Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies fell to the Milwaukee Brewers by an uninspiring score of 1-0. There are many issues currently plaguing the 2022 Phils, from the worst bullpen ERA in the majors to games where a super-powered offense becomes invisible. Joe Girardi and his squad are certainly going to need to pick things up after losing 4 of their first 5 series of the year, but last night something overshadowed another tough night at Citizen’s Bank Park for the home 9. Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez’s reputation proceeds himself at this point. He is widely known as one of, if not the worst, umpires in Major League Baseball, thanks largely to his inability to call consistent balls and strikes behind the plate. It shouldn’t be surprising that Hernandez made some questionable calls in the contest, but last night was a masterclass, even for the king of terrible calls.
A baseball normally contains 27 outs for the winning side, 3 for each of the 9 innings. Well, in last night’s game, 26 outs were recorded by way of strikeout. A quick look at averages across baseball shows that each team strikes out about 8 times a game on a given day. 2 teams means about 16-17 strikeouts on average per game, which puts last night’s showing about 10 strikeouts more than average. That’s more than just a coincidence; clearly this game was out of the ordinary, and when you look back on what Angel Hernandez did behind the plate, it’s easy to see why. Per ESPN’s pitchtrack on the Sunday Night Baseball broadcast, 6 of the 26 strikeouts in the game were on pitches outside of the zone, including one in the bottom of the 9th that led to a fiery ejection of Phillies’ LF Kyle Schwarber. Those 6 missed pitches only account for ones that resulted in strikeouts, though. There were terrible calls earlier in at bats as well, the worst being an inside strike on second baseman Jean Segura that was 6.47 inches off the plate, the furthest strike call out of the zone so far this season (h/t @UmpireAuditor).
It was an egregiously bad game for Hernandez, and frankly, it is a small sample of a bigger problem in baseball in the modern era. Actually it’s a problem that has existed for years; Major League umpires, protected by an iron clad union, are basically never held responsible for poor performance. It leads to bad calls and a superiority complex that can allow someone meant to keep order in a game to actually assert themselves into the action. The difference is there is a possible solution now thanks to advancements in baseball-related technology. Robot umpires have been discussed at length over the past couple years, and Angel Hernandez is about as big of an example as proponents of implementing robot umps can possibly have. Until they actually become a concrete thing though, we are stuck with the possibility of bad umpiring affecting games and baseball in general. As long as that is the case, Angel Hernandez will continue to be one of the worst offenders, and he should be held accountable by fan bases, especially us here in Philadelphia. A healthy diet of heckling should be expected the next time Hernandez finds himself calling a game in Philly.