Making Up For Errors

The Mariners won today, beating the Indians by a 9-2 score. Jokes about the Mariners inept offense aside, there’s not much usually inherently interesting in the typical line score of a 9-2 game. Where this game picked up a noteworthy angle was in the last column of the line score, the errors. The Mariners committed four of them while the Indians were charged with zero and yet, the Mariners still won and won handily.

Four errors in one game does not happen all that often, and the team winning happens even less often. In fact, digging into Retrosheet, there were 1,021 such games in their records and the error-happy team had prevailed in only 191 of them for an 18.7% winning percentage. As a side note, there was no meaningful split between the home and road winning records here.

My initial research was spurred by a request for similarly errored games, but if I open it up to games with four or more errors for one team and zero for the other then the sample size expands to 1,342 and a 17.3% winning percentage for the erroring team. It’s merely two data points – and there are far more robust studies showing the same effect – but it makes sense that as the sample lets in games with more errors, the winning percentage drops. Errors are not the greatest measurement tool we have given their subjectivity, but they do have a correlation with losing.

Of course, I had to carry it to the logical conclusion and find the game or games with the largest disparity between errors. That turned out to be this game between the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals with the Royals (of course) committing a whopping eight errors to Oakland’s zero. Unsurprisingly, the Royals were trounced 11-2 in that game, although only four of the Athletics’’ runs were deemed due to the errors. The widest spread still resulting in a victory for the sloppy team circles back around to the Mariners in this game where despite seven errors and a 7-2 deficit to the Brewers in Milwaukee, the Mariners came back and won 10-8 on the road. Now that’s winning dirty.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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