At the higher levels of all sports the opponents have thoroughly scouted each other and know what to expect when they compete. Do you think it might be helpful, as an umpire, to know something about the teams who are competing? There is a recent trend by umpires at the higher levels to start “scouting” the teams. It is now common for a crew’s pre-game preparation and discussion to include team tendencies – what type of pitching do they have, do they steal, do they bunt a lot, is the defense aggressive finding outs on the bases?
These topics should be discussed during every umpire pre-game:
• Do they block the bags on steals?
• Does the first baseman either intentionally or accidentally block the bag as the Batter/Runner rounds the bag?
• Does she block the view of the release of the ball?
• Consider the third baseman’s position to R3 after the pitch.
• Does the outfield throw behind the runners?
• Do they come up throwing aggressively?
• Does the catcher try to pick runners? From her knees?
• Is the pitcher legal? If not, how is she illegal?
• Check the innings pitched for each of their pitchers to determine which pitchers you are most likely to see.
• Check these stats for the top two or three: E.R.A, strikeouts, walks, opposing hitter’s batting average, wild pitches, batters hit by pitch, and illegal pitches (sometimes listed as “bk” for balk).
• Any previous experience with any of the pitcher with a tendency for illegal pitchers?
• Quickly review stats on the rest of the pitching staff so prepared when the team changes its pitcher.
• Take warm-up pitches in the first inning
o Ask the catcher if the pitcher has any special or unusual pitches.
o Recognize the pitcher’s rhythm of delivering pitches.
o Notice where the pitcher’s stride foot lands for possible pitching lane violations
• During the game
o How is the pitcher getting to know your strike zone.
o Any expressions, gestures or other physical reactions to your ball and strike calls.
o Pitcher’ reaction after giving up a few solid hits, or the defense makes a big error.
• Slappers, in or out of the box?
• Does the team look for the extra base?
• Do they play small ball?
• Do they Suicide Squeeze?
• On the steal do they push the edge of the envelope on leaving early?
• Lots of hit and run?
• Are they passive or aggressive?
• Do they argue legitimate points?
• Are they snipers?
• Discuss how you will deal with coaches that have a tendency to play umpires off each other.
• When a coach is warned for an infraction how do we let our partners know so that she doesn’t get three separate and individual warnings for the same transgression?