Andres Wirkmaa, Esq.

Quiz

TEST YOUR SCOREKEEPING ACUMEN!

Many people think that the most difficult job an official scorer has is to decide whether to score a base hit or an error on close plays – plays that could be scored “either way”.

No doubt, some people even believe that’s the only thing of any consequence that an official scorer does.

But that’s not true: Not by a long shot.

Although the endlessly reoccurring “base hit versus error” issue draws the most attention, (and it certainly can be a difficult call in many cases), there’s far more to accurate and sound scorekeeping than only that.

In fact, a truly competent scorer must have a full grasp of the seemingly countless “fine points” found throughout the rules that govern scorekeeping if he or she is going to “get it right”.

If you don’t believe me, take this short quiz and see if it doesn’t change your mind.

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SITUATION #1

With the Dodgers in the field, the Mets have Jose Reyes at first base with no outs.

Carlos Beltran strokes a pitch to the wall between right and center field, and Reyes goes all the way from first base to home plate. And although no play is made on Reyes, Beltran ends up at third.

As soon as the ball gets back to the Dodgers pitcher (Jeff Weaver), he throws to Jeff Kent at second base, claiming that Reyes failed to touch second.

The umpires agree, and Reyes is called out.

QUESTION

Does Beltran get credit for a triple, or a double, or a single, or “none of the above”?

ANSWER

As unfair as it may seem, Beltran is properly deemed to have reached base on a fielder’s choice!

Under the provisions of Rule 10.06 (b) “A base hit shall not be scored … when the batter apparently hits safely and a runner who is forced to advance by reason of the batter becoming a runner fails to touch the first base to which he is advancing and is called out on appeal. Charge the batter with a time at bat but no hit”.

In other words, as far as the rulebook is concerned, if a runner on base is put out on a “force play”, the batter who hit into the “force play” doesn’t get credit for a base hit even if the “force play” is made on an appeal, and without regard to how well the ball was hit.

(Ironically, if Reyes had been called out for failing to touch third base, Beltran would have gotten credit for a triple).

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SITUATION #2

The score is tied, and the A’s Mark Kotsay is batting against the White Sox in the bottom of the ninth with no outs and Eric Chavez on third.

Kotsay hits a long fly ball to deep center field.

Chavez stands on the bag determined not to take off for home plate until the White Sox’s center fielder (Aaron Rowland) touches the ball or the ball falls in for a base hit. At the same time, Kotsay is running – full tilt – around the bases.

The ball falls to the ground just out of Rowland’s reach, and no sooner does that happen than Chavez scoots to home plate to score the winning run.

Meanwhile, because the ball was hit so high and far, Kotsay rounds first and second before Chavez breaks for home plate, and Kotsay touches third base at the same moment Chavez scores the winning run.

QUESTION

Is Kotsay credited with a triple, or a double, or a single, or “none of the above”?

ANSWER

Although Kotsay hit the ball well enough to deserve credit for a triple, Rule 10.07(f) directs the official scorekeeper to credit him with only a single!

“When the batter ends a game with a safe hit which drives in as many runs as are necessary to put his team in the lead, he shall be credited with only as many bases on his hit as are advanced by the runner who scores the winning run, and then only if the batter runs out his hit for as many bases as are advanced by the runner who scores the winning run”.

If Chavez had scored from second base, Kotsay would properly be credited with a double: If Chavez had scored from first base, it’s a triple for Kotsay.

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SITUATION #3

Matched up against the Cubs, the Cardinals have Albert Pujols at third base with no outs, and Scott Rolen hits a high fly ball deep to right.

Jeremy Burnitz (in his usual spot in right field) runs full speed toward the outfield wall and makes a spectacular “over the shoulder” catch to put out Rolen, but having done that, he stumbles and injures himself in the process.

While all this is going on, Pujols jogs home.

Time is called while everyone rushes to attend to Burnitz, and (while being assisted off the field) Burnitz is given the ball he caught as a souvenir of his incredible catch.

Once that’s all over, a new ball is given to the Cubs pitcher (Greg Maddux) as the game resumes, but as soon as he gets the ball and the umpire shouts “play”, Maddux throws the ball to third base on an appeal play, claiming that Pujols left third base before Burnitz caught the ball.

The umpires agree with Maddux’s assertion, and Pujols is called out.

QUESTION

Is this a double play?

ANSWER

Rule 10.12 tells the scorer to “Credit participation in the double play or triple play to each fielder who earns a putout or an assist when two or three players are put out between the time a pitch is delivered and the time the ball next becomes dead or is next in possession of the pitcher in pitching position, unless an error or misplay intervenes between putouts”.

This would seem to indicate that a double play might not be in order is this case since the ball was “dead” when play was stopped in order to attend to the injured Burnitz. But Rule 10.12 goes on to state that the scorer should nonetheless “Credit the double play … if an appeal play after the ball is in possession of the pitcher results in an additional putout”.

Therefore, this rather drawn out series of events can properly be considered a double play, and Burnitz, Maddux, and whoever was covering third base for the Cubs all get credit for having participated in it (even though two different baseballs were used to complete the double play)!

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SITUATION #4

In a game with the Braves, the bases are loaded for the Giants with no outs and Barry Bonds hits a pitch to the Braves shortstop (Rafael Furcal) for what should result in a “textbook” 6-4-3 double play.

Furcal throws the ball to the second baseman (Marcus Giles) who – in turn – makes the force play at second base perfectly; and Giles’ subsequent throw to first base is equally good. But the first baseman (Adam LaRoche) drops the throw from Furcal and as a result, Bonds is safe at first. In the meantime, J.T. Snow (the runner who was at third base when the ball was put into play) scores a run.

QUESTION

Does Bonds get credit for an RBI?

ANSWER

A run that scores when a batter grounds into a force double play is not counted as an RBI for the batter. Here, Bonds didn’t do that: There was no double play: The defense managed to log only one out. Therefore, an RBI would seem to be appropriate for Bonds. But Rule 10.04 (c) states that the official scorer must not “credit a run batted in when a fielder is charged with an error because he muffs a throw at first base which would have completed a force double play.”

Therefore, although the run nonetheless counts – it’s not a “run batted in” for Bonds.

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SITUATION #5

With no outs, Johnny Damon is on first base for the Red Sox, and he breaks for second in an attempt to steal a base as Yankee reliever Maranio Rivera delivers a pitch-out.

The catcher (in the person of Jorge Posada) makes a throw to second that is 100% perfect, i.e. – it’s accurate, and it goes right into the mitt of the second baseman (Robinson Cano - covering second base) well before Damon arrives at the bag.

It’s a sure out, but Cano drops the ball and Damon is called safe.

QUESTION

How many statistical notations is the official scorer obliged to make in this case, and what are they?

ANSWER

Three.

The first one is obvious and easy: Cano is properly charged with an error.

The second one is a little less obvious and easy: Posada is credited with an assist.

The third one is neither obvious nor easy: Damon is charged with a “caught stealing”, even though he wasn’t put out!

Remarkably, this scenario is covered by its own section in the rulebook; Rule 10.08(f).

“When in the scorer's judgment a runner attempting to steal is safe because of a muffed throw, do not credit a stolen base. Credit an assist to the fielder who made the throw; charge an error to the fielder who muffed the throw, and charge the runner with "caught stealing."

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This short quiz demonstrates that although the majority of the duties and responsibilities of an official scorer may be fairly routine, getting everything right isn’t always a simple matter because official scorekeeping isn’t just about whether to score a hit or an error on plays where like minds may differ. There are a lot of “technicalities” that the official scorer needs to understand and appreciate, or at least have enough acumen to realize that you had better check the rules carefully before closing the book on a given play.

Selected Works

scoring instructions and rule analysis
A far from dry, but noneless comprehensive manual on keeping a scorecard and analysis of the numerous, and often complex, official rules governing scorekeeping.
Baseball Manual
Meticulous, comprehensive and thoroughly readable. The definitive work on scorekeeping in baseball.
Scorebook/ Scorekeeping Manual
The most intelligent, highest quality, practical and well thought-out scorebook there is.
--Paul Dickson--Author of The Joy of Keeping Score and Dickson’s Baseball Dictionary