There's a lot of talk about umpires these days.
And the Rays are among the teams doing it before the game.
As part of their complex, detailed data packages for each game, the always thorough Rays have scouting reports on the umpires. (The A's, Jays and Rangers are among other teams that have them, the Associated Press says.)
Each report's breakdown is relatively simple, highlighting each umpire's primary tendencies when calling balls and strikes, split by right- and left-handed pitchers and batters.
For example, a report might note that an umpire has a small zone for fastballs down and away from a righty to a righty, or he is more likely to call an off-the-plate strike on a full count.
The information is provided to the coaches, and it's up to them to determine whether to share it, and if so, how much. From what manger Joe Maddon said, neither hitting coach Derek Shelton nor pitching coach Jim Hickey make much use of the reports. (They're the last sheet in the notebooks assembled by the scouting staff.)
Unless a report has an extreme notation, the coaches are more likely to watch for a few innings to see if it holds true before saying anything. But the possibility for even a slight edge is there, even if it helps win just one game. (There are other sources of data; baseball-reference.com, for example, breaks downs pitchers' performance by plate umpire, and gambling websites track runs, strikeouts and walks per game by ump.)
"We just have some information," Maddon said. "It's not an extensive kind of a thing. We just review our notes on the guys."
Maddon said he prefers the Rays develop their own scouting reports with the idea of exploiting what calls they're getting and talking to the umpire about what they're not.
"We're more into what we're seeing that night," Maddon said. "A lot of our umpiring stuff is based on our observations, catchers talking about what they're seeing, because everything changes on a nightly basis.
"And of course, you watch games on TV like everybody else does, and then we'll try to determine what we're seeing from that, too. So it's really fluid in regard to how this all breaks down. We're really not big into the umpire scouting report."