Baseball: Two Scoring Rules That Need Changed

Baseball is a staid old game and hates any change to the rules. There are two scoring rules that have always seemed wrong and unfair. The first one concerns what is considered an unearned run, which I feel is wrong. The second, is how a starting pitcher gets off the hook for not being charged with a loss. These two scoring rules have been in baseball forever, with no one questioning them, but I think they need to be changed. First let’s look at how runs are considered unearned.

In a particular inning, the first two batters make outs. The next batter hits a routine grounder to the shortstop, which he boots and is charged with an error. The next four batters hit a double, single, double, and top it off with a home run, which score 5 runs. Because all 5 runs scored with 2 outs, after the shortstop’s error, all 5 runs are considered unearned. It’s like if the inning had ended, and those 4 batters had to go out into the field, they would not have gotten the hits that they did. Was the pitcher so traumatized by his teammate’s error that he simply could not pitch properly? Most of the time, when something like that happens, a pitcher has a tendency to bear down, knowing the other team has this extra opportunity to score. There is no question, the batter that gets on base via an error and comes around to score, is an unearned run. When the next four batters get 4 solid hits which scores all 4 players, those runs should be considered earned, even though the inning was extended by the error. It’s almost like the four hits did not happen. It definitely can make ERA a false stat. It’s time to make all runs earned when they score from hits and walks, regardless of when they happen in an inning. Now let’s look at the way starting pitchers are charged with a loss, that is unfair.

In this scenario, the starting pitcher goes out and pitches a solid 6 innings giving up 1 run on 3 hits, walking 2 and striking out 7 batters. His team scores no runs for the 6 innings and the pitch count is at 99, so he is done for the day. The reliever comes on in the 7th and promptly gives up 3 runs and now the starter’s team is trailing 4-0. The starting pitcher’s team rallies but falls short and the final score is 4-3, with the starter being charged with the loss. The reliever, that gave up the 4th run, is the one who should be charged with the loss. The only way that the starter can get off the hook for the loss, when he leaves a game trailing, is for his team to tie the game, according to the scoring rules. By this method, the starter loses the game by sitting on the bench. Why should the starter have to take the loss, when it was the reliever, who gave up the runs that were needed to win the game? In other words, in any game, the losing pitcher should be the one who gives up the run that provided the margin of victory. If the final score is 7-3, then the pitcher who gave up the 4th run is the losing pitcher. What difference does it make if the team ties up the game or not? It really does not make any sense, to give losses to pitchers this way.

If these scoring rules were changed, I think it would give a more accurate assessment of how a pitcher is doing. You would not need some of the other analytic stats when evaluating pitchers. Earned runs and unearned runs became a stat in 1912. The rules about what constitutes an earned run have changed very little. That needs to change. Same for the loss rule. There really is no rational for the current rules. I know there is little chance for these rules to be changed, but it would be nice to see a pitcher not lose a game while he is sitting on the bench. It would make more sense for all runs to be earned, that have scored, when batters get on base via a walk, hit, or home run.

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