Thursday, July 7, 2011

Joe West's Crew, Part 3: The Quickest Thumbs In the MLB

By The Common Man

Yesterday, we had fun recounting the myriad of men, women, children, and small pets that Joe West and his small band of enforcers have run out of Major League games over the course of 2011. And while that’s fun, it’s also decontextualized. It doesn’t tell us whether 17 ejections over the first half of the season is actually a lot, although it seems like a lot of ejections. It doesn’t tell us where West and company rank in the pantheon of modern ejectors.

So, to clear up ambiguities, The Common Man went through every box score from the 2011 season to date and threw all the ejections into a spreadsheet with relevant data. You can see the entire spreadsheet here, but here is a breakdown of the results:

Most Ejections, 2011 (Individual Umps)

Rob Drake6
Angel Campos5
Joe West5
Bob Davidson5
Angel Hernandez4
Vic Carapazza4
Alfonso Marquez4
Art Fletcher4

Our leader, Rob Drake (who actually served on West’s crew last season), has six ejections, but those numbers are misleading. They are artificially inflated by a June 4 game he worked between Arizona and Washington, where a beanball war erupted. Two pitchers, and both managers were ejected from that contest. You’ll note that West is tied for second in the league with five ejections. Also appearing on the list are his crewmates Angel Campos and Angel Hernandez. So already we can guess that the West crew will be much more prone to ejecting managers and players than others. But how much more?

Most Ejections, 2011 (Umpire Crew, by Crew Chief*)

Crew ChiefEjections
Joe West17
Dana DeMuth12
Ed Rapuano11
Tim Welke9
Jerry Layne9

As you can see, West and company lord it over the rest of the league. No other crew is remotely close to their ejection rate. DeMuth’s crew looks particularly eject-y, in large part because they were working the game we discussed above, where Drake was forced to toss four people. Rapuano’s crew has seen four ejections by Alfonso Marquez, who shows up on the individual list, and the others are spaced out fairly evenly among five other umpires.

*MLB does not seem to have updated its list of umpire crews since last year. Where possible, TCM assumed that a 2010 crew chief retained that title in 2011. When that was not possible (say, when an umpiring crew had no 2010 crew chiefs on its roster), TCM selected the umpire with the most experience and assigned the title to him.

Other interesting revelations from the data:
  • There have been 107 total ejections so far in 2011.
  • Houston Manager Brad Mills, Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire, and Rays Manager Joe Maddon lead all of baseball with four ejections each. Not surprisingly, each of them has been run by Joe West.
  • The Rays lead all of baseball with 10 ejections so far, while the Astros and Nationals have 8 ejections each, and the Rangers have 7.
  • Two of the Rays' ejections have been David Price in games where he has not even pitched.  Talk about a bench jockey!
  • Even with the All Star Break, July is shaping up to be the ejectiest month of them all, with 17 guys already tossed in just 6 days. May is currently the most ejecty month, with 37 tosses.
  • Overall, 64 of the 107 ejections, or 59.8%, have come in the 7th inning or later. This actually makes a great deal of sense, given that frustration over perceived bad umpiring is bound to build over the course of a game, and the calls toward the end tend to be seen as more important than those at the beginning.

So, what have we learned? That it’s not just a trick of perception. Joe West and his umpires are actually head and shoulders above the rest of the league when it comes to ejections. Their thumbs are the quickest. And this is not an incident that is isolated to Cowboy Joe himself. Rather, three members of his crew rank in the top eight umpires in overall ejections. This is not coincidence. This is a problem that MLB needs to address publicly. And solve now, before the behavior of these umpires becomes more problematic, and their actions affect the course of seasons, not just individual games.

(One final note: In going through 1309 boxscores by hand, it's possible that The Common Man might have missed an ejection or two.  If that happened, TCM apologizes.  He'll gladly refund your money.  The data here should be treated as unofficial, but as close to perfect as TCM could get it.)


wildgoosechase said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wildgoosechase said...

Thanks for the perspective! Good piece. Lots of time to find all those details I am sure.

I wish we could track how many ejections were caused by players/managers arguing about an obviously blown call. THat would be the coup de gras in all this

Derek said...

Just doesn't seem right to not see Bobby Cox's name not mentioned in an article about ejections..

DavidJustinLynch said...

Ejections are part of baseball. As a retired umpire, I can tell you there are some ejections you can't avoid, like beanball incidents and brawls. And you certainly don't tolerate the rats showing you up or calling you dirty names. "Bad" calls don't excuse bad behavior. Umpires are human and do make mistakes, but that doesn't justify personal abuse and obnoxious conduct. Fans pay good money in the major leagues to see a BASEBALL GAME, not a demonstration of immature behavior by the likes of Milton Bradley, Bobby Cox, and similar miscreants.

The Common Man said...

Speaking as a fan of the game, I have a huge problem with any umpire, retired or currently active, professional or amateur, thinking of any players as "rats" and "miscreants." I think that's a huge part of the problem, as umpires need to take responsibility for their own roles in creating situations where players go off (not that the players are in the right either).

The trouble is that there is little transparancy so that the average fan knows that the problems caused by umpires who routinely miss calls and who foster a confrontational environment are being addressed. Speaking for many fans, we would like to see more actual baseball with the best players in the world on the field. Not in the clubhouse.

hugh said...

Just came across this thread, so know am way late, but:

Also speaking as a "fan of the game" and of sports and humanity generally, I want to say I am completely with David Lynch on this one insofar as I cannot stand to see the disrespectful, uncontrolled, infantile and just plain awful behaviour of players and managers who somehow feel entitled to belittle umpires because something, rightly r wrongly, has gone against them. You or I would not accept it as behaviour from our own children, we would be appalled to see it in others. It is just wrong. And bad.

If you want to see the best players on the field then I suggest:

1) they recognise that sometimes calls go against you as well as for you, frustrating though it undoubtedly is, and

2) you, and other apologists, start calling players to a higher standard of behaviour.

It is to me a huge anomaly that baseball, with its well-defined etiquette designed to protect the integrity of the game and the self-respect of its participants (and that, after all, is one of the main reasons for objecting to the apparently self-important umpiring of West's crew, is it not), tolerates this kind of nonsense.

The Common Man said...

Dear Hugh,

Thanks for joining the discussion. Obviously, since you're late, you probably didn't read other articles by The Common Man about this issue in which he clearly points out that players' behavior is inappropriate and that they are in the wrong when they explode at umpires. That they deserve to get tossed and disciplined further when that's appropriate. So rather than suggest that anyone is being an apologist, feel free to keep your hyperbole to yourself or read more, whichever is easier for you.

That said, players are already accountable for their performance and for their behavior on a baseball diamond. It's about time that umpires are equally accountable, especially umpires who are so clearly outside of the norm.

Jack said...

@wildgoosechase, according to (Umpire Ejection Fantasy League), blown calls make up between 1/4 and 1/3 of all ejections, meaning players/coaches are ejected arguing a correct call around 70% of the time.

I think in general, according to the fantasy league, balls & strikes are called accurately around 94% of the time, and other calls have an even higher accuracy percentage. Ejections predictably happen at an accuracy rate of about 70%, so a player/coach recognizes a close call, but still, players and coaches aren't all that great at seeing that the call was correct in the first place.