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.

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”

Brock Holt has been shut down from game activity

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Things have gone from bad to worse for Red Sox’ outfielder Brock Holt, who was shut down “for the foreseeable future” on Friday after meeting with head trauma specialist Michael Collins. The Red Sox placed Holt on the 10-day disabled list in April after he began experiencing vertigo, the latest in a series of head injuries he’s sustained since last spring.

According to the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato, the outfielder was initially advised to attempt playing through his symptoms, but it quickly became apparent that the strategy wasn’t going to work. Now, the plan is to shut him down from any game activity in the hopes that he’ll be able to recover from all lingering symptoms before returning to the roster. Club manager John Farrell told reporters that the 28-year-old is still cleared to take batting practice and work on his defense, but won’t continue his rehab starts in Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being.

Holt had been making regular appearances for the Pawtucket Red Sox and was batting .209/.292/.372 with two home runs through 14 games this spring. This season marks his fifth run within the Red Sox’ organization. He experienced a bit of a slump at the plate in 2016 and slashed .255/.322/.383 after breaking out during his first All-Star year in 2015.

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests that the team’s concern for Holt extends past his setbacks at the plate. It’s still a long road to a full recovery, and while Farrell told reporters he believes the outfielder is on track to make a return sometime in 2017, he’ll need to make sure that Holt is both physically and mentally prepared to do so.