It certainly feels like major league baseballReferees have gotten worse over the past few years. The work that goes behind home plate has been largely atrocious for quite some time and that’s why we’re fast moving towards a world where robots are calling balls and strikes. It’s not much better on the pitch, where a robust replay system had to be put in place to deal with the astonishing number of blown calls. Even with Joe West retired, there are still too many bad referees to count. Alright, let’s try anyway.
The following is our look at the 10 worst umpires in MLB.
There is no other answer here. No umpire in baseball is also bad at his job like Hernández. Everybody knows it, even MLB. Not only is he bad, but he’s terribly bad and courts controversy almost every time he’s behind the plate. Set aside several times botch big calls in the fieldHernandez’s work behind the dish is still atrocious. Kyle Schwarber’s recent outburst over the veteran referee is just the latest in a long line of controversies he has been embroiled in. The game would be better without Hernandez, but somehow he still has a job.
MLB players have named Bucknor the worst umpire in baseball three times and it’s not hard to see why. He is known for having a huge sweetspot that drives hitters crazy. While you’d think pitchers would love this – and many probably do – Bucknor is also wildly inconsistent. If his missed calls weren’t enough, his over-the-top backstroke drives hitters crazy.
Eddings is another veteran umpire with a massive and ever-changing strike zone. His accuracy at home plate was actually worse than Hernandez’s last season and was one of the 15 worst in all of baseball. Eddings generally has no idea where the strike zone really is and makes huge calls with regularity. He’s also quick to dump anyone who merely points out that he’s terrible at his job.
We had an O’Nora incident earlier this week when he called strikes on three consecutive pitches that were nowhere near the plate, leaving Marcell Ozuna apoplectic. This was nothing new for O’Nora, who was the second worst plate umpire in terms of accuracy in 2021. He was accurate on 91.8% of his calls behind the dish, which is downright awful. Off the court, O’Nora was arrested in a sex sting operation in Ohio in December 2020 and ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge. So, yeah, he’s a great representative of the MLB Umpires’ Union.
Like Eddings, Kulpa is one of baseball’s least accurate umpires behind the plate. In 2021, he was fourth worst at calling balls and strikes with a miserable 92% accuracy rate. In his worst game of 2021, he missed 15.2% of his ball/strike calls, getting just 84.8% correct answers. It’s incredibly bad.
Like many of the other guys on this list, he likes a quick ejection when someone blatantly reports his missed calls. In 2019, he got into it with AJ Hinch who asked the ref to stop looking into the Astros dugout. Kulpa walked into Hinch’s face and shouted, “I can do whatever I want.” in a truly embarrassing incident. He even tried to fight Manny Manchado a few weeks ago and seemed disappointed that Machado didn’t engage with him after a strikeout.
Laz Diaz is yet another terrible referee behind the plate and, frankly, I debated putting him higher on this list. In 2021, he was the third worst umpire in MLB to call balls and strikes, with a dismal accuracy rate of 91.9. Again, this is incredibly bad. In a game between the Mets and Braves earlier this week, he missed 17 calls from behind the plate. The fact that he and O’Nora are on the same crew is actually hilarious. Diaz debuted in 1995 and just never got better. He’s downright terrible and somehow got promoted to team leader for this season.
Rob Drake is, quite simply, a terrible referee. It also has the distinction of having called what I think is the worst game I’ve ever seen. On September 27, 2020, Drake missed 27 insane calls in what turned out to be a one-inning game between the Giants and Padres. It’s hard to think that some of those misses didn’t have an impact on the game. He also probably had the worst call-up of the 2019 season (see below).
According to Ump Scorecards, Drake ranks in the 18th percentile for accuracy and 24th for consistency. As of 2021, he was the ninth-worst umpire at home plate, getting just 92.2% of his calls correctly (tied with Joe West). On April 24 of this year, Drake missed 18 calls in a game between the Diamondbacks and Mets, and missed just under 10 calls in one of his five games behind the plate this season (he missed new on April 18). He started the 2022 campaign in mid-season form.
Greg Gibson became an MLB umpire in 1997 and has been in some really big games. That doesn’t mean he’s good at his job. In six games behind the plate this season, Gibson is posting a 91.1 accuracy rate and an average of 12.8 missed calls per game. This includes 19 missed calls on April 11. In 2021, Gibson was only marginally better. In his 30 games calling balls and strikes, his accuracy rate was a dismal 92.1, sixth-worst in baseball. He’s not much better on the pitch, regularly making calls and getting outraged when someone argues.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the most imprecise umpire in all of baseball. In 2021, Hickox had an accuracy rate of just 91.3 in 18 games behind the plate. He followed that up with a 92.3 rate in four games this season. He averages 11.5 missed calls per game and is in the 20th percentile in accuracy. It’s really bad. He also missed one of the biggest calls of the 2021 season when he missed a clear swing on a check-swing call as first base umpire and was knocked down three times in the same game once last season. He’s terrible and that’s a huge reason why robot refs are coming.
Not only is Wendelstedt known for being bad behind the plate, but he’s also quick with the hook when called. Few people on the planet have thinner skin. Wendelstedt was the seventh-worst umpire at home plate in 2021, calling correctly 92.2% of calls. This week alone, he missed 16 calls in a game between the Royals and Cardinals. It’s been his pattern for years, it’s kind of his thing. Wendelstedt is the classic referee who tears off his mask to face anyone who questions him. He is a perfect example of what is wrong with refereeing.