That ball that bounced 14 times before being booted by the guy playing 3rd base? Base knock. Oh, he booted the ball into the 2nd deck where it caromed off of 2 nuns before dropping on the head of a baby 25 feet below? Base knock plus 1 base error. The bunt that the pitcher fielded cleanly off his noggin after 3 hops? Infield hit. At this point, a defender must basically kick a ball at rest into the opposing dugout and hit a camera operator to earn an actual error.
Honestly, baseball’s official scorers probably deserve to be classified as “invertebrate” for the lack of backbone shown in the face of overwhelming pressure to improve batting averages while simultaneously inflating fielding percentages. The double laced down the left field line may show up as a line drive in the box score the next day, but all the credit really goes to the third baseman/matador who practically turned 2-dimensional while watching the ball shoot over/under/through his glove.
The problem with a lax attitude about scoring only covers the distance between “correct” and “no integrity”. Batting averages (and subsequently OBP, OPS, and OPS+) get inflated artificially by E10′s which represent errors on the official scorer. Sure, fielding percentage represents an outdated means of gauging defensive performance, but the statistic becomes entirely meaningless when officials err on the side of stupid. More importantly, any defensive metric that uses an algorithm or formula that includes fielding percentage or errors becomes basically useless as well. Bring rational thinking and a consistent approach back to official scoring, and watch fielding percentage gain back a modicum of respect.
While MLB considers this recommendation, maybe Emperor Bud and JT (Joe Torre) can rethink the way fielding errors on pitchers get treated as well. If a pitcher fields a ball and proceeds to launch it into the right field bleachers, he gets charged with a fielding error, but then he basically gets a pass on earned runs for the remainder of the inning. Why not rule the error an error but leave the “earned run” potential intact? Who really gets hurt by this? The pitcher who committed the heinous error, of course. In that case, maybe he will spend a bit more time focusing on his fielding practice instead of starting on that 3rd bag of sunflower seeds in the shady dugout.
While Bud and Joe do that, maybe they can have a word with the rules committee about assuming the double play. Maybe some broadcasters can’t make the determination about whether a double play should be assumed, but the thought that a good, impartial official scorer cannot differentiate remains an asinine, arcane approach. Keep it simple, though. If the runner at first base tackles the guy who touches 2nd base or violates any treaties with his slide, then all bets are off. If the runner on first base barely makes it halfway to 2nd and the batter trips over his bat or home plate, the defender who receives the throw and bounces it off the first baseman and into the popcorn vendor deserves an error.
Maybe it is time for an official scoring change, and by that I mean change the official scorer.