The Final Season: Error or No Error?

Pirates 5 – Braves 1; CJ: DNP

There was an error in today’s game. A pretty obvious throwing error by Juan Francisco, who was filling in for Chipper Jones at third base. He threw wide right of Lyle Overbay, who was playing first base at the time. The kind of play where it wasn’t hard to put an E6 up on the scoreboard.

But sometimes it’s not so easy of a call. One thing I love about baseball is the amount of subjectivity that exists in the game. It seems to rule the entire game, from whether the pitch was a ball or a strike to whether the guy was safe or out.

But that’s the umpires, and I’ve talked enough about them this season. After all, I do believe they’re out there trying to do the best they can, and it’s the nature of their job to make a lot of judgment calls, and they’re not always calls that players and/or fans like. For instance, just tonight Freddie Freeman was ejected from the game for arguing whether or not he checked his swing during an at-bat. Talk about an objective call. When it comes to checked swings, the ones I see replays of, maybe 10% don’t cross the plate. By far, most of them appear to, yet the umps tend to be more forgiving it seems.

Anyway, enough about the umps. I started this post thinking about scoring in baseball. I love it because, not only can it be super, super subjective, but it also seems to be blatantly biased.

Now, historically there is cause for concern with bias. You see, the person who determines who committed an error, and if it was even an error, is the ‘official scorer,’ a guy that was hired by MLB to do that. But when official scorers were first put in place, they were sportswriters. That’s right. Local hacks were determining whether a guy got a hit or not. Now, you can imagine, the tension that created. Don’t give the guy the hit, how do you think that postgame interview’s going to go? Or how’s the team going to react when a writer charges their guy with an earned run that could have been unearned? Are they going to make it easy for him to do his job as a journalist? I doubt it.

So, with all the bias complaints, MLB finally hired independent scorers in the ‘80’s. Yes, it took that long.

But I think the bias still exists. There are certainly times during a game when you see the hometown batter get credit for a hit on a play that most people would call an error. Particularly on deep groundballs to short or third, maybe the fielder bobbles just a bit but still gets off a throw, meaning he doesn’t completely boot it. The home team gets a hit, the away team gets an error more often than not, I swear.

And I love it. Anyone who wants to believer there’s an exact science to making calls like that is crazy. It’s at least 75% judgment, and on the harder plays, it’s probably 100%. The best are wild pitch versus passed ball. Come on? Again, 10% might be obvious, but so many of them, when I hear what the scorer called it, I couldn’t tell you why. I think sometimes they have to flip a coin.

It’s like with my other favorite sports judgment call, the spot of the football as far as where a guy went down. The refs try to make it look so exact, but guys are scooting to stops or getting buried by piles all over the place. I guarantee there’s no way they could see where the ball was down, but they sure act like they do.

Then they have the audacity to measure for first down! And tell a coach he’s short by two chain lengths! Yes, because our previous spots were so exact that we can tell you with absolute certainty that you are two chain lengths short of traveling exactly 10 yards forward. Give me a break! Shouldn’t there be a plus or minus 5 chain link margin of error or something?

Anyway, back to baseball. What good is home field advantage without a little help from a scorer? And if you get the same treatment in every ballpark, then, by my logic, the home guys deserve a break, because he sure didn’t get one on the road.

Scoring is just another idiosyncrasy of baseball that I love. Because you know the scorers take themselves very, very seriously. Yet, line up 10 of them, show them the same play, and I bet you get at least 40 to 60% make a different ruling than the rest of them.

But it’s part of the game, and if it ever went away, what would we all argue about?

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