Umpires and totals: Men behind the mask occasionally steal the show

Apr 11, 2007 |
By: Tim Roberts
Umpires and totals: Men behind the mask occasionally steal the show

MLB’s official website tells you that umpire Ed Montague is a Navy vet, enjoys magic in his spare time and has a yellow lab named Mudge.

It doesn’t tell you that Montague has one of the smallest strike zones around, which almost always results in longer and higher scoring games than most of his colleagues allow.

Montague was behind the plate 51 times in 2005 and 2006. Thirty-seven of them (72.5 percent) played over the total. Those 51 games averaged 11.1 runs, well above the MLB norm.

Paying attention to the umpire schedule, once it’s released for a series, can prove fruitful for bettors under certain circumstances.

“Linesmakers don’t pay attention to (home plate umpire) when it comes to totals,” says Sportsmemo.com’s Rob Veno. “It doesn’t come into play with sides, but there are a couple of select guys around the league that I’ll look to play the total with when it’s their turn behind the plate.”

John Hirschbeck is the first umpire that comes to Veno’s mind, thanks to the deal Hirschbeck and his crew had in place – whoever called the slowest game behind the plate in a series bought dinner for the rest of them.

Fear of a hefty restaurant bill widened the strike zone and rendered the crew “an under machine”.

Hirschbeck has been behind the plate once in 2007, a 4-3 Milwaukee Brewers win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 3 that played under the total. Pitchers for both teams combined for 18 strikeouts and only five walks.

“Ed Montague’s another one I consider, though it’s not as knee-jerk a play because Hirschbeck’s under trend has lasted a longer time,” Veno adds.

Indeed, Montague seems to have undergone a dramatic change. In 2003-06, Montague’s games averaged 10.7 runs and were 70-43 over/under (O/U). In 1999-2002, however, Montague’s games averaged more than a full run less and were 59-75 O/U.

Veno suggests that Montague’s attitude change is likely the result of QuesTec, the mechanical eye that MLB started using to standardize the strike zone and grade its umpires’ balls and strikes calls. He noticed more than one umpire whose numbers changed once Big Brother started checking on them.

Umpires, however, aren’t the only people affected by QuesTec.

Certain pitchers made a living painting the black (and beyond), perhaps no one more so than New York Mets left-hander Tom Glavine.

“During his time with the Mets, Glavine has reinvented himself,” Chris Caraballo wrote on the Let’s Blog Mets website. “With the incorporation of (QuesTec) and the changed strike zone that focused more on north and south, Tom Glavine was no longer getting that outside corner that for years he made a living off of getting hitters to reach and hit weak groundballs to the shortstop and second baseman.”

Glavine faced the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday evening, who countered


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