Handicapping Umpires in MLB Baseball Betting
The human element in any sporting event when it comes to officiating the action will have some kind of impact on the actual outcome. This has been minimized over the past few years with the expanded use instant replay as most bad calls are eventually reversed, but one of the biggest impacts that still exists is the home plate umpire in baseball.
The home plate umpire's primary job is to call balls and strikes on any pitch where the batter does not swing at the ball. Although it has been clearly defined, there is no official strike zone in baseball where a buzzer goes off if the pitch is outside the lines. Every umpire has their own interpretation of what that zone should be, which inevitable will have an impact on how they call the game. Every umpire (whether they know it or not) have tendencies that will become somewhat predictable once they have called a set number of games.
This is why we keep betting statistics on umpires for MLB games. Crews work on a rotating basis, so while you may not know who will be behind home plate in Game 1 of a new series, you can follow this set rotation to determine which umpire will be calling balls and strikes for any of the remaining games between the two teams.
The biggest opportunity to cash-in on a particular umpire's tendencies is on the total line. The total tends to go OVER much more often with umpires who have a tight strike zone that favors the batter and it will stay UNDER in games called by an umpire with a generous strike zone that favors the pitcher.
If you look up betting stats for umpires you will find over 80 names on the list. The average umpire called roughly 30 games in the 2013 regular season, which is more than enough opportunities to form a set pattern for quite a few of the names on that list.
The name at the top of the list for games staying UNDER the total in 2013 was Kerwin Danley. He was the home plate umpire in 28 games that season and the total stayed UNDER in 22 of those contests, which was 78.6 percent of the time. To put this in better perspective, you would have walked away with an extra $1320 in their pocket for $100 wager on the UNDER in all 28 games assuming a moneyline of -110 for each side. There were 18 umpires on that list where the total stayed UNDER in more than 60 percent of their called games.
Turning to the results on the total line for the OVER, the best winning percentage belonged to Tim Timmons. He called 32 games in 2013 and 22 of them went OVER the closing line, which equates to 68.8 percent of the time. There were eight additional umpires on this list where the total went OVER in more than 60 percent of the games that they were behind home plate.
While I would not recommend blindly betting total lines either way if one of these 27 umpires was calling the game, it is definitely something to be aware of. The best strategy is to educate yourself on umpire trends over a four or five year period as well as the games they have called during the current season. Some of these guys have been around forever, so their tendencies on how they call games have become blatantly obvious over the years. Use this information as one of many handicapping tools you have for breaking down a particular game. If that matchup ends-up leaning heavily one way or the other on the current total line number after studying all the key statistics and betting trends, then go heavy on the play.