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Look before you throw

by Matt Smith

There was an interesting play in the game between the Marlins and Phillies on Monday.

The speedy Emilio Bonifacio was leading off the sixth inning for Miami and attempted to bunt his way on to first base.  The bunt went towards the pitcher’s mound towards the first-base side.  Cole Hamels jumped from the mound, scooped up the ball and fired it to first base.

Unfortunately for Hamels, he didn’t look before he let the ball go.

The Phillies had two relatively inexperienced fielders on the right-hand side of the infield. Rookie Freddy Galvis has a reputation as being a good fielder, but he’s spent most of his time in the Minors at shortstop and has moved to second base to cover for the injured Chase Utley. John Mayberry Jnr is also covering for an injured teammate, Ryan Howard, at first base. Mayberry has some experience at first base, particularly in college, but has generally been used in the outfield in the Majors.

Mayberry ran in to field Bonifacio’s bunt, which he was never going to reach, and his instincts told him to keep going rather than try to get back to first base. Meanwhile Galvis was slow to move towards first to cover the now unguarded bag.

The result was Hamels’ throw to a ghost fielder at first base, which is not what you need with anyone at the plate, never mind a burner like Bonifacio. He ended up at third base and was driven home by Gaby Sanchez.

It was a collective miscue by the trio. Hamels was the player lumbered with the error and while he didn’t look greatly impressed with his teammates, he was ultimately culpable of throwing the ball without checking there was anyone there to catch it. 

The crucial factor was that he probably would have taken a second before throwing, just as Mayberry may not have been so desperate to react to the bunt, had it not been a base-runner as quick as Bonifacio putting pressure on them.

Put it down to an inexperienced fielding collective, a bit of early season rust and the mind-scrambling impact that genuine speed out of the batter’s box can cause.  

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Joe Gray April 11, 2012 - 10:27 pm

This is an interesting error call. Unless the scorer felt that the throw was unnecessary, I think they can charge an error to the player who they felt should have been covering it. It’s one of the rare occasions on which a mental mistake can go down in the boxscore.


Matt Smith April 12, 2012 - 7:20 pm

Thanks for that, Joe. I did wonder when watching it whether another of the players might have taken the error instead. Can understand why Hamels got it in this case though. Matt

Giovanni Ciotti April 14, 2012 - 1:14 am

Great “catch” on this one Matt.. I definitely agree that Hamels gets the E in this one, but wonder where the line is between what a player “should” do and “must” do in order to avoid being charged with errors.

How about when an outfielder or infielder diving for a ball and coming up short? If you call it an error, it takes a hit away from the batter.. if you call it a hit, it counts against the pitcher.

Such a Joe “Gray” area this is.. 🙂



Matt Smith April 14, 2012 - 11:06 am

Certainly is a ‘Gray’ area and I bow to Joe’s greater wisdom on such matters!

In one of those wonderful oddities that baseball likes to throw up, there was a slightly similar play in the Brewers-Cubs game on Thursday. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez was given an error when he threw the ball past first base. The reason the ball went awol was that first baseman Mat Gamel didn’t think Gonzalez had reached the grounder and had vacated the bag to start moving into the cut-off position for a throw from the outfield. He couldn’t get back in time to handle the throw and it was Gonzalez that ended up with the error.

Joe Gray April 14, 2012 - 1:14 pm


For me, I’d almost always class a play necessitating some kind of dive as one requiring more than ordinary effort, and hence out of the realm of error scoring.

In that Brewers-Cubs one, I’d definitely concur with the scorer, because it seemed that there was no occasion for a throw, the way you described the play unfolding. But I haven’t seen either play.

I like the point you raise, Gio, about fairness for pitchers. I think one of the greatest forms of injustice is when ERA is seen as the perfect stat for levelling the playing field. in truth, it misses much, and a worse pitcher could end up with a better ERA in an infinite sameple size of plays — all else being equal — if his defence had better range.

ERA is certainly better than the W-L record, as I wrote late last night [https://baseballgb.co.uk/?p=13187], but it is far from perfect.




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