#KilltheError

  1. Batting Average
  2. Win-Loss Pitching Stat
  3. Error

It’s time to…KILL…THE…ERROR!

I want you to take a look at three real-life cases. While watching each case, ask yourself two questions:

  1. Was this play ruled a HIT (H) or an ERROR (E)?
  2. If it was ruled an E, then who was given the E?

I purposefully selected these clips because (A) all are routine plays and (B) they each should spark a feeling within you. I, of course, am no psychic, but i’m sure you will have some difficulty answering the two questions posed above after watching these clips.

Why?

Well, much like the Win-Loss record for a pitcher, the rules on errors are very unclear, vague, and at times require some form of judgement by a third party. Also, it can at times say absolutely nothing about a given play.

Let’s take Case One for example:

CASE ONE

In this case, Francisco Lindor hits a routine grounder to Javy Baez, who fields it cleanly. Baez loses his footing a bit as he throws to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who attempts to scoop the ball but fails as the ball bounces off the palm of his glove, allowing Lindor to reach first base.

Official Ruling: E4, second baseman Javy Baez is given a throwing error.

Was this what you answered?

Chances are, yes, you gave Javy Baez the throwing error. We have been conditioned to accept this as rule. BUT watch again, if you need to. Couldn’t Anthony Rizzo have caught the ball? Sure, Javy’s throw was off, but the ball did in fact touch Rizzo’s glove. It was literally on the palm of his hands.

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We expect fielders to field ground balls cleanly, no? Shouldn’t we expect the first baseman to scoop a catchable ball cleanly as well?

Javy Baez was given an error based on his throwing, but if you were to look at a scorecard, all you’d see is E4. Did Javy field the ball cleanly? What was the degree of difficulty of the play? Who was the runner? All of this comes in to play when you’re the fielder trying to make a tough play. In this case, Javy fielded the ball cleanly, delivered the ball to Anthony Rizzo with plenty of time, and Rizzo couldn’t come up with it. None of that is taken to account.

So, why have we just accepted that when the player on the receiving end of a throw can’t come up with the ball, it’s solely the throwers fault. When a catcher misplays a perfectly catchable ball, we call it a passed ball don’t we? Why is this not the case for a first baseman?

Nothing in the rule book states that, what we call, “throwing errors” should always be placed on the shoulder of the thrower. Rule 9.12(5) states that a fielder is charged with an error when a “wild throw permits a runner to reach a base safely, when in the scorer’s judgment a good throw would have put out the runner…”

Would you consider Javy’s throw to be “wild” in this case? Sure, it’s not thrown perfectly, but how many are? Don’t we see fielders scoop more difficult balls out of the dirt than this?

And the word “judgement,” what kind of stats require judgement? Bad ones.


CASE TWO

This one is heartbreaking. Back in 2014, Yu Darvish took a perfect game against the Red Sox into the seventh inning. David Ortiz came up to bat with two outs and blooped one into shallow right field. Right fielder Alex Rios charged in and second baseman Rougned Odor ran out. In what appears to be a lack of communication between outfielder and infielder, the perfectly catchable ball drops and the perfect game is over.

Official Ruling: E9, Alex Rios was charged with the error.

Was this what you answered?

Chances are you did think this was an error and you probably felt that it was on Rougned Odor. Just look at it, Odor runs back, seems to camp under it, and totally misplays it. Meanwhile, Alex Rios looks on helplessly. How was that ball not caught?

The fact of the matter is that in any other ball park this play would have been considered a hit. Nobody touched the ball, right? That’s why the call was later “corrected” and ruled a hit. That’s right, this completely catchable ball falls between two professional ball players and Ortiz is officially awarded a hit. Doesn’t that just piss you off? Wait to you take a look at Case Three.


CASE THREE

This one is a doozy. In Case Three, Edwin Encarnacion pokes a flyball to shallow right field. Rookie right fielder Daniel Palka charges in while first baseman Matt Skoll and second baseman Yoan Moncada run out. Skoll gives up and watches while Palka and Moncada commit. As the ball drops toward Palka’s glove, Moncada dives out of the way. The ball bounces off of a sliding Palka’s glove and lands on the grass.

Official Ruling: Hit.

Hit?

Wait a second, in case two Alex Rios was originally given an error even though his glove never made contact with the ball. Here, the ball literally bounces out of Palka’s glove and the hitter is awarded a hit?

This brings me back to that word we found in Rule 9.12(5): Judgement. The only official rule that uses the word “judgement” more than errors (9.12) is Interference, Obstruction, and Catcher Collisions (6.01). We all know how plays at the plate are impossible to judge since Buster Posey was plowed into by Scott Cousins back in 2011.

Judgement should never come into play when using statistics in baseball. Judgement is vulnerable to human error and to bias. We never want to accuse official scorers of bias, but how else could we, as fans, look at a situation like the one in case 2. Darvish takes a perfect game into the 7th with two outs against the Red Sox at home and the official scorer finds himself in a position where he can at least preserve the no-hitter for the home field. And that’s exactly what he did.

A hitter swings and misses on strike three, he’s out; a hitter hits one over the wall, home run; A runner touches home plate safely, his team is awarded a run. All of these situations require zero judgment by a third party. It is what it is. With an error, sometimes it is what it’s not. That’s a problem.


So, how do we measure a fielders performance without the use of errors? We asked Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions the same question on Episode 12 of the Welcome to THE SHOW Podcast and this is what he said:

(Sports Info Solutions) uses Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), which looks at each position and values the most important aspects of defense at that position. So, for a second baseman and a shortstop, its fielding balls, but also double plays; for an outfielder, its throwing arm; for a third and first baseman, its fielding bunts; for a catcher, its pitch framing. Each position has it’s own list and (DRS) looks at all those things. Let’s use Brett Gardner as an example in the outfield. So, for Brett Gardner it looks at balls that are hit shallow, medium, and deep. Then, it looks at how often did he catch those balls and how often did those balls fall in. Also, it looks at (a player’s) arm. A player’s arm rating is based on a baseline number and then compared to a given player. In Gardner’s case, guys don’t try to take extra bases, therefore his number is high. He also gets a spike, if he throws a guy out. So, you take all of that, you put it all together, and that gives you a run value. Brett Gardner ranks elite in the DRS stat because he’s good at all of the things you’d want an outfielder to do.

 Click here for more information on how DRS is calculated!

In other words, DRS compares a player at a given position to other players at the same position. Makes sense right? Why would you compare an outfielder with an infielder, they have different jobs. Or a pitcher to a catcher? It just doesn’t make sense. Also, why continue to use this outdated error stat?


I’ll leave you with this final point/example, Derek Jeter was named the 2004 AL Gold Glove (GG) winner at shortstop despite ranking 22 in all of baseball in DRS among shortstops. His DRS rating was -13, which is considered “poor” on FanGraphs.

Why then did Jeter win the GG award? Besides the fact that at the time he was arguably the most popular player in the sport, he ranked 4th in errors with 13 and 4th in fielding percentage with .981. What does this say about Jeter? Nothing.

If we delve deeper into the leaderboards that season, Jeter had poor range. Here lies another problem with error. It doesn’t measure balls a fielder should have gotten to. According to Range Factor (RF), a stat that measures how many plays a given fielder can make, Jeter was the fourth worst shortstop in the AL that season. He simply was not able to make as many plays as other shortstops, like Miguel Tejada or Bobby Crosby were able to.

What’s worse is that to Jeter’s right, at third base  played an even better shortstop than him: Alex Rodriguez, who just the year prior, in 2003, had a DRS of 8 to Jeter’s -15. Arod also made more plays than Jeter did in 2003 as he was ranked 4th in the AL in RF. Jeter ranked last.

So, whaddya say? Wanna #killtheError with me?

Let’s do it! Anytime you see a play that begs the question, “is this an error or a hit?” Post it on social media with either #KilltheError or #KilltheE.

Let’s take that baby down!

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