Saturday, June 02, 2012

Errors in baseball: fix them, or just end them

We're in the fourth inning of today's Blue Jays game, and already there have been four difficult scoring-decisions that have perhaps all been called incorrectly:

  1. 2nd inning: A fly ball to CF is misplayed by a lightly-jogging Colby Rasmus, landing in front and slightly behind him. But he doesn't touch it until after it bounces once. It's called a hit.
  2. 3rd inning: A short-hopping line-drive - an absolute screamer- is hit directly at shortstop Mike Aviles. He misplays it and it hits his throwing hand. He recovers in time to make a throw to 2B, but it's too late to get the runner. It's called an error.
  3. 4th inning: A fliner is hit off the wall in RF. Jose Bautista plays it on the rebound, quickly double-pumps and throws to 2B. The throw isn't in time and the ball lands directly in front of Yunel Escobar, who misses it completely. Neither the 3B, Brett Lawrie, or the P, Kyle Drabek, is correctly positioned to back-up the throw and it goes past both of them, allowing the batter to advance to 3B. The throw is called an error, which means that the error is given to Bautista.
  4. 4th inning: A bouncing come-backer is hit to the pitcher. He jumps and knocks it down with his glove, causing it to bounce directly in front of him. He reaches out to bare-hand the ball after the first bounce, but this time it bounces off of his hand and rolls away. It's called an error.
Of the three calls, the only one that I would have definitely made myself is #2. It doesn't matter how hard the ball is hit or if it skips slightly to one side or another off the short-hop - if it's hit directly at you, then the expectation is that you must field it. [Update: Ha! In the 5th inning, they changed the ruling on this one to a base-hit. Hilarious that they would change the only one that I was confident they had gotten right.]

I can't make a call on #4 without seeing where the other fielders were positioned. If the shortstop is in position to field the ball, provided that the pitcher doesn't touch it, then it's an error; if it was likely to go up the middle, then the leaping pitcher probably shouldn't be given an error.

#3 is a bit of a strange one. The throw wasn't ideal, but Escobar erred in staying on the bag when the batter was going to be safe. He probably should have conceded the base and taken two steps forward to play the throw in the air. Likewise, the advance to 3B doesn't happen if either Lawrie or Drabek are covering the throw, so they've also erred. (Amazingly, then, the error was given to the one player who did the best job on the play.) There's an argument to be made, here, for one of two things: breaking with convention and somehow giving an error to all three of Escobar, Lawrie, and Drabek, or giving an error to the team but not to a particular player.

#1 is just dumb. The convention, again, is that it's not an error if an outfielder misses a fly ball, provided that he doesn't touch it until after it bounces. Regardless of why, though, Rasmus overran the ball and needs to be penalized for that. (Again, hilariously, he would've received an error if he had overrun it by a smaller margin and managed to just touch a small part of the ball. Like I said, dumb.)

An old photo of Rasmus dropping the ball for the Cardinals. Timeless.
Photoshopped by (or, at least, posted to) StL Cardinal Baseball.

But back to example #3. I've seen the team error suggested before, and it makes perfect sense, here, where the fault lies with at least three players, maybe four, and the error doesn't happen if only one of them does his job properly. The rules don't allow for that recognition, which is a shame - but it's also something that could be easily corrected, if anyone cared.

Or, conversely, they could just do away with the errors, and these attendant headaches, altogether. All there really good for is determining which runs are earned or not, anyway, and entire articles have been written about why ERA is misleading (because it even deems some HR unearned, which is madness and because ERA makes groundball pitchers look better than they are, to name just two reasons) and Reached-On-Error isn't random, but a repeatable skill at inducing errors by fielders (as demonstrated by the career-ROE leaders, whom tend to hit groundballs and are really fast runners).

Not that I expect either of those things to happen, of course.

No comments: