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A Game Of Numbers

A Game Of Numbers

Baseball is, has been, and always will be a game based on numbers. Earned run averages, slugging percentages, batting averages, wins, losses, and everything in between are vital, number-based statistics that we all know, love, and use to determine the quality and competency of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) players and teams.


If your favorite player has a batting average of .350, no one will dispute that he’s “having a good season at the plate” and “is a very consistent hitter”. The National League Central’s Pittsburgh Pirates are, at 65 wins and 44 losses, the current holders of Major League Baseball’s best record, putting their winning percentage at .596.


Remember that “consistent hitter”, the guy with the .350 average? That batting average means that, 65 out of every 100 times he steps into the batter’s box, he DOESN’T get a base hit. The Pirates have only won (for simple math’s sake) 60% of the games that they’ve played this year, by today’s educational grading standards, that’s a “D-”. I find it interesting that we give these players and teams so much credit for so many failures.


Umpire Jerry Meals made a “questionable” call in a game between the Red Sox and the Rays earlier this week. Alan Porter ejected Los Angeles Dodgers Mark Ellis and Don Mattingly on Friday night. There have been a whole slew of other incidents involving disagreements between players and umpires throughout this season where, in their explanations of the situations, broadcasters and announcers have done all but talk bad about the umpires’ mothers.


I raked through the replays and game recaps from this season and couldn’t seem to find any negative comments or erroneous calls made by Mr. Meals or Mr. Porter, but if you listened to the announcers and the media, you’d think that one or both of them was the antichrist himself. I’ve begun noticing that, if a broadcaster or commentator even so much as THINKS an umpire’s decision was incorrect or “bad”, they jump to destroy, belittle, and disparage him.


The Pirates are having a good season, that’s something we can all agree on. Their record, however, is indicative of 44 losses; 44 bad games; 44 poor decisions; 44 games where their opponents were better. I don’t see that brought up often, though. All I can seem to find is how great they are for winning 60% of their games. People think that an umpire misses ONE CALL and they crucify him.


We’ll say, for the sake of argument, that Jerry Meals has blatantly missed four calls this season (I could only find one, and it wasn’t “blatant”, but I’m not one to back down from playing devil’s advocate). At this point in the season, Mr. Meals has made upwards of 2500 calls, maybe nearing 3000. If he’s missed four, five, or even ten calls, that puts his “average” at .996, better than the Pirates and better than that guy who can’t get on base 65 out of every 100 at-bats.


When your favorite player is hitting .996 in August and your favorite team is undefeated, I’ll give your complaints about the umpires some merit. If your team’s ace has a 0.00 ERA after 15+ starts, I’ll begin to think that your statements have some sort of credibility


Broadcasters are quick to say “That’s incredible, I can’t believe how he made a call like that, let’s hope it doesn’t have any effect on the outcome of this game, it’d be a shame” but I’ve rarely heard them say “That was just terrible. He should have never thrown that pitch in that location to that hitter. Any little-leaguer would know better, let’s hope he doesn’t cost the team this game”. This screams “double-standard”.


Apparently, this isn’t just a game of numbers, but it’s also a game of biases and ignorance.


Before we part ways, I urge you to stop to take a moment for positive reflection on some baseball numbers: Bryce Aron Max Harper of the Washington Nationals has FAILED to achieve a base hit 181 out of 251 at-bats, and has struck out 56 times.


Don’t do drugs,


Stay in school.



Tell The Rules Guy what you think: Tweet to @TheRulesGuy


The Rules Guy is a baseball rules aficionado from Tallahassee, Florida.  He has umpired amateur, semi-pro, and professional baseball, and has a career “good call average” of .931 (he’s working on bringing that number up).  He encourages you to remember that, just because you may not be as fast or agile as others, doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in sports; remember, if you can’t be an athlete, you can be an athletic supporter!