When is an error not an error?

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In yesterday’s Red Sox-Braves game. In the fourth inning, David Ortiz
hit a fly ball to the left side of the infield . . . that landed with a
thud right between Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar. Neither of them
attempted to make a play on the ball. They just screwed up. David Ortiz
wound up on second. A couple of batters later, he scored on a sacrifice
fly. The run — which came in a game Boston won by one run — was
charged to Jair Jurrjens because no error was called. And indeed, based
on the rules as the official scorers have come to interpret them, no error could be called:

Phyllis Merhige, a senior vice president for baseball who oversees
the official scorers, acknowledged it seemed to be “an accepted
practice” that any time a fielder does not touch a ball, it is ruled a
hit. The rule book, however, states, “It is not necessary that the
fielder touch the ball to be charged with an error.”

Then how to explain awarding a hit when an outfielder starts in on a
ball, only to have the ball lazily drop 10 feet before the warning
track?

Bill Shannon, an official scorer at the New York parks since 1979,
quotes the rule book: “The official scorer shall not score mental
mistakes or misjudgments as errors unless a specific rule prescribes
otherwise.” He said that applied to misplayed balls in the outfield.

This, more than anything, explains why both looking solely at earned
runs and looking at fielding percentage are pretty useless endeavors
when trying to figure out how good someone is. The latter fails to
penalize a player who fails to come within five feet of a ball that he
should unquestionably handle. The former often charges a guy for a run
that really wasn’t of his making. At the same time, a shortstop who
goes way out of the way to knock down a ball mere mortals never had a
chance to touch is frequently given an error for failing to make clean
plays because, hey, he touched it. Likewise, a pitcher who gives up
three homers after that shortstop makes that “error” with two outs
isn’t charged for any earned runs that result. This is a screwed up
state of affairs.

Jair Jurrjens is a pretty nifty young pitcher. Yunel Escobar is a
flawed defender. If you just looked at the box scores from yesterday,
you might not know that, and there’s something wrong with that. Given
how much managers harp on mental mistakes, baseball should change the
rules to clearly allow official scorers the leeway to apply judgment in
giving an error to a guy that makes a boneheaded play and to absolve
the pitcher of responsibility for a thing like allowing David Ortiz to
score via smallball.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.