Revenge of the nerds: Errors and fielding percentage

You know... I always half figured that even though we don't get that in depth with statistics and stuff on this site, that there was still an understanding of what baseball stats are relevant vs what stats aren't. For example, fielding percentage is almost completely useless. The old observation is true: The best way to have a high fielding percentage is to make sure that you're nowhere near the ball. Steve Garvey goes forever without an error at first base? Well, it's because he planted himself 6 inches away from the bag and right on the infield grass. If it ate him up, it was a "hard infield single". If it was two feet to his right, all he'd have to do is not move and the official scorer (who half the time is going to be a home town guy) would say that he "had no play".

To make matters worse, fielding percentage is built on the "error", which is totally subjective and, like fielding percentage, completely useless. What's the idea behind the "error"? It's a way to keep track of whether the official scorer feels that a guy "should've had it". Why do we even care? Why do we call it an "error"? How many times have you looked at a play and said, "ah, man... that's an error!?" But then a week later, you take it for granted. Khalil Greene is really struggling... He's got a lot of errors this year... Wait, just last week everybody was in agreement that it was too tough of a play to really be called an error. Now you're just accepting it as fact?

Not that there's a much better way to measure how good a fielder is (and I know all about the range factors and some of the newer stats that people are trying to use), but one shouldn't completely trust a terrible way just because there isn't a better way. And I'm not saying that fielding percentage and errors are completely useless. Rather, I'm saying they're nice bits of trivia. Like... Who's the only player to have back to back no-hitters? That's a question that should be right in line with, Who's leads the league in fielding percentage?

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