For over a century, Major League Baseball relied solely on a crew of four umpires to call every aspect of a baseball game. Every single pitch thrown comes with a call to be made and the fate of a game comes down to what these umpires call. Up until 2014, it was completely the umpires’ decision. In a study done by ESPN in 2010, 184 MLB games were analyzed and every call was reviewed, except for balls and strikes, and it showed that umpires were correct about 99.53% of the time. During those 184 games, roughly 10,000 calls were made, which means there were about 47 missed calls. With that being said, any missed call holds the potential to alter the course of a game. However, it is impossible to tell when and how it would affect it. Something as small as one more batter reaching base or having to record one more out on the mound can be the difference between a win or a loss either directly or indirectly.
A New Era of Umpiring
In 2008, MLB introduced the video replay system, which would allow only the crew of umpires to decide whether to review homeruns that are fair/foul, or in play or over the fence. From 2008 to 2013, there were 387 homerun plays reviewed and of those reviewed, 131 were reversed. Those 131 plays made an immediate impact on the game and either added or deducted from the run totals for those teams. After 6 seasons with limited replay reviews and having heard arguments from both sides, Major League Baseball announced that it would further the in-game replay reviews in 2013. The expanded replay reviews took over in 2014 and they include plays such as: home runs, ground rule doubles, fan interference, stadium boundary calls, force play, tag play, fair/foul in the outfield, trap play in the outfield, batter hit by pitch, timing play, touching a base, passing runners, and record keeping.
Expanded Reviews and What They’ve Accomplished
The graphic above breaks down the number of challenges in the past 4 seasons into two categories, overturned and not overturned. Since 2014, there have been 5,409 replay reviews in Major League Baseball games. Of those 5,409 replay reviews, 2,676 of those calls were overturned. That means 49.47% of all challenges are overturned. In my opinion, the reason the percentage is so high is that teams have video specialists who call down to the dugout on close plays to either challenge them or let them go. Most challenges are used at very strategic times where the game could be on the line or a huge momentum shift could happen.
My Thoughts on Expanded Reviews
Replay reviews have revolutionized the game of baseball. Even with umpires calling a remarkable 99.53% of calls correctly, there is still a 20.4% chance that they will miss a call in any given game. There is an even bigger chance to have a challenge attempted in a game as roughly 60% games have a challenge attempted in them. In a season of 162 games and 30 teams fighting for 10 postseason spots, every single game counts. In my opinion, I think replay review has done nothing but helped the game of baseball. The players, fans, and any stakeholders in any given team deserve accurate calling in the game of baseball. Umpires do a great job, but replay reviews instill a culture of perfection in a game of inches.Learn more about Stephen Jones.