Clipping:Defining an error; refining assists

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Date Saturday, November 18, 1876
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Suppose a fielder is afforded an opportunity to catch a player out, or to throw him out. If he fails to catch the ball he is charged with a legitimate error—that is, if the ball comes to him within fair reach. If he fails to handle the all in time to throw it to a base-player, or if he fails to throw it to such player accurately, he is to be charged with a legitimate error, provided the ball is not sent to him so har and swiftly from the bat as to make it a piece of skillful play even to stop it, and not an error if it cannot be fielded in time to the base-player. Scorers are too prone to class such failures as this last amongst legitimate errors, thereby7 doing injustice to a fielder. Of course, a fielder can be guilty of an error in failing to catch an easy fly-all, though he may not touch the ball at all, just as he is excused from a legitimate error when failing to hold a “red-hot liner” o n the fly, or a sharp “fly-tip” while close behind the bat. But the method of making out-fielding averages shows that there is one play he should be credited with in his fielding record in the score which has not hitherto been the rule, and that is when he fields a ball accurately to a base and it is not held. In all such cases the fielder should be credited with an “assistance,” even if the base-runner is not put out. For instance, suppose a base-runner goes from first to second, and the catcher, by a fine throw, sends the ball directly to the second-baseman in ample time to cut th4e runner off, and the baseman fails to hold the ball? In such a case as this the catcher should be credited with an assistance the same as if the ball had not been muffed. Also in the case of a ball picked up by any infielders and thrown to base-player accurately and plainly in time to put the base-runner out, the infielder should be credited with an assistance. In all such cases, however, the assistance in question must have been plainly such as would have insured the base-runner's being put out but for the base-player's error. When there is any doubt, no assistance should be credited.

Source New York Clipper
Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Origin Initial Hershberger Clippings

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