The assistance of software has made it easier for baseball enthusiasts to track events in one of the most statistically rich sports. But sometimes something so unusual happens in a game that existing algorithms are thrown for a loop. A recent stolen base escapade by Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura made baseball history – and, in the process, fell outside the purview of anything scoring software was equipped to handle.
In a recent game against the Chicago Cubs, Segura made history, according to ESPN, by stealing second base and subsequently stealing first base before getting caught stealing second again – all within the span of five pitches. The play unfolded after Segura attempted to steal third base from his position on second. He was thrown down, causing him to return to second base, but the runner behind him had already pulled onto second, leaving Segura to scramble back to first. He was then thrown out attempting to steal second again.
ESPN noted that the play was technically legal – as long as runners aren’t running in reverse to intentionally deceive fielders, they can run the bases backward. However, it was the first time in history such a play had occurred. As a result, scorers were unprepared for how to handle it. Since it’s theoretically impossible to steal second and then be thrown out stealing second in the same baserunning attempt, the box score lists Segura as being thrown out at third.
“All the computer software – none of it will handle that,” official scorer and baseball statistics historian David Vincent told ESPN. “You don’t run the bases [from] second to first. Any software that processes play-by-play won’t accept that.”
While the incident makes for a unique piece of baseball trivia, it also underscores the challenges of anticipating every issue that can occur when software is subjected to real world anomalies. Testing cannot always catch such errors due to limited scope. However, tools such as static analysis software can often spot logical flaws that may lead to problems in the event of unusual events – an essential attribute when adapting to unpredictable circumstances such as a baserunning adventure.
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