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DNVR Exclusive: Nolan Arenado endorses potential new defensive stat

Drew Creasman Avatar
October 14, 2019


DENVER – We live in an age of baseball where it seems like there is a statistic for everything. Whether pinpoint in their accuracy or more like educated guesses, you can find a number to just about every act a ballplayer can perform physically on a baseball diamond.

Some of these stats involve advanced degrees in mathematics and formulas that are longer than this article. They take into account upwards of 20+ different factors, all informed by other similarly-complicated math.

While we can learn a lot from each of these types of statistics, there is a strong argument to be made that we can still learn a lot from the old standbys as well.

But do we have enough?

Come on, this is baseball. There’s always room for new statistics.

And the one I’ve got in mind is incredibly easy to understand, basic in its conception and application, and could easily do what any stat should: increase our enjoyment and knowledge of the game.

I’m talking about the Forced Error.

For over 100 years, since 1889, we have been tracking defensive errors, a subjective stat assigned by an official scorer to denote that a batter reached base because of a miscue by a fielder.

Exactly how errors are interpreted has evolved over the years largely because of their significant impact on the ERA stat for pitchers.

While it is absolutely worth noting a difference between the standard ways of getting on base and reaching because of an opponent’s mistake, the process still remains a bit too blunt for my liking.

Not all errors are created equal.

If a hard grounder is hit directly at an infielder and he simply allows the ball to roll between his legs and into the outfield, that is clearly an error. But isn’t there a qualitative difference between that and the guy who makes a diving stop and fires across the diamond only to have his first baseman misplay a short-hop resulting in a throwing error as the runner takes second?

The status quo treats these two events as the same and shouldn’t. The latter should be called a Forced Error.

Anytime there is added difficulty to completing the play because of something the offensive player has doneeither hitting the ball especially hard or applying pressure with speedthere should be some credit given to the hitter and less of a demerit to the fielder.

One of the best things about this job is getting some input on one of my hair-brained ideas. I can run it by some of the smartest baseball minds in the world.

In this case, when wondering about how to best evaluate defense, I figured it would be worth getting the input of the best defender of a generation and one of the greatest of all time.

So, I strolled over to Nolan Arenado’s locker one day and asked what he thought about the concept of a “Forced Error.” He, like most people, stared at me blankly for a moment as he processed my intent.

But once I explained in just a couple of sentences, his eyes lit up and he immediately got on board.

“Yeah, actually think that would be a cool and interesting stat,” the six-time Gold Glove Award winner said. “The guys who would be leading the league in that would be guys like Dee Gordon or Garrett Hampson,” he added, suggesting that speed would be the skill that would most come into play with the Forced Error.

These are the plays where one of the best defenders of all time says he feels the most pressure and the most prone to make a mistake.

“There’s times where you have to give credit to the hitter, especially if they are fast,” he says. “Sometimes they make tough plays tougher. Like, if I backhand it with them running, I gotta let go of it quick and it might be a little off, y’know? He is forcing me to rush, he’s forcing me to be uncomfortable. Those things definitely happen and I think it would be a really interesting stat to see, for sure.”

Well, that’s all the endorsement needed.

In a way, this actually creates two new stats because the old way of doing it can now be referred to as Unforced Errors. And who wouldn’t want to see a leader board of how many guys have made the fewest unforced mistakes over any given time period? How many Unforced Errors do you think Arenado has committed in his career? Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out?

On the flip side, there would be a leader board for players who force the most errors who previously hadn’t gotten any recognition for it. There would be a lot of speedsters on this list for sure, but who knows? Maybe some high exit velocity guys would find their way onto the list as well.

The whole point is, we don’t really know much about this element of the game because we don’t have a method for measuring it. Adding a Forced Error stat would give us this.

Sure, it will be a bit subjective and some plays will exist right on the borderline between forced and unforced, but that is already how it works with official scorers assigning errors anyway. This would just allow them a bit more wiggle room and give each baseball fan a deeper understanding of what actually happened between the lines.

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