Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: The Dodgers should have scored more runs in the NLDS. They should have hit better with runners in scoring position. They had their chances, and they didn’t capitalize. The Padres outplayed the Dodgers, and that’s why the Padres won the series.
With that said, with the technology we have available today, why is MLB still allowing bad calls by the umpires to affect postseason games?
Umpires aren’t biased, as far as we know. But they are human, and pitchers throw harder than ever with more movement than ever. For that matter, catchers (aka, the things between the home-plate umpires and what they’re trying to see) are larger than ever, too.
The end result is that a lot of calls get missed. According to UmpScorecards.com, there were 40 missed ball/strike calls in the four-game NLDS, with a total “run impact” of 6.02. Run impact is measured by looking at a team’s run expectancy after the missed call and comparing it to the run expectancy if the call had been made correctly. So, for example, a missed call on a full-count with bases loaded and two outs would have a huge “run impact,” because it either incorrectly puts a run on the board and continues the inning or incorrectly takes a run off the board and ends the inning.
— Umpire Scorecards (@UmpScorecards) October 16, 2022
There were a total of 27 runs scored in the NLDS, with each game being decided by two runs or fewer. Are we okay with the umpires being responsible for 22% of the runs scored in a series? MLB apparently is.
Let’s look at the plate umps in the series. Game 2 ump Chris Segal had the 42nd-best accuracy rating of the 89 umpires with at least 10 games behind the plate this year. Mark Carlson (Game 3) was 46th.
There were a total of 20 potential Division Series games. Why would anyone ranked in the 40s even sniff one of those assignments? Because postseason umpiring assignments have no apparent relation to the quality of an umpire’s work. Doug Eddings is lined up to call balls and strikes in Game 6 of the NLCS; Eddings has been bad at his job since before Juan Soto was born, ranked 79th out of 89 this year. Game 3’s home plate ump, Ted Barrett, is two spots below Eddings on the list.
That’s one problem. The other problem is that even the best umpires are facing an impossible task. Jeremy Rehak was the best umpire in baseball this year, and he missed an average of seven calls a game. When one missed call has the potential to turn a series, are we really okay with a system where even the very best misses seven calls a game?
Can one missed call really turn a series, though? Let’s look back at that ill-fated seventh inning of NLDS Game 4. The first pitch Yency Almonte threw was a strike to Ha-Seong Kim. Tumpane thought differently and called it a ball. Two pitches later, on a 2-1 count with the infield drawn in, Kim chopped a double just past the glove of third baseman Max Muncy for an RBI double.
What if the count had been 1-2 instead of 2-1? Well, the infield wouldn’t have been drawn in, because the threat of the bunt would have been eliminated in the two-strike count. So the chopper just past Muncy’s glove is probably a chopper into Muncy’s glove, most likely for a double play. So instead of second and third, no outs, one run it, it would have been runner on second, two outs, no runs in. So yes, a bad call can turn a series.
Here’s the bottom line. We pay good money to watch baseball players play baseball. They’re the best in the world at what they do, and that’s why we care. The human element of baseball is a wonderful thing, when it’s coming from the players. I don’t need any human element in rules enforcement, thankyouverymuch. A taken pitch in the strike zone should be called a strike, and a taken pitch outside the strike zone should be called a ball. Period. End of story.
We have the technology to get those calls right, and it’s embarrassing that we continue to let bad calls sully the postseason.