Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How do unearned runs work?

Last evening, I had the honor and privilege of watching the 2009 Cleveland Indians in person for the first and probably last time this season. They visited the Metrodome with their irritatingly underachieving roster, and promptly added another player to the DL two batters into the game. A couple runners left on base in clutch situations and poor defense made for a one run loss that should have been a victory.

It was this poor defense that raises the inquiry in this post's subject line. For David Huff, the Cleveland starter, had a monstrous ERA (above 10) that I was hoping would improve for the young man as he had one of those one bad outings that distorts stats for a good month or so without revealing the progress he had made. In the Twins' half of the third, the Tribe's defense was particularly poor, leading to an error, and leading me to believe that Huff's ERA would go unblemished. Upon reading the box score once I got home, I see that he was charged for all the runs during his appearance. Is this a whoops by the official scorer or do I not understand how unearned runs work? I suppose I always thought that once an error occurred, all runs there following were unearned. Is this not the case? Someone smarter than me care to balance the intelligence?

Order of events:

With two outs, Alexi Casilla doubles.
Denard Span follows with an RBI single (1 ER)
Huff then uses a beautiful pick off move to confuse Span who breaks for second.
First baseman Martinez airs it out, missing the shortstop entirely and allowing Span to move all the way to third.
Joe Mauer, who hits everything, singled home Span (2 ER)

Now I first contest that Span should be credited with a stolen base when the pick off attempt clearly had him out. But my bigger contention is that with 2 outs, a throwing error extends the inning and the following run is earned. How does this work?

On the plus side, in my all Cleveland attire, I was only dropped with one f bomb at the Dome, a far cry from the countless instances of harassment when I wore Browns attire to a Metrodome contest. Baseball fans are in fact classier than football fans.


JR said...

OK, here goes...

If Span was indeed credited with a stolen base, then in the errorless imaginary world, he is on second base. That means he scores anyway when Mauer singles, and is thus an earned run.

You are correct that after two outs, if an error extends an inning, then everything after is unearned. However, in this case, the error didn't really extend the inning -- the runner was already on base. Again, if an SB is ruled, then the error is only awarded because the runner took an extra base (third). Errors don't necessarily mean an out should have been recorded, and this is one such case.

Even if there was no SB, it can still be an earned run. Suppose it is ruled than Span's presence at third AND reaching safely at second is because of an error. Then he is still at first base in the imaginary errorless world. If the next TWO batters single, then you can argue Span would have scored anyway, and the official scorer can count the run as earned.

lonewolf said...

So I suppose my contention should be that a stolen base should never have been awarded and that there should have been a two-base throwing error. This then would have nullified the earned run that I strongly oppose. After all, the runner would have been way out if Victor Martinez makes even a mediocre throw instead of one 19 feet over Jhonny Peralta's head.

In that (Drew's dream) case, the run would be unearned, yes?

I found it frustrating that a guy is charged with an earned run when he has two outs, successfully fools the opposing base runner on first, through no fault of his own sees the runner run 1/2 way around the bases, all while the inning should have ended.

Edwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edwin said...

^^^coincidentally, edited for errors.

Drew, what you're saying makes sense, but according to the rule book, it wouldn't matter if Martinez threw the ball over the baggie- it's a stolen base if Span takes second without the aid of a hit, fielder's choice, etc... (only exception would be defensive indifference.)

Same thing goes if the throw comes from the catcher. If Span breaks towards second and the catcher sails one, it's a stolen base, then to third on an error. It's a loophole specific to stolen bases only.

That brings it back to JR's assertion that he was in scoring position regardless of the error, making it acceptable for the run to be earned.

JR said...

Ah yes, I forgot about that.

I suppose it's asking to make too much of a judgment call in this case that "the pitcher picked him off and a good throw gets him."

The real burner -- if they tag him out at second, the pitcher doesn't even get credit for a "pick off," it's just a "caught stealing."

lonewolf said...

I understand all of the situations and reasoning provided by the both of you, but I suppose I'm still struggling with the fact that an error occurs when an out is supposed to be made. That error allowed a run score later in the inning, which to me is exactly what an unearned run is supposed to signify. The example of a catcher overthrowing second being a stolen base and then the advancement done so on an error clicked a light on in the brain and as such makes me comfortable with the way the scoring was done on the play (stolen base, advance to third on throwing error). I suppose I still feel that the ensuing run should still be unearned since the error nullified an out, but do see the argument that there was no "given" out (stolen base, followed by advancement) even though viewing the play live saw quite clearly that the inning should end.

Edwin said...

Drew's latest brings up an interesting point in and of itself--- should an attempted steal be considered a situation where an out should be made?

Baserunners in today's game steal bases at better than a 70% clip* (on average)-- meaning that if a catcher (or first baseman) launches a throw, is it really an error since they had only about a 1 in 3 chance of getting the out with a good throw?

*in 2008, there were 2799 stolen bases in 3834 attempts