I’d argue you can’t really call yourself a sports fan unless you’ve resisted the urge to throw an inanimate object at a wall after an official made an awful call that went against your team.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say you’re not a true sports fan unless you’ve failed to succumb to that temptation after being victimized by a truly baffling ruling on at least one occasion.
The people who choose that particular line of work are in a somewhat unenviable situation when you consider it’s humanly impossible to make the right ruling 100% of the time. With that said, you’d think anyone who makes a living calling games would be fairly immune to routinely making boneheaded mistakes.
However, as we’ve seen time and time again, that is decidedly not the case.
That’s especially true in Major League Baseball, which is home to a number of umpires who’ve violated the cardinal rule of officiating: never become a household name.
In the vast majority of cases, if people know who you are, it usually means you’ve screwed up far too often.
Most MLB fans are likely all too familiar with the likes of Angel Hernandez, Laz Diaz, and C. B. Bucknor, who are just a handful of the umps who’ve made a name for themselves for all of the wrong reasons and shining examples of why the league is seriously considering making the switch to robot umpires behind the plate.
However, which umpire deserves to be called the worst of the worst? I have a feeling most people would put Hernandez at the top of their list, but if you take a closer look at the numbers, there’s another person who emerges as the clear frontrunner.
Why Laz Diaz is arguably the worst umpire in the MLB
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing on an umpire’s performance behind the plate; while some of their rulings on the basepath may leave a bit to be desired, those calls are nowhere as crucial as balls and strikes.
All of the data we’ll be using to try to pinpoint the worst ump in the MLB comes courtesy of the good folks over at Umpire Scorecard, which boasts an exhaustive amount of information to comb through.
Thankfully, there are a few key categories we can hone in on in our quest to get to the bottom of this oft-debated topic.
The most straightforward approach is overall accuracy. Over the course of the 2022 season, Bucknor finished in the basement by getting 92% of ball and strike calls correct, which was slightly worse than the 92.1% and 92.3% Malachi Moore and Diaz respectively posted.
It is worth noting Moore didn’t get as much action as those other two men, as he was only behind the plate for 25 games.
The 356 blown calls Ted Barrett boasted over the course of the 31 games he umped that year was more than any of his colleagues, although Diaz (352 in 30 games) and Bucknor (351 in 30) were right on his heels.
However, a single season doesn’t really do much to tell the entire story—and the plot becomes much, much clearer when you take a look at how MLB umpires have fared over an extended period of time.
If we take the past five seasons into consideration, a clear favorite quickly emerges.
If you remove the umpires who’ve retired from the equation, Diaz is tied with Ed Hickox for the worst accuracy over a five-year span. Barrett still has the most blown calls with 1,745, but Diaz is the runner-up thanks to the 1,640 he racked up in seven fewer games.
At the risk of getting a bit too deep into the statistical weeds, Umpire Scorecard also tracks how the actual performance of MLB umpires compares to their “expected” numbers (which essentially weighs their averages against the baseline established by every ump who works an MLB game).
Diaz’s 1.3% deficit between expected and actual accuracy is the worst of any active umpire in the past five years (Hickox is close behind with -1.27%). Diaz is also the worst when it comes to the total number of “Correct Calls Above Expected,” as he sports an abysmal 258.9 below the established threshold (for the sake of comparison, Bucknor and Barrett are hovering around 239).
You could make the case that these numbers don’t exist in a vacuum and that Diaz doesn’t blow calls in big and crucial moments as often as some of the other contenders we’ve mentioned.
With that said, it’s pretty easy to make the case Laz Diaz is, indeed, the worst umpire in Major League Baseball.