The problem with the Bobcats’ recent string of errors, beyond the obvious impact on the games, is that after a certain point, there’s only so much for coaches to say.
As the Bobcats muffed ground balls, missed double plays and botched relay throws on the way to four straight losses, Ohio’s coaches have run into the question of, “What do you say to the player who already knows he screwed up?”
The answer, according to coach Joe Carbone, is nothing.
The Bobcats were swept by Western Michigan this weekend to drop their conference record to 2-7 and their overall record below .500 for the first time since March 19.
After winning nine of 11 heading into the Mid-American Conference season, Ohio (15-17) has dropped eight of 12 games. The Bobcats were error-free in just two of them.
Carbone did not address the issue with the team after the Western Michigan series, in part because there isn’t much to say about fielding that hasn’t been drilled into players’ heads for months.
“I can’t go to the team and say, ‘OK, I want to address these errors; we can’t have any more errors,’” Carbone said. “Me saying that doesn’t do it.
“If we’re gonna say, ‘OK, we had three errors, so we’re going to go work on the ground ball at that spot and hit it there a hundred times,’ that does no good.”
Since September, Ohio’s infielders have regularly practiced what Carbone calls “ground balls A to Z.” This exercise puts fielders in a variety of situations, such as slow rollers, medium balls that take big hops, ground balls left, ground balls right, backhand plays and double plays.
This year, the Bobcats have made 62 errors for a .949 fielding percentage, a pace that would dip past their 101 errors and .953 fielding percentage of 2010.
Errors are also accounting for more of the runs scored against Ohio. So far this season, 50 of the 182 total runs Ohio’s pitchers have given up this season were unearned, good for 72 percent of the earned runs. Last year, 82 percent of runs scored against the Bobcats were earned.
Still, Carbone said he’d rather his players be aggressive on the field than make no errors at all.
“A guy might go extend himself, really make a tough play and make a bad throw,” Carbone said. “If you have an error, I don’t have any problem with it. At least they’ve got the guts to make a play.”