What is an Error in Baseball?

what is an error in baseball

Errors are part of the game of baseball. Errors occur when a fielder doesn’t make a play that the official scorer’s judgment deems as a playable opportunity via an ordinary effort. An error can cause problems for your team, including unearned runs, giving a runner an extra base on a wild throw, demoralizing the team mentally, and more.


So, what types of errors occur during a baseball game? What positions on the field tend to get the most errors during a season? What are examples of when an error call won’t occur even if there is a misplay by a fielder? Is there a stat that measures the effectiveness of a fielder making successful outs on balls hit to them?


Here is the complete guide about baseball errors and more.


What is the Big Deal about Errors During a Baseball Game?

What is the Big Deal about Errors During a Baseball Game

Since there are three outs per inning, the defense not making an out on a play can lead to a big inning for the offense. For example, there might be bases loaded with two outs, and the hitter hits the ball to the third baseman. The third baseman makes a wild throw, allowing the runner on third to score, but the other runners advance on the play and potentially score. What should have been the last out of an inning turns into multiple runs for the offense.


Sometimes errors don’t directly lead to scoring, but they can increase the pitcher’s pitch count during a game. For instance, a pitcher might have thrown twenty pitches in an inning, and the 20th was a grounder to the shortstop, which should have ended the inning via a routine throw to first. The shortstop didn’t make a good throw to first base, which allowed the hitter to reach first safely. The pitcher now needs to throw extra pitches this inning to retire the side, which means they have less to work with for the rest of the game if they have a pitch limit.


Finally, errors can also be a mental strain on a team. Fielding errors on a sure double-play can hurt a team because instead of getting two outs on a play, they get none. The feeling of letting your team down on your error can also carry over to the batter’s box and hurt your hitting if you are still thinking about the error.


Why Do Errors Occur in Baseball Games?

Why Do Errors Occur in Baseball Games

Errors occur in baseball games for numerous reasons. One reason is simply that the fielder made a lousy throw to a base on a play. Maybe a fast runner is running to first, so the fielder throws the ball harder and quicker than usual, which has it sail over the fielder’s glove. When the ball goes into the stands on this throw, the baserunner moves up automatically to the next base.


Another reason errors occur is an outfielder can’t keep the ball in their glove as they are trying to catch it. Sometimes you will see an outfielder drop the ball since they are getting ready to catch and throw the ball, which leads to an error.


Finally, infielders might have the ball go between their legs on a grounder. Sometimes a fielder might anticipate a high bounce coming to them, but that doesn’t happen. If the fielder cannot react to that play and the ball gets by them, they will get an error.


What are Examples of Errors?

Errors occur in baseball games in numerous ways. Some include an outfielder dropping a fly ball hit to them, an infielder allowing a ground ball to go through their legs, or even a catcher not blocking a pitch and having it travel to the backstop. Here are examples of how errors can occur during a baseball game.


Throwing Error

throwing error

A throwing error by a baseball player can occur in the infielder or the outfield. An infield throwing error usually occurs when the infielder is trying to rush a throw to a base to beat a runner. A throwing error can occur at any base, and it is usually from a fielder that doesn’t have a great arm and is rushing a throw to beat a runner going to that base.


An outfielder can also make a throwing error during a play. Sometimes an outfielder will try and throw the ball to home plate to make an out at that base, but they will throw it over the catcher. An error can occur when the baseball travels over the catcher and into the backstop if that allows baserunners to move up via the lousy throw.


Tagging Error

A tagging error usually occurs with the catcher at home plate and a runner trying to score on a play. One recent example of this mistake occurred on September 11th, 2021, when Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees missed a tag on a runner who would be out at the home plate. That error led to a run for the New York Mets and had the Yankees come back to keep pitching since that should have been the third and final out.


Fielding Error

Fielding Error

A fielding error tends to occur by an infielder who bobbles the ball on a play and can’t get the baserunner out. For example, let’s say that the second baseman has a hard hit ball to them with the runner running to first base. If the fielder bobbles the ball and can’t get the throw to first before the runner, they get charged a fielding error.


When is it Not a Baseball Error?

When is it Not a Baseball Error

The official scorer’s judgment is the one who determines if a play is and is not an error. These scorers will consider elements like if the sun was in the eyes of a fielder or if the ball was hit too hard at a fielder, and they wouldn’t be able to react in time to make the play. While that may seem like an error, it is scored a hit for the hitter because it was out of the defender’s control.


Another example of a play not being an error is a passed ball or wild pitch. A passed ball or wild pitch only gets recorded as that stat line and is not an error on a play.


Another example of when there is no error is on a foul ball. There is no error if a fielder drops a pop-up in foul territory. Errors can only occur when the ball is in play and not a foul ball play opportunity.


Can a Pitcher Get an Error?

can a pitcher get an error

A pitcher can make an error on a play during a game. One example is if the batter hits the ball to the pitcher and the pitcher makes a bad throw to the base. The pitcher would get an error if the play were deemed ordinary to make the out with a routine throw to the fielder.


Another example of a pitcher’s error is during a pickoff attempt. If there is a runner on base, the pitcher might throw over to the first base to get that runner out. If the throw is off-target and the baserunner moves up one base from that throw, then the error goes to the pitcher.


Finally, an error can occur when the pitcher throws a ball that bounces into an umpire. When the ball bounces into an umpire and gets away and a baserunner takes a base on that play, then an error will occur.


What Baseball Starting Position Won’t Get an Error During a Game?

The baseball player who is the designated hitter can’t make an error during a baseball game since they are not playing on the field. An error can only occur on defense on the field.


What Happens if a Player Gets a Hit + Error on the Same Play?

what happens if a player gets a hit and error on the same play

If a player hits the ball safely into the outfield, that would be a single. If the outfielder allows the baseball to get by them for a bit, and the baserunner on first gets to second on that bobble, then the play goes in as a hit and error. Giving the batter a hit helps them raise their batting average because their hit got them safely to first base, and the error recognizes that they only got to second base via the error. The batter only got a single, not a double, in this scenario.


Do Runs Count Against the Pitcher After an Error?

do runs count against the pitcher after an error

If a fielder makes an error during an inning and that baserunner comes home to score, let’s say on a home run with the next batter up, that one run does not count against the pitcher. However, the batter who hits the home run will have their run count against the ERA (earn run average) against the pitcher since that run did not come from an error.


There is a column that says “R” and “ER” for the pitcher in the box score. R means runs, and ER stands for earned runs. The split between R and ER helps explain how many runs were earned and unearned. Understanding this split helps determine the ERA of a pitcher for that game and season.


What Baseball Positions Tend to Have the Most Errors?

According to Bleacher Report, shortstops tend to have the most errors on the field. They have the most mistakes during the Major League Baseball season because they have the longest throw to make to first.


Is there a Stat that Measures Defense?

Is there a Stat that Measures Defense

Fielding percentage is a metric that scouts and teams use to measure how good a defender is on the diamond. The formula takes total putouts and assists against the number of errors. Here is a sample formula below to show you how this metric works.


Fielding Percentage Metric = 225 (PO) + 30 (Assists) / 9 (Errors) = .966%


What is a Good Fielding Percentage in MLB?

The best fielding percentage that a player can have is 1.00%. That 1.00% means that that fielder did not make any errors and recorded at least one putout or assist during the season. However, advanced metrics also put a weight on the formula to calculate the number of opportunities a player had to make plays against another if they have a similar fielding percentage.


The best MLB team fielding percentage one year was the 2013 Baltimore Orioles. They had a team fielding percentage of .99104%.


What Player Had the Most Errors in One Season?

According to Baseball-Reference, Herman Long and Billy Shindle made 122 errors in one season.


Conclusion: What is an Error in Baseball?

In summary, baseball errors are part of the game. Even some of the best defenders make mistakes on throws, tags, or catches, making the game great. Even a routine grounder can result in an error, so nothing is a guarantee in the game.


When watching your next baseball game, look at the scoreboard and examine for the column that says E. Look at this column after a misplay takes place on the field to see what the official scorer gave it.


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