Numbers, numbers, numbers: the game is about numbers, but those numbers start when the person keeping score makes a judgment call and some scorekeepers’ judgment isn’t very good. This season I’ve watched the Royals play the Cardinals a total of three games, so feel free to question the sample size. But in those three games I saw some bad scorekeeping decisions and all of them made the Cardinals look good.
Let’s go back to June 12 and the second inning of the first game of this series. John Jay hit a ball down into the right-field corner. Alex Rios retrieved the ball and threw it to cutoff man Omar Infante. Randal Grichuk was trying to score from first base and Jay rounded second base and almost came to a full stop — he wanted to see what Infante would do with the ball.
What Infante did was lob a weak throw home and only then — when Jay saw the throw was going to home plate — did he advance to third base. That’s a double and advancing on a throw, but the St. Louis scorekeeper gave Jay a triple.
In the eighth inning of the same game Grichuk hit a routine fly ball to right center field, It was high enough that either Lorenzo Cain or Alex Rios could have made the catch. After the game Lorenzo said he and Alex miscommunicated; Alex called for the ball, but was then distracted by Cain arriving at about the same time as the ball came down. Alex developed a case of “alligator arms” and tentatively reached for the ball, but missed what should have been a routine catch.
One of the St. Louis TV announcers called it a “misplay by Rios.” The other announcer said “It should have been caught.” The St. Louis scorekeeper thought it was a triple.
Now let’s go back to Thursday night.
With the score 4-3 Omar Infante — the tying run — was on third base. Jarrod Dyson — the potential winning run — was on first. Dyson took off for second base and the St. Louis scorekeeper did not award Dyson a stolen base; he called it “defensive indifference.”
Two outs later the same thing happened; this time the runner on third was Dyson and the runner on first was Alcides Escobar. Esky took second and once again the ruling was no stolen base, Escobar had advanced on “defensive indifference.”
I’m guessing the Cardinals had a variety of feelings about having the winning run in scoring position, but “indifference” is not on the list.
Real defensive indifference
Real defensive indifference is when a team is up by six runs late in a game and doesn’t care what a runner does; they’ve got the runs they need, so they want their defense in the best possible position to record outs.
I can think of a couple reasons the Cardinals might not want to hold a runner at first and neither of them include indifference.
In the first instance of defensive indifference, Dusty Coleman was at the plate facing Trevor Rosenthal. The Cardinals’ reliever throws in the high 90s, so a manager might think a right-handed, rookie hitter was going to be late on that fastball. If you believe that, you might want to play your first baseman back and not have him hold the runner.
You’re not indifferent to having the winning run advance to second base; you’ve just decided other things are more important.
In the second instance the hitter was Mike Moustakas, a guy much more likely to pull a good fastball and Moose did; he grounded out to second base on a pitch traveling 99 miles an hour. Once again, you’re not indifferent to a runner moving up 90 feet, you just want to give your first baseman more range by playing him back.
Making the Cardinals look good
I actually have no idea why Mike Matheny chose to play his defense the way he did in the ninth inning and I have no idea why the scorekeeper chose to rule defensive indifference — but I can tell you the bad scorekeeping I saw in this series benefited the Cardinals. John Jay’s slugging percentage went up, Randal Grichuk batting average and slugging percentage went up and Yadier Molina does not have two more stolen bases on his record.
Remember that the next time you look at someone’s statistics; maybe he really did hit a triple, but maybe — just maybe — he had some help.