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Examining the decline of ejection rates in 2014

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Although the Mariners led the AL West with nearly 10 ejections this year, ejection rates plummeted across the league in the second half of the season.

Otto Greule Jr

When we last broached the subject of ejection rates in Major League Baseball, umpire Bob Davidson had just made headlines after antagonizing Brad Miller over a called strike three. Miller walked away from the plate after delivering a couple of choice words to the ump, and was tossed when Davidson followed him all the way to the dugout, incensed by the hitter’s (apparent) show of disrespect.

Despite his hot temper, Davidson only issued one more ejection following the incident in Seattle. Curious to discover whether ejection rates had dipped across all of MLB in the second half of the season, I revisited Close Call Sports, a website that tracks ejections and instant replay reviews and hosts an umpire ejection fantasy league.

Overall, league-wide ejections dropped from 108 in the first half of the season to 91 in the second. The American League saw 40 fewer calls in the second half, due in large part to the seven teams who did not incur a single irrecusable call -- that is, an ejection made after a plunking, brawl, or miscellaneous unsportsmanlike conduct.

AL East Ejections Correct Calls Incorrect Calls Irrecusable Calls
NYY 12 5 3 4
BOS 14 7 3 4
TBR 11 4 6 1
BAL 3 2 0 1
TOR 5 3 2 0
AL Central Ejections Correct Calls Incorrect Calls Irrecusable Calls
MIN 5 3 2 0
DET 4 3 1 0
KCR 4 2 2 0
CLE 2 1 1 0
CWS 5 3 2 0
AL West Ejections Correct Calls Incorrect Calls Irrecusable Calls
SEA 9 5 2 2
OAK 7 2 4 1
TEX 7 5 2 0
LAA 3 1 0 2
HOU 2 1 0 1

By the end of September, AL teams had racked up a total of 93 ejections after 47 correct calls, 30 incorrect calls, and 16 irrecusable calls were made. The Mariners led the AL West with nine ejections thanks to Lloyd McClendon, who tied Cubs’ manager Rick Renteria for the most ejections by a major league skipper. In fact, if we subtracted all of McClendon’s ejections from the Mariners’ 2014 totals, only three would be left: Miller’s spat with Bob Davidson, Felix Hernandez’s first career ejection, and a dispute between third base umpire Adam Hamari and Seattle’s first base coach Andy Van Slyke.

Over in the National League, ejection rates held fairly steady through the end of the year, with 55 ejections in the first half and 51 in the second. NL teams totaled 106 ejections, split into 57 correct calls, 20 incorrect calls, and 29 irrecusable calls – nearly double the rate of irrecusable calls meted out to American League clubs.

NL East Ejections Correct Calls Incorrect Calls Irrecusable Calls
WSH 1 0 1 0
ATL 9 4 4 1
NYM 8 3 3 2
MIA 9 5 0 4
PHI 8 4 0 4
NL Central Ejections Correct Calls Incorrect Calls Irrecusable Calls
MIL 8 4 0 4
STL 7 5 1 1
CIN 5 4 1 0
PIT 8 4 1 3
CHC 9 8 1 0
NL West Ejections Correct Calls Incorrect Calls Irrecusable Calls
SF 7 6 1 0
SD 4 1 2 1
COL 7 3 1 3
AZ 6 4 0 2
LAD 10 2 4 4

Although it’s not crystal clear why ejections decreased across the league from July to September, we can be sure that umpires like Bob Davidson didn’t have a sudden, collective change of heart towards irritated players and managers. So, then, what happened?

For starters, ejections are no longer inspired by the questionable transfer rule, which was instated and retracted earlier this year. Inconsistent interpretations of the rule were responsible for a handful of ejections, like the one issued after McClendon challenged a fumble at home plate against the Texas Rangers, prompting Texas manager Ron Washington to get into it with umpire Ted Barrett.

Another factor lies with the AL Central, who avoided any irrecusable actions during the season. This doesn't necessarily mean that there were no plunkings or fights in the division -- some particularly heated accusations about the Tigers stealing signs come to mind here -- but it does mean that nothing got so out of control that the umpires had to evict players or personnel from the field.

A final influence over the season's ejection totals may be due to the introduction of instant replay, though it's far more likely that replay reviews increased a player or manager's chances of getting tossed from the game. While the full set of data concerning instant replay has not been made available yet, approximately 13.8 percent of ejections in the first half of 2014 followed replay reviews.

Whatever the case may be, ejection rates in 2014 actually eclipsed 2013's totals by 19 calls. Until instant replay reviews are either expanded or refined to accommodate larger concerns -- for instance, assessing balls and strikes -- it may be a while before we see more than a temporary decline in ejections.