Umpires are lightning rods. Used to be that being annoyed at the umpires was the only thing two opposing teams had in common. Then science came along, and teams are now given a choice: get mad at the umpires' tendencies, or take advantage of them?â†µ
Now teams are taking it to a different level by scouting the umpires -- compiling information on how consistently they call balls and strikes, how quick they are to eject someone arguing a call, where the crew comes from, the next time they're next in town.â†µ
The Rangers aren't the only ones taking advantage, either. Several teams track umpires on a daily basis and provide their players with the detailed reports.â†µ
Scouting the umpires was an obvious next step, considering that, while they're all calling the same game by the same rules, many can have very different interpretations of the strike zone. There are small-zone umpires, there are big-zone umpires, and there are weird-zone umpires, and it can help a pitcher or a hitter to know in advance which pitches in which places might draw an unusual call.â†µ
Still, the concern about information overload - as silly as it sounds - may very well be a valid one. There's information everywhere, information that can be parlayed into a bunch of little advantages, but the biggest thing will forever be whether you can hit or throw a breaking ball.