Umpires are better than you at calling players safe or out, and science proves it

Baseball fans are quick to think the player is safe, but they're often wrong.

July 28, 2019, 12:23 PM

This is an Inside Science story.

(Inside Science) – Because the speed of sound travels slower than the speed of light, baseball fans up in the stands tend to mistakenly think the player is safe because it takes the sound longer to reach their ears. However, umpires are closer to the action and have a more accurate view of whether a player is safe or out.

PHOTO: Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel, center, is called safe by umpire Cory Blaser, left, after scoring on a wild pitch by starting pitcher Chris Sale, right, during the second inning of a baseball game, May 19, 2019, at Fenway Park in Boston.
Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel, center, is called safe by umpire Cory Blaser, left, after scoring on a wild pitch by starting pitcher Chris Sale, right, during the second inning of a baseball game, May 19, 2019, at Fenway Park in Boston.
Winslow Townson/AP

"The umpire does have a more accurate representation of what’s going on. Whereas what the audience members are perceiving is more of a real life lag, so to speak," said Chandler Krynen, a researcher at Arizona State University.

Inside Science is an editorially-independent nonprofit print, electronic and video journalism news service owned and operated by the American Institute of Physics.

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