Did you know that most Major League Baseball lineups frequently give up ONE FREE OUT to the opposing team per game?  Risky, don’t you think?

In today’s era of MLB, frequently translates to approximately 64% of the time.  And if you essentially copying MLB lineups when playing your tabletop baseball board games you are doing the same.

Baseball Bat and Glove

Naturally when building a lineup, typically the first thought is where to place hitters in the batting order.  After all, the connotation of a lineup is all about the “batting order”, thus hitting better be a key right?  Well sure, though naturally fielding a team with great leather is critical when playing a tabletop baseball board game based on fielding ratings to reduce the risk of giving the other team that 1 extra out.

In 2012, National League teams committed a total of 1661 errors.

((1661 errors / 16 NL teams = 103.8125%) / 162 MLB games per team) = 64%

Let’s examine further to see how 64% of the time a lineup made translates into allowing 1 free out to the other team during a game.  Here are a couple of additional baseline factors to consider.  Hang in there, I will walk you through this, it’s rather fascinating.

There are 27 outs per 9-inning game, per team (barring a game shortened by rainout, etc.) and the average score of a Major League Baseball Game is 5-3.  Using these factors here is a sampling to conservatively project the impact fielding has when building a lineup.  So far so good.  Next I’m going to use some assumptions.

Approximate number of times a ball is fielded per 9 inning game by 1 team

27 outs  * 60% of the outs are fielded by one players to register the out

+ 27 outs * 40% of the outs are fielded by two players to register the out * 2

+ 9 hits * 1.5

+ 5 strikeouts

+ 5 miscellaneous fielding plays (stolen base attempt, pick off attempt, etc.) * 2

66.3     @ times a team fields a ball during a 9 inning game

The model above reflects that a team fields the ball 66.3 times during a game.  When applying an average team’s fielding rating (in today’s MLB era) of .983% it means that typically a team is going to field those plays cleanly 65.17 times during a game.

Sample 9 Inning Game Fielding Model For an MLB Team

66.3   A ball is fielded

– 65.17  Fielded without an error

1.13     Times the ball will not be fielded cleanly

Thus we can say the typical number of errors made per 9-inning game is 1 per team.  Essentially this means that 1 batter on the opposing team will reach base safely that would not have.  Considering the number of average plate appearances in a 9-inning game is 4, this means “awarding” the other team a free out for a batter in their lineup at some point during the game.

Is a player you put in your lineup who lowers your fielding rating be worth it by reaching base at LEAST 1 time during his plate appearances?  And that would merely kind of equate to giving up that extra out.

However wait a minute, because that still doesn’t really tell the story.  The real impact is giving the other team 4 outs in an inning at some point during a game.  Who knows when it will occur until you play?  It’s Russian Roulette with every fielding play.  Doesn’t it typically seem more times than not an error occurs at a crucial time?  Those are the kind that open the proverbial floodgates surrendering that big inning.  Then that 1 extra out looms much larger.

How many games have you watched when your favorite team could have won if they just didn’t extend that one inning by booting the ball?  Besides it turns the lineup over another notch, thus putting the most feared batter in the lineup to come up to the plate an extra time.

I sure have been guilty of building lineups that have quite frankly benched some far better fielding for those far better hitters that are lousy fielders.  The good news is that Major League Baseball players are just that, Major Leaguers.  Thus even the lousy ones are still going to be adequate in most cases.  Naturally even the most elite of fielders commit errors, consequently errors are part of the game.

With all this said, I’m not suggesting to bench your good hitters across the board in favor of a weaker hitters who are superb fielders.  Instead it’s to give additional consideration next time you make lineups playing your favorite tabletop baseball board games.  In so many cases, those great hitters are solid fielders as well, thus making your decision solely around where to place that hitter in your lineup.

By the way, studying the 2012 National League, the team that made the most errors were the Colorado Rockies with 122.  Meanwhile the NL team that committed the least number of errors were the Atlanta Braves with 86.  A whopping difference of 36 errors, I suppose the Rockies staff would agree it wasn’t pretty.  Atlanta went to the playoffs, Colorado got to catch their breath from chasing the ball around as they sat home watching post season play.

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In summary, you should consider that a lineup with an average fielding team will commit 1 error per game 64% of the games you play.  If you field a team with an fielding average that is very high, let’s say .986 or better then you reduce your risk that will happen to less than 1 error per game.

It may not sound like much of a fuss over, but lowering your risk to avoid giving up that extra out just may be the one that saves your team while playing your favorite tabletop baseball board games.

This is where Baseball Classics “traffic highlighting” comes in very handy.  Layout all your Baseball Classics player cards on top of the positions on the field they play.  Look for a sea of green (up arrow) and/or yellow (left arrow) as much as possible across all positions.