A Complete Log of Brad Boxberger’s Defensive Chances

If you are a casual baseball fan, you probably haven’t heard of Brad Boxberger. If you are a casual baseball fan, though, you probably aren’t hanging out at FanGraphs, clicking on posts about Brad Boxberger. Boxberger is a player of some interest and mild fame. He was, in 2009, drafted 43rd overall by the Cincinnati Reds. He was, in 2011, traded to the San Diego Padres as part of the package for Mat Latos. He did, in 2012, make his major-league debut, working out of the San Diego bullpen. Over 24 appearances, Boxberger yielded just eight earned runs. Things could’ve gone worse for Brad Boxberger.

As this was Boxberger’s debut major-league season, he experienced a lot of firsts. He threw his first pitch on June 10, to Rickie Weeks. It was a strike. Weeks subsequently drew what would be Boxberger’s first major-league walk. Boxberger’s first major-league strikeout was next, a swinging strikeout of Martin Maldonado. On June 20, Boxberger allowed his first major-league run. On August 12, Boxberger yielded his first major-league dinger. On September 5, Boxberger recorded his first major-league hold.

Boxberger didn’t get all of his firsts out of the way, however. At no point did he record his first major-league win. At no point was he tagged with his first major-league loss. He has yet to commit his first major-league balk. And — well, there’s something else.

A very simple defensive statistic is “Chances”. It’s the denominator in fielding percentage, and it’s the sum of putouts plus assists plus errors. It’s intended as an approximation of opportunities, and while it’s antiquated and while we don’t often look at it, there’s a reason I’m bringing it up in this instance. Below please find a complete log of Brad Boxberger’s defensive chances as a major-league pitcher in 2012. There are three of them.

June 15


What a great pickoff move by Brad Boxberger! In just his second big-league appearance, Boxberger caught Collin Cowgill trying to steal second base. Boxberger had plenty of time to throw Cowgill out. But what he actually did was throw behind Everth Cabrera, allowing Cowgill to advance safely and allowing another runner to score. Boxberger was charged with his first major-league error. You know the old story about pitchers throwing to any base but home. Boxberger did everything right until the throwing part.

June 25


Here we have Boxberger’s fifth major-league appearance. An opportunity existed for him to pick off Brian Bixler. Instead, he threw wildly to first, and Bixler advanced to second. On the next pitch, Bixler would score on a double. Boxberger was charged with his second major-league error. Though the throw could’ve been caught by Jesus Guzman, it obviously wasn’t, and it was bad enough that Boxberger was held 100% responsible. Errors are like arbitration — they either go to one guy or another guy. They can’t be split.

September 22


What a great pickoff move by Brad Boxberger! He had Angel Pagan leaning, and with an accurate throw, he had Angel Pagan out. What he didn’t uncork was an accurate throw — what he uncorked instead was an inaccurate throw, and Pagan went to second, and another runner scored. Once again, Boxberger’s pickoff move got him an easy out he failed to actually record. Boxberger was charged with his third major-league error. It sure looks like the throw could’ve and should’ve been caught by Yonder Alonso. The Padres’ broadcasters expressed disbelief when Boxberger was charged, and Mark Grant expected the scorer to change his decision later on. The decision stands to this day — the error was Boxberger’s. Rightly or wrongly. It seems unfair, but it is what it is, and it’s not like the throw was perfect. I’m not here to discuss the fairness of scorer decisions. I’m here to discuss defensive chances.

Brad Boxberger, as a major leaguer in 2012, recorded three total defensive chances. He was charged with three total defensive errors, all on throws to bases on pickoff attempts. He’s yet to record his first major-league putout, and he’s yet to record his first major-league assist. It’s true that he threw accurately to home plenty of times. It’s probably true that he threw accurately to bases on unsuccessful pickoff attempts. But chances are putouts plus assists plus errors, and at present, Boxberger is 0-for-3. This is unsightly.

One day, probably, Boxberger will register a putout or an assist. That’ll be a first, and it’ll be something to celebrate, modestly. For now, Boxberger is tied for the lowest career fielding percentage in modern baseball history. And among those players with fielding percentages of .000, Boxberger stands alone with the most defensive chances. Maybe some of it’s the scorer’s fault. Maybe some of it’s Alonso’s fault. But it’s Boxberger who’s got the statistical record. May his big-league career not be over; may there be a play made on the horizon. May Boxberger keep that ball for the rest of his life.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

22 Responses to “A Complete Log of Brad Boxberger’s Defensive Chances”

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  1. utmbrad says:

    Nice article.

    One thing that I would like to point off that is slightly off subject but has relevance is that people say the fake to 3rd throw to 1st never works, yet Boxberger had 2 such instances as pointed out here where the play actually worked (though they failed to convert…).

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  2. Summary says:

    Brad Boxberger debuted in 2012. He had three chances. He had three errors. See gifs

    That summary is overly simplistic, and some additional commentary is nice. However, you used a lot of words to say very little in this article.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I could’ve used more

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    • Matt Hunter says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Have you not read Jeff’s articles before? This is what he does. And it’s wonderful.

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    • rusty says:

      Indeed, this post has taken a disproportionate share of the obviously limited space available to fangraphs, and is thus CROWDING OUT more important baseball news and analysis of the day, like… um…

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    • Society says:

      What could possibly have led you to thinking this was a smart comment to make? What kind of thought process goes into this, where the outcome of said thought process was “yes, I should share this thought?” Do people not have filters that allow them to realize when they’re saying something stupid that no one will agree with and serves no constructive purpose? Is there an area of the brain that controls that that may have been injured in some sort of accident?

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    • Society says:

      Also, welcome to the internet, where pretty much anything can be said in like 5 words but is not because that’s annoying.

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  3. Jaack says:

    He should go into business as a fast-food entrepreneur, calling his company: Bret’s Boxed Burgers.

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    • taprat says:

      I probably should just ignore and move on, but… too late. Many of Jeff’s articles elicit a few comments like this, complaining about his writing. To those who tend to make comments like this, please understand that there are many of us who really enjoy Jeff’s writing. It is refreshing to read an article on the topic of baseball that is not 100% about baseball, that is somewhat whimsical, that is humorous, that is not purely analysis, and that is not written with economy of words as a primary objective. As much as it apparently bothers you, it has the opposite effect on many others. I’m not discounting your view – just want to make sure that you and folks like you (certainly, you are not alone, either) appreciate (and that Jeff appreciates) that there are many of us who really like his writing style.

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      • taprat says:

        My fail! This belongs above.

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      • But it’s a salient point. This absolutely free baseball site, in the baseball offseason, has the audacity to print stories that aren’t relevant to future baseball games. The horror!

        I like the articles like these. People were hating on one recently about Michael Bourn hitting a long home run – who cares? I enjoy all of these. Don’t click them, peoples.

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    • Jay29 says:

      Why not name it after himself, though?

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  4. Joncarlos says:

    I love this. It looks a lot like winning the internet.

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  5. Oh, Beepy says:

    All part of Brad’s plan.

    He will lull baserunners into a false sense of security and go on an unprecedented streak of consecutive successful pickoffs.

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  6. Ruki Motomiya says:

    I knew who Boxberger was on the basis his name makes me think of Fred Fredburger.

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  7. Mustard n Brown says:

    This was great! As an avid Padres fan and one who was watching at the time of Boxberger’s 1st and 3rd chances (but, I must have tuned out the night of the 2nd), this was a real hoot to read. I remember vividly the Mark Grant rant you alluded to and rememeber agreeing with him at the time. This sort of article is classic FanGraphs…. great fun.. Makes me want to be sure to be watching the next time he makes an MLB appearance. Will probably stand up and cheer in my living room when he gets his first assist/putout.

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