Moran: How much of an effect does speed have in forcing errors?

From Chris Moran at Beyond the Box Score on February 19, 2014:

Speed forces defensive errors. At least that’s what many baseball people would have you believe. Errors have been part of baseball history since the trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance was immortalized in poetry in 1910 (they only made 78 errors that year). We don’t talk too much about errors anymore, mostly because we realize that other defensive metrics do a much better job of capturing defensive ability. Practically, there’s no difference between getting to a ball and flubbing it and never getting there in the first place. Errors can penalize rangier fielders who have more opportunities to make plays, and therefore, errors.

Still, errors occur, and some wOBA formulas, including this one, include them. The thinking goes that batters who are fleet of foot can force more defensive errors, which gives them an advantage which is not captured in the traditional BA/OBP/SLG slash line. Every baseball fan has seen Ichiro Suzuki fly down the line and reach base after a defender makes the slightest of bobbles. Conversely, what fan hasn’t had their hopes raised after seeing the opposing team’s fielder kick a grounder around only to have them dashed at the realization that Jose Molina or David Ortiz is plodding down the line?

Clearly, speed plays a factor in some defensive errors, our eyes can tell us that much. But, how much of an effect does speed have on forcing defensive errors overall?

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Originally published: February 19, 2014. Last Updated: February 19, 2014.