Betting on Baseball in 2022: How to Factor in Umpires When Handicapping MLB Games

Betting on Baseball in 2022: How to Factor in Umpires When Handicapping MLB Games article feature image

David Berding/Getty Images. Pictured: MLB umpires (L-R) Ben May, Greg Gibson, Will Little and Rob Drake.

Learning to model pricing between opposing pitchers and hitters is one of the keys to being a successful gambler in the grind of a Major League Baseball season. Oddsmakers consistently weigh the strength of the pitcher to set the moneyline between two teams, looking at advanced stats such as expected ERA and expected On Base Average.

Because the season is a daily crunch of numbers, there are certain advantages for a focused investor, primarily in pitch arsenal and umpires.

For example, Adrian Houser had the highest run value when throwing a sinker of any other pitcher in MLB during the 2021 season. That is important when an opposing lineup consists of Eugenio Suarez, easily the worst sinker hitter in the league. Knowing pitch arsenals may be only half the battle, and the human element is still a part of ever called ball and strike. Where to place money is when a ground ball pitcher meets an umpire who loves to end games quickly. 

Using tools from Action Labs can help keep track of umpires' records against totals. There are officials that love quick unders on getaway days, while some home plate umpires prefer tiny strike zones leading to an increase in baserunners.

Combining umpire trends, wind, pitch arsenals and boost stats all contribute to maximizing wagers on baseball totals. Here are a few umpires to keep in mind before placing bets this MLB season.

Rob Drake: Unders

There may not be a better Sunday umpire than Rob Drake, boasting the best return of investment on unders since 2019. The umpire has been part of a major league crew since 2010 calling 400 games behind home plate. In that large same size, Drake has one of the lowest marks in baserunners with a .319 OBP in games called.

Interestingly enough, this number balloons when it comes to weekend games. Since 2010, Drake supports a 27-12 record to the under when calling balls and strikes on Fridays and Saturdays, while his Sunday record remains steady at 65% under the total.

The official umpire crews have yet to be announced, as five new umpires have been called up this season. Drake is Umpire No. 30 and worked with Crew 1 last season, but is certainly a name I will be checking during daily MLB betting. 

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Alfonso Marquez: Overs

The time has come for umpire David Rackley to step aside as the most profitable official when betting totals to the over. The past five years has provided us a record of 73-46-3 to the over when Rackley is behind the plate, creating an 18.6% return of investment for gamblers who love runs.

No umpire who has called at least 175 games behind the plate has a higher slugging percentage from lineups than Rackley, who is often the subject of strike zone debates.

One umpire who has eclipsed the over trend from Rackley over the past three seasons is Alfonso Marquez.

Marquez has one of the lowest strikeout-to-walk boost ratios of all seasoned umpires. The crew chief calls strikes at a rate 12% less than his peers along with a 6% rate higher in walks compared to all other MLB umpires.

Marquez can be a sneaky over play when the wind blows in from the outfield, generally causing bettors to play the under.

He has a higher runs per game because of the amount of baserunners from walks and not because of a strike zone that forces hitters to swing. The formula for 2022 is to continue betting overs on games called by Marquez. 

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Dan Merzel: Strikeout Prop Overs

One of the newest umpires on the block is Dan Merzel with just 24 games called behind the plate. Merzel may be famous for giving Shohei Ohtani his first career balk, but it is important to note that this new umpire specializes in calling strikeouts.

There is nothing to suggest a trend for betting on the total at 12-11-2 in his short career, but his penchant for punching out hitters is at an astronomical rate. Of any umpire with at least 20 games behind the plate, Merzel has the highest strikeout rate at 25.6%. Conversely, Merzel has a top-10 lowest walk rate at 7.8%. 

The low number of games called is due to Merzel’s career as a minor-league umpire. He remains on the short list of minor-league umps to have an MLB invite to Spring Training and in-season call-ups to the show.

Keep his name fresh in your daily handicap when looking to bet an over on strikeout props. 

Edwin Moscoso: Walk Prop Overs

An umpire who is quickly making a name as a blue to bet on for an over is Edwin Moscoso. The young umpire has just a few dozen games behind the plate since the 2020 season, but has already posted a 28-17-3 mark to the over.

If Moscoso is behind the plate, expect plenty of baserunners, with a 10.1 runs per game average. The umpire has a 17% boost in walks and 10% boost in runs scored in comparison to MLB's field of officials. Tyler Anderson made his feelings clear on the Moscoso’s strike zone back in 2020.

As player props continue to gain popularity in the betting market, an easy leg-up on oddsmakers is knowing umpire tendencies. In the case of Moscoso, the walk rate has surged through his short career, which should gain the interest of bettors looking to take a prop on the young umpire. 

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