Bergman: Umpire ejections and player ethnicity: an analysis

From Sydney Bergman at The Hardball Times on October 15, 2018:

The Nationals beat the Diamondbacks on May 13, in a game started by Jeremy Hellickson and saved by Sean Doolittle. During that game, Paul Goldschmidt had four plate appearances. He struck out twice, once looking on a strike that was below the zone. Home plate umpire Marty Foster called him out, and Goldschmidt turned around, said something inaudible on the broadcast to him, and walked away.

This is notable not for what happened, but for what didn’t. A month earlier, Anthony Rendon was ejected. He struck out looking on a strike below the zone and was punched out by (you guessed it) home plate umpire Marty Foster. Rendon tossed his bat, said nothing to Foster, and was ejected from the game for what Foster would later characterize as “throwing equipment.”

Goldschmidt and Rendon are somewhat comparable players in terms of their offensive output; Goldschmidt finished third in WRC+ in the NL in 2018, Rendon fourth. Rendon’s ejection — and Goldschmidt’s subsequent non-ejection — presented me with an opportunity to examine ejection data. I was curious whether umpires eject nonwhite and white players in proportion to their representation in baseball.

To answer this question, I analyzed 860 umpire ejections of players from 2008-2017 and found that, even when controlling for other factors, umpires eject nonwhite players disproportionately compared to those players’ representation in major league baseball. The following analysis examines position players compared with pitchers; player usage and roles; players ejected multiple times; cause of ejections; and individual umpires and umpire ethnicity.

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Originally published: October 15, 2018. Last Updated: October 15, 2018.