It certainly feels like Major League Baseball's umpires have been getting worse over the last few years. The work that's being done behind home plate has largely been atrocious for a while and that's why we're rapidly heading towards a world where robots are calling balls and strikes. It's not much better in the field, where a robust replay system had to be implemented to deal with the astonishing numbers of blown calls. Even with Joe West retired, there are still too many bad umpires to count. Well, we're going to try anyway.
What follows is our look at the 10 worst umpires in MLB.
1. Angel Hernandez
There's no other answer here. No umpire in baseball is as bad at his job as Hernandez. Everyone knows it, even MLB. Not only is he bad, he's defiantly bad and courts controversy almost every time he's behind the plate. Aside from repeatedly botching big calls in the field, Hernandez's work behind the dish is consistently atrocious. Kyle Schwarber's recent blowup on the veteran umpire is just the latest in a long line of controversies he's been involved in. The game would be better without Hernandez, but somehow he still has a job.
2. C.B. Bucknor
MLB players have named Bucknor the worst umpire in baseball on three occasions and it's not hard to understand why. He's known to have an enormous strike zone that drives hitters crazy. While you'd think pitchers would love that -- and many probably do -- Bucknor is also wildly inconsistent. If his missed calls weren't enough, his over-the-top strikeout motion drives hitters insane.
3. Doug Eddings
Eddings is yet another veteran umpire with a massive and ever-shifting strike zone. His home plate accuracy was actually worse than Hernandez's last season and was one of the 15 worst in all of baseball. Eddings routinely has no idea where the strike zone actually is and blows huge calls with regularity. He's also quick to toss anyone who merely points out that he's terrible at his job.
4. Brian O'Nora
We had an O'Nora incident earlier this week as he called strikes on three straight pitches that were nowhere near the plate, leaving Marcell Ozuna apoplectic. That was nothing new for O'Nora, who was the second-worst home plate umpire in terms of accuracy in 2021. He was accurate on 91.8 percent of his calls behind the dish, which is flat out awful. Off-the-field, O'Nora was arrested in a sex sting operation in Ohio back in December of 2020 and wound up pleading guilty to a lesser charge. So, yeah, he's a great representative for the MLB Umpires Union.
5. Ron Kulpa
Like Eddings, Kulpa is one of the least accurate umpires in baseball behind the plate. In 2021, he was the fourth-worst at calling balls and strikes with an miserable accuracy rate of 92 percent. In his worst game of 2021 he missed a whopping 15.2 percent of his ball/strike calls, getting only 84.8 percent correct. That's staggeringly bad.
Like many of the other guys on this list, he loves a quick ejection when anyone points out his egregiously missed calls. Back in 2019 he got into it with A.J. Hinch who asked the ump to stop staring into the Astros' dugout. Kulpa got in Hinch's face and screamed, "I can do anything I want." in a truly embarrassing incident. He even tried to pick a fight with Manny Manchado a few weeks ago and seemed disappointed Machado didn't engage with him after a strikeout.
6. Laz Diaz
Laz Diaz is yet another terrible umpire behind the plate and, frankly, I debated putting him higher on this list. In 2021, he was the third-worst MLB umpire at calling balls and strikes, with a dismal accuracy rate of 91.9. Again, that's stunningly bad. In a game between the Mets and Braves earlier this week he missed a whopping 17 calls behind the plate. The fact that he and O'Nora are on the same crew is actually hilarious. Diaz made his debut in 1995 and has simply never gotten better. He's flat-out terrible and was somehow promoted to crew chief for this season.
7. Rob Drake
Rob Drake is, quite simply, a terrible umpire. He also has the distinction of having called what I think might be the worst game I've ever seen. Back on September 27, 2020, Drake missed an insane 27 calls in what turned out to be a one-run game between the Giants and Padres. It's hard to think some of those misses didn't impact the game. He also likely had the worst call of the 2019 season as well (see below).
According to Ump Scorecards, Drake ranks in the 18th percentile for accuracy and 24th for consistency. In 2021, he was the ninth-worst home plate umpire, getting only 92.2 percent of his calls correctly (tied with Joe West). On April 24 this year, Drake missed 18 calls in a game between the Diamondbacks and Mets, and has only missed fewer than 10 calls in one of his five games behind the plate this season (he missed nine on April 18). He started 2022 campaign in midseason form.
8. Greg Gibson
Greg Gibson became an MLB umpire in 1997 and has worked some really big games. That doesn't mean he's good at his job. In six games behind the plate this season, Gibson is rocking an accuracy rate of 91.1 and averaging 12.8 missed calls per game. That includes 19 missed calls on April 11. In 2021, Gibson was barely better. In his 30 games calling balls and strikes his accuracy rate was a woeful 92.1, sixth-worst in baseball. He's not much better in the field, blowing calls regularly and getting indignant when anyone argues.
9. Ed Hickox
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the most inaccurate umpire in all of baseball. In 2021, Hickox had an accuracy rate of only 91.3 in 18 games behind home plate. He's followed that up with a rate of 92.3 in four games this season. He's averaging 11.5 missed calls per game and is in the 20th percentile in accuracy. That's real bad. He also blew one of the biggest calls of the 2021 season by missing a clear swing on a check-swing appeal as a first base umpire and was overturned three times in the same game once last season. He's terrible and is a huge reason robot umpires are coming.
10. Hunter Wendelstedt
Not only is Wendelstedt known for being bad behind the plate, he's also quick with the hook when he gets called out. Few people on the planet have thinner skin. Wendelstedt was the seventh-worst home plate umpire in 2021, calling 92.2 percent of calls correctly. Just this week he missed 16 calls in a game between the Royals and Cardinals. This has been his pattern for years, it's kind of his thing. Wendelstedt is the classic ump who rips his mask off to get in the face of anyone who questions him. He's a perfect example of what's wrong with umpiring.