The Error of the Reached on Error

A hitter slaps a ground ball between second and third and it rolls just past the diving shortstop’s (let’s call him “Jerek Deter”) glove into left field. IT’S A HIT! In the official statistics, the hitter gets an at-bat (and thus also a plate appearance) and a hit. The hitter’s batting average and on-base percentage have increased.

Now imagine the exact same action by the hitter, the swing, the path, speed, spin on the ball, and speed to first base. This time, however, the defender just gets to the ball, but fumbles around and the hitter takes first base. In the official statistics, the hitter gets an at-bat (and thus also a plate appearance)… but no hit. The hitter’s batting average and on-base percentage have just decreased. Makes sense, yes? Uh, no.

People have complained about silliness of the how errors are treated, particularly with respect to how it has resulted in an incredibly messy pitching stat in ERA that has come to prevail over a much more logical runs-allowed (RA) scale for pitching metrics. The subjective nature of the scorekeeper’s decision on whether certain balls are errors is perhaps best highlighted by the fact that players have called the press box and had plays scored as errors overturned and called hits. But the problem I’m concerned with isn’t scorekeepers, it’s the rules for scorekeeping and how official baseball statistics represent events. While most writing on this topic focuses (understandably) on the effect of errors on the earned run rule and on the distortions intrinsic to ERA, my concern here is how reached on error is a fly in the ointment of offensive statistics as well.

Part of the issue is the idea that ruling a play a “reached on error” puts all of the onus on the fielder… yet it somehow also counts (in batting average and on-base percentage) against the hitter. Why should the hitter be “punished,” especially since on most errors he has at least made some contribution (e.g., putting the ball into play, running hard to beat the throw, etc.) to it not being an out? I do think the way reached on error is recorded is unfair in that way. There are differences within the sabermetric community about how much skill is involved in reached on errors and whether it should be included in metrics like wOBA (as in this discussion). That is yet another discussion. For now, I’m concerned with the accuracy problem.

The problem is that, because of the way “official” MLB statistics are recorded, we have plate appearances (in hitters’ records, at least) that are “blank spaces” that actually distort the record of what has happened. This is most obvious by looking at on-base percentage, which might be better thought of as “not-out percentage.” Hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches count as instances of getting on base. Reached on errors count in the denominator as at-bats (and thus plate appearances), but not in the numerator, even though no out occurred on the play (another argument lurks in the denominator about sacrifice hits [bunts] as opposed to sacrifice flies).

My personal perference would be take the most simple path and call what is now a “reached on error” a hit. But if that doesn’t seem appropriate it could also be treated as a separate category like hit by pitch. That is another event in which the hitter seemingly (in a non-technical, non-sabermetric sense) plays an even “more passive” role and is still included in the official statistics. Even if reached on error doesn’t have the hitter skill component some would like for sabermetric stats and projections, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given a different treatment that it currently is in official statistics. Intentional walks are somewhat analogous: while they are somewhat related to player skill (they are generally given to hitters who are thought to be too likely to do damage in a particularly situation), the player plays an apparently passive role; furthermore, like a reached on error, someone else’s subjective judgment of an objective situation is involved (in this case, the manager rather than the scorekeeper).

Intentional walks also provide a historical precedent against “we haven’t done it this way before, what about history?” sorts of arguments: prior to the mid-1950s, they weren’t recorded separately from walks, yet they have been added to official statistics. Hit by pitch wasn’t recorded earlier, and neither were caught stealings. If it makes our records of what a player has done more logical and accurate, what is the objection? Reached on errors don’t occur in the overall numbers and with the regularity of hit by pitches and caught stealings. I realize that I’m picking nits here. But this is a blog about baseball, what did you expect?




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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

79 Responses to “The Error of the Reached on Error”

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  1. hairball says:

    I totally 100% disagree with this entire analysis. Errors are an important part of the game, and the hitter does not contribute at all to getting on base when they are called right, which happens at least as often as with typical umpire calls. Errors save pitchers from defensive crap in no-hitter bids. And I always feel good for a pitcher when his ERA is not blasted by the same kind of stuff.

    To postulate that an error should count as a hit seems asenine. Comparing it to an IBB even moreso. When a hitter hits into an error, it is an obvious out that didn’t end up having that result, due to a defensive miscue. That is pretty cut and dry, and to give some kind of credit to the hitter for getting on base seems to go against the whole system that baseball is built on.

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    • I don’t think it should count as a hit, but do think it should count as a PA and a time on base. In every other way OBP measures how often the batter does not make an out, except when it comes to ROE. It wouldn’t generally make a huge difference in OBP (I feel like BPro has done articles looking at OBP including ROE in the past) but it’s always kind of bothered me that it isn’t included.

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      • Edward says:

        Bingo

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      • hairball says:

        Why has it bothered you? If the batter is hit by a pitch, you can give him the OBP credit because either he contributed via batting stance/guts, or at the very least, he “took one for the team” and deserves something for it.

        OTOH, with ROE, what has he accomplished? Scorekeepers, from what I’ve seen in my several decades of baseball-watching, tend to get it right. Errors are called on what would be obvious outs. So how has the batter demonstrated anything worth receiving credit for?

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      • It’s not about accomplishment so much as about recording what actually happened.

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      • Relddem says:

        What about players whose speed forces errors?

        As Jeff said, its about recording what happened, not crediting accomplishments, or to add on, not about recording what “should” have happened. Groundballs hit directly at a SS with no runners on result in the batter reaching first base a certain percentage of the time. That percentage is higher than the same result on, say, a strikeout or IFFB. Therefore, the value of the outcome of a groundball to SS is technically different than a strikeout or IFFB, even on the assumption that error conditions are arbitrary to the batter (which they’re not). Making subjective normative claims about what “should” have happened really has no place in statistical recordkeeping or analysis.

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      • DSC says:

        Yes, it’s a very good stat. How often do you see guys who don’t run hard or try hard force errors? Then how many times do you see errors when Ichiro or Guerrero is involved? Lots more, as they force the issue. Of course errors should be a + in OBP and OPS+. Not only must a hitter do something to create an error (actually hit the ball) but he has to run hard; i’ve seen hundreds of errors wiped out by a guy loping to 1B or 2B or….

        Smart sabermaticians would add it in at full value to OBP, OPS, and OPS+, and thus WAR.

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    • Telo says:

      I agree..somewhat. Part of me thinks that if errors were cut by a third or so, so that only egregious ERRORS in the true sense of the word are called, then the whole system would make more sense. It’s a play that should’ve been an out. You should get penalized. However, I do agree with some of what Matt brought up. RA/9 would be a much better stat.

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    • Dash says:

      The batter certainly contributed to getting on base when an error is involved. The batter put the ball in play for the possibility to exist to begin with. Appealing to the accuracy of umpires is a poor way to support your argument given how often they are incorrect. You could make a similar argument that pitchers shouldn’t get credit for balls in play that should have been hits. That line drive right at the shortstop would normally go for a single, but the pitcher got lucky. Why doesn’t that stop a no-hitter? The home run robbed by the center fielder should have scored 3 runs. Why doesn’t that affect his RA? Claiming that the batter should be penalized by someone else’s mistake, but the pitcher should be rewarded for someone else’s skill is asinine.

      Errors aren’t all “obvious outs” by any stretch of the imagination. A bobbled ball that a rangey shortstop gets to is no different from a ball that skids safely by a worse player. Why is one rewarded while the other is not? You are holding on to some false dichotomy that every out is due to the pitcher’s skill while every error is somehow in no way connected to the pitcher.

      Your opinion is in direct contradiction to DIPS theory. The pitcher should be neither rewarded nor penalized for balls in play, which is exactly what you are suggesting.

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    • Larry says:

      FIP and xFIP should already ignore the luck factor of a pitcher having bad defense behind him.

      There are factors a hitter can control about whether he reaches via error. How hard he hits the ball for example, or the speed at which he runs to first. Of course, it could also be dumb luck. But baseball already does reward the hitter for luck like when he hits a conveniently placed blooper.

      And what system, pray tell, has baseball been built on?

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    • Anon21 says:

      Perhaps someone has done the research, but I doubt the empirical reality of the situation matches up with hairball’s moral analysis of the error. That is, I would bet that there are some players who demonstrate a repeatable ability to reach on errors, due to speed and making more solid contact. It’s not as if defensive players don’t know the difference between an Ichiro and a Konerko, and it seems highly likely that that awareness would affect some of their fielding and throwing attempts.

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  2. Matt says:

    Why not just eliminate errors from being considered a plate appearance? And for that matter, walks should be considered a plate appearance. Since when you think about it, when you work a walk, the one thing you did was appear at the plate. And when somebody else’s blatant mistake caused you to get on base, shouldn’t that negate the existence of your appearance at the plate?

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    • Person says:

      Are you talking about at-bats? Because everything is a plate appearance. Including walks in at-bats wouldn’t make much sense though, insofar as what the at-bat purports to indicate.

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      • Matt says:

        Sorry, I’m not the most sophisticated commenter on the site, and I confuse those all the time. Possibly because the distinction seems so arbitrary to me.

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    • Sea Wolf says:

      Walks are considerd a plate appearance. They are not considered an at-bat.

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    • Relddem says:

      In terms of statistical purity this is an interesting thought, but it would never take. Just about every contract incentive for a hitter at this point is based on PA’s, I don’t see the Union allowing them to get taken away for any reason, even in small numbers. If it means the difference between 599 and 600 PA for a player with a contract incentive, it could cost him a decent chunk of change.

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    • BigNachos says:

      What a crazy argument. You could have a future as a politician, or perhaps a supreme court justice.

      The biggest problem with errors are their subjective nature–so often they aren’t a blatant mistake, but are induced by a bad hop, or the sun, or some other factor that makes it a borderline call. Not to mention how poorly positioned fielders are off the hook by simply not being close enough to make a play, or botched double-plays aren’t counted as long as a single out was recorded. Or, my personal favorite, when a pitcher makes an error that leads to runs being “unearned”.

      It’s a messy, arbitrary system that only ends up obscuring what really happened.

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  3. TyRone says:

    Are there certain players who have more reached on errors than average for multiple seasons? Your example was one way to reach on an error, but suppose the hitter hits the routinest of routine groundballs to second base, and the player, lets call him Giss Chretz, allows it to go between his legs. Should the hitter really get a beneficial stat for this?

    I feel like if the numbers show that some players reach on errors more than other, perhaps someone like Ichiro might be an example, than I agree it should be counted beneficially for this player. But if there is no trend towards reaching on an error being a skill, then I prefer the current way that errors are recorded.

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    • hairball says:

      But in the case of Ichiro, isn’t that just a reflection of his high contact rate, which is already a statistic that people can analyze and appreciate?

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      • Todd says:

        Probably high contract rate, coupled with his speed down the line.

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      • TyRone says:

        thinking more along the lines of infielders rushing themselves due to his speed down the line, but ya, I see your point.

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      • DSC says:

        Really, the ROE stat needs to be counted. Anyone who ever played the game knows that guys who run hard cause errors, as you have to react and throw, and run, faster than, say, Ortiz at the plate. Guys like Ichiro, Guerrero, and Willie Wilson made guys make errors.

        All stats can be screwed around with but not too much. I recall a game where Andruw Jones dropped an easy popup and never was credited with an error because of his reputation, but a right fielder (can’t recall the name) who bobbled a grounder but the runner stayed at 1st, yet he got an error. That cans lightly muddy ROE.

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  4. I expected you to pick nits, Klaassen. That’s what I expected!

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  5. beat_la_25 says:

    “Even if reached on error doesn’t have the hitter skill component some would like for sabermetric stats and projections, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given a different treatment that it currently is in official statistics.”

    Though I’ve got no data to back this up, I think there actually is a not insignificant amount of skill involved in ROE. Players with the speed to put pressure on a play, or players who hit the ball harder on a more regular basis, are going to (probably) be much more likely to accrue ROE at a higher rate. Just a hypothesis, but my guess would be that there’s more batter skill involved in ROE than you’re letting on. Not sure where I’d find ROE data but it would seem that it’s time for a little hunting.

    And yes, I understand that you’re suggesting some skill is involved with the IBB analogy, but that seems much more situationally dependent. It seems likely to me that ROE would be more of a skill that would correlate well with baserunning values or speed scores.

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  6. Person says:

    I actually wouldn’t mind counting ROE in OBP but still not giving credit for a hit. Seems like a great compromise. After all, we don’t really care about batting average anyway, but the people who do would (you would hope) be amenable to count it in OBP, given especially the definition of OBP, while batting average would remain uncorrupted.

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  7. scott says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way errors are handled right now, at least as it applies to the hitter’s stats. If you hit a ball that should have resulted in an out, you shouldn’t get credit for a positive outcome (i.e. a non-out).

    Of course errors are subjective. And yes, players have complained and gotten decisions reversed. But probably not very often. Ultimately, so much of the game is tied up in a non-player’s subjective judgement (i.e. strike zones) that it’s hard to really complain about the subjectivity of a hit/error decision.

    And as far as Jerek Deter and the example of different defensive players effecting whether something is a hit or an error, of course it’s that way. Good defenses take hits away from hitters, even if those hits just turn into errors and you get on base anyway.

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    • williams .482 says:

      If you want to do that, why not count balls that statuesque fielders did not even get to which an average player should have as outs? It sounds like the same thing to me.

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      • scott says:

        In fact, let’s not even consider whether or not a play was made. Simply chop up the field into little sections, determine whether a ball that lands in each section is more likely to be a hit or an out, cross reference with the speed and trajectory of the ball, and give hits based on that.

        In fact, take the defenders off the field completely and zone the field into random out and hit areas. Hit the ball in the hit area, hit! Hit the ball in the out area, out!

        The opponent gets to choose their defenders. If that want to play poor defenders with little range, they will give up more hits. If they want to employ great defenders with a lot of range, they will make more plays but also have a lot more opportunities to make errors.

        You don’t give errors to an average position player, you give them to the position player that’s actually in the game. A play that Tulo should have made might be different than a play Jeter should have made. I’m not sure where the problem is there.

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      • williams .482 says:

        wait: you are saying (correct me if I am wrong, please) that players should be *penalized* for being good fielders, and *rewarded* for being bad?

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      • scott says:

        I’m talking about this “problem” from the point of view of the hitter. That seemed to be what the article was about. It’s not about penalizing fielders, just about how to treat ROE in a hitter’s stat line.

        But far as an error being a “penalty,”, I think that’s a horrible term. Someone with more range has more opportunities to make plays. They most likely convert more balls in play into outs. This is a major advantage. If anything, them getting to a ball and making an error in a situation where there would otherwise have been a hit is a penalty against the hitter.

        Knowledgeable baseball watchers understand that a statue who doesn’t make errors is not necessarily a good defender. His fielding percentage might be great, and that will mislead people who don’t know any better. We have a number of stats that take into account range and other factors that penalize the statues, however imperfectly. I’m not sure where the “reward” for poor defenders that you’re talking about comes into play. That they have a better fielding percentage? No one who knows anything cares about that.

        I’m not sure why you seem to want to penalize hitters just because they happened to hit a ball to a statue who couldn’t get a glove on it. Again, a team gets to choose its defenders. You play statues, you give up more hits. Why do you have a problem with that?

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      • williams .482 says:

        I guess what I am trying (and failing) to say is that except in the case of a bunt (where the placement of the ball relative to the fielder is far more related to skill than luck), two hitters who hit exactly the same ball should not appear to be any different because the one of the defenders was better. It is not about the team playing different caliber fielders, it is about the guys hitting balls at those fielders.

        unfortunately, “anyone who knows anything” does not include your average fan, and probably also excludes a fair chunk of players. So while yes, FLD% is an incredibly stupid stat for fielders, being charged with an error is still certainly perceived as a penalty.

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  8. mca376 says:

    First off, walks are a PA, just not an AB.
    Secondly, I think you guys are missing the point. Take ROEs however you like, let’s just keep track of them. ESPN will probably ignore it, but others could analyze it for significance and perhaps even deem it useful for something like wOBA or BABIP projection. Or it could prove worthless, but I agree it should be officially tracked. As you said, changing just one fielder could easily turn a hit into an error or an out.

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  9. Joe says:

    Does it really matter if you cream a mistake pitch or if a fielder botches a tough play? A reach on error is a hit.

    For the purposes of ERA you can still treat them as errors. To the batter it’s dumb to make a distinction. What is the difference between an E and an IFH?

    A ball lost in the sun goes as a hit.

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    • hairball says:

      This seems to get at the heart of “at the game” analysis vs. “on paper” analysis. If you were at the game and the scorekeeper was a decent one, it’s pretty easy to tell a typical infield hit from a typical infield ROE. By the same token, a “lost in the sun” ball is not a ball that is expected to be caught all the time. That is why it is not an error. The Brooks Conrad miffed popup in last years playoff series- that was a definitive error, and no hitter would ever suggest that they deserved a hit for it.

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    • hairball says:

      If a fielder “botches a tough play”, that is not usually considered an error. The scorekeeper has to be sure that it would have been an out.

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      • hjrrockies says:

        So? It’s still subjective, and our decision to have a revisionist system of record keeping makes no sense anyway. Put down what happened, not what shouldn’t have happened.

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  10. chri521 says:

    Are ROE’s counted as a total base? If so wouldn’t that metric solve some of these problems?

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  11. Hurtlocker says:

    Seriously?? Have you ever actually played baseball?? It’s an errror and counts against you because you would have been out had the fielder made the play.
    The fact that you are on base by error does not detract from the possibility that you might score which does count for you.

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    • hairball says:

      I know. It seems obvious to me too, and I thoroughly appreciate and respect sabermetrics.

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    • williams .482 says:

      What this opinion ignores is the guys with range like granite slabs who just don’t get to the ball, like the example at the beginning of the article. Should all missed balls in play which most fielders would get to be called errors, regardless of if they were missed because of bad hands of bad range?

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      • Rob says:

        While I don’t think this is usually the case, there are many hitters who are/were famous for their ability to control where in the field they hit a ball. Tony Gwynn is a good example. If there is a “granite slab” in right field, and Gwynn hits a ball there that any other right fielder would have caught (because of their range), I would argue that you should reward Gwynn with the hit.

        This theory can pretty much apply to any situation where an out isn’t made due to anything other than physically mishandling the ball. At this level, you can never expect a professional ball player to mishandle a ball, and therefore such is an error 100% of the time. But It is relatively easy to keep track of which fielders have better legs/more range, which ones have better arms, etc, and exploiting those weakness, imo, is a skill-related play and should be reflected in the stats.

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  12. Neuter Your Dogma says:

    I would think more errors are caused by umpire error than anything else. Can these be corrected to complete the record please?

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    • hairball says:

      What do you mean by this? I’m not aware that “incorrectly called errors” are an issue in baseball, and that’s not really the point of this article.

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  13. Ken says:

    This is a good discussion point Matt.

    First off, just count it and make it an available statistic. People can analyze the hell out of it later, but you do need the number to get started.

    There is certainly some batting skill here, as contact is a skill. You can’t reach on error (except PB/WP) unless you hit the ball.

    There have been studies on this before. The short answer is that people who reach base more frequently by errors tend to be both fast runners and hit more grounders to the left side of the infield.

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    • hairball says:

      I have no problem with a ROE statistic (no one already counts this?)

      I just don’t like the idea of giving it equal weight to things like BB, HBP, etc. and I don’t think it should count toward OBP.

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    • kid says:

      What is the point of this, anyway? Are we short on statistics or something? People dying to know how often their favorite hitters get on base because the SS bobbled the ball? I can see it now – “Mark Reynolds ROE numbers have gone from 13, to 18, to 21 in the past three years…. that’s an upward trend you see, and the more times he gets on base, the more opportunities he’ll have to steal bases! Steals sleeper for 2012!!”

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  14. Trotter76 says:

    First of all, I want to go on record that (free of any statistical analysis) I believe umpires generally DON’T make more errors than players. They usually do a damn good job of calling the game, considering the number of judgement calls they have to make. The only caveat I’ll make is “excluding Yankees-Twins playoff games”.

    I fall on the side that an error is a play that should have been an out and is therefore treated as an out. A lot of botched grounders or throwaways are not necessarily caused by runner’s speed, but simply because the infielder made an error.

    However, one thing I’d like to see is more OF’s given errors for misplays in which they don’t get a glove on the ball. Too many times I’ve seen an OF take a few steps in and then realize it’s deep and he can’t get back on it. If he took the correct route, it’s an easy out, but the batter gets a triple. Or the ball goes under the glove of a charging OF and rolls to the wall. Single and 2-base error? Nope. Triple. I don’t feel that outfielders are held to the same standard as infielders as far as errors.

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    • DD says:

      Not true. Do infielders get called for errors on balls they don’t get to, no matter the reason they didn’t get to it? They are just less likely to make an obvious misplay on a ball, like taking a bad angle, because they have less ground to cover.

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  15. kid says:

    I have zero problem with the status quo. Batter hits a ball, the fielder “should” make a defensive play for an out, but goofs, and the batter reaches base. The batter doesn’t get credit for a clean hit (which he didn’t have), and the fielder gets a frowny face for flubbing an average-effort play (which he should have made). Equal punishment all the way around.

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    • hjrrockies says:

      But it’s entirely subjective what an average-effort play is. Scorekeepers don’t measure the range towards the ball, nor the difficulty of the throw, nor the speed of the baserunner. Yes, there are times when fielders make mistakes with the glove and the arm, but sometimes it took a good amount of range to even reach the ball in the first place. The suggestion that official scorers are 100% correct or even “correct enough” is absolutely false.

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      • kid says:

        Strike zone is subjective, too. So what? That injection of humanity makes the game beautiful.

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      • Viliphied says:

        Ah, the old “human element” argument. I hate that argument. The PLAYERS are the human element. The umpires and scorekeepers are not playing the game. They are only there to ensure the rules of the game are followed, and the results are properly tallied (respectively). There should be no “human element” involved in those aspects of the game, because when you get right down to it, they’re not playing.

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      • williams .482 says:

        @kid: subjective strike zones and “injection of humanity” do not make the game beautiful. Was Jim Joyce blowing the call and costing Galarraga a perfect game “beautiful”? I do not find watching hitters and pitchers (regardless of teams) get screwed over by a moron umpire who thinks that the strike zone has holes in it and a mostly unexplored region floating in the opposite side batters box.

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      • Brian Cartwright says:

        “Scorekeepers don’t measure the range towards the ball, nor the difficulty of the throw, nor the speed of the baserunner. ”

        And you know this how?

        I was an official scorer for college summer leagues and tourneys for thirteen years. I certainly considered those things when determining “ordinary effort”.

        I have no problem with keeping ROE totals which we may then analyze. But the play is called an error because the batter did nothing to deserve reaching base.

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      • williams .482 says:

        @Brian: If these sorts of things were properly accounted for, we would not have issues like, say, Derek Jeter having an excellent fielding percentage, or fast players getting lots of ROE.

        I do not doubt what you say about your own experience at all, but I suspect that you are more of an exception than the rule.

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      • Brian Cartwright says:

        Jeter has an excellent fielding percentage mainly due to rarely mishandling balls. To account for scorer bias, I measure infielders on the percent of grounders turned into outs, whether they be infield hits or reached on errors. Jeter is consistently top 5 in that from 2005-2009. That helps him win Gold Gloves. On the other hand, he and Yuniesky Betancourt were consistently the two worst in preventing ground ball hits to the outfield (range).

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      • williams .482 says:

        Im sorry, I was not thinking very clearly there. The hits to the outfield not being counted as errors (which would perhaps be difficult for the official scorer to work out on the spot. that is what we have UZR for) being the reason Jeter has such a good FLD% is what I was completely failing to articulate.

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  16. Pat says:

    If HBP contributes positively to OBP, then so should ROE. You are not out, end of discussion. Getting hit by a pitch takes less skill than making contact, so by extension, ROE is actually harder to do than a HBP. I wouldn’t call it a hit, but it shouldn’t count against the hitter. I think the most ridiculous part of ROE is that if the runner comes around to score, he will get credit for the run but no credit for being on base to score the run.

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    • Zeke says:

      This.

      HBP seems like the most natural comparison. From the batter’s perspective, most ROEs are totally random (infielder kicks grounder / drops pop-up / throws ball into seats), just like most HBPs are functionally random (curveball doesn’t break / guy ahead of you stared at HR too long / etc). But some small percentage are probably due to the speed angle, just like some small % of HBP is due to guys leaning in and/or sticking an elbow out and taking one for the team.

      Over a large enough sample, should’t the randomness (mostly) even out and give the Ichiros of the world their extra thousandths of OBP relative to everyone else the same way the Craig Biggios already get theirs?

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  17. Hayves says:

    I’m really surprised at how many people are fine with errors in this thread. I’ve got a huge problem with them mainly because of the ‘hit glove’ rule, mainly with OFs who massively misplay balls (Travis Snider falling on his butt on a liner right to him comes to mind) that should easily be caught. Yet if they’re sprinting half way across the field and it nicks off their glove it’s more often than not an error. And lets not forget the rockets to 3 bag that the fielder has no chance to get a glove on but it hits their chest or knee or something, definitely not an error.

    I’m not saying they should be abolished but a seperate stat column for them would be a good idea. And I could have sworn an error contributed to OBP, there’s really no reason it shouldn’t as long as the runner is safe.

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  18. Eric M. Van says:

    This is one of the most annoying and least thought-through memes in all of sabermetrics.

    I think we would all agree on a perfect solution to the problem: we would use Field/fx and Hit/fx data to come up with a thrillingly accurate assessment of the probability that the ball should have been fielded, and assign credit and blame accordingly. (IOW, the UZR approach, perfected.) In the case of a ball past Jeter, we would calculate that the ball is fielded by 60% of SS and credit the hitter and pitcher with 0.4 hits and the fielder with 0.6 “plays unmade” or whatever.

    Well, the system of errors is a *crude binary implementation* of this perfected system. It makes no sense to relentlessly focus on the c. 25% – 35% of scored errors that are in some way problematical while ignoring the fact that 65% – 75% of them are scored on balls where the probability that a play would be made is over 90% [guesses made from a lifetime of scoring baseball games and, yes, often disagreeing with the official scorer]. On those plays our crude binary implementation is very close to the perfected system .. and overall it’s clearly a source of valuable information.

    Bill James once famously said that bad front offices focus on what things a player can’t do rather then on what he can do. The sabermetrics community feels so besmirched by all the things the system of errors gets wrong that it has never stopped to ask the obvious question: does it really add *just* noise, or is it in fact adding *noisy information.*? The bottom line is that for every Pasta Diving Jeter case you can rub in my face, I can rub a Josh Reddick dropping a routine fly ball in left AND a Dustin Pedroia letting a routine grounder go right through his legs in yours. It’s very simply worth *counting the latter*, even though we are then forced to draw an arbitrary line between them and less obvious errors.

    Yes, it’s a terribly flawed, frustrating system. So is the U.S. government. I don’t see too many folks advocating the abolition of the latter.

    (And the fact that the way that errors are used to determine whether runs are earned or unearned is completely stupid has nothing to do with whether we should bother scoring errors, either.)

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  19. Antonio Bananas says:

    This is kinda why I think instead of looking at “hit” or “double” or whatever. We look at where the ball was hit, in the air/ground/etc, speed. Then look at the percentage that generates a run. Just use that. Balls hit in the same place can b singles, doubles, outs, or even home runs (wind and park size).

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    • scott says:

      I sarcastically brought this idea up earlier in the thread, and find it hilarious that someone seems to be seriously advocating it.

      If anyone else read that baseball prospectus piece that’s linked above, they’d see that adjusting OBP for ROE would only push numbers up a very marginal amount. We’re not finding any noteworthy hidden value here.

      And yet people are talking about taking the role of the defense completely out of the game just so we don’t have to worry about errors?

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  20. Jeff says:

    I don’t see a problem with this article. It should at the very least count as OBP for the simple reason that a certain number of grounders in particular will go for errors, so if you’re a batter who hits the ball on the ground a lot, this should somehow reflect in your valuations.

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  21. Upstin Juton says:

    Accounting for errors should certainly be abolished, well said Matt!

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  22. Dave S says:

    If a ROE is counted as a PA, but not a AB…

    wouldn’t ROE=PA-AB-BB-HBP-SAC?

    (and minus Catcher interference… which I would argue is also an error)

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  23. Ronin says:

    Someone else already brought this up but I think it is the most important issue in play here. Errors are the only statistic in baseball that is measured by what “should” have happened instead of what “did” happen. Once you start trying to change everything from did to should you are opening Pandora’s box. “Well it looks like David Ortiz got a strikeout instead of a double because that should have been strike three and the ump didnt call it, it just wouldnt be fair to charge the pitcher with that double cause Ortiz should have been out one pitch before he hit it.” OTOH it probably is a small enough problem that it is no more than noise in any particular hitters stat line.

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    • lex logan says:

      Exactly. What happened was the batter, whose name is not Dadam Unn, put the ball in play and thereby reached base safely. And if Edwin Error is playing third, hitting it that way looks like an excellent plan.

      Yesterday James Shields had a no-hitter going, and a Red hit a scorcher off someone’s glove. It was an error until the no-hitter disappeared, then magically become a hit. This nonsense goes on all the time.

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  24. DD says:

    I agree that ROE should be a part of OBP, based on the understand of what the stat measures – percentage of the time a player gets on base per plate appearance. I know this is a smaller portion of PAs, but why isn’t reaching on a Strikeout/Wild Pitch counted as a time on base as well? If errors are included, this should be also, since, again, the player came to the plate and did not make an out.

    Maybe I’m missing something Matt, but why are you a proponent of RA instead of ERA? Isn’t ERA the first real instance that baseball used a sabermetric tactic for pitching – namely, only giving the pitcher credit for what he can control. Obviously, as mentioned in FIP over ERA arguments, defense should be stripped out to give a better approximation of what the pitcher actually EARNED (note the word I use there). Seems like by using RA instead of ERA you are moving farther away from this sabermetric idea, not closer to it. I’m on board with a run not being unearned if the pitcher made the error/WP/HBP, but that’s it.

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  25. Dave S says:

    Well… how bad do we want the info?

    Baseball Reference has boxscores and play-by-play for all the games.

    The “reached on E_” is given in the play by play (where _ is the position that made the error).

    all we need to do is count them…

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  26. Dave S says:

    Retrosheet has event files for the years 1950-2010. All we need to do is extract the data.

    Any of you young computer whipper-snappers gonna do it??? Or are you gonna make some old guy (ME!) figure it out? LOL

    http://www.retrosheet.org/game.htm

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  27. Alex says:

    This one seems pretty obvious to me, have errors be left out of the At Bat totals, that way the hitter does not get punished for a borderline call, but also doesn’t get credit for a blatant error. Have a separate statistic for such a thing. I also would have it count towards a player’s OBA because lets be honest, he did reach base. Then a new sabermetric stat would be created for OBA without errors.

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