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Error, Hit or Fielder’s Choice?

In Tuesday’s game between Oakland and Detroit, with runners on the corners, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler fielded a ground ball and threw a strike to home plate…. while the runner on third didn’t stray off the base.   Here’s the video of the play:

(the look on Kinsler’s face says it all)

What should the A’s batter Eric Sogard be credited with?

The fielder did make a mistake (i.e., a mental error), can he get charged with an error on this?  No, the comment in rule 10.12 (1) clearly says “The official scorer shall not score mental mistakes or misjudgments as errors…” If that’s not unambigous enough, it goes on to clarify “The official scorer shall not charge an error to a fielder who incorrectly throws to the wrong base on a play.” That is exactly what this was, so charging an error on the play is ruled out.

Should Sogard get credit for a hit, even though it was just a routine infield grounder? No, rule 10.05 (a) says “The official scorer shall credit a batter with a base hit when:” and it goes on to list six conditions. I’m not going to list them all here, but none of them applied. (If you don’t believe me, you can read them yourself here. Just scroll down 10.05).

So, is this a fielder’s choice even though no runner was put out, and in fact no play was made on a runner? YES. Rule 10.05 (b) (4) says “The official scorer shall not credit a base hit when…..fielder fails in an attempt to put out a preceding runner and, in the scorer’s judgment, the batter-runner could have been put out at first base”.

Even though no play was made on a runner, it was still an “attempt”, and the batter would have easily been put out, so it meets the definition.

Anyhow, this loaded up the bases for the A’s. Two batters later Ben Zobrist hit a grand slam which was the difference in the 5-3 Oakland victory.  Since no error was charged, all runs were earned.  Another reason why pitcher ERAs and fielding percentage are fairly meaningless ways to judge the performance of a baseball player.


Ground Rule Double – NOT!

Will Venable's hit bouncing over the wall

Will Venable’s hit bouncing over the wall

Exciting extra inning game at Petco last night. The Royals scored a run in the top of the 12th to take a 5-4 lead. But in the bottom half, the Padres got runners on 2nd and 3rd with only one out.  And then Will Venable came to the plate.  He promptly hit a ball that split the outfielders and bounced over the wall as the excited home team announcers called it: “It’s up the alley and the game will end on a ground rule double”

Here’s the video: Walk off

Was it really a “ground rule” double?  No, no it was not. If anything, it was just a double, or an “automatic” double if you prefer.  There is no “ground rule” to cover a ball bouncing into the stands. It’s just a “normal” rule.  The same way there is a rule that says a runner gets a base on a balk. It’s not a “ground-rule balk”.  But as far as scoring goes, it does not matter.  A double, is a double, is a double.  Whether the ball stays in the park, hops over the fence, or is in fact a ground rule double (e.g., stuck in the Ivy at Wrigley).  So my whole point has been irrelevant so far if you are scoring a game.

But there was a slight twist to this one.  You see, it wasn’t even a double.  Will Venable got mobbed after he rounded first base and never got to second.  The scoring rules – 10.06 (f) – state that:

When a batter ends a game with a safe hit that drives in as many runs as are necessary to put his team in the lead, the official scorer shall credit such batter with only as many bases on his hit as are advanced by the runner who scores the winning run, and then only if the batter runs out his hit for as many bases as are advanced by the runner who scores the winning run.
Rule 10.06(f) Comment: The official scorer shall apply this rule even when the batter is theoretically entitled to more bases because of being awarded an “automatic” extra-base hit under various provisions of Rules 6.09 and 7.05

Because of the bolded part, he only got credit for a single.  He could have had a double if he kept running.

Note that if the winning run is on third, no matter how far the batter hits the ball, he can never get more than a single.*  If the winning run is on first, he can get up to a triple… BUT he has to actually run all the way there to get credit for it.  It rarely happens because it’s just considered bad form to run out a hit to pad one’s stats.  So most walk off hits end up being singles regardless of how far the batter could have made it.

* There is an obvious exception. Rule 10.06(g) does award a home run if the batter hits the ball out of the playing field.  But note based on the comment of 10.06(f) this does not apply to any other automatic base award


By the way, if all of the above sounds like I’m repeating myself, it’s because I am. I’ve mentioned this at least two other times on my Ruben’s Baseball blog.  Here and here.

When is a hit not a hit

(Ben Rouse / Brewers Mission 162)

A while ago I wrote about why the number of hits a player has is not a good way to measure the player’s offensive performance. Among other things, I ranted about how official scorers use somewhat arbitrary criteria to decide whether or not to credit a batter with a hit.  Well, I must confess I’m just as guilty.  Here’s an actual situation I was involved in:

Varsity High School level tournament, 7 inning game.  The official scorer had to leave and I was volunteered to take over.   In the top of the 6th, there was a runner on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs when the batter hit a ground ball in the hole to the right of the shortstop. Looked like a hit for sure, but the shortstop dove for it, got it out of his glove, and fired to second base for the force out. But on a close play, the runner coming in from 1st was safe.

Is it a hit or a fielder’s choice???   Well, it depends.

Read the rest of this entry

Why hits and batting average are misleading

(Photo: Neil Leifer/SI)

In my last article I mentioned that despite the fact that pitcher wins are an awful stat, hits (and the closely related batting average stat) are even worse.  Here are a few reasons why.

  • The scoring rules for what is a hit and what isn’t are at best arbitrary. Consider just a few cases:
    • The official scorer needs to make a judgement as to whether a fielder reached on an error or not – this is sometimes more based on whether the fielder has a reputation of being good and/or whether the hitter has a batting streak going and/or whether the pitcher has a no-hitter going, rather than what actually happened on the field.  Exact same plays are scored differently.
    • A clean hit can be taken away if a runner on base ahead of him, misses the first base he is forced to advance to.  With the bases loaded, the batter can hit a triple, but if the runner on 2nd missed 3rd as he is rounding it and is called out on appeal, the batter gets credited with nothing more than a fielders’ choice.
    • Clean hits can also be taken away if any runners are forced out. I have seen batters hit line drives to left field, and the runner on 2nd get forced out at 3rd.  I once saw a bases loaded hit taken away when inexplicably the runner from third base was thrown out at the plate. (Ok, it was Miguel Olivo “running”, and JD Drew short hopped a line drive right to him. Still, Ryan Freel who hit the ball,  deserved a better fate than that).
    • If a batter is awarded first base due to a runner being called out for interfering with a fielder making a play, it’s not a hit.  If a batter is awarded first base due to a runner being hit with a batted ball, he does get credit for a hit.  Why are these situations different???? Read the rest of this entry
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