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Pirates Suffer 10th Straight Loss; Brewers Challenge Bucs' Only Hit

I guess it's not Jeff Karstens' fault that the Pirates can't hit anymore, or that the Pirates' bullpen stinks. If Tyler Yates is taken to arbitration this offseason, I'll be deeply disappointed; he can't be counted on for anything. On the bright side--and you have to be looking pretty hard to find one--Karstens only walked one batter and left the game having allowed only one earned run (Yates let two of Karstens' baserunners come in). And Andy LaRoche had a hit in his second consecutive start. Well, sort of. The Brewers are appealing it. Unfortunately, it was the Pirates' only hit. But at least it isn't a no-hitter! Yet! Yikes.

UPDATE: The Brewers' appeal seems totally reasonable to me. No, it doesn't have anything to do with whether they go to the playoffs or not, but a no-hitter is a rare accomplishment, and I think it's fair for the Brewers to do what they can to see that CC Sabathia ends up with one, especially since the call was borderline to begin with. It looked to me like Sabathia could have gotten LaRoche if he hadn't dropped the ball.

The real problem, it seems to me, is that the "error" is just a stupid category, and it shouldn't be left to scorekeepers to decide whether pitchers get no hitters, or whether runs are earned or unearned. Pitchers are affected by errors that they don't control (and, as this case shows, errors they make themselves), but they're also affected by other defensive inconsistencies that they also don't control. The performance of the Brewers' staff this year is a good example. Part of their improvement in runs allowed compared to last season has to do with the addition of Sabathia and a couple other pitchers, but the biggest difference is probably the improvement of their defense. And yet the scorekeepers don't account for that; they didn't give the 2007 Brewers allowances for the fact that Ryan Braun was a terrible third baseman, unless he made an error. They don't give the 2008 Astros pitchers allowances for Carlos Lee's horrible defense--unless, again, he makes an error.

Why should scorekeepers dispense errors, then? Why should they be allowed to reconstruct innings to distinguish between earned and unearned runs? These calls are highly subjective, they don't tell us much that more sophisticated defensive metrics (or just plain watching the games) can't tell us better, and more often than not they're like when you're watching a hockey game and the camera can't find the puck. When you're watching hockey, you don't want to be aware that the camera exists. You suspend your disbelief, and believe instead that the cameras are your eyes.

Error calls can be similar, in that they draw the viewer's attention to the scaffolding rather than the stage. You don't want to be aware that the scorekeeper exists; you want him or her to make a record of what happened, not to be what happened.

All of which is to say that in my perfect world, LaRoche's dribbler would be a hit. But, given that the "error" rule has forced the scorekeeper out of the booth and into the spotlight, I think it's perfectly legit for the Brewers to challenge their decision. Personally, though, I think it would be nice if we just talked about the game, rather than decisions that have been made about it.