How to Profit From MLB Umpire Assignments
The 2016 MLB season is just a few days away, and our goal at Sports Insights is to ensure that bettors have the best strategies for the upcoming year. Our recent betting against the public report details the sweet spot for contrarian betting, but there are many factors that should be considered before placing a wager.
Last week we introduced a new officials page which tracks the record for NBA referees and MLB umpires. For those who aren’t familiar, baseball utilizes a four-man umpire crew for every series. Typically the assignments aren’t announced until several hours before first pitch, and officials will rotate clockwise for the subsequent game. That means that the second base umpire will work first base the following day and home plate the day after that.
Historically underdogs have provided value across all six major US sports, but baseball is the only sport in which the importance of home field advantage has been undervalued. Although most bettors seem to believe that crowd noise is the main factor benefiting home teams, baseball is the only sport where those teams have concrete advantages. Not only do home teams get to bat last, but they’re also accustomed to the unique dimensions of their ballpark.
Since home teams and unders have historically provided value, those are the criteria used on our officials page. That said, there is no shortage of umpires who have been highly lucrative for visitors and overs.
The tables below display the five most profitable umpires for home teams, road teams, overs and unders since the start of the 2005 season.
* Indicates official is inactive
Best Home Umpires
|John Hirschbeck ||139-98||+21.42||9.0%|
Best Away Umpires
Best Over Umpires
|Sam Holbrook ||172-132||+33.22||10.9%
|Larry Vanover ||185-158||+22.83||6.7%
|Jerry Meals ||183-157||+19.86||5.8%
|Gabe Morales ||39-18||+19.60||34.4%
Best Under Umpires
|Ron Kulpa ||198-139||13.2%||+44.54|
|James Hoye ||171-140||6.5%||+20.29|
It’s interesting to see that Ron Kulpa has been far and away the most profitable under umpire in our database. Over the past eleven seasons the under has gone 198-139 (58.75%) with +44.54 units won when Kulpa is behind home plate.
Since the start of the 2005 season, unders have gone 13,093-12,667 — a winning percentage of 50.8%. Although this doesn’t come close to the 52.38% threshold needed to break even at most sportsbooks, it displays a clear edge. Even so, there are no shortage of profitable over umpires.
In games with Sam Holbrook behind home plate, the over has gone 172-132 (56.58%) with +33.22 units won. He’s been especially profitable in divisional games, with the over hitting at a 62% clip.
You’ll notice that two of the five most profitable “homer” umpires are no longer active. Tim McClelland retired prior to the 2015 season while Wally Bell suffered a heart attack and died on October 14, 2013. By extending the list to include only active umpires, we found find that Alfonzo Marquez (185-136, +18.95 units) and John Tumpane (62-34, +17.56 units) would round out the list.
We will definitely be following the progress of Gabe Morales, who made his MLB début back on April 2, 2014. In just two seasons, Morales (39-18, +19.6 units) has emerged as one of the best over umpires. Typically being a good over umpire means calling a very tight strike zone, and it will be interesting to see if that zone beings to expand at all in his third season.
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