Based on the stories I am reading this morning, the Rays lost last night because Evan Longoria made three errors and for no other reason. It had nothing to do with the four home runs Toronto hit, nor the four double-plays the Rays hit into, nor the 18 runners the Rays stranded. Nope. It was Longo.
Longo’s “errors” bring to mind a different debate for me. We as mainstream fans need to agree how we are going to judge fielding ability because “errors” isn’t working. I know SABRmetrics can be intimidating. I still don’t understand a lot of it and haven’t had the time (or perhaps the mathematical ability) to dig in and understand all of the arguments. But I do admire the efforts to get a better understanding of fielding.
I admire the efforts around fielding because I know how fielding is currently evaluated. I know that there is no such thing as an “error.” I sat next to the Official Scorer every night. The line between error and hit is fuzzy, at best, and the scorer obsesses over it. I am certain the scorer watched Longo’s first”error” several times after it happened and, again after the game (because I am sure JP Arencibia called the Press Box and asked for a hit there).
Look at the highlights again. I think, at best, reasonable people can disagree about that first error. The ball was scalded down the line and, it looks to me like Longo makes a good play to knock it down (with his throwing hand no less) to save a sure-fire double down the line. Right? How is that an error?
I could argue against the second error as well. A Baltimore chop into the hole between short and third creates problems on the best days. It is a tough play for the shortstop because he has to range so far back behind third (to get a natural hop) that he is not likely to be in a place to throw. Longo, on the other hand, can only dive towards the mound to try and cut the ball off before the in-between hop. But, if the ball gets down, it is incredibly difficult to even get the ball into your glove (because the in-between hop tend to squirt horizontally) much less do anything productive with it. So, in my opinion, those runners were going to be safe at first and second anyway. You could score it a hit or, to the extent you determine Longo may have had a play at first, you can score it a fielder’s choice. Right?
So that just leaves the wide throw. That is definitely an error. But it is unfortunate that it qualifies. Why? Is there anyone in the room that doesn’t want Longo making that play? It is risky. But he can do it. Most third basemen aren’t even in that position to throw. So, looking at the numbers, they appear to be better defensive third basemen because they cannot put themselves in a position to make the play Longo had a chance to make. That doesn’t make any sense. Right?
In the end, I don’t think Longo had a very bad game at third base even though the box score says something differently. I will accept his wild throw because I want him to try and make that play. The other two plays are hits. They just are.
Am I crazy? Maybe I will get one of the guys from DRaysBay to slide over and give us a background on fielding metrics. Thoughts?