Last night, with runners on first and second and nobody out, Jeff Samardzija fielded a grounder and headed toward third to throw out the lead runner. On the transfer, he dropped the ball, and everyone was safe. That’s an error on Samardzija. Eli Whiteside then turned a 2-3 double-play on a dribbler on the next play, touching home plate before throwing to first. Rafael Furcall then singled with two outs, scoring two.
The runs were initially scored as earned for Samardzija, but that was apparently a mistake. It’s a pretty tricky situation, though. You can’t assume a double play on Samardzija’s error, but, if he’d gotten the one out, then Whiteside’s double play would have ended the inning with no runs scoring.
… but Whiteside’s double play was possible only because there was a runner at third, yielding a force at home. So can you really say that, in a world where there wasn’t an error, there wouldn’t have been any earned runs?
This isn’t how scoring decision are made, exactly, but I think it’s interesting to point out that, if Samardzija gets the out at third (one out, men on first and second), maybe Whiteside plays that dribbler to first, only. In that case, there are two outs and men on second and third … and then Furcal’s single scores two anyway. Or maybe Whiteside throws to second, and the Cubs turn two anyway. We can’t know, so we don’t play guessing games.
It’s a fluky thing, especially because it came from Samardzija’s own error, but today, baseball corrected the scoring decision, and changed those two runs to unearned.
The result? Samardzija’s ERA just dropped from 2.78 to 2.60. That bumped him up from 15th in baseball to 13th.
Does it really matter? Are teams evaluating him that way? Nah. He pitched how he pitched (very well), and his ERA isn’t going to change any minds (just like the lack of a “win” because the bullpen blew the lead after Samardzija left is going to change any minds). I just thought it was fun.