It seems each time MLB umpire Angel Hernandez works home plate, there’s a bevy of tweets and comments from members of the media labeling him the “worst umpire in baseball.” After Hernandez ejected Rangers manager Chris Woodward on Tuesday for arguing his enforcement of replay review regulations, Jeff Wilson of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram wrote that Hernandez is “universally regarded as the worst umpire in baseball,” among other comments not worth repeating here.
Wilson’s article shows how toxic the attitude toward Hernandez and other big league umpires has become over the past few seasons. The umpires organized a ‘white wristband’ protest in 2017, and it seems they correctly diagnosed a trend of what they called “escalating verbal attacks.”
The problem is, these totally subjective claims about the “worst umpire” are based on zero facts. The facts actually directly contradict them in the case of Hernandez.
MLB assigns postseason umpires based on merit, an honor the league has deemed Hernandez worthy of in four consecutive seasons (2015-2018). In his 26 years as a big league umpire, Hernandez has been selected for 23 special events (3 All-Star Games and 20 postseason series). This means he is repeatedly evaluated in the top half of umpires.
Replay review stats are the only other publicly available tool to review umpires’ performance. According to Close Call Sports, Hernandez has experienced four overturned calls this season, the same number as 12 other umpires, and fewer than 18 umpires. The 18 umpires with more overturns than Hernandez this season have worked a combined 13 World Series since Hernandez last worked the Series in 2005.
That’s because those umpires are fantastic officials worthy of the high-level assignments. Replay review numbers, especially over just a three month time span, tell us very little about how umpires handle the game and call the game, and more about how many bang-bang plays they’ve had come their way.
The reality is there is no “worst” Major League Baseball umpire. It’s an oxymoron. These umpires have reached the pinnacle of their profession, and not by accident. But even if you were trying to present that case, everything we know about Angel Hernandez’s performance tells us otherwise.