Major League Baseball has taken steps towards trying to becoming as accurate as possible when it comes to calls. They first implemented instant replay during the 2008 season in a limited capacity. Since then, the replay system has grown, but some people believe that with all of today’s advanced technological capabilities, even aspects of the game such as calling balls and strikes should be done automatically, eradicating the need for human umpires. In polls, most players do not want this. Yet there are clearly times when an umpire’s strike zone frustrates batters and pitchers alike, and the Yankees are no stranger to this.
For example, the Yankees have two large sluggers in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. They sometimes get low strike calls and because of their stature, they are not able to cover those pitches. As the team prepares for the do-or-die Wild Card game next Wednesday, a simple aspect such as the home plate umpire could play a role in the outcome of the game. The reason is that some home plate umps tend to have wider strike zones while others have smaller ones.
Among active umpires going back to 2008, the most games behind the dish belong to Joe West with 360 games. The least belongs to A.J. Johnson with only one, and he has the highest strikeout rate of any umpire at 28.6 percent (albeit it was only one game). Jeff Gosney has the lowest at 12.7 percent, but he has only called balls and strikes twice.
Other stats include boost stats, which looks at how much a stat relates to umpire relative to the league average. Of the umpires who have done at least 50 games dating back to 2008, D.J. Reyburn (240 games) has the highest K boost at 1.19. This means that in games where he is the home-plate umpire, there are 1.45 times more strikeouts than average. Bill Miller has the same K boost in 357 games. Other notable umpires who are above 1.00 include Dan Iassogna, Phil Cuzzi, Chris Guccione, Jim Reynolds, and more. Umpires such as Brian Knight, Alfonso Marquez, Mark Wegner, and Ted Barrett have K boosts under 1.00, meaning they are less likely to strike out hitters on average.
Conversely, there is BB boost. A high-BB boost umpire would seemingly favor hitters. Notables above 1.00 include Andy Fletcher, Derryl Cousins, Mike Winters, Adrian Johnson, and Tim Timmons. Doug Eddings, Bill Miller, CB Bucknor, and Jeff Nelson are on the other side.
The more experienced umps typically are used in the playoffs. The home plate umpire definitely has the most influence on the game out of the six that will be on the field. Ideally, the game will not come down to a ball or strike call, but there are some instances which could give an advantage to the pitcher or the hitter.