World Series Game 2: Did Albert Pujols Make An "Error"?

ST LOUIS, MO: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts after the Texas Rangers tie the game in the ninth inning during Game Two of the MLB World Series at Busch Stadium in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

You might have missed the news: Well after Game 2, Albert Pujols was charged with an error on a play he tried to make in the fateful ninth inning. Pujols has been under fire today for leaving the clubhouse before the reporters could ask him any questions, and we might guess that among the things he didn't want to talk about was that play.

We'll revisit the specifics of the play in a minute, but first here's Steve Kallas, who thinks the scoring decision was terribly unfair:

As soon as the play happened, expert analyst Tim McCarver decided that Albert Pujols should be given an error.  After all, according to McCarver, Pujols touched the throw and, thus, should be given an error.  McCarver later expanded, stating that the fact that Pujols touched the ball hurt the chances of Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina to throw out Andrus at second.

An interesting analysis, unchallenged by Joe Buck (or anyone else, for that matter, as everybody seemed to jump on the Pujols-made-a-big-error bandwagon).

But that analysis, on this play, was dead wrong.

Wrong? Maybe.

Dead wrong? Nah.

Here's what McCarver said:

That should be an error on Albert Pujols, because he actually ticked the ball ... The ball hits the glove of Pujols, barely I believe - Yes.

There is a great deal of room for interpretation here, which is obvious because Kallas jumps through a lot of interpretational hoops while trying to justify his contention that the official scorer (with an assist from McCarver) gave Pujols an error he didn't deserve.

Here's the .gif'd version:

Pujolserror_medium

You might want to watch the play again, here. I found that pausing the action right before Pujols deflects the baseball is somewhat instructive (and he definitely deflected it, even if Kallas says "it wasn't clear to this writer").

Kallas writes:

Here’s the rule (Rule 10.12(a)(8)):

"The official scorer shall charge an error against any fielder:

(8) whose failure to stop, or try to stop, an ACCURATELY thrown ball permits a runner to advance." (emphasis added).

So if that's the only applicable rule -- and after looking at the rules, I think it is -- then it's pure interpretation. Do you think that throw was made accurately? Depends on what you mean by accurately. Jay certainly would like to have thrown the ball more directly toward Pujols ... On the other hand, Jay's throw was accurate enough where, if Pujols hadn't deflected it, Andrus probably would not have continued to second base. It sure looks to me like Andrus decided to keep going when he saw the ball glance off Pujols's glove, which both slowed the ball and changed its direction.

Now, the rules don't allow for an error if Pujols made a misjudgment in deciding to try to cut the throw off. Which perhaps he shouldn't have done. But Andrus moved up because somebody made a mistake.

The problem for the scorer, of course, is that two mistakes were made and baseball's official method of accounting for mistakes has advanced exactly zero since the 19th century. Jay's throw was a mistake, and Pujols's ticking was a mistake. You can't give them both errors, though. And considering that Andrus probably would have stayed at first base if Pujols had simply done nothing, I don't have a problem with giving him the error.

That's my interpretation, anyway.

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