Error: Scorekeeper?

Ground ball up the middle, second baseman backhands it, the throw to first beats the runner by a step, but hits in the dirt and skips by the firstbaseman. The call goes up on the scoreboard: HIT.

If you think you’ve seen this play more frequently the last few years, your probably right. Play by play data, courtesy of RetroSheet, shows that the rate of runners reaching base on errors has been steadily decling from 1975 right up to 2007. From 1954 to 1970, the percent of balls in play that resulted in the batter reaching on an error was very steady at either 1.8 or 1.9%. In 1972 and 1974, it dropped slightly to 1.7%, but again reached 1.9% in 1975. From 2005 to 2007 the rate has been 1.3%.

Is it possible that the decrease in errors is due to an increase in quality of the infielders? I am inclined to say no, as during the same time that errors have been decreasing, the number of hits allowed has been increasing. In 1975, the last season before the decline in errors, the percent of batters who reached on hits was .282, errors .019, for a total of .301. In 2007, batters reached on hits at a rate of .302, errors .013, for a total of .315.

Instead of the percent of balls in play, let’s look at errors as a percent of batters who reached base by hit or error. From 1954 to 1958, this was steady between 6.0 and 6.1%. It then increased to a peak of 6.6% in 1963, and then started a decline. There was another bubble, from 5.1% in 1981, up to 5.8% in 1984 and 1985, then back to 5.2% in 1988. From there it has been a fairly steady decline, down to the low of 4.0% in 2007.

Nearly 40% of the balls that were ruled errors in 1963 were ruled hits in 2007. This accounts for 6 of the 29 point increase in BABIP over that time period. As for the other 23 points, that’s another study.

Year BHE% ROE% OBE%
1954 0.293 0.018 0.061
1956 0.292 0.018 0.061
1957 0.293 0.018 0.060
1958 0.295 0.018 0.061
1959 0.296 0.019 0.064
1960 0.294 0.018 0.061
1961 0.298 0.019 0.065
1962 0.299 0.019 0.062
1963 0.292 0.019 0.066
1964 0.298 0.019 0.063
1965 0.292 0.019 0.064
1966 0.294 0.019 0.063
1967 0.291 0.018 0.061
1968 0.287 0.018 0.064
1969 0.295 0.018 0.062
1970 0.299 0.018 0.061
1971 0.292 0.016 0.056
1972 0.290 0.017 0.059
1973 0.299 0.018 0.060
1974 0.299 0.017 0.058
1975 0.301 0.019 0.062
1976 0.298 0.017 0.057
1977 0.304 0.017 0.056
1978 0.296 0.016 0.055
1979 0.302 0.016 0.053
1980 0.303 0.016 0.054
1981 0.295 0.016 0.055
1982 0.297 0.015 0.051
1983 0.302 0.017 0.057
1984 0.304 0.018 0.058
1985 0.298 0.017 0.058
1986 0.303 0.017 0.056
1987 0.305 0.016 0.054
1988 0.297 0.015 0.052
1989 0.299 0.016 0.053
1990 0.302 0.016 0.051
1991 0.297 0.016 0.053
1992 0.298 0.013 0.045
1993 0.309 0.016 0.050
1994 0.315 0.015 0.048
1995 0.313 0.014 0.046
1996 0.317 0.015 0.048
1997 0.316 0.014 0.046
1998 0.314 0.014 0.045
2000 0.316 0.016 0.049
2001 0.311 0.015 0.048
2002 0.307 0.014 0.046
2003 0.308 0.013 0.044
2004 0.311 0.014 0.044
2005 0.308 0.013 0.042
2006 0.314 0.013 0.041
2007 0.315 0.013 0.040
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3 Responses to Error: Scorekeeper?

  1. joe arthur says:

    Brian,
    You need to control for batted ball type, at least. Errors are more common on bunts and ground balls, (especially grounders to the left side) but the frequency of both bunts and ground balls has dropped at least since the late 80s, and very likely since your starting point in the 70s as well.
    I’d also recommend splitting error frequency out on the basis of platooning matchups. I assume there are more lefty vs lefty matchups than there used to be, and this would likely have some impact on how hard and how often grounders are hit to the left side.

  2. terpsfan101 says:

    I agree with Joe Arthur’s points, but the main reason that there are fewer errors in more recent seasons is that official scorers are letting fielders off the hook too often. I watched a game eariler this year between the Cubs and Pirates. Soriano dropped a fly-ball, and the official scorer ruled it a double. This is just one of numerous instances where a batter should have been awarded a ROE instead of a hit.

  3. cwxwwwxwwxwx says:

    well, hi admin adn people nice forum indeed. how’s life? hope it’s introduce branch ;)

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