Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today's posting is more about the "steady hand" than the "hot hand," as Seattle Mariners' first-baseman Casey Kotchman had a record fielding streak end yesterday. According to this game article:

A wicked, one-hop shot in the eighth inning [off the bat of Yankee Curtis Granderson] caromed off Kotchman's glove and continued into right field. He was charged with an error, ending his Major League-record streak of 274 games without a fielding miscue.

The streak lasted more than two years and covered 2,379 fielding chances.

Another, slightly dated (April 27, 2010) article includes a chart of the records for consecutive error-free games by position. At the time, outfielder Darren Lewis held the overall record at 269 games. The positions of catcher, first-base, and outfield seem particularly conducive to long streaks; shortstop and third-base don't. I would say there are two things that set apart first-basemen from their counterparts on the other side of the infield:

(1) First-basemen get a lot of their fielding opportunities by catching thrown balls (from the other infielders) and relatively few from fielding hit balls. Shortstops and third-basemen (the latter playing at a location known as the "Hot Corner") primarily face balls hit at them.

(2) Shortstops and third-basemen presumably get more balls hit at them than first- or second-basemen, because there are more right- than left-handed hitting batters.

This is not to say that first-basemen never get hard shots ripped at them. The streak-ending ball hit to Kotchman was one that required a difficult short-hop to field, and he couldn't do it (see video associated with the linked article in the first paragraph above). There'll probably be a lot of debate over whether the official scorer's call should have been a hit or an error.

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