Welcome to Better Know An Umpire, an effort to educate ourselves on the human elements who have ultimate decision-making power over some 2,500 Major League Baseball games a year. (All cumulative statistics are through the 2011 season, unless otherwise stated.)
Name: Jim Wolf
Uniform number: 28
Height/weight: 6 feet, 195 pounds
First year as MLB umpire: 1999
Total MLB games worked through 2011: 1,528 (home plate: 378)
Previous experience: Arizona Rookie League, South Atlantic League, California League, Texas League, Pacific Coast League
Career ejections: 18
No-hitters called: One (Dallas Braden's perfect game, 2010)
Over/under record (1999-2011): 158-170
Hated in: Tampa Bay, Atlanta
Claim to fame: His brother is Randy Wolf, a starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. Jim is barred from calling Randy's pitches during the regular season, but it did happen once during Spring Training. And he is allowed to work the bases while Randy pitches. Before the Wolfs, such a combo had happened only one other time in MLB history, in 1972 with Bill and Tom Haller.
Also, Wolf once stared down Nationals manager Frank Robinson for almost a minute.
Scouting report from Major League Umpires' Performance, 2007-2010, by Andy Goldblatt:
In 2008 and 2009, Jim Wolf moved from a solid pitchers' umpire to a hitters' umpire. His K/BB progressively shrank and his R/9 rose. ... Much as he may conform to the old stereotype of the laid-back Southern Californian, Wolf will do what he considers necessary to keep a game under control.
Scouting report from an angry blogger:
So let me get this straight. Alfonso Soriano can hit 3 home runs, completely embarrass the Braves pitching staff, get pegged the next day by a washed up tool, and the Cubs don't get to do a single thing about it??? That makes sense. Jim Wolf should be suspended for being so stupid. And then Wolf has the balls to say he knew that was going to happen, that's why he kicked out Lilly. Oh yeah, is that right Wolf? Ever thought to SAY THAT TO ANYBODY? Being a douchebag is one thing, being a douchebag and insulting everyone's intelligence is another thing. If you "knew" that was going to happen, how come the benches weren't warned before the game? If you "knew" that was going to happen, how come you didn't tell Renteria when he was coming to the plate? If you "knew" that was going to happen, how come you didn't PREVENT IT BEFORE IT HAPPENED? You know why he didn't prevent? Because Jim Wolf is full of shit. So if you knew this all along, Jim Wolf, you know what that makes you? AN ACCESSORY. Hopefully Bud Selig comes down hard on you. Next time, shut your mouth and do your job. You warn the benches AFTER Lilly pegs Renteria. Now the score is settled. All order would be restored.
Average K/9 (2011): 13.1
Average BB/9 (2011): 6.1
Sample PITCHf/x strike zone: May 9, 2010. When Wolf called Dallas Braden's perfect game two years ago, his calls were actually fairly tight against the pitchers, especially low and away to righties.
True fact: After the Jim Joyce episode in 2010, Wolf was voted the third-best umpire in Major League Baseball by the players.
If you have a good game behind the plate, there are some guys who'll say, "Nice job today." But you never hear, "What a great call by so and so." It's always the opposite. "Oh, he blew it." ... Most of the time we get it right. I'd say 98 percent of the time we get it right. When that two percent happens, it's definitely magnified.
Strike 3 call:
To check out other installments of Better Know An Umpire, click here.