SABR Official Scoring Committee: Spring 2016 newsletter

“You Called That A What …?”
The Newsletter of the Official Scoring Committee
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)

Spring 2016, Volume 1, Number 1

Past newsletters


Stew Thornley

This is the first newsletter of the Society for American Baseball Research Official Scoring Committee.

It has a catchy name, at least a familiar phrase to anyone who has done official scoring. Nevertheless, I am open to other suggestions. Please send them to me, and a committee will carefully consider them and select one. The submitter will gain everlasting fame—or at least her or his name in the next newsletter.

We have 50 members on the committee; five are official scorers for Major League Baseball, including Richard Musterer, David Vincent, Rodney Johnson, and Kyle Traynor. A number of others do scoring at other levels, including the minor leagues and college summer leagues.

Check out the Committee Files page on our site, which has the following:

MLB Rule Book 2016
College Rule Boook 2015-2016
Transcription of interview by Bill Nowlin with Boston official scorer Chaz Scoggins (within the “Oral Histories and Interviews” folder)
Booklet by Bill Shannon on Official Scoring
Chapters on official scoring from The Diamond Appraised by Craig R. Wright and Tom House and from I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies by Tim Kurkjian

Articles—general articles on official scoring
Changing Statistics—Information on Ty Cobb’s changing career hit total
Early Pitching Decisions—articles and excerpts on how pitching decisions were determined before 1920
Elisa Green Williams and Other Women—women who have been official scorers for major-league games
Interesting Plays—Situations
No-hitters and Milestones—scoring decisions that stand out more than most
Opinions—interesting letters to the editor
Scoring Rules Changes and Origins
Timeline—includes the amount official scorers have been paid per game through the years

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Conundrum of the Month (or Quarter or Whatever)
An out occurring on a fielder’s choice is essentially a swap of runners. When a runner on first is retired at second on a grounder with the batter reaching first is an exchange of one runner for another for the purposes of determining earned runs or pitcher responsibility for a runner, if relevant. If, with a runner on second, the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop, who throws to third to retire the runner from second, that is a fielder’s choice. Not a fielder’s choice: With a runner on first, the batter singles to right, and the runner from first is thrown out at third. Okay, you all knew that. Too easy.

But . . . how about this one? With a runner on first, the batter hits a grounder that strikes the runner, who is put out for being hit by the ball. The batter is awarded first and is credited with a single?

Is this a fielder’s choice, and why the heck would anyone stay up nights wondering about it?

See below for the answer.

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Committee Meeting at SABR Convention (a Scene You Should Make)
Our first committee meeting will be at the SABR 46 convention in Miami on Thursday, July 28 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Orchid C/D room on the Terrace level of the Hyatt Regency Miami. Our meeting will be at the same time as the committee meetings for Latino Baseball, Women in Baseball, and Biographical Research.

There will be no agenda, and we will wing it, but it will be more interesting and productive than any work meeting you’ve attended in the past year.

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What’s Shakin’?
John McMurray is chair of SABR’s Oral History Committee and is a liaison between that committee and our group. He will encourage committee members to do oral histories of official scorers. John recently interviewed David Vincent, and audio of that will be on the Oral History Committee’s webpage (or click here to listen to the MP3.) In addition to the interview Bill Nowlin did with Chaz Scoggins, he interviewed another Boston official scorer, Mike Shalin. He probably will not transcribe this one (it’s 45 minutes long), but the audio will be available.

There are guidelines for doing oral histories on the Oral History Committee site.

Beyond oral histories, committee members are encouraged to interview official scorers and write articles about them and their experiences.


Activities and interests of other committee members:

  • Christopher Phillips has been compiling information on the history of official scoring.
  • Jim Wohlenhaus helps deduce play by play from box scorers and partial game accounts for Retrosheet and is noting discrepancies, possible errors by official scorers that may need to be rectified. Mitch Soivenski also has interest in this area.
  • The Retrosheet folks—especially Dave Smith, Tom Ruane, and David Vincent—have been supportive of attempts to identify official scorers for particular games. Full information exists since 2004, and David is mining the files and compiling spreadsheets with this information. He is also collecting information for games before that. Gabriel Schechter had already helped Bill Shannon for identifying official scorers for notable games, and he went back to the Hall of Fame library to go through additional scoresheets.
  • Richard Hershberger’s interest is in the 19th century and includes many elements related to scoring.
  • Bruce Bosley is an official scorer for Vermont college games and for the Vermont team in the New York-Penn League.
  • Sean Corcoran, a 19th century/Deadball era guy, is interested in the history of scoring and official statistics as well as discussing controversies involving retroactive changes to statistics, brought about by rules changes.

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Conundrum Answer
When a runner is out for being hit by a batted ball and the batter reaches first with a single, it is not a fielder’s choice. (And if you don’t believe me, ask Elias Sports Bureau.)

This has happened, with consequences related to earned runs or pitcher responsibility, twice in recent years.

August 6, 2013, Toronto at Seattle, top of the fourth: Adam Lind reached first on an error. Colby Rasmus hit a ground ball that hit Lind. Lind was out, and Rasmus was credited with a single. Lind later scored. Had the play on which he was hit by Rasmus’s grounder been a fielders choice, then his run would have been unearned. However, since it was not a fielder’s choice, the run was earned.

July 30, 2015, New York Yankees at Texas, bottom of the ninth: Delino DeShields walked. Andrew Miller relieved Nick Goody. One out later, Leonys Martin hit a ground ball that hit DeShields. DeShields was out, and Martin was credited with a single. After Adrian Beltre walked, Josh Hamilton singled home Martin with the game-ending run. Since this was not a fielder’s choice, the run, along with the loss, was charged to Miller.

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Everyone’s an Expert
Kyle Traynor did double duty Saturday, May 21, 2016, scoring the Toronto at Minnesota game and then heading to St. Paul for a Saints game that night against the Gary SouthShore Railcats. The Twins game went smoothly, but Kyle had his hands full in the Saints’ 18-8 win that night. On top of that, during the game the mother of Gary shortstop Jarred Mederos went to Twitter to complain about an error Kyle had called on her son and said the official scorer “needs help.” Sean Aronson, the Saints’ public-relations representative, tweeted back that their scorer was also a scorer for Major League Baseball and assured her that Kyle needed no help.

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Quote of the Month
From Bill Mathews, official scorer for Tampa Bay Rays games, quoted by Tim Kurkjian in I’m Fascinated by Sacrifice Flies:

“The difference between what I’m doing, and what others are doing sitting at home, is like being on two different planets.”

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Stew Thornley—(Chair and Newsletter Editor)
David Vincent—(Vice Chair)
Marlene Vogelsang—(Vice Chair)
Gabriel Schechter—(Vice Chair)
John McMurray—(Vice Chair and Liaison to the Oral History Research Committee)
Art Mugalian—(Assistant to the Traveling Secretary)

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