MLB Umpires Missed 34,294 Ball-Strike Calls in 2018. Bring on Robo-umps?
After studying four million game pitches, BU researcher suggests how to fix a broken baseball system

BU Today | 4/22/2019 | Staff
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This article is based on 11 seasons of Major League Baseball data, almost 4 million pitches culled and analyzed over two months by Boston University Master Lecturer Mark T. Williams and a team of graduate students at the Questrom School of Business experienced in data mining, analytics, and statistics.

Baseball - Season - Catches - Pitching - Home

Baseball is here, another season of amazing catches, overpowering pitching, tape-measure home runs, overpriced beers, and, yes, television replays of every missed call by umpires, revealed in painful, high-definition slow motion.

It’s time for Major League Baseball to put an end to the agony caused by at least some of those blown calls—the balls and strikes.

Season - MLB - Home - Plate - Umpires

Each season, MLB home plate umpires make tens of thousands of incorrect calls (read on for evidence backing up that assertion). These controllable errors impact players, managers, batters, pitchers, performance statistics, game outcomes, and even the big business of fantasy baseball. They shorten careers and diminish fan experience. Pace of play is also impeded.

In 2018, umpires made 34,294 incorrect ball and strike calls. That’s 14 per game.

History - MLB - Error-prone - Umpires - Performance

But throughout its history, MLB has protected its error-prone umpires, resisted adopting strong performance measurements, and not taken advantage of available technology that could better the game. At a time of autonomous cars and machine learning, MLB needs to embrace useful change.

The duty of an umpire is complex: get the split-second call right. It is a mentally and physically demanding job. For 2018, there were 89 MLB umpires, all of them with a profile of male, average age of 46 and 13 years of experience. Each season, umpires individually participate in an average of 112 games, one fourth of them (28) from behind home plate, calling about 4,200 pitches. A crew of four umpires is assigned for each game, assuming one of four designated field positions (except for the World Series,...
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