- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Bet you didn’t know Joe West has a 4.45 ERA this season.
Seriously. That's the truth.
OK, it isn't quite the truth. The truth is that the pitchers who have shown up on the mound when West has umpired home plate this season have a 4.45 ERA.
But the fact that you can actually research this sort of thing, in this day and age, is proof that (A) we can, now, officially, look up everything and (B) stat-a-holics like us have never been happier to be alive.
Most people don't pay much attention to umpire stats. Not unless they pitch for a living. Or they're hopeless analytics analysts. Or they've been known to place a wager or two. But umpire stats have actually been around for almost a decade now. And this just in:
So after poring through a bunch of fun and fascinating umpire databases, here come 10 Astounding Umpire Facts you're guaranteed to be sharing with your closest friends on a bar stool near you:
1. There's no place like home for veteran umpire Gerry Davis. We know this because oddsshark.com's umpire page tells us that home teams have gone 20-3 this season when Davis has been behind the plate. Yep, 20-3. That's even a better winning percentage than Clayton Kershaw. Or Mike Krzyzewski.
2. And at the other end of that road, literally, there's Mike DiMuro. Road teams have gone 17-6 when he's worked the plate. Maybe he just has a sympathetic place in his heart for suitcases.
3. But suppose we look beyond only this season. We found more enjoyable home/road data, spanning the past eight seasons, at cleanuphitter.com. It told us that home teams have outscored road teams by an incredible 1.51 runs per game (5.36 to 3.85) during the 143 games in which Mike Muchlinski had the plate assignment over those eight seasons. That’s nearly a full run higher than the average gap of .53 runs per game (4.80 to 4.27). Among all other active umps who worked 200-plus games in that span, only Mike Everitt even had a home-team edge of more than one run per game (5.06-4.00).
4. And it was interesting to see that Mike DiMuro's home/road balance wasn't just a one-year phenomenon. Over the past eight seasons, there has been almost no difference between the road team's average score (4.56) and the home team's average score (4.54) when he had the plate. Only Hunter Wendelstedt worked at least 200 games over that span and wound up with more runs by the road team (4.51 per game) than the home team (4.44). So the roar of the crowd obviously didn't sway those two guys even a little.
5. If you're pitching and Kerwin Danley is behind the dish, there's a smile on your face as wide as, well, Danley's strike zone. Pitchers working during Danley’s plate assignments have a 2.80 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP this season, according to Baseball Prospectus' umpire page. Both those numbers rank No. 1 for pitcher-friendliness, among all regular umpires.
6. Your top three lowest ERAs among regular umpires: Danley 2.80, Ed Hickox 2.84, Bob Davidson 2.93. And the top three in best WHIP: Danley 1.10, Tony Randazzo 1.12, virtual tie between Hickox and Brian O'Nora 1.13. They figure to be on a lot of pitchers' Christmas card lists.
7. Meanwhile, the Coors Field of umpires -- aka, the plate ump who has inflated the most ERAs this year -- is Chris Conroy, proud owner of a Hector Noesi-esque 4.87 ERA. The top three ERAs on that leaderboard, among regular umpires, according to Baseball Prospectus: Conroy 4.87, Jerry Layne 4.79, Chris Segal 4.60.
8. Another fun number worth checking out is which umpires have the biggest gaps between strikeouts per game and walks per game. The top three pitchers' umps in 2014, by that standard, according to oddsshark.com, are Brian Gorman (12.57 more K's than BBs), Tim Welke (12.24) and Brian O'Nora (11.31). Gorman averages 17.9 strikeouts per game in back of the plate, the most of any umpire who has worked there at least 20 times this year.
9. And who has the smallest gaps between whiffs and walks? The top three hitters' umps this season, using the same standard, are Segal (only 7.27 more K's than BBs per game), Brian Knight (7.41) and Jeff Kellogg (7.52). Segal (13.0 per game) had the lowest strikeout rate of any ump with 20 or more plate assignments. Knight has the highest walk rate (7.17 per game).
10. And, finally, there's everybody’s favorite umpire stat -- ejections. Sadly, they aren't want they used to be, here in the post-replay era. But if you somehow get yourself mixed up in one of those umpire-ejection fantasy leagues -- and we don't recommend it -- you need to know which men in blue have the quickest thumbs. And that answer, according to the ejection-fantasy-league numbers at portal.closecallsports.com, is Bill Miller with seven (including one in spring training), Dan Bellino six (all while working the plate) and Toby Basner with six (five as a plate ump, one from first base).
Now just for the record, Joe West has racked up only two ejections all season -- not one of them since his May 11 boot of his good friend, Ron Gardenhire. Which only serves as more spectacular evidence that perception and reality can often be two different things when it comes to your favorite members of the umpires' union.
And we now even have the numbers to prove it.