Saturday, October 11, 2008

Who Is Keeping Score of the Scorekeepers

I believe I've already mentioned my love of postseason baseball. I believe I mentioned it in this very space, oh, a few hours ago. Well, I'm gonna talk about it again. At least that's one thing my detractors can't accuse me of lying about (not that it would stop them).

Thanks to the wonder of Tivo and the 30-second-skip Easter egg, I don't usually watch a baseball game pitch-by-pitch unless the Giants are involved. That rule goes out the window in the postseason. Because of that, I saw the ball that Akinori Iwamura hit and Dustin Pedroia bobbled in the ninth inning.

That was one of the more ridiculous scoring calls I've seen recently.

One, there was no bad hop.

It sounded like Buck Martinez tried to imply as much when he pointed out it hit the seam between the dirt and carpet. That simply wasn't the case. It was coming hard and did it the seam so Pedroia was probably half-expecting it to kick (I would have been), but it was a true hop. Incidentally, why does TBS run a nightmare like Martinez out to do in-game analysis while the brilliance of Harold Reynolds languishes in the studio? A topic for another day.

Two, Pedroia got almost his entire glove on the ball.

Yes, it hit him in the heel. But anyone who has played baseball knows that, if you get that much leather on the ball, you should make the play. That much leather means it was only the slightest, correctable miscalculation that kept the ball out of the pocket. It's not always an error because sometimes just getting in such a position requires an exceptional effort. But, that brings me to...

Three, it would not have been an exceptional play had Pedroia made it.

I'm not saying it was an easy play. I'm not even saying it it was routine. If that's you or me out there, it's a hit for sure. But we're talking about professionals, the elite, the best of the best. He didn't have to dive, he didn't have to lunge. It was a simple backhand. I promise you Pedroia makes that play 99% of the time.

Look, I don't like Pedroia. He seems arrogant, but that's not it - arrogance would hardly make him unique amongst pro athletes. I'm not gonna pretend it's for a valid reason. Plain and petty, he is a very good player for a team I really dislike. But he is very good.

But I don't draw attention to the play to call him out for his mistake.

Besides, the play ended up being irrelevant and, if it hadn't, I can promise you Pedroia would take little solace in the official ruling.

No, the play made me think of an article I wrote about Barry Bonds. In it, I mentioned that comparing statistics across generations is meaningless though fun. I listed a bunch of reasons, but I was talking about Bonds so I naturally focused on changes that would affect power numbers.

However, that Pedroia error/hit made me realize there has been another HUGE change that further accounts for rising offensive numbers and in an almost impossible way to quantify - official scoring.

I don't pretend to know the slightest little minutiae about official scoring over the first 100 or so years of baseball. But I can tell you that play was definitely an error 10 years ago. Wouldn't have been the slightest hesitation. These are the playoffs for Pete's sake; it's the best of the best of the best.

It was ruled a hit tonight without discussion. Nobody even batted an eye. Not the play-by-play shill for Boston. Not Martinez who is awful. Not Ron Darling who I actually think does a really good job.

And that was hardly the first, last, or worst such call I've seen this year (just the most recent).

Almost every day during the season, you would see an error turned into a hit by some generous scorekeeper. It's almost like degree of difficulty no longer comes into play except in the most blatant of circumstances. If it's the home team, the scorer doesn't want to hang an error on the guy. If it's the away team, the scorer wants the hometown hero to get a hit. Somewhere, the pitcher gets lost in the shuffle.

Nor was this year any different than the last several.

So it stands to reason that such drastic changes in the interpretation of scoring rules have been happening throughout baseball's evolution.

And how do we account for this?

Furthermore, the more you consider the subect, the more changes come to mind. And the harder they are to quantify.

The reality is the game changes too much and too quickly to place such sacred importance on the record book. It is nothing more than proof of the best players of their generations.

Anything else is pure conjecture.

The only real threat is from an individual player with an unfair, unnatural advantage over his contemporaries.

Say what you want about Barry, but, if you say that, you are lying. To yourself and to anyone misguided enough to listen.

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