The home plate umpire in a MLB game remains an important factor when it comes to handicapping a particular matchup so taking the time to understand the size of their strike zone can help provide an edge especially when it comes to mining value out of the ‘total’ line. There is no exact standard for the ‘strike zone’ in baseball so the main thing the league looks for and expects from its umpires is consistency. This means that if a particular ump’s strike zone is tight, it should be that way for every game he calls.
If you are looking for umpires that have a tendency to favor the pitcher with an expanded strike zone then you might want to start with Alan Porter, D.J. Reyburn, and James Hoye. Of the combined 24 games that these three umpires have called this season, 20 have stayed ‘under’ the total. The league’s average for runs per game this season is currently 8.44, but Reyburn and Hoye’s called games have averaged six runs while Porter’s are the lowest of any umpire this season at 5.4.Tim Timmons has also been good to pitchers this season with 10 of his 13 games staying ‘under’ the total and the average runs coming in at 6.5.
If you are looking for consistency that favors the ‘under’ from one year to the next, then Hoye would be your man. He had 25 of his 38 called games in 2009 stay ‘under’ the total with an average of 8.8 runs a game. He followed that up last season with 25 of 34 games staying ‘under’ the total with the average runs coming in at 6.9.
When looking for umpires that tighten up the ‘strike zone’ to favor the hitter, start with Sam Holbrook and Scott Barry. These two have called a combined 21 games this season and 19 have gone ‘over’ the total. Holbrook’s runs per game have averaged 9.6 and Barry’s have averaged 10.4.
A couple of other umpires that also have high run averages are Hunter Wendelstedt (11.5), Tim Welke (11.1), and Tim Tschida (10.9). These three have called a combined 35 games and 26 have gone ‘over’ the total. The award for consistency in this group goes to Welke. Dating back to the 2009 season, 46 of the 73 (63 percent) games he has called have gone ‘over’ the total. His games averaged 11.2 runs in 2009 and 9.9 in 2010.
One other key statistic that pertains to home plate umpires is the home team’s win/loss record for games they have called. Tim Tichenor is the leader so far this year in this category with the home team winning 78.6 percent of his called games. Brian Knight has the second highest percentage at 77.8 and John Hirschbeck, Tony Randazzo, and Lance Barksdale are tied for third at 76.9.
Looking back at last season, Tim McClelland was the top homer with 84.8 percent of the 33 games he called resulting in a victory for the home team. Gary Cedarstrom took top honors in 2009 with 75 percent of his 32 called games going to the home team. Be careful putting too much weight on this stat as in the 11 games that McClelland has called this season the home team has won just three times. Cedarstrom has been somewhat more consistent with the home team winning eight of the 14 games he has called.
For more Umpire stats checkout our MLB Umpire stat page!