Posted by Jay Livingston
“It ain’t nothin’ till I call it,” said umpire Bill Klem. And if he called it a strike, a strike it was. As Klem knew, the umpire has something resembling papal infallibility. That was then. Klem worked behind the plate from 1905 to 1942 and holds the record for throwing players and managers out of the game (the infallibility thing is sometimes a bit much for players to take). Now, thanks to modern technology, we can know just which calls the umpires miss.
Here’s Matt Holliday taking a called third strike.
Here are some of the other findings that King and Kim report in today’s article.
- Umpires gave a slight edge to the home team pitchers, calling 13.3% of their pitches outside the zone as strikes. Visitors got 12.6%.
- The count mattered
- At 0-0, the error rate was 14.7%.
- At 3-0, 18.6% of pitches outside the zone were called as strikes
- At 0-2, only 7.3% of pitches outside the zone were called as strikes
- All-star pitchers were more likely than others to get favorable calls . . .
- . . . Especially if the pitcher had a reputation as a location pitcher.
- The importance of the situation (tie game, bottom of the ninth) made no difference in bad calls.
* I took the graphics from fangraphs
**The pitcher in the clips is Tyler Clippard, a pretty good closer for the Nationals. He was selected as an All-star once, not nearly enough to meet the King-Kim criterion level of five.