The Stew Review: Imaginary Innings
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsStew Thornley is one of the Twins official scorers and a baseball historian. He will occasionally provide insight to the decisions official scorers make. If you have any questions you would like him to address in a future story, you can ask them in this Twins Daily thread. You can also read more from Stew at StewThornley.net.
Missed-out errors are usually straightforward in reconstruction. If a player reaches base on an error, such as a shortstop booting his ground ball, and scores, his run is unearned. In addition, any runs that score after two out are unearned, at least to the team and also to the pitcher if he was in the game at the time the error occurred.
Advancement errors, such as an outfielder fumbling the ball after a hit, are more likely to require a judgment call if a run scores. Also, a run that scores because of an advancement error may be unearned but may become earned depending on subsequent events.
When an error or passed ball occurs, scorers should consider the impact after each ensuing play.
Consider this sequence:
- A runner on first steals second and continues to third on an overthrow by the catcher. Situation: runner on third who would be on second without the error.
- The runner from third scores on a sacrifice fly. The run is unearned at this time although it could become earned depending on subsequent events. The scorer should determine at this time if the runner would have advanced from second to third on the fly. Even though the runner scored from third, it does not mean he could have gone from second to third on the fly. If the fly was of medium depth to left field, the scorer may determine that the runner would still be on second if not for the error. If the fly was to deep right field, the scorer may determine that the runner would have advanced to third on the fly. (If the scorer is unsure, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the pitcher and the judgment made that the runner would still be on second.)
- The next batter singles. If the scorer’s judgment was that the runner would have advanced to third on the fly ball in the preceding play, then the run that scored on the sacrifice fly becomes earned. If the judgment was that the runner would have remained at second on the fly, then the scorer must make another judgment on whether he could have scored from second on the single. This judgment should be made at the time of the single and tracked as part of the inning being reconstructed if the error had not occurred.
- The remaining batter or batters complete the inning by making outs with no plays occurring that would have created additional advancement by the runner.
- Number of outs when the single occurred—the difference between two out and fewer than two out. With two out a runner can get a better jump on a batted ball. He does not have to hold up to see if a line drive or fly ball is caught or hesitate to see if a ground ball makes it through the left side of the infield. With fewer than two out, the runner sometimes has to hold up, and it is more likely that it can be considered that he would not have scored on the hit.
- Likelihood of the third-base coach sending the runner home. This can be dependent on the number of outs as well as other factors, such as the score of the game. With two out, it is more likely that a team will take a chance and send the runner home. With one out, the coach may be more cautious and likely to hold the runner, determining that there is still a good chance he will be driven in by the batters who follow. With no outs, this is even more likely.
- If a team is trailing by a large margin, it is less likely to take a chance. Therefore, the scorer has more reason to assume that the runner would not have been waved home. This can be the case even in a two-run game if it is the potential final inning for the batting team and the runner in question is not the tying run.
Try this one: with one out, a batter reaches first on an error. The next batter triples, scoring the runner (unearned). The next batter hits a routine grounder to the shortstop, who throws home late trying to get the runner coming from third. Can the scorer assume that, without the error, there would have been two outs and the shortstop would have thrown to first for the final out?
No. The plays and actions by fielders that occur after an error must be assumed when reconstructing an inning.
However, a situation could arise where an out could be assumed if it does not assume any decisions made on the part of fielders. Example: With fewer than two out Simmons singles and advances to second when the center fielder bobbles the ball for an error. Torriente strikes out on a pitch that gets by the catcher. The wild pitch allows Simmons to go to third and Torriente to reach first. If not for the error, Simmons would have been on first, and Torriente—with first base occupied and fewer than two out—would be out automatically. An out on the strikeout could be assumed in this situation.
I’ve never gotten heat on the reconstruction of an inning. Give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt when making judgments (benefit of the doubt, not an outright gift). The team in the field is usually happy, and the team at bat doesn’t care. However, what happens if the pitcher affected is battling for the league lead in earned-run average with a pitcher on the other team? I’m hoping to avoid that scenario.
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