Which umps liked Ted Williams most?

So I’m sitting here working on the Hardball Times Annual 2013 (which is, alas, not yet ready for order) and editing a great article by Chris Jaffe on the history of major league umpires and their balls/strikes calling. Meanwhile, over at Bill James Online, Bill posts an article (for subscribers only) that compares the strikeouts and walks issued by umps working behind the plate when Ted Williams was at bat. And that creates instant sabermetric synergy.

Here is a list of the umpires who umped the most games when Ted Williams batted (courtesy of Bill) and the number of at-bats and walks given out by those umps (also courtesy of Bill). I’ve divided walks by (walks plus at-bats) as a crude measure of each ump’s walk rate. Next to that is the umpire’s career walk rate, regardless of who was batting:

Ump                   AB    BB    %   Career
Bill Summers         605   172  22%    9.9%
Eddie Rommel         581   127  18%    9.9%
Bill Grieve          475   120  20%    9.5%
Joe Paparella        400   112  22%    9.4%
Bill McGowan         409   113  22%    9.3%
Charlie Berry        406    98  19%    9.1%
Cal Hubbard          359   100  22%    9.5%
Bill McKinley        339    89  21%    9.7%
Eddie Hurley         328   110  25%   11.1%
Johnny Stevens       337    80  19%    9.5%

See anything in the data? Yeah, I don’t either. Eddie Hurley posted the highest walk rate, but he also deserves a special resting place in hitter heaven (or pitcher hell, depending on your perspective) for his small strike zone. Hurley was friendly to all batters, not just Williams.

Every umpire basically doubled his walk rate when Williams was at the bat. You can find some minor differences between the specific umpire rates, but you’ll have a hard time proving the differences are anything other than random variances. The idea that Williams received preferential treatment from umpires doesn’t appear to hold up—if that were true, you’d expect that some umpires wouldn’t treat him as well. That is Bill’s conclusion, too.

Keep an eye out for the Hardball Times Annual in late October. We’ll be self-publishing it this year, and it will be available as an e-book too.

Dave Studeman was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Follow his sporadic tweets @dastudes.
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10 years ago

Dave –

Do the “Career” percentages include the Ted Williams data in them or is that the % with batters not named Ted Williams?  If these percentages include the TW data in them, I’m curious what they are when TW isn’t at the plate? Obviously they would be even lower, but by how much?

10 years ago

Moeball, yes the career numbers include Ted Williams.  If you were to take out the Williams, it might impact the overall numbers of each umpire by one-tenth of a percent.  Bill Summers, for instance, umped home plate for 107,000 plate appearances. The 800 PA’s for Williams are a really smart part of that total.