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Is the 2022 baseball contributing to the Rockies’ increased fielding errors?

Purple Row asked the players if they’d noticed a difference.

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Leading MLB in errors is not a laudable accomplishment, but that’s where the Colorado Rockies find themselves. Currently, they are first in the league with 58 errors though the Pirates are close behind with 57.

Recently, however, the Rockies’ play has improved on that front. It’s worth pointing out that during the last nine games, the Rockies have not made a single error, and they went 4-4 during that stretch and 4-3 during their last homestand.

As Patrick Lyons has noted, “Since the June 21 contest in Miami when they committed a season-high four miscues, Colorado has been charged with just one error through their last 10 games. During this time, they are tied for the fewest errors in the Majors and are also tied for the best fielding percentage (.997).”

That’s not to say that errors determine the Rockies’ record, but they are 13-27 when committing one or more errors.

Who’s making the most errors?

Here’s how individual position players break down in terms of committing errors:

  • Ryan McMahon — 12 (the most in baseball)
  • José Iglesias — 7
  • Elias Díaz — 7
  • Brendan Rodgers — 7
  • Charlie Blackmon — 3
  • Brian Serven — 3
  • CJ Cron — 2
  • Yonathan Daza — 2
  • Randal Grichuk — 2
  • Kris Bryant — 1

The errors have had an impact. For example, due to a throwing error by McMahon, Josh Bell was able to score and give the Nationals the lead.

Or this play, which allowed the Padres a 2-1 walk-off win.

This year, the Rockies have a DRS of 3 compared to their DRS of 61 in 2021. To be far, 2022 is only half completed, so the odds are good that the Rockies will improve, but they are likely to be far below the fifth-ranked defense they had in 2021.

The outbreak of errors had led to questions about causes.

Does the 2022 baseball have anything to do with the increase in errors?

Maybe. There are questions surrounding the inconsistencies of the 2022 baseball. As Dr. Meredith Wills tweeted in May:

Wills’ comments about inconsistencies with the 2022 baseball are supported by remarks from hitters such as Pete Alonso who remarked to Wayne Randazzo in May, “[Y]ou don’t know if you’re hitting spongebob or patrick’s rock.” Similarly, pitchers have noticed a difference. In mid-June, Michael Lorenzen said after hitting Justin Upton,

“I don’t know what Major League Baseball is playing with these baseballs, but that fully slipped out of my hand. It’s just crazy man. . . . I know [Kevin] Gausman had an issue in Toronto. So it’s a league wide thing. These baseballs are slick. They did get someone hurt. So that’s on Major League Baseball for sure. I don’t know what’s going on. These baseball’s are straight out of the package.”

It stands to reason, then, that perhaps inconsistencies in the 2022 might be affecting the Rockies’ infielders. After all, when Ryan McMahon swoops in to make a quick catch and shoot the ball to first, the ball’s being slick or changed might alter his ability to throw accurately.

This is a point The Athletic explored last week in an article describing new MLB rules for “muddying” baseballs. Eno Sarris spoke with a baseball blogger and researcher who writes under the pseudonym Hareeb al-Saq. Sarris added that “al-Saq also found some evidence that throwing errors from catchers and third basemen are up to such a degree that there’s only about a one-to-two percent possibility they’re up by chance.”

What do the Rockies position players say?

Overwhelmingly, they did not see a connection.

“I haven’t really noticed anything specifically,” Ryan McMahon said. “Up here, it’s always so dry. The ball always feels slippery.” He added, “I could see how those positions would be hurt the most, but, no, I haven’t noticed anything specifically.”

Catcher Elias Díaz agreed, saying, “I don’t feel the difference. Feels the same to me.”

CJ Cron’s answer is consistent with those given by his teammates: “I play first base, so I’m sure I get a little bit less action than a middle infielder would, but, no, I haven’t noticed too much.”

So while the Rockies’ fielding errors may have increased, the players themselves do not see the ball as a factor.