Here Comes The Sun, And The Ball!

BASEBALL…OFFICIAL SCORING BLOG#05

Here’s another question from the “e-mailbag”…

Q: An outfielder misplays a high, relatively routine, fly ball because he loses it in the sun. Is this a hit or an error? Does it make any difference if the ball hits the outfielder’s glove? (Gary – via the world wide web)

A: Let’s define two key words in Gary’s inquiry:

Let’s assume that Gary’s definition of routine is a ball that should be caught with ordinary effort. My favorite pitching coach defines that ball as the one “…that should be caught 100 times out of 100 times.”

To me, misplay means you had a play, but you didn’t make it. A fielder can’t play what he can’t see. Although I consider these types of plays to be unfortunate, I don’t consider them to be a misplay.

Back in baseball…offical scoring Blog#03, I covered similar circumstances as we debunked the myth that “A batted ball that reaches the outfield grass on the fly untouched by a fielder is automatically a base hit.” Today, we’re simply going to address Gary’s specific inquiry.

As the Official Scorer, we watch the batter make contact, we hear the crack of the bat, and ascertain by the ball’s trajectory that a “Can of Corn” is heading towards the outfield. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I know that while I am following the ball I am also checking the baserunners, fielders, and any other pertinent circumstances in the field of play. Depending on the hangtime, I’ll glance back amongst these various things more than once. I also try to focus on the eyes of the primary fielder. Does he see the ball? How far does he have to go to get it? Is there more than one fielder who thinks he has a play? Is anyone calling for the ball? Does the fielder look away from the ball? Even for a moment?

I try to get a glimpse of all of these things, but I am really big on the fielder’s eyes. When a fielder doesn’t see the ball, it’s usually obvious by his body language and movement. Neighbors in the pressbox have heard me say out loud more than once “He doesn’t see it”, long before the dropsies kick in. If you’re really watching, you KNOW when a fielder is going to drop a ball.

When a fielder takes his eyes off an incoming ball – to look at things like baserunners tagging up – I consider that action to be a misplay. Remember, a fielder’s number one responsibility is to get an out for the pitcher. Gunning down the baserunner is impressive and gets you on the big scoreboard, but not catching a “catchable” ball gets you on the big scoreboard as well:

OFFICIAL SCORER’S DECISION: ERROR OUTFIELDER

Finally, whether or not the ball touches a fielders glove is an important but not conclusive factor in my opinion. For example, a fielder that can’t find a ball in the backdrop of a high sky might put his glove high above his head to shield his eyes. If the ball hits the outstretched glove before the fielder can locate the ball, I’m likely to score the play a hit since the fielder never had a “play”.

Judgment of ordinary effort – it’s the core of an Official Scorer’s responsibility. Know the ability level of the players you are watching, have a realistic sense of what is ordinary effort, and do your best to apply the rules in a fair accordingly.

It’s a simple game. Really.

Send your questions and comments to the mailbag.

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