Baseball is an odd sport overall. I feel as if the “official scorer” in each game plays a more prominent role than the ones that take stats down for other sports. It probably has a lot to do with the fact it is a very opinionated position. For example, if a player dunks a basketball, and the ref signals two points, the scorer gives that player two points. Nowadays, the basketball scorer (or perhaps it is just ESPN analysts) will say where the 2 point shot came from to later call up on a grid of hit shots, but that is pretty much it. No grey area around it. Everyone saw it was a 2 point play from where it happened, under the rim. In baseball, if a batter hits the ball and the shortstop bobbles it and the batter makes it to first just ahead of the throw, you’d think it could be just as easy. No such luck. A called error gives the batter credit for the at bat, an increase in his on base percentage, but no hit. If the play by the SS was a bit trying, it is up to the official scorer to say “The degree of difficulty on this play was not one you can make routinely, I will score it a hit for the player.” The runner’s speed, how hard the ball was hit, the conditions of the field, and the distance the fielder had to go (was there a dive/slide?) in the amount of time is all considered. Ten official scorers may score the same play 50/50 hit or error. Baseball has tons of grey area. I found the section about the official scorer (all 33 pages of it, Rule 10.00 – 10.23) in the official MLB rulebook to be fascinating about calls like this, and just some other calls and rules tied in with this responsibility.
Rule 10.18 dictates what a shutout is to be awarded by the official scorer. A shutout is when a pitcher that pitches all the innings of a game and simply doesn’t give up a run. ALSO, a shutout can be recorded if a pitcher enters the game in the first inning with no one out, doesn’t allow a run in that inning or for the rest of the game and finishes it. This makes it possible for a pitcher to get credit for a shutout, but not a complete game. Did you know that was possible? You’re welcome.
Not too WILD but it still PASSES people by… (horrible pun)
Rule 10.13 simply states: A wild pitch is the pitcher’s fault (or as deemed by the official scorer). A passed ball is the catcher’s fault. They’re effectively the same thing – the ball getting by the catcher. It is a matter of who to blame. I was once told in grammar school by someone who thought they knew everything that a passed ball is when it goes all the way to the backstop, and a wild pitch is when it simply gets away from the catcher and doesn’t go as far. I knew it sounded suspect then, and I’m glad I no longer associate myself with this person.
In every game there is a Winner and a Loser
Rule 10.17 is about a page long on who gets named the winning pitcher and who gets named the losing pitcher. I will not give you the entire thing, but just snippets to prevent myself from becoming too long winded. If a game ever becomes tied after starting pitchers have been removed, the last pitchers on record to get the win and loss are wiped out – this I knew. What I find fascinating is that there is a judgment call that can come from the scorer on this matter as well. Even who gets a win and loss isn’t always set in stone! It says that the official scorer should “not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead.” And you guys think I’m long winded!? Basically, the scorer can say “No man, you stunk, this guy was better, give him the win.”
Who gets charged the run?
ERA (earned run average) is an important stat when evaluating a pitcher. It tells you how many runs the pitcher gives up per 9 innings pitched. This is why allocating runs that score to the proper pitcher that allowed it is important. Rule 10.16 covers this in great detail. I just thought it was interesting to learn that a pitcher that is removed for relief is commonly assigned from the broadcaster that they are responsible for “so and so on first and second” or “whathisname” on first. This is not entirely the case. A pitcher is responsible for the NUMBER of runners he left on base, not specific runners, unless the runner makes out by a non-batted ball. The rulebook uses names like Peter, Abel, and Baker. I’m going to make this a bit more fun. Schmucko walks Ding-Dong. Schmucko is removed by reliever Assgoblin. The next hitter Dingbat (close cousin of Ding-Dong) hits into a fielder’s choice that got Ding-Dong out at second. Dingbat scores on a triple by the next hitter off of Assgoblin. Dingbat’s run is charged to Schmucko, not Assgoblin. However if Ding-Dong (the one to walk off Schmucko – stay with me people) gets caught stealing after Assgoblin came in to pitch, and Dingbat still scores in the inning – it will be Assgoblin’s charged run. So the next time Joe Buck (a combination of Schmucko, Assgoblin, Ding-Dong, and Dingbat – or just plain incest filled family trees) announces that “the pitcher is responsible for that guy on second,” feel free to write Fox a letter to have him read a rulebook. Or e-mail him the link to this article. Hey Joe – RETIRE (or choke on something).
The official scorer has no impact on the outcome of the game itself, this is true. He can’t tell a team that the other just batted out of order – that is their own job to keep track of. Also, a judgment call on whether a play is an error or not didn’t change the fact a run may have just scored. It can impact a whole bunch of other things though. It is actually fascinating how much this matters to diehard fans. Baseball seems to be wacky in its obsession with its own records and stats. There seems to be a stat for EVERYTHING nowadays. Players are also paid lots of extra bucks in incentives negotiated in their contracts for hitting certain milestones. For example, it is the last day of the regular season. A player who is on a significant hit streak, let’s call it 55 to make it interesting, one away from tying Joe DiMaggio’s all time record of consecutive games with a hit – a record said to be unbreakable. This player also has 99 RBI in the season and 199 hits. In his contract, he gets an incentive bonus of $100 grand for 200 hits on the season, and $100 grand for 100 RBI. Being hitless today, the batter hits a ball on the infield that scores a run and beats the throw to first. The run wins the game in walk off fashion. It is a questionable play all around – the scorer can clearly go either way with it. If he calls the play a hit – this man just tied a seemingly impossible record, and made an extra 300K in performance bonuses on top of it. If he reaches on an error, it costs the player a tie with one of the greatest players ever in the record books and an opportunity to beat it next season on opening day, and the $300K in bonuses. I’m not asking you to feel bad for the guy who just lost the money as he’s probably making more than you and I make collectively anyway. I just wanted to show you how the scorer has the ability to make someone look like a hero in the box score the next day, or just another person to fall short of a milestone. I’m sure I’ll re-visit the official scorer in the future as I have an unhealthy obsession with statistics and how they come up with this stuff. Stay tuned for next season!