Errors hurt a team. By definition, they are mistakes that have hurt the team. If the center fielder makes a bad throw to home, it doesn’t count as an error unless something bad happened that shouldn’t have happened. That being said, some errors are more harmful than others.
Going from second to third on a bad throw with two outs does not make a huge difference. Reaching base instead of being the third out as a run scores certainly does make a huge difference. In general, extra bases are less likely to affect games, because 1) maybe the runner won’t score even with the extra base or 2) maybe the runner would have scored even without the extra base. Contrarily, extra outs create havoc with regularity. Not only do they make the defense get 4 outs in an inning, but they also put a runner on base that shouldn’t be. Reaching base on an error is as helpful as singling but arguably requires very little skill.
So, what team holds the record for receiving the most extra baserunners? The 1972 Reds beat the Dodgers 8-4 courtesy of an all-time high 7 runners reaching on errors. Compared to the most number of errors in a game (12), 7 seems low, but 34 outs in 9 innings is just too much to ask of a team. Amazingly, three different 3B made errors in the game for the Dodgers. Bill Grabarkewitz made an error before he was pinch hit for by Steve Garvey, who also made an error. Then, Bobby Valentine came in as part of a double switch and made two errors.
A certain degree of respect goes to the 1988 Braves for being the team to give the most extra outs and still win. They beat the hapless Padres 6-3. San Diego, featuring Roberto Alomar, Tony Gwynn, Benito Santiago, and Garry Templeton, scored just 3 runs despite getting 14 baserunners. Tom Glavine and Paul Assenmacher did a tremendous job dealing with defensive letdowns.
Sometimes, otherwise useless offenses get a chance thanks to free baserunners. In fact, 11 times in history a team has more runners reach on errors than “legitimate” runners, i.e. hits and walks. The 1959 Yankees top the list by having just 2 hits and no walks but ending up with 6 total baserunners thanks to errors by the Senators. Also on this list are 4 pitchers who were otherwise perfect but for one sole error. Yes, we could easily be 4 perfect games richer, totaling 24, if it weren’t for some better fielding. Jonathan Sanchez threw one for the Giants in 2009 which was ruined by Juan Uribe’s error in the 8th. Terry Mulholland threw one for the Phillies 19 years earlier which was ruined by Charlie Hayes’ error in the 7th. 1o years before that, Jerry Reuss’ of the Dodgers was spoiled by Bill Russell’s 1st inning blunder. Lastly, Dick Bosman hurled a beauty for the Tribe in 1974 where the only blemish was his own 4th inning throwing error.
Watching your favorite team make an error is not fun, but you can always hope that it doesn’t result in a score. And hopefully you’re watching a team like the 1988 Braves, one that can win despite the poor defense.