How umpires are judged begins and ends with the home plate umpire and how he differentiates between balls and strikes. Because from this comes the pitcher's need to make adjustments and the batter then is able to see this and make his own determinations of what he will be doing when it's his turn to step into the batter's box.
In the October 6, 2008 ESPN magazine, Buster Olney, seen regularly on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, described umpire Tim McClelland as deliberative and his strike zone as 'consistent but confined, in keeping with his reputation.' Like it's okay for McClelland to have this kind of strike zone because that's the way he's been doing it for years. So because it has been accepted by his bosses that's it end of story!
This is where I say ask the umpire about his strike zone. By explaining to the umpire that when you put his strike zone up against the rulebook definition and diagram of what a strike is, 'How did you come up with this as your strike zone?'
Olney then has a list of 6 umpires and their strikeouts per 9 innings in 2008. The 3 most generous umps were inserted under the heading of Pitcher's Friend and the 3 stingiest are under the heading of Pitcher's Foes. (It's based on a minimum of 350 innings behind the plate. The source: BaseballProspectus.com.)
- Phil Cuzzi 7.64
- Dan Iassogna 7.56
- Tim Tschida 7.47
- Jerry Crawford 5.91
- Ed Rapuano 6.18
- Tim McClelland 6.19
Of course, those under the heading of Pitcher's friends are the umpires whose actions are telling the batter that he had better be up their swinging while those listed as Pitcher's Foes are making it more difficult to hit the corners by taking that part of the plate away from the pitcher. Therefore, more often than not, the pitcher has to groove one over a fat part of the plate and the fans get to see a mammoth home run or a ball hit into the gap for extra-bases.
Umpiring home plate is the stigma of umpires. And the majority of these men in blue are merely crop dusting when it's their turn to call balls and strikes.
Crop dusting (as defined by the Urban dictionary) is: farting while walking or walking while farting.
(thanks to ESPN magazine and the Urban dictionary)