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2005-05-10 - 2:24 p.m.

Getting better!!!

I never thought I would be able to say this, but I think my cold is starting to get better. I slept nearly the entire night last night! It was thrilling! In fact, I was surprised when I woke up because I felt awake and not like I had died and been forced back to life by a mad scientist.

Yesterday I felt horrible. It was absolutely the worst day so far of the cold. I got home from work and collapsed on the couch. My husband (who is also sick) started talking about something on the TV, I dragged myself over to sit by him on the floor, and we both fell asleep on the floor of the front room. The dog was confused, and kept nosing my hand, but I couldn't get up for real so he just gave up and joined us. Happy family.

We finally woke/got up at around 6 and realized we didn't know what to do about dinner. I came up with the great idea of making homemade pizza since we hadn't yet used our pizza pan that we had gotten as a wedding gift. And at 8:45pm, we were eating some darn tasty Hawaiian pizza. And my poor husband had gone to two different stores for all of the ingredients. And my 6-months-since-its-expiration-date yeast was doing JUST fine. It was an interesting night.

Easily distracted? Me?

I spent quite a bit of time the other day adding notes to this picture I took 6 years ago:

Sears Tower view northeast

If you click on it, you can view my hard work.

Baseball for Casual Fans: Installment #8
Earned Runs and Errors, or, Time and Space Collide

After last week's installment, Dawnie wrote me to ask a very good question. What makes an Earned Run earned? To delve into this subject, we'll need to cover another (sometimes confusing) sector of baseball-watching. Errors. Now, settle down. Errors don't necessarily mean that people are going to stand up and throw their beers at the hapless player who caused the error. Beers cost too much. Errors also can't be spotted just by how pissed off the fans are after a particular play. They're a bit more subtle than that.

Errors are, at their most basic, a play that most players in that situation would have made. So, for instance, when the batter hits a rocket line drive straight at the pitcher who makes an amazing catch, that is a great play. But if the pitcher were to miss the ball, it would probably not be ruled as an error. If a first baseman misses a routine grounder or a center fielder misses an easy fly ball, those would be ruled as errors.

The first question most people ask is, "Well, that's fine, but why does it matter?" Ascribing fault to a certain player on the team isn't going to help the team win the game. It can help the team get better though. A player who consistently makes errors isn't paid as highly, won't be sent out into high-pressure situations (hopefully), and is a liability to the team. Pitchers get a lot of the blame for losses in baseball and they bear a lot of the statistical burden. All runs are assumed to be earned by the pitcher (even when it doesn't look like that's fair) unless an error is assigned to someone else on the team. If you're going to start blaming the pitcher for the things other people on the team do, pitchers on not-so-good teams are going to start staging a mutiny.

Now that we've established why errors are necessary, we can start looking into how they are assigned. The Official Scorer at each park controls everything. He/She is godlike. It is my dream job, so if anyone knows how I can get the Official Scorer's job? Hook me up. Anyway. They make all of the judgement calls. If there's a ground ball that perhaps wasn't EASY, but also probably should have been played? The Official Scorer decides whether it's an error or not. This has a pretty large ripple effect. The more errors a player makes, the less valuable he is. If the play is NOT scored as an error, it is labeled a hit which affects the pitcher's statistics (and the batter's, of course), and in the big money game of Major League Baseball, a millions of dollars can be knocked off of the next contract depending on how the player's statistics change over time. See what I mean about the godlike powers?

The Official Scorer takes a few different things into account. But the main one is that errors can only be physical errors. They can't be assigned for mental lapses. If the third baseman catches a grounder and bobbles the ball before throwing (too late) to first base, that's an error. If the same third baseman catches the ball smoothly but for some reason throws to the catcher at home plate instead of to the first baseman, that's not an error. It may be stupid, but it's not an error. Another hard-and-fast rule is that your can't assume the double play. Even if a textbook-perfect double play ball comes rolling over to the shortstop and the shortstop throws to the second baseman who stands there staring blankly at the ball instead of throwing it to first. Even then, one out is all that you can assume on any play.

Now, back to Dawnie's question. Why is a run earned or not earned? Well, a pitcher on a baseball team has the most control over how the game is going to go. He can pitch well and keep the score low, or he can pitch poorly (*cough* Hawkins *cough*) and lost the game. Some of the pitcher's performance depends on the catcher who calls for which type of pitch should be thrown. But when it comes right down to it, the pitcher is the one in control. Therefore, every run scored by a player that he put on the bases is attributed to him UNLESS an error occurs.

For instance, say Kerry Wood starts the game and is going along just great until the 7th inning. He has given up two singles and has batters on first and third when Dusty Baker decides to take him out and put Mike Remlinger in instead. Remlinger gives up a home run. Who gets smacked with the 3 Earned Runs? Kerry Wood gets 2 of the runs because he's the one who put them on base. Remlinger gets the 1 earned run from the homer.

If an error were to have occurred, the statistics for that inning may have been quite different. Say Kerry Wood gave up a single and then Neifi Perez misplayed a ball at shortstop leading to runners at both first and third base, and then Remlinger came in and gave up that home run. The Official Scorer would have to play through the inning in his imagination to figure out what would of happened had there been no error. This is where it gets very subjective and confusing. The casual fan really doesn't want or need to know how they get to that point, but if you're really curious it would probably look something like this:
Since it's the 7th inning, Kerry probably would have been replaced by Remlinger pretty soon anyway, so that won't have much of an influence on the game. The original single would have come around to score when the home run was hit whether he was one first or third base, so he counts as one Earned Run for Kerry. The second runner wouldn't have even been on base if it weren't for the error, so he's an unearned run. The third run would have been a home run (and therefore earned) even if the error wouldn't have occurred, so that is attributed to Remlinger.

This play-the-inning-through-as-if-the-error-didn't-happen part can get all crazy and theoretical and messing-with-the-forces-of-time-and-space-y. So it sometimes makes me feel a little trippy and I try to avoid doing it while drinking. Don't feel bad if it makes your head hurt. Just leave it up to the godlike Official Scorer.

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