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Official Scoring Questions Thread

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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 04:50 PM

On Sunday's game in the TwinsDaily thread, there was a question that was raised about a play Oswaldo Arcia failed to make. It was ruled a hit, and a few members thought it was an error. It turns out that the official scorer that day, Stew Thornley, is a member of Twins Daily and has published some stories here, so I asked him about it.

(Stew is VERY conscientious and pretty open about his decisions. In fact, he did a presentation at the Mpls SABR convention this summer that was universally praised. The job of scorer is a really tough one - almost everyone feels it is fair game to criticize you, not matter which side you take - and Stew takes it incredibly seriously.)

Here was Stew's response:

BTW, I had the game yesterday when Arcia missed the catch. Easy
call. Hit. He was sliding to his knees--leaving the feet usually
means no error. Had he stayed on his feet, he most likely would have
been reaching below the knee, which, as a general guideline, is the
limit I use to determine whether he should be able to catch it or
not. Just in case anybody asks.


I thought I'd start this thread as a place for people to ask about scoring decisions that they don't understand. Perhaps we can get some insight from Stew or others on how things usually work, such as the "leaving the feet" or "below the knees" guideline he mentions above.

#2 stewthornley

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 05:29 PM

Thanks, John. And, to be clear, these are guidelines. It doesn't mean a player can never be charged with an error if he leaves his feet. Nishioka was proof of that.

#3 nicksaviking

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 05:38 PM

A related question; are you able to retroactively award Bill Smith an error for signing Nishioka?

#4 righty8383

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 05:49 PM

OK here's one that also has to do with Arcia. A week ago tonight, Arcia came up with runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out in the 3rd inning. Arcia hits a slow grounder to 1st and Marlins 1st baseman makes a fielding error that allows the run to score and Arcia to reach base. Arcia is not credited with an RBI because of the error. What's funny, is that if the 1st baseman fielded it cleanly and made the assumed play at 1st, Arcia gets an RBI groundout. Does anybody else think that is dumb? Here is the link to gameday.

Had there been 2 outs, or had the error come on a fielder's choice to home, I would agree with not giving him an RBI.

Edited by righty8383, 30 April 2013 - 05:52 PM.


#5 cmathewson

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:50 PM

Stew doesn't call enough errors, IMHO. There was a play in a Rangers game in which Kinsler botched a hot grounder hit right at him and Willingham ran home when he saw it. Kinlsler's throw was so far off line, Willingham could jog home. I thought it should have been two errors on Kinsler. Instead, it was a base hit and an RBI.

Also, the infamous ole play by Plouffe was called a hit. And several non plays by Florimon have been called hits, or just no plays. I have Florimon with 5 errors at home on the year. Stew has only called one.
"If you'da been thinkin' you wouldn't 'a thought that.."

#6 stewthornley

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 06:55 PM

In the last series, I was the scorer only for the Thursday and Sunday games. I didn't have the Fri-Sat games, which had plenty of stuff to keep a scorer busy. So all I can do is comment on my games, which have been pretty tame so far this season. I've had the "stealing money" games. That will probably change. It always does. (By the way, Florimon has had several errors at home this year. I know I called one of them, but there have definitely been others.)

#7 Ultima Ratio

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 07:43 PM

What is the official definition of an error? And, if there isn't one, please give us your definition. I ask because I see many hit/errors scored during the game reversed upon review. Why is that?
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#8 Guest_USAFChief_*

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 07:59 PM

1) Would you say scoring standards have changed over the years? For example, in your Arcia example above, would that have been ruled an error in say, the 1970's? 2) Do you believe the Arcia example above would have universally been ruled a hit by any current major league official scorer? 3) Are there major league guidelines you are required to follow, or do you have complete discretion as to what you believe to be the correct scoring ruling? Lastly, thanks a lot for this thread.

#9 righty8383

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 08:03 PM

Stew, can you address my earlier post? Don't you think that given the circumstances (the runner on 3rd going on contact and you have to assume that the fielder is originally trying to get the batter out), Arcia should get an RBI?

#10 stewthornley

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 08:43 PM

Ultima Ratio: Since 2007 the rules have contained a definition for ordinary effort [ORDINARY EFFORT is the effort that a fielder of average skill at a position in that league or classification of leagues should exhibit on a play, with due consideration given to the condition of the field and weather conditions] that is pretty much the essence of what we go by in determining hit or error. And Rule 10.12 (Errors) starts with, "An error is a statistic charged against a fielder whose action has assisted the team on offense, as set forth in this Rule 10.12." It's nice to have this in words, but, of course, it all comes down to a lot of subjective decisions.

USAF Chief - 1) Yes to the Arcia play. I can recall in 1979 the official scorer in Anaheim, Dick Miller, charging cf Rick Miller with an error when he missed a shoestring catch. It was when Nolan Ryan had a no-hitter going in the 8th. Ryan lost the no-hitter in the 9th when Reggie singled off him. After the game, the team's GM (Bavasi, I think) blasted the official scorer for embarrassing them by too blatantly trying to keep Ryan's no-hitter going. (As for the other part, about if scoring standards have changed, I'll try to get to that tomorrow. Remind me if I don't.) 2) Yes. 3) We definitely have to follow the scoring rules, but sometimes we have discretion there, such as making judgments as we recreate an inning with an error. I like working with the rules and enjoy reconstructing innings. Usually it's less subjective than judgment calls. As for judgment calls, that's what they are--our judgment. We try to be consistent with how we and other scorers make calls. I've often said this is the only thing in my life where I try to be a conformist. Someone else asked about the process for plays being appealed. That's another thing I'll get back to. Remind me if I don't.

#11 stewthornley

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 08:56 PM

Righty 8383 - wasn't my game so I don't want to say too much, but the runner at third (can't remember who it was) initially held on the grounder, which is what made the difference. It was a convuluted play, and I might (emphasize might) have given the RBI for a different reason. Mahoney fumbled the grounder, causing the runner to break for the plate. If the ball had just squirted away and everybody was safe, it would clearly be an error for not getting the out at first and allowing the runner to score (no RBI). However, Mahoney still had a play at first. He tried swiping the bag with his foot and missed (or, at least, the umpire said he missed, which is the same thing) before throwing home too late. So the error wasn't for the fumble; it was for missing the bag. Had he fumbled the ball, causing the runner to take off and score, but gotten the out at first, there would be no error and Arcia would have to get an RBI. That's similar to a 2b fumbling a grounder, missing a chance for a force on the lead runner, but recovering in time to throw the batter out. No error, even though the fumble (a misplay) allowed advancement. So Mahoney's fumble was really just a misplay since he still could have gotten the batter at first. And what the heck is a misplay? More later - that's something I'm going to try and explain in a rules session at our scorers meeting in NY this weekend.

By the way, for an earlier post, Florimon has been charged with four errors at home so far this season. I had one of them. I can't remember any other plays in which he might have had an error although that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Kinsler play (not mine): On the grounder, in the past I called errors on plays like that; however, plays such as those that are being appealed are being overturned from errors to hits by MLB. That says to me that MLB is seeing those as hits, so from now on I'll probably go along with that. Would a good throw to the plate have gotten Willingham on a tag play? Maybe, and I really don't know how I would have called that one (since I didn't have to, I don't worry about it too much). Part of the deal is that Kinsler hesitated before throwing. If his hesitation was enough to make it uncertain if they would have gotten the out at the plate, then it's no error (considered slow handling, which the rule book covers and says no error). And by rule, Kinsler could not have gotten two errors on that--it would be either an error for the fumble or an error for the bad thrown--can't have both unless there would have been additional advancement by the batter-runner on the overthrow, which didn't happen. Keep 'em comin' folks. I'm going to bed.

#12 notoriousgod71

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 10:31 PM

Here is a question of mine: Why is it that no matter where the batter is when someone throws wildly to first base he is 99% credited with a hit (not just at Target Field but EVERYWHERE)? He might be out by five steps if the first baseman picks the throw but he'll always be awarded a hit.

And missed pop ups where the fielder doesn't get a glove on the ball- I don't understand how that isn't considered an error either. Please help me understand these situations. Thanks.

#13 righty8383

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 11:43 PM

It was Dozier on 3rd and I wasn't aware he held up initially. Thats one of those things you don't see on TV. I guess at the time, I assumed he went on contact because it would have been stupid (IMO) to hold up given the situation. The situation being that it was the 3rd inning and the double play was in order (Mauer was on 1st), so I don't see why a fielder (other than maybe the pitcher) would come home with the ball in the first place. Thanks for the response.

#14 ScottyBroco

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:14 AM

Way to go John on connecting sabr members and twins daily members. I wish I would have Thought about this before you did.

#15 IdahoPilgrim

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:37 AM

Stew,

I would be curious about how you got to be an official scorer - is it like umpiring where there are schools and you work your way up through the minors?

Also, what kind of training/supervision does MLB provide?

I'm not thinking about going into this, but I would be interested to know more about that side of the profession.

#16 John Bonnes

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:38 AM

Way to go John on connecting sabr members and twins daily members. I wish I would have Thought about this before you did.


Actually, most of the credit should go th ashburyjohn who approached Stew and I.

What I like best about this so far is that one can see how much thought and re-creation goes into these scoring evaluations. It is not knee-jerk stuff. One can agree or disagree, but one can't charge a lack of intention and effort.

#17 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:43 AM

Not sure what you mean by that (99% - really?). Lots of errors are charged on infield throws. However, if the throw is judged to be beyond ordinary effort, then it goes as a hit. As for the first baseman picking a throw, by rule [10.12(a)(1) Comment: If a throw is low, wide or high, or strikes the ground, and a runner reaches base who otherwise would have been put out by such throw, the official scorer shall charge the player making the throw with an error.], we can't charge the first baseman with an error--although I am aware of an infield hit being changed to an E3 recently on that kind of play. I've called a lot of hits when a throw was off-target but I thought it required greater than ordinary effort, and I've called a lot of errors when I thought the play should have been made. Not sure what the ratio is, but no way is it 99 to 1.

On missed pop flies, are you talking about a few players standing around, thinking someone else would take it, and then watching it drop in. I know I called a hit on that kind of infield play last year, and I called a double for Adam Jones when Span and Willingham each pulled up and the ball dropped. Without an option for a team error, we go with hit. That's something that we discussed at our meeting last year and something MLB has provided some direction on, so that's what we go with. Not saying any of us is ever happy calling hit on those kind of plays, but that's what we do. Team errors have been talked about for years, but it's never been added, and my impression is that it won't happen--unless someday a no-hitter gets ruined by that type of play, which might prompt a change.

If you're talking about a different kind of play than the old Clarence-and-Gaston (or whatever it's called) routine, let me know and I'll address it. Thanks.

#18 Guest_USAFChief_*

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:47 AM

Stew: Once again, thank you for taking the time to answer questions. It's much appreciated.

#19 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:47 AM

Ultima Ratio - regarding plays getting appealed. Teams and now players have the right to submit a scoring decision for review. The process has changed some over the last couple years. In the past the team had to do it, and they were careful to pick their battles to not overdo the number they were sending in. My understanding is that players themselves can send in a play, and that has resulted in more reviews. They can provide video, which may show more angles than were shown on tv. If the reviewer (may be a committee or an individual) thinks the scoring decision was clearly wrong, then the call will be changed. Hope that helps.

#20 IdahoPilgrim

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 10:21 AM

On missed pop flies, are you talking about a few players standing around, thinking someone else would take it, and then watching it drop in. I know I called a hit on that kind of infield play last year, and I called a double for Adam Jones when Span and Willingham each pulled up and the ball dropped. Without an option for a team error, we go with hit. That's something that we discussed at our meeting last year and something MLB has provided some direction on, so that's what we go with. Not saying any of us is ever happy calling hit on those kind of plays, but that's what we do. Team errors have been talked about for years, but it's never been added, and my impression is that it won't happen--unless someday a no-hitter gets ruined by that type of play, which might prompt a change.


I think I was at that game last year - high pop-up that 3 fielders watch land about 10 feet away from home plate in fair territory. Most depressing moment I've ever had at a Twins game.

#21 greengoblinrulz

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 11:14 AM

Generally, I think official scoring around the majors is horrendous.
IMO, fielding is so devalued that I cannot look @ errors anymore which led me/others to metrics fielding.
A play should either have been made or not been made....regardless of speed/ range/etc

#22 spycake

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 11:48 AM

Stew: what about pop-ups that drop due to the confusion of just one fielder, rather than multiple fielders? Losing track of a flyball, mainly. Don't think I've ever seen one scored an error, no matter how close the ball landed to fielder's original position (and we all know this came up in the Metrodome a lot!).

Also, this is a pretty awesome thread. Thanks Stew for sharing and the Johns for making it happen. If there is a way this thread can be stickied, or otherwise featured prominently for reference, please do it -- I could see us coming back to this all season long.

#23 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:01 PM

Yeah, the way that goes is that if the fielder can't see it, he doesn't get an error. Sometimes it's obvious that the ball was lost in the roof, lights, sun, moon, whatever. Sometimes the guy seems to flinch at the last second. If we see something that indicates that, it's a hit.

#24 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:11 PM

I think there was a how did I get into this question somewhere. I started getting chances to do official scoring because of public-address announcing. In 1982-83 the scoring was tacked on to my p.a. duties for state and regional community college tournaments. I did some more in the 1990s for the Minneapolis Loons, where I also did p.a. announcing. I didn't do p.a. and o.s. at the same time although one time I filled in for Ryan Lefebvre for the radio play-by-play and did the official scoring at the same time.

I've been doing mlb.com Gameday datacasting since 1998 (before 2001 it was Total Sports), and from that came the opportunity to do it for Twins games. Tom Mee, who had done it since 1991, was going to be leaving, so I was asked if I was interested. I did some Saints games to get back into the swing of it and started doing it for Twins home games in 2007.

Umpiring is not a pre-req, but I'm sure glad I had done that. It gets you experience in two things: being decisive and taking crap. With umpiring, you better learn that just because someone tells you you're full of **** doesn't necessarily mean you are. Same thing with official scoring. With either, you have to have confidence in what you're doing if you're going to be able to stick with it. Otherwise, you become a basket case in a hurry and aren't going to last. After a call that gets challenged in a big way, I have an urge to ask a few others what they thought of it and will feel better if they agreed with my call. But that really doesn't do much for you. The validation has to come because you think you made a good call, not because someone else does. (By the way, I don't always think I made a good call--I'm sure every scorer occasionally makes a call he wishes he could have back, and I'm definitely among that bunch.)

#25 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:12 PM

Wow. This program recognizes naughty words. I see it turned "****" into "****". Smart program. Dang.

#26 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:19 PM

Is your question/concern with the general concept of errors, that it's not an effective statistic for evaluating fielding, or is it with the official scoring itself?

#27 Nick Nelson

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 06:06 PM

I know that from my perspective, the problem is that the error statistic doesn't do a good job of tabulating actual errors. That's not because you guys do a bad job, it's because the rules are poorly written.

A guy doesn't get an error because he lost the ball in the sun? I mean, he still made a mistake. Blocking out the sun to catch a fly ball is part of the game.

The whole "if he doesn't touch it, it's not an error" principle is absurd, and frequently rewards players for lacking range, thus causing fielding % to have the opposite of its desired effect.

I think a defensive misplay is generally obvious to a person of moderate baseball intelligence, and I'd be fine allowing for a more subjective approach so long as knowledgeable scorekeepers (such as Stew) are assigned. I think we'd see much more accuracy.

#28 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 06:38 PM

Right. Players with limited range don't get to balls; when they're out of someone's reach, it's a hit. Players with better range put themselves into a position to make more errors, on the fielding and the throwing part. Beyond range, if an outfielder gets turned around, takes a bad route and ends up with the ball out of his reach, he doesn't get an error. An outfielder who only partially flucks it up (I'm going to see if the program recognizes fluck as a clever way around a naughty word - and for those who don't know what I mean, I meant to say ****) may leave himself in a reasonable position to make the catch. And if he drops it, he gets an error.

In A Diamond Appraised by Craig Wright and Tom House, Wright has a great chapter analyzing scoring and errors. The book came out around 1988. I'd be interested if anyone did similar analysis today to see if it differed.

#29 ThePuck

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:06 PM

who was the scorer on the Plouffe error that wasn't scored an error on, I believe , Friday night? The one where it was hit to him and he did a bull fighter move on the ball instead of getting in front of it. Blatant over the top error called a hit.

#30 stewthornley

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:16 PM

Regarding a question from yesterday - have scoring standards changed over the decades? My guess is that most people would say they have, that scorers are softer and calling more hits. My answer is maybe. Errors have gone down from about 1.75 per game for both teams in the 1960s and 1970s to 1.25 per game per team now. I have no idea how much better fielding and equipment and perhaps playing surfaces account for the drop. Better skills can lead to more opportunities for errors, but I'd guess that overall it would create fewer errors. I'm strong on the belief that players are better. In addition to greater range than creates more chances for errors, it also means more reliability in fielding and throwing. One thing I wonder about is if first baseman, through proficiency and a better trapper, are more likely to dig out throws in the dirt than they where 40-50 years ago. Based on memory, I think they are. I know memory is dicey, but no dicier than people convinced that scorers are softer based on their memories about how plays were called in the past. The sight of a first baseman saving another infielder from an error by scooping his throw from the dirt is pretty routine. Is it so much more routine now than it was in the 60s and 70s that it could account for half an error per game, or at least a good chuck of that differential? I don't know. If anyone out there can figure out a good way to measure that, go for it.