By Brandon Cohen, Senior Analyst, and the UmpScores Staff
Welcome the final edition of The Monthly Call in 2022, or as we call it The Final Call, where we provide a rundown of umpire performances and trends. Unlike previous versions of the Call, this article will not cover stats over the final month of the season specifically, but will instead look at the season as a whole and highlight who truly were the best umpires this year in calling balls and strikes.
Overall Umpire Performance
This year umpires across the league missed 7.44% of all called balls and strikes. They missed over 27,500 total pitches out of nearly 380,000 that crossed the plate without an offering from the batter. Umpire performance has remained stable the last couple of years. Overall, umpire BCR was 7.46% in 2021, almost exactly the same as it was this year. Umpires also fared much better inside the zone, only missing 6.11% of pitches in the zone. The much higher mark of 10.05% pitches outside the zone called a strike suggests that umpires preferred to have larger zones, favoring pitchers more than hitters.
Top Performing Umpires
The gold standard for umpiring in 2022 was Jeramy Rehak with a 5.41% BCR and 94.59% accuracy in 27 games over the course of the season. Rehak was a consistent performer all year and is one of the newest umpires in the game, serving on Mark Wegner’s crew and donning number 35. He also is a former player, playing several positions at Ohio University before switching to become an umpire. He umpired his first MLB game in 2018 after first enrolling in Umpire school in 2011 and serving as a minor league ump for several years. He became a full-time ump in 2020 and now, in his third year, can claim to be the best umpire in the game at calling balls and strikes.
Our second best umpire was Pat Hoberg with a BCR of 5.60% in 30 games. Hoberg was the best umpire in the first half of the year, constantly leading the league in accuracy during previous version of the Call. He also is a member of the Single Error club for his near-perfect performance on April 18. We at UmpScores have been lauding Hoberg’s performance for years now, as he was a top 10 umpire in 2018 when we first conducted research into umpire performance. And at 35 years old, he is still one of the younger umps in the majors. When he is behind the plate, players can expect a clean, consistent called game.
Rounding out the top 3 over the course of the year was Will Little, another favorite of the Monthly Call. Little had a 5.89% BCR over 2022 and, like Hoberg, has a history of strong performance behind the plate. He also appeared in our initial study and even had a better BCR than Hoberg had. Like Rehak, he is a former player who became umpire, first earning a full time job in 2015 and subsequently umpiring in the post-season in 2016. We hope he continues to see time in the playoffs this years, along with the rest of our top performing umpires.
Tripp Gibson, our top umpire in 2021, followed that performance up with another solid season in 2022. Tripp and Shane Livensparger both put up a very respectable 5.99% BCR, tying them for fourth overall. All five umpires in the top 5 were younger than average, with Gibson the oldest at 40 at the start of the season.
Worst Performing Umpires
Unfortunately, while we laud the performances of our top umpires, we must also critically assess the worst performing umpires of the year. In 2022, the worst performing full-time umpire was Ed Hickox, whose 9.37% BCR was the highest in the league. Worse, Hickox was one of the worst performing umpires of 2021, finishing in the bottom five last year. His underwhelming performances appear to have gone unnoticed by MLB, which has frequently appointed his crews to umpire playoff games. That trend continues this year, with more on that below.
CB Bucknor was the second worst umpire this year, checking in with an incredibly poor 9.30% BCR in 31 games. Just behind him was Marty Foster with a 9.17% BCR. Jerry Layne and Marty Andy Fletcher rounded out the bottom 5 with BCRs of 9.09% and 8.96% respectively. All five umpires lowlighted here are veterans with extensive post-season experience in stark contrast to the umpires who performed best this year. The youngest of them is Foster at age 58. Once again, the trend of younger, less experience umpires outperforming older veterans continues.
The Single Error Club
This year, six different umpires had games with only a single mistake. We call this group the Single Error club, and it includes Dan Bellino, Doug Eddings, David Rackley, Quinn Wolcott, Chris Segal, and Pat Hoberg. No umpire had a perfect performance, however. It appears to be a rarer feat than perfect games or immaculate innings from pitchers. Hopefully an umpire can make this happen next year. But until then, the UmpScores team raises its glasses to toast the members of the Single Error Club for their commanding performances this year.
Post-Season Umpire Crews
MLB announced the crews for the first two rounds of the playoffs. Ted Barrett, Alfonso Márquez, Jerry Meals and Jeff Nelson will serve as crew chiefs for the Wild Card series, alongside their respective crewmates. Meanwhile, Mark Carlson, Marvin Hudson, Dan Iassogna and Bill Miller were selected to helm the crews for the Divisional Series. Unfortunately, several underperforming umpires who serve on those crews will be featured in the playoffs.
4 out of the bottom 10 full-time umpires by BCR this year will be serving in the Wild Card Series as part of these crews: Ed Hickox, CB Bucknor, Ted Barrett, and Lance Barrett. No umpires in the bottom 10 will be serving in the Divisional Series, but several in the bottom 20 are members of those crews. Jeff Nelson’s crew in particular is egregious. The only member of this crew with an above average BCR was Manny Gonzalez, and both Bucknor and Gonzalez were in the bottom 20.
UmpScores is incredibly disappointed to see umpiring crews like Nelson’s appear in the playoffs. The missed calls in last year’s playoffs are fresh in our minds, and seeing poor performing umpires continue to serve behind the plate in crucial games worries us. It will not be good for the game if we see another big blown call in a crucial part of a game this October. Hopefully we will see better crews appointed to the Championship Series and the World Series later on this month.
Thanks for reading the last edition of the Call this year. We hope you enjoyed reading and look forward to bringing you more umpire stats and news next year!