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.

The Mariners and Cardinals make a minor trade

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The Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals have made a minor trade. Seattle has acquired lefty Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first round pick out of Gonzaga back in 2013, is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. It’s been a good season, in which he has posted a 2.78 ERA and 64/17 K/BB ratio over 74.1 innings across two minor league levels. He’s pitched one game for St. Louis this year and got shelled, but we’ll leave that go.

O’Neill is a third rounder from 2013. He has hit .269/.344/.505 in five minor league seasons. He’s holding his own in Triple-A this year, smacking 19 homers in 93 games.

Topps has eliminated Chief Wahoo from both new and throwback card designs

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I’ve been out of the baseball card game for a good long time, but despite this — maybe because of this — I enjoy the posts from SABR’s Baseball Card Committee. A lot of that is old time stuff that old men like me enjoy — check out the airbrushing on the “Traded” cards! — but they talk about new cards too. Definitely worth your time if cards are now or have ever been your bag.

Today there’s an interesting post, pointing out something most of us wouldn’t have otherwise noted: Topps has dropped Chief Wahoo from Indians card designs. They’re doing it for the old Braves “screaming Indian” logo as well, though the Braves no longer use that themselves.

They’re not airbrushing these logos out of photos of players — that would be Orwellian even for my extreme Wahoo-hating tastes — but in card designs which have team logos, Topps is using the block-C logo, not Wahoo, and the Braves “A” logo in place of the old logo. This includes throwback issues like the Heritage sets which put modern players on card designs from the 1950s-1960s and on simple retro designs like their 1987 variations. Any cards which once featured Wahoo on the border or on the back now features the block-C.

As you may or may not know, Topps is now the official card producer for Major League Baseball. As such, I take their doing this as a sign that MLB is continuing the slow process of de-Chiefing in whatever areas it has ultimate say.

Now if only the Indians themselves would get on board.