. Oh Gardy, he does love to look ridicules at times.

Curt Crowley said...

Anon @11:09am, apparently you have only read part of my posts. I happen to think Joe West is one of the best--if not *the* best--umpires in the game. I've said that before. Not really something I would say about someone I "hate."

Joe West's problem has never been his umpiring skills, but always his attitude.

Tell me, why does an umpire need a publicist?

The publicist merely confirms what west's on the field conduct suggested: that he seeks attention. By the way, the publicist info was not widely reported until *after* the red sox interview. It caught everyone's attention because the publicist issued a press release to announce that west was returning to Boston for the first time since he made the comments in the interview. If that ain't chasing attention, I'll kiss joe's ring.

I ask again, why does an umpire hire a publicist if he's not seeking attention?

UmpsRule said...

I'd surmise that West has a publicist because of his singing career.

Big Marc said...

Curt, think about it for 1 second, why would he do it? Just to spend money?
If he hired a publicist just for his umpiring career, they should be fired because his rep hasn't changed. No doubt it's for his singing career.
Next, if as a reporter you wanted to know where Joe was going to be umpiring, the publicist would have that information.
Joe just wantes to sing, he doesn't want to book hotels, count the money, or seek out clubs to to perform.
A case could be made that WITHOUT a publicist he is too distracted with his singing career that he isn't focused 100% on baseball.

Anonymous said...

Nice try with a biased question. As written, the poll question implies punishment for one missed call. Bring it back to reality. At every level of umpiring above sandlot, umpires are subjected to minimum initial selection standards of performance, appearance and conditioning. Where professional baseball fails is allowing veteran umpires to interject their own styles into mechanics, display attitudes and disregard appearance and conditioning. Who is to blame? I say MLB and the umpire's union. MLB has a history of treating umpires like stable boys in terms of pay, benefits, retirement and working conditions. This necessitates the umpire's union. But the very nature of unions promotes complacency and poor performance. Look at Detroit and the auto industry if you need another example. Is there a quick-fix solution? NO! So stop bitching and whining and PLAY BALL!

Curt Crowley said...

Really? It's for his singing "career" huh?

The press release announced that he was returning to boston to UMPIRE a game, not to sing. From the press release:

"joe is one of the most unique individuals in the professional SPORTS world" and is "available for media interviews and guest appearances."

The publicist was drumming up publicity for west performing as an umpire, not a singer. Even if the motivation was to get publicity for his ..uh..singing, the fact is he was using his umpiring activities and antics to do it.

UmpsRule said...

@ Anon 6:19

The title of the poll: "Should umpires be disciplined for bad calls?" Note that calls is plural.

@ Curt Crowley

You asked why he had a publicist. Yes, in this case publicity was being drawn to his umpiring, but your question was, "why does an umpire need a publicist?" He probably has the publicist primarily because of his singing career, this isolated incident notwithstanding.

Big Marc said...

wow, curt how hard is IT.......for Joe?

Wow, wow.

I've seen guys go after umpires on this site, but every topic curt? You have SOLID posts everytime? You are the man on every subject???
Each one????

Nobody knows as much as you??????

Well Curt Crowly, every man must bow, there's always somebody better, and this happens to everbody.

Too bad it's happened to me in front of everyone on this site.

Curt my hat is off to you!

You are the man.

I will now think TWICE before I post, let alone disagree with curt.

Kudos again!

Curt Crowley said...

Big Marc blah blah blah umpire always right blah blah they are the one on the field so they can't be wrong blah blah blah umpire judgment can't be wrong blah blah.

On this topic I apparently do know more than you. Not because I think I'm smarter than you, but because I actually took the time to read the press release before I posted. You either did not read it and chose to keep it on auto-defend, or you read it and ignored what it said because it's indefensible.

UmpsRule, you make a good point. I make room for the possibility that it was primarily for singing. It's also possible that the publicist went off the reservation with the press release without joe's knowledge, and that joe put a stop to it when he found out. If so, good for him. One could also give him the benefit of the doubt that the high-profile confrontations were mere coincidences.

Joe's problem here is the appearance of impropriety, not necessarily the fact of it.

Anonymous said...

Fight, Fight, Fight ^^^^^^

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