MLB Teams Are Compiling Scouting Reports on Umpires
These reports are a step beyond simply swapping stories around the clubhouse about this guy having a small zone or that guy constantly calling the high strike. They break down all areas of the strike zone, the spots just off the plate and how consistent a particular umpire is at calling pitches anywhere in the zone. Ron Washington, manager of the Rangers, says that technology has made all of this possible.
Ben Walker of the Associated Press got a look at some of the scouting reports.
Here's how one team assessed Hunter Wendelstedt: "Inconsistent zone, both in-game and from game-to-game, seemingly losing focus at times by balling pitches over middle and calling strikes on pitches well off plate. Seems to want hitter to put ball in play."
Or this look at Gerry Davis: "Hesitates to punch hitters out. Towards the top of the league in umpire ERA in 2009, with low K and low BB rate in 2009 and has continued in 2010. Need to earn strikes with him behind the plate."
Seems like information that's good to have so long as it doesn't induce any kind of information overload for the players. A hitter has enough to worry about with trying to read the pitcher and defense to spend too much time thinking about the fact that an umpire might be prone to calling pitches just off the corner strikes. Some guys can probably handle that information better than others and those that can will surely benefit from it.
The scouting reports also feature personal information about umps, from their college football preferences to their work as a police officer in the offseason. That comes in handy as you wouldn't want to upset a Wisconsin fan by crowing about how great Ohio State will be this season or, you know, break the law in front of a cop. Unless you're Bobby Cox, in which case you'd probably like to use them as a way to hasten your next ejection.