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

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.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.