According to Google.com, this how much an umpire makes yearly:
A Major League umpire’s starting salary is around $120,000, with the senior umps earning up to $350,000. That may sound like a lot for what seems to be six months’ work, but the umpire’s season is considerably longer than that with Spring Training, All-Star Games and postseason play added into the mix.
OK. Call me naive, but $120,000 seems like a lot for 12 months work. I know many people who would take that salary for 24 months of work, in fact. The point is, umpires do OK for themselves. And I’m fine with that, for the most part. Yes, it’s a handsome sum, but umpires have a pretty tough job, all things considered.
In our Game 1 chat, Dave Cameron and I touched briefly on the announcers for the Postseason games. I won’t paste it verbatim, but the gist was that though the announcers perhaps weren’t the greatest choices, it’s very hard to announce baseball. A character trait/flaw of mine is to always be sympathetic toward people who have jobs that I would find difficult, and therefore I tend to cut them some slack. I do the same for umpires. They have to have laser-like focus all the time, people boo them incessantly, and every decision they make is now available for people to see on the Internet. We should absolutely hold them to a high standard, don’t get me wrong, I just think it’s a super-weird and unforgiving job. Now that my conscious is somewhat clear, here is every ball and strike call of the Postseason thus far (all data via baseballsavant.com):
You can filter by umpire and pitch result using the buttons on the right. The strike zone used for the Gameday streams is included for reference. Hovering over a pitch will give you all the deets. I won’t comment too much on the overall performance — you can click around to get a general idea of what’s going on. But I will comment on that one random ball in the middle of the zone. It was thrown by Phil Coke during the eighth inning of the blowout Game 1 of the Orioles/Tigers series.
That’s pretty bad. But it wasn’t 100% the umpire’s fault.
PitchF/X and TBS’s system disagree on the actual location, but that’s the pitch. It’s a fastball, and Alex Avila totally whiffs on it. When a catcher has to dive to one knee to catch a pitch, it’s gonna be hard for an umpire to call a strike. It’s reverse framing, so to speak. It looks like their signs got crossed, but we can’t know for sure.
I plan on updating this data as the Playoffs progress, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, go forth and spout your many concerns in the comments. Or privately among friends. Or not at all. It doesn’t really matter to me.
David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.
…the travel schedule alone would make me demand 120K minimum to do that job, a job I would probably otherwise love.
That was my thought as well. I don’t know the vacation/time off of umpires, but 7+ months of constant travel would be horrendous. Combine that with a relatively small pool of people capable of performing the job to an acceptable standard. Those salaries don’t surprise me at all.
Also worth consideration, the fiasco the NFL had with replacement refs and the fiscal health of MLB.