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Batters' Reputations and the Pitch-Calling Decisions of Baseball Umpires

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Abstract

When calling balls and strikes, baseball umpires encounter an ambiguous situation that requires an immediate decision. Contextual cues (e.g., a batter's reputation) may influence an umpire's decision making process. The present study examined the relationship between actual pitch-calling decisions of 35 professional baseball umpires and four status characteristics of 234 professional baseball players: age, experience in the league, and two different indexes of performance--offensive value and isolated power. Player experience and indexes of performance were positively correlated with the percentage of pitches taken by a batter that were called balls. These findings support claims about the subjective nature of officiating but also support an alternative explanation which focuses on pitchers' reactions to certain batters.
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