Umpire influence tough to cap in MLB betting

By: David Schwab | Thursday, May 12, 2011

James Hoye has been among the most consistent ’under’ umps the past few seasons.

The 2011 MLB regular season is headed for the quarter pole as the honeymoon surrounding the freshness of a new year of baseball has all but worn off with the dog days of summer right around the corner.

The first 40 games or so of the season gives you a good idea of which pitchers are throwing their best stuff, which teams are clicking at the plate, and how umpire tendencies are impacting the outcome of a game.

Home plate umpires remain one of biggest factors when it comes to handicapping MLB games so having a good understanding of the size of each one’s strike zone can provide a subtle edge.  This is especially true when it comes to looking for value in ‘totals.’ The one thing that the league expects from its umpires is consistency, not uniformity, so if a particular ump’s strike zone is a bit oversized, it should be that way for every game he calls.

When comparing umpires to solid plays on the ‘over’ line this season, a few that come to mind are Dale Scott, Sam Holbrook, Scott Berry and Tim McClelland. These four gentlemen have called a combined 30 games and 26 of them have gone ‘over’ the total. The average number of runs scored in those 30 games was 10.3 and the average number of home runs hit was 2.1, both numbers above the major league averages (8.4 RPG and 1.75 HR per game).

The leader of the pack would have to be Barry who has had seven of the eight games he has called go ‘over,’ the contests averaging 11.1 runs and 1.88 homers. A close second is Scott, who is also 7-1 against the total line with an average 10.9 runs a game and 2.5 homers.

The early trend for these two may not bear itself out as the season progresses given that their combined record in 2010 in relation to the ‘total’ was 38-29 'over.'

Last season’s top umpire for games going ‘over’ the total was Todd Tichenor. He had 66.7 percent of his 27 called games jump the total with an average of 10.2 runs per game. He is actually 4-3 to the 'under' this year.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the umpires who have favored the ‘under’ line so far. Phil Cuzzi, Brian Runge, Alan Porter and James Hoye are a combined 22-4 to the low side. The average runs scored in those 28 games was 6.4, although Runge is a bit of an anomaly with an average of 8.1 runs in the seven games he has called.

The undisputed leader in this group is Hoye, who has had five of the six games he called stay ‘under’ the total with an average of just 5.3 runs and 0.83 home runs. Hoye also gets the award for consistency after 25 of the 34 games stayed ‘under’ the total in 2010 and 25 of 38 did the same in 2009.

Last season’s ‘under' king was Greg Gibson, who had an amazing 77.4 percent of his 31 games called stay ‘under’ the total with an average of 7.2 runs per game. This season four of the six games he has called have stayed ‘under’ with an average of 6.7 runs scored.

Top umpires for favoring the home team this season include Brian Knight, Doug Eddings and Lance Barksdale, who are a combined 21-2 so far. Be careful of making too much of this early record as the three wound up going a combined 53-44 for the home side last season.

Alan Porter, Jeff Kellogg and Jim Wolf have been brutal for the home team this year with a combined record of 3-18. These early numbers are also a bit misleading given that the combined record for the home team in 2010 for the trio was 38-35.

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