In baseball, errors are a statistic used to track defensive mistakes that allow batters to reach base or advance bases when they normally would have been put out. Errors are subjective judgments made by official scorers and can be a controversial statistic. However, over the course of a season, the total number of errors generally reflects a player’s defensive ability.
So when looking at which position makes the most errors over the course of a MLB season, shortstop is generally the leader. The shortstop handles more chances than any other infielder and thus commits more errors. Second base also sees a high number of errors due to their central location and high number of chances. Third base and first base commit fewer as they receive less action. In the outfield, center fielders record the most errors due to covering the most ground. Corner outfielders commit fewer with right field typically less than left due to fewer balls hit their way.
The shortstop position is where most errors occur in baseball. In 2018, shortstops made a total of 1,344 errors across the MLB. The average number of errors per team at shortstop was 45. This compares to 1,068 errors at second base, just 751 at third, and 648 at first base.
There are a few key reasons shortstop sees the highest error totals:
- Shortstop has the most fielding chances – On average, MLB shortstops have about 430 putouts and 670 assists over a full season. That’s over 1,100 chances to make plays, far more than any other position.
- Shortstop handles the most difficult plays – Ranging far into the hole between short and third or making acrobatic leaping grabs in the air, shortstop is required to make tougher plays than the other infield spots.
- Shortstop has the weakest arms – While third and second base require strong, accurate throwing arms, shortstop leans more on agility and quick reactions rather than arm strength.
The combination of high volume of chances and degree of difficulty makes shortstop the natural leader in errors year after year.
After shortstop, second base is the next most prone to errors. In 2018, second basemen compiled 1,068 errors compared to 751 at third and just 648 at first. Second base sits in the heart of the infield with balls hit up the middle and grounders in the gaps around them. They field more chances than the corner infield spots.
However, the gap between short and second base errors can be large. In 2018, shortstops had 276 more errors than second basemen. Second base is involved in many double plays, a quick flip to short for one out and throw to first for two. Routine plays like this keep their error totals lower than shortstop.
Key Reasons for Second Base Errors
- Second most fielding chances – Second base averages around 425 putouts and 500 assists over a full season
- Turning double plays – Miscommunication or errant flips and throws to complete double plays leads to errors
- Up the middle grounders – Hard hit balls through the gap test second baseman’s lateral range
So while they don’t face the degree of difficulty shortstops do, second basemen see heavy action in the middle of the infield making them prone to committing errors as well.
After second base, the third base position records the third most errors in the infield. In 2018, third basemen accounted for 751 errors compared to 648 at first base. Third base is referred to as the “hot corner” for good reason – scorching line drives are hit at third baseman requiring quick reflexes and soft hands.
However, most balls hit to third tend to be slower choppers rather than hard hit liners. Third baseman have more time to set their feet and make routine throws across the diamond. Strong arms are a requirement for third baseman as they must make long throws from the foul territory side of third base over to first base. This results in fewer errors relative to other infield positions.
Reasons for Third Base Errors
- Quick reaction required – Third baseman must react instantly on hard hit shots down the line
- Long throws – Third baseman make the longest throws in the infield over to first base
- Physical plays – Charging bunts and dribblers requires third baseman to make plays with their body
So while hot shots down the line can lead to errors, most balls at third are slower allowing fielders to field the ball cleanly and use their throwing arm strength to complete outs.
First base is the infield position with the fewest fielding chances and therefore records the fewest errors. In 2018, first basemen committed just 648 errors across the MLB compared to 751 from third basemen. First baseman largely wait for throws to be made to them at first base rather than range for balls like other infielders.
First baseman primarily record putouts rather than assists. They have the fewest requirements in terms of range, quick reaction, and throwing ability. However, lack of concentration and focus can still lead to errors being made at first base.
Reasons for First Base Errors
- Lack of concentration – Nonchalant play and lack of focus leads to missed catches
- Poor footwork – Improper footwork around the bag leads to dropped balls
- Throwing errors – Bad throws on force outs at other bases are recorded as first baseman errors
So while first base is the least demanding defensive position, errors still occur when mental focus lapses.
When looking at the outfield positions, center field records the highest number of errors. In 2018, center fielders accumulated 369 errors compared to 337 in left field and 303 in right. Center fielders cover the most ground tracking balls hit to the alleys and gaps between outfielders. They also field balls over their heads and on short pop flies.
The combination of lateral range from gap to gap and on balls in front of them makes center field the leader in outfield errors. Balls hit directly at right and left fielder rarely result in errors. Center fielders also make long throws to third base and home plate which can sail or bounce away from fielders.
Reasons for Center Field Errors
- Most territorial responsibility – Center fielders cover from gap to gap and back
- Charging short pop flies – Shallow flies in front of center require sprinting in and forward
- Long throws to bases – Throws to third and home challenge arm strength
The expansive area center fielders must cover makes them more prone to errors than corner outfielders.
Left field records fewer errors than center field but more than right field. In 2018, left fielders totaled 337 errors compared to 369 from center fielders and just 303 by right fielders. Left field sees more balls hit their direction than right fielders.
Most hitters are right-handed batters which tends to drive more balls to left field rather than right. Left fielders must charge in on shallow flares and run the alleyways going towards the left center gap. They also occasionally throw out runners at third base on balls hit to left field.
Reasons for Left Field Errors
- Balls sliced down the line – Running down balls near the foul line
- Charging shallow flares – Sprinting in on short pop ups
- Throws to third – Occasional throws to third base to nab runners
The left fielder faces more challenging plays coming in and going back than the right fielder leading to more errors annually.
Of all the defensive positions, right field commits the fewest errors. In 2018, right fielders recorded only 303 errors across the MLB. Right field sees the least amount of action of any position with most balls hit to center field or left field by batters. Right fielders have the least ground to cover.
Most of their plays are routine flies hit directly at them or running back on deep flies. The throw to third base from right field is also shorter than the left fielder’s toss across the diamond. With less responsibility and easier plays, right field unsurprisingly ranks lowest in errors.
Reasons for Right Field Errors
- Reading balls off the bat – Misjudging and misplaying balls hit over their head
- Balls down the line – Running down liners near the foul line
- Throws to third – Shorter throw than left field but still an occasional error
The right fielder faces fewer challenging plays and balls hit their way leading to substantially lower error totals.
The catcher position is not considered part of the standard infielder or outfielder positional error breakdown. But it’s worth noting catchers do commit a high number of errors over the course of a season.
In 2018, catchers recorded 754 errors across the MLB, third highest after shortstop and second base. The primary plays a catcher makes are receiving throws on stolen base attempts, blocking pitches in the dirt, and throwing down to second base to try and pick off runners. Miscues on their limited defensive responsibilities leads to catcher being near the top in total errors.
- Shortstop leads all positions in errors due to the highest volume of chances and most difficult plays
- Second base comes next due to responsibility up the middle and turning double plays
- Third base faces tricky hot shots but harder plays are fewer than short and second
- First base has the fewest responsibilities leading to lower error totals
- Center field covers the most ground and leads outfield positions in errors
- Left field edges right field as more balls are hit their direction
- Right field sees the least action and faces easier plays yielding fewer errors
So while errors are an unofficial and subjective statistic, it generally reflects a player’s defensive ability over the course of a season. Shortstops face the toughest challenge and most total chances, leading them to annually record the most errors of any position on the diamond.
|Position||2017 Errors||2018 Errors||2019 Errors|
This table shows errors by position over the 2017-2019 MLB seasons. Shortstop leads in each season, followed by second base and third base. The gap between shortstop and second base errors is significant each season. First base and right field switch places for the fewest errors. But shortstop consistently posts the highest error totals due to their key role and difficulty factor.