By Brandon Cohen, Senior Analyst, and the UmpScores Staff
Welcome back to The Monthly Call, where we provide a rundown of umpire performances and trends over the past month. This month we crested over the midseason mark and will cover all games played from June 7 to July 6 while also going over midseason stats.
Overall Umpire Performance
This past month, umpire BCR was 7.53% and accuracy was 92.47%, a slight decrease in performance compared to last month’s 7.27% BCR and 92.63% accuracy rating respectively. Umpires have continued to have a much worse inside zone BCR at 10.30% compared to an outside zone BCR or 6.13%.
Top Performing Umpires
The top umpires for this month are all newcomers: Jeremie Rehak, Manny Gonzalez, and Will Little. In 5 games this period, Rehak had a stellar 4.70% BCR in 5 games, lowering his already sterling yearly BCR to 4.89% in the process. That keeps him second overall behind the consistent Pat Hoberg, whose BCR of 4.81% remains the gold standard for umpires this year. This marks the first time Hoberg hasn’t been in the Top 3 for the month, but his performance was still enough to help him keep his spot atop the umpire leaderboard.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez put up a strong 5.19% BCR in 3 games this season, a big improvement in performance from his previous jobs earlier in the season. Gonzalez, MLB’s first Venezuelan umpire, has been an umpire since 2010. Little also had a strong 5.27% BCR over July and has been a strong performer for several years. He was one of the top 10 umpires in 2018 in BCR when UmpScores first conducted its review of umpire performance.
We would also like to highlight the strong performance of Nate Tomlinson, whose improvement over the past month topped the league. Tomlinson was a below average umpire last month with an 8.80% BCR, but this past month he had a much improved 5.30% BCR, just missing out on the Top 3. That turnaround of 3.50% still grabbed our attention.
Worst Performing Umpires
The worst performing umpire this month was Bill Welke, whose 11.17% BCR over 3 games in July was not only the worst of the month but the worst set of performances we have highlighted in the Monthly Call in 2022. Welke may not have had one of the worst single game performances of the year, but each game he called this period earned a 1 star on our Daily Scorecards. His performance on June 10 in a game between the Angels and Royals was the third worst this month with a BCR of 15.5%.
Barely outperforming Welke this month was CB Bucknor, who has been lowlighted on The Monthly Call before. This time, Bucknor put up a 10.49% BCR, raising his season long rate to 9.64% and keeping him firmly as the second worst umpire in 2022 in calling balls and strikes behind Andy Fletcher, whose 10.47% remains the highest BCR in the league. Rounding out the Bottom 3 this month was Jerry Meals, who had a BCR of 10.19%.
Best Game Performance
Unfortunately, no umpires this month joined the single error club. Still, the best performance over this time period was an excellent game called by Quinn Wolcott on June 29 between the Phillies and Braves. Wolcott made only three mistakes in that game, the furthest of which was only 0.59 inches off the plate, and registered a sterling 2.10% BCR. He serves as another example of a young umpire (35 years old) putting up solid performances behind the plate.
Worst Game Performances
Though we have seen many umpires improve, some continue to perform well below the standard that umpires should be held to. Andy Fletcher has been the worst umpire this year, and on the same day that Wolcott excelled, Fletcher scuffled. In a game between the Diamondbacks and Padres, Fletcher missed 22 calls en route to a dreadful 15.71% BCR. His calls were also extremely inconsistent, missing several calls both inside and outside the zone. The 21 year veteran has had a massive drop in performance this year, with his 10.47% BCR far outpacing his rate of 8.33% from 2021. He needs to up his game.
In May, The Athletic speculated that MLB was considering adding the automated balls and strikes (ABS) system to the majors in 2024. This past month, Rob Manfred confirmed that the league is targeting that year for an introduction to the system and that it would be unlikely to surface in the majors in 2023. This is an exciting development that we are closely watching here at UmpScores.
In lighter news, we may have seen the weirdest confiscation of the year when Reds rookie Graham Ashcraft was asked to remove his wedding ring during an inspection from first base umpire John Tumpane. Ashcraft’s wedding ring is made of silicone, which the league deems a potential “foreign substance” that should not be allowed on the field of play. Ashcraft didn’t argue, as it was actually an old rule that the league had only begun to finally enforce, though it is possible it knocked him off his rhythm, as he got shelled for 6 runs in a loss to Brewers that day.
Finally, while we here at UmpScores are always critically assessing umpire performance, we always remember that umpires should still be respected, even when we may disagree with them. Though teams often drill this into players early in their development, not everyone learns that lesson. One recent example is highly touted prospect Kahlil Watson, whose frustrations boiled over in a game on July 1. After disagreeing with the first base umpire over a failed check swing call, Watson struck out swinging on the next pitch and then pointed his bat toward the umpire as he walked back to the dugout. Watson was benched and has not played a game since then despite not having an injury. Any threats toward umpires are treated seriously by the league and by coaches, so until Watson learns this important lesson, he will find himself riding the pine.
That is it for The Monthly Call. We’ll see you all in August!