Last week, when we learned that Joe West, one of baseball’s worst umpires, was named crew chief for the ALCS, I suspected that postseason assignments were based on seniority rather than quality of work. I cited one study that bore this out, showing that West was near the bottom of all umps in his balls-and-strikes skills, and of course, we all know that he has his issues when it comes to temperament and game management.
Today Ben Lindbergh of Grantland presents much, much more comprehensive data about all of that, expanding things to cover all of the postseason umps and comparing their accuracy with that of younger umpires who were not chosen, one assumes, due to their lack of seniority. The results are pretty clear: younger umps are more accurate, generally speaking, and the guys chosen for the playoffs over the past few years have been less accurate.
Lindbergh examines the differences more deeply in an attempt to figure out why, exactly, this is. Those results are a lot more mixed — no, the old umps aren’t calling a wide 1990s zone and the creep of the zone down is something to which all umps apparently contribute — but it’s nonetheless illuminating.