In the second inning of today’s game at Fenway Park, Minnesota’s Max Kepler hit a one-hop rocket that Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts couldn’t handle. After deliberation — he looked at multiple replays —- official scorer Chaz Scoggins ruled the play an E-6.
A few minutes later, MLB.com Twins beat writer Rhett Bollinger noted that StatCast had Kepler’s smash at 109 mph. That begs a question: Should exit velocity factor into official scoring decisions?
According to Scoggins, the subject has been discussed informally by scorers throughout the two leagues. Based on those conversations, the majority feel “the numbers” shouldn’t matter — an experienced official scorer is able to make an informed decision on a hard-hit ball.
While a good argument can be made for exit velocity mattering, Scoggins brought up a valid point in defending its non-use. A ball may have been hit X mph, but was the infielder playing back, or was he in on the grass with less reaction time? More goes into a scoring decision than a number can measure.
Does this mean exit velocity will never become a tool for official scorers? In my opinion, the answer is no. Eyeball judgement will remain the primary determiner, but data will influence decisions.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.
Interesting idea. I would go with “no” right offhand, mainly because I don’t know how you would build a workable framework around it. Balls > 100 MPH should more likely be considered hits because they were hit so hard? Balls 90-100 would be 50/50 or “toss-ups” (i.e., totally up to the scorer’s discretion)? Balls < 90 MPH should be more likely to be considered errors because a fielder should have been able to handle them more cleanly? What about if they were hit right at a fielder, versus them having to extend their glove? What if there are runners on base and that caused them to hurry a little more than they would without runners on in an attempt to turn two? Or, would you hurry more on a 70 MPH dribbler from Dee P. Gordon (and risk bobbling it or throwing it away) compared to a 110 MPH scorcher from Adam F. Dunn (when you know you have all the time in the world)? Should weather conditions be factored in – i.e., is it harder to handle a 110 MPH smash in clear conditions or a 90 MPH grounder with a bit of fog or mist obscuring visibility?
In summary, I dunno how you would incorporate it without some hard-and-fast rules, and those seem super hard to create for situations like these, with all the variables that could be in play. I think a better (gross) simplification is "hire credible scorers and let them score it."