On a lovely Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the Mariners made five errors in the bottom of the first inning. The Yankees scored six runs and went on to win the game, 10-1. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to make five errors in an inning was the 1977 Cubs.

The universe is incomprehensibly vast and complex. Since the dawn of humanity more than 100 billion people have lived and died. Each moves and lives and eats and creates. Every person has left some impact, most immeasurably small, but the interactions with others and the wisdom passed on has led to every single thing that every person will ever say or do.

The vastness of the number of preceding events leading up to a major league error, for every person and every thing to be in exactly the proper place, is incalculable. We could never have stood at the precipice of human existence and predicted the possibility that baseball would be invented, that there would be major league ballplayers, and that some of them would make errors. We can, however, determine the likelihood of an error, or combination of errors, with respect to the performance of major leaguers.

 

Error #1: LF Ben Gamel, fielding error

Chances of one error in a half inning: 6.57%

Number of half innings needed to witness one error: 15

With one out and Starlin Castro on second, Gary Sanchez singled to left. Gamel misplayed the ball allowing Sanchez to advance to second base.

Going into yesterday’s action, there had been 2,265 errors in major league baseball this season and 147,659 batters altogether. Therefore, roughly 1.5% of plate appearances result in an error. Based on this we can expect to see one error in 6.57% of all half innings, and we’ll see one every 15 half innings. Of course, there are usually 17 or 18 half innings in a game, so we’ll expect a rough average of one error every time we go to the ballpark.

 

Error #2: SS Jean Segura, fielding error

Chances of two errors in a half inning: 0.43%

Number of half innings needed to witness two errors: 231

Aaron Judge followed the Sanchez single with a walk. Didi Gregorius then hit a ground ball to Segura, who couldn’t field it cleanly, and the bases were loaded. With two errors in an inning and one out, any future runs scored will be unearned. The official scorer is basically saying that everything that follows is not the pitcher’s fault, even if he gives up several consecutive home runs, because his team’s defense has been so abysmal.

Less than half of one percent of all half innings have two errors occur. You would need to watch about 26 games to find a two-error inning, or roughly a month’s worth of baseball.

 

Error #3: 3B Kyle Seager, fielding error

Chances of three errors in a half inning: 0.028%

Number of half innings needed to witness three errors: 3,521

The next batter, Chase Headley, hit a ground ball to third. As per scoring rules, a double play can never be assumed, so when Seager botched the play it was scored a fielder’s choice that allowed the batter to reach and all runners to advance. However it’s to be described, the merry-go-round turned with a run scoring and the bases remaining loaded.

A three-error inning is rare indeed. About a quarter of one percent of all half innings have three errors. A given team will have a three-error inning once every two and a half years.

 

Error #4: SS Jean Segura, fielding error

Chances of four errors in a half inning: 0.002%

Number of half innings needed to witness four errors: 53,553

After a Todd Frazier strikeout, Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to left. Judge and Gregorius scored easily. Segura misplayed the cutoff, allowing Headley to score. We’ll call this play “to be continued…”

The chances of seeing four errors in a half inning are two thousandths of a percent. As a 34-year-old lifelong baseball fan, I cannot recall ever having seen one. That’s because a team will have an inning such as this once every 37 years.

 

Error #5: SS Jean Segura, throwing error (same play as error #4)

Chances of five errors in a half inning: 0.0001%

Number of half innings needed to witness five errors: 814,673

…After making an error fielding the throw from the outfield, Segura made a wild relay throw, prompting Ellsbury to advance to third base (he would later score on an infield single).

Never mind Segura’s two errors in one play, or three in the inning all by himself. A team playing a 162-game schedule should expect a five-error inning every 559 years.

We would all love to believe that baseball will last forever, but the same was once said about the Roman Empire, the spitball, and cassette tapes. The Mariners have accomplished something that may never happen again in the entire future of the team. While they probably shouldn’t feel proud of this accomplishment, they have at least let the 1977 Cubs off the hook.

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