Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Error, hit or misplay (Alex Rios edition)

Eighth inning Tuesday night, bases loaded, and Denard Span drives a shot to deep left-center. Alex Rios, the White Sox center fielder, appears to have it in his glove, but the ball shoots up and out of the webbing. He grabs for it with his bare hand, but it again eludes his grasp and falls to the ground.  Three Twins run home.

Alex Rios' juggling act in center
Scoring ruling: Double.

And let the argument  begin.

My take on that play and that ruling:

1) I expect a major league center fielder to make that catch. Perhaps I've been spoiled by watching Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter and Carlos Gomez patrolling center field for the Twins, perhaps my standards are too high, but I expect it to be caught.

2) There's not an official scorer who'd rule that play an error (perhaps if it's late in a no-hitter, then they might, but they'd feel cheap and guilty about it).

The two thoughts are compatible in this way: Imagine that the White Sox had in center field a player who isn't a bona fide center fielder. Carlos Quentin, let us say. He might give good effort, but he's not going to lay a glove on that ball. And the scoring ruling would be a double. (Or triple.) Rios is fast enough to lay a glove on it; should he really be penalized for being a better outfielder than Quentin?

I don't know what the advanced metrics say about Rios as a center fielder. I have to say that I'm  not impressed. He overran a single earlier Tuesday to allow a run to score. Back in July, his bizarre throw to nowhere handed the Twins one of the signature games of the 2010 season. It's possible that he's a good center fielder who just happens to have made his worst plays when facing the Twins. I think it's more likely that he ought not be a center fielder, just as I'm increasingly convinced Span isn't living up to the the Puckett-Hunter-Gomez standard.

It doesn't have to be an error to be a bad defensive play. Rios had a couple of bad plays; Span had one.


  1. I'm starting to think you (or at least White Sox fans) ought to take a trip to Vegas.

    Back in July, you wrote one of my favorite lines this blog has produced: "The immediate Chisox fan reaction, as seen through comments on the Chicago Tribune gamer, suggested that this was the first time a third-place team has mathematically eliminated the first place team in mid July."

    Turns out you were right! The White Sox haven't been the same since, and when the Twins escaped the seventh last night with the lead, didn't you just know it was over.

    The Twins, in my opinion, needed one win in this series. No matter what happens, they come home with at least a five-game lead. And that means this race is over.

  2. Speaking of comments about defense, over the last few days I've heard both Winfield and Valentine on ESPN compliment the Twins for their good defense. I guess they are reading from old cue cards. Or they graduated from the Joe Morgan School of Broadcasting. . .