Being an umpire in Major League Baseball is not an easy job. It is, in fact, very difficult. Pitches and players are moving at top speed and judgement calls must be made in a millisecond. As is the case with all refereeing in sports, human error is bound to happen.
But MLB umps are under a particularly bright spotlight because they determine the outcome of the game to a far greater degree than any of their counterparts across sports. Such is the nature of a game so heavily influenced by balls and strikes. It's why these umps go through intense training and it's why they have a big target on their backs.
The 2022 MLB season has felt like a particularly bad one for umpires, though, and opened up many of them to justifiable criticism that goes beyond the idea that they're just easy to pick on. Maybe it's recency bias, maybe more are going viral because people figured out everybody will engage with bad umpire content, or maybe umpires as a collective have been in a slump in 2022.
That's for you to decide. We at The Big Lead exist to document the evidence. Thus, we present our list of the worst umpire calls in 2022, categorized by game and umpire. Our collection will be updated as the season progresses.
Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves -- Angel Hernandez
Back when the season was young, Angel Hernandez (notoriously bad to the point even casual fans know his name) baptized the year by missing two obvious strikes in the ninth inning.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Milwaukee Brewers -- Angel Hernandez
You are probably shocked to learn that many Hernandez calls will populate this list. In this instance, Hernandez called four batters out on strikes in the first three innings.
Remarkable stuff. Eventually he pushed Kyle Schwarber completely over the edge in the same game.
Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets -- Brian O'Nora
Our first non-Angel entry comes from Brian O'Nora, who shockingly managed to get three straight calls wrong to ring Marcell Ozuna up. Not just one. Not even two. But three straight balls called for strikes.
Atlanta Braves vs. Milwaukee Brewers -- Jeff Nelson
Jeff Nelson's no-good, very bad call was more of an act of trickery by Travis d'Arnaud than an egregious error of judgement, but he's paid the big bucks to make his own call and not listen to what d'Arnaud claims happened.
Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A's -- Nick Mahrley
If we're talking about all-encompassing bad games from this year, Mahrley might take the cake for his mistakes made behind the plate back in May. Mahrley missed calls literally all day long and capped off his day by blowing several calls in the ninth inning of a two-run game and ejecting Javy Baez and AJ Hinch when they got tired of it.
Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins -- Hunter Wendelstedt
Interesting how many teams we have repeating on here despite the breadth of options. Anyway, Hunter Wendelstedt introduced himself to the casual baseball fanbase at large by making a horrid strike three call that even Grandma could deduce was well below the zone.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago White Sox -- Ed Hickox
Ed Hickox brings us perhaps the most baffling entry thanks to a Dylan Cease knuckle curve that apparently broke everybody's brains. The pitch floated up and then right across Cody Bellinger's chest. Hickox called it a ball.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Pittsburgh Pirates -- Angel Hernandez
Welcome back, Angel! This entry is unique as it is a blown call on the basepaths rather than behind home plate, which are easier to make (everybody is running very fast, after all) and less damaging because they can be challenged by managers. Nevertheless, Hernandez really blew this one because Brett Phillips was... well, he was very safe!