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!