During a recent Toronto Blue Jays television broadcast, Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler praised the team’s young third baseman Brett Lawrie for hustling down the first base line after dribbling a weak grounder to the opposing team’s third baseman.

That third baseman was Wilson Betemit of the Baltimore Orioles and he made a bad defensive play on the ball that was hit to him. The home town commentators attempted to suggest that the defensive miscue was caused by the pressure that Lawrie’s hustle put on him, and had nothing to do with the fact that Betemit is merely a really bad third baseman.

Personally, I feel as though there are enough real reasons to praise Brett Lawrie (witness last night’s heroics) that jamming a triangular shaped narrative into a circular hole is unnecessary. However, Martinez and Tabler’s mistaken ranting and raving did make me think more about players reaching base on error.

Fortunately for all of us, someone smarter was also having similar thoughts. Julian Levine from Beyond The Box Score had his moment of clarity while watching the Philadelphia Phillies and San Franchisco Giants play and seeing Angel Pagan reach base on an error before Melky Cabrera hit the game winning run home.

There are a few things we know about errors that are important to recognize: they occur when the ball is put in play (duh); they’re more likely to occur in the infield (i.e. on groundballs) than in the outfield, and moreover, they’re more likely to occur on the left side of the infield; lastly, they’re more likely to occur when the batter is speedy — as in Pagan’s case.

As such, we can deduce that certain batter skills allow errors to occur with differing frequencies. A swift, right-handed contact hitter (i.e. Angel Pagan, when facing a southpaw) will reach base on errors more frequently than a slow, left-handed hitter who strikes out a lot (i.e. Adam Dunn). Does it not make sense, then, to give some credit to Pagan for reaching on an error even though it was clearly — at least to a great extent – Wiggington’s fault? The error was merely the result of Pagan’s skill-set, which lends itself to frequent ROEs.

The biggest take away here for me is that reaching base on what is subjectively called an error is not the same thing as making an out, and it really shouldn’t be treated as such. While I’m hesitant to join in on the tongue bathing of Lawrie by the Blue Jays broadcast crew on the one particular play that I mentioned. Surely, he fits the template that Levine suggests for the type of player more likely to cause an error.

This reminds me of a question someone posed to me on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, asking about productive outs and if there was any way to measure such a thing. The best method I could think of was to look at what an out did to a team’s Win Probability Added.

Similarly, someone has gone to the trouble of calculating WPA increases caused by errors alone, and with that we learn that the Blue Jays and Houston Astros have been two of the luckiest teams in baseball, or perhaps more accurately, two of the teams that have benefitted the most from opposition errors.

And The Rest

Tony La Russa will have his number retired by the St. Louis Cardinals. [baseblog]

As we await word on the team’s plans for pitcher Aaron Cook, the Boston Red Sox have called up defensive whiz kid Jose Iglesias. [Over The Monster]

Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton doesn’t take kindly to his brother getting ripped on national television, and he’s right, too. While watching the Tampa Bay Rays/Texas Rangers game, I couldn’t believe that the usually sharp broadcast booth didn’t pick up on the safety squeeze. [Huffington Post]

New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte gave testimony at the Rogers Clemens perjury trial. [New York Times]

Old man thinks youth should be more like him. Surprisingly, this is not an Onion article. [850 KOA]

Tampa Bay Rays prospect Tim Beckham was already well on his way to becoming a Tampa Bay Rays suspect even before being suspended 50 games for violating the Minor League drug policy after testing positive for a drug of abuse. [Twitter]

Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper makes me feel better about my 1 for 4 softball debut last weekend. [YouTube]

 The Arizona Diamondbacks are becoming an effective base stealing team. It’s sort of inexcusable that every squad in baseball isn’t looking to be an effective base stealing team. [AZ Central]

Oakland A’s phenom Yoenis Cespedes has got some explaining to do. [Comcast Sportsnet]

Jeremy Affeldt is continuing to do his best to become the victim of the strangest injuries possible. [SF Gate]

Getting Blanked’s favourite member of the Baltimore Orioles has been diagnosed with a bulging disc, and is currently day to day with the injury. [Baltimore Sun]

Oil Can Boyd reminds us that the 1980s were a crazy time. [Old Time Family Baseball]

The turbulent era of Frank McCourt’s ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers is officially over. [L.A. Times]

The latest instalment of the Getting Blanked Show takes another look at Yu Darvish, who after only five starts is already being counted on as a top of the rotation starter in Texas. [Getting Blanked]

Comments (12)

  1. Similar to the impact of a fast runner causing errors, is there any statistical measure related to errors that factors in the impact of other players. The obvious case here is 1B. As stated that most errors happen in the infield, a large number of these are on throws to 1B. The first baseman can play a critical role here in saving would-be errors from happening.

    It seems to me that infielders with very strong defensive first basemen would have artificially lower error numbers compared to say the Tigers infielders (don’t see Fielder stretching out to grab many would-be errors).

  2. A slow clap of congratulations to Justin Upton for those tweets.

  3. off topic, but the AL east is ridiculous. bo sox are in last w/ 11 wins and 1 game under .500, every team has a positive run differential. if i knew how to use baseball reference, i’d look at how the al east is doing against the other divisions.

  4. For a pro athlete, those Upton tweets are surprisingly articulate and non-douchy.

  5. Should reaching base on errors be incorporated into OBP? Is failing to give any credit to the hitter for reaching on an error a fallacy similar to failing to credit them for drawing walks? This seems like a question well worth answering if we want to measure a player’s offensive contribution as accurately as possible.

    • Yeah, I think that’s the point being made by the writer of that piece I linked to. Interestingly enough, the first model of wOBA included ROE, but I don’t believe FanGraphs still uses it.

  6. Isn’t it simply that players like Lawrie are faster? Slower players give the fielder more time to recover from the error and get the throw to first.

  7. It is getting real hard to watch/listen to Jays broadcasts due to the apologetic nature of some of those that broadcast the games.

    Buck Martinez calls of “IT’S A DEEP FLY BALL TO LEFT FIELD, caught in short Left-field”
    To the over used athletic player/good looking young player. The heaping of praise on all Jays.
    Wilner blocked me from his tweets after a friendly exchange that Hutch wasn’t ready yet to pitch at this level. He thought I was so wrong that after showing a response from Gregg Zaun, the only non apologetic broadcaster, after Ashby. On a question I shared with both Wilner with Zaun. Zaun answering that he has always said he wasn’t ready. Wilner tweets stopped appearing. He had blocked me for disagreeing on a Jays readiness at this level. CLASSY.

    Anyhow sorry to change the topic. But the first paragraph got me. It isn’t fun watch or listening to people blind themselves of poor performances. Stop defending Adam Lind being a good hitter and his right to hit cleanup and the fans will take you seriously.

  8. I like the idea of measuring ROE’s and productive outs. I had another thought… in last night’s game, the Jays avoided 2 double plays in the 7th because of 1) a good run by Jeff Mathis, and 2) the Jays starting the runner at first on a hit-and-run. I wonder if such decisions can be measured; I guess they’d be attributed to the manager. Might be need to see the effect a manager’s decision has on a game in terms of runs produced/saved, etc.

    • Just thinking here, but you could look to where the most likely GIDP situations develop and then count the number of times a player is on first in that situation and a GIDP isn’t made.

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