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Umpires get ball/strike calls wrong 14% of the time, study finds

March 31, 2014|By Houston Mitchell
  • Umpire Dale Scott is checked by a trainer after being hit by a pitch.
Umpire Dale Scott is checked by a trainer after being hit by a pitch. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )

Ever wonder just how accurate major league umpires are at calling balls and strikes? They obviously aren't as accurate as us fans sitting in the seats -- after all, we're always right. But what percentage of ball/strike calls would you guess that umpires botch? 5%? 8%?

Would you believe 14%?

Researchers Brayden King and Jerry Kim analyzed more than 700,000 pitches thrown during the 2008 and 2009 seasons and found that about 14% of non-swinging pitches were called erroneously. King and Kim made their study by analyzing pitch-location data compiled by the high-speed cameras used by Major League Baseball to monitor umpires’ accuracy.

Here are some of the more notable ways they say umps make mistakes:

--Umpires tended to favor the home team by expanding the strike zone, calling a strike when the pitch was actually a ball 13.3% of the time for home-team pitchers.

--Umpires were 13% more likely to call a strike a ball in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game than in the top of the first inning, on the first pitch.

--When the count was 3-and-0, umpires mistakenly called a strike 18.6% of the time.

--Umpires were 10% less likely to expand the strike zone for African American pitchers than for Caucasian pitchers.

You can read more about the study here.


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