Study: “Major League Baseball umpires express their racial/ethnic preferences when they evaluate pitchers”


I recall everyone discussing a study in which it was posited that umpires tend to favor pitchers of the same race a few years ago. Perhaps it was an earlier version of the study whose publication was announced earlier this afternoon, perhaps it was a different study.  I’m not sure.

But either way, there is a newly-published study to that effect out in the latest issue of the American Economic Review. Here it is in full. Here’s the abstract of the study, as set forth at the Freakonomics blog:

Major League Baseball umpires express their racial/ethnic preferences when they evaluate pitchers. Strikes are called less often if the umpire and pitcher do not match race/ethnicity, but mainly where there is little scrutiny of umpires. Pitchers understand the incentives and throw pitches that allow umpires less subjective judgment (e.g., fastballs over home plate) when they anticipate bias. These direct and indirect effects bias performance measures of minorities downward. The results suggest how discrimination alters discriminated groups’ behavior generally. They imply that biases in measured productivity must be accounted for in generating measures of wage discrimination.

I haven’t read the full study yet. All I know is that, when it last made the news, it caused a stink.*  I presume it will cause a new stink now.  And the stink will likely have very little connection whatsoever with the underlying data because, let’s face it, we as a nation are unable to talk about race without making ourselves look silly and self-conscious and obnoxious and guilty and sometimes all of those things in between.

But let’s not have that stop us now! Go ahead, folks, react!


*I’m positive I blogged about the study the first time I heard about it too, but I can’t for the life of me find it, either in the HBT archives or in the old Shysterball archives.  If anyone else can find it, please let me know, because I’m curious to see what I thought of it at the time. Not that it would stop me from having a different response now. I’m nothing if not inconsistent when the facts on the ground or my personal experience and/or disposition changes about a matter.  I can just be annoying that way! 

Kyle Schwarber is on a private plane en route to Cleveland

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 07:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the MLB game at Chase Field on April 7, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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This is happening, people.

Earlier we heard Joe Maddon being non-committal about Kyle Schwarber joining the Cubs for the World Series. Now it seems pretty clear that the Cubs are committal indeed: Jon Morosi reports that Schwarber is en route to Cleveland from Arizona on a private jet and that he’s expected to DH in Game 1 tomorrow night.

Schwarber hasn’t played in a game that counted since April 7. His potent bat is could be a windfall for a Cubs team that didn’t have a game-changing option at DH in the American League park.

Schwarber lost the whole season due to a knee injury, but he hit .246/.355/.487 with 16 homers and 43 RBI in 69 games as a rookie in 2015. His big coming out party was in the playoffs, however, when he hit three homers in five postseason games while going 7-for-13 with two walks in five games.

Carlos Santana in left field? Sure, OK.

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Carlos Santana #41 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after hitting a home run in the second inning against J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Indians First Baseman/DH Carlos Santana shagged some flyballs in left field during the Indians’ workout today.

Sure, why not? Santana has played one game in the outfield in his major league career and that was over four years ago, but the Indians will have to play in Chicago without the DH, meaning either losing Santana’s bat or that of Mike Napoli.

It would be up to Terry Francona to decide if that happens, but ultimately I don’t think he’ll make it real and, rather, will just forget about it, because Santana’s defense out there would in no way be smooth.

I’m sorry. I’m sick today and I’m on a lot of cold medicine.