When members of the Society for American Baseball Research dived into the matter, they found relative anvils like Bob Horner and Mickey Stanley among the career leaders. So contrary to conventional opinion, reaching base via errors is a function of far more than pure speed or its celebrated cousin, hustle.
Rather than merely counting the times a batter reached via errors ó which would favor players with the longest careers ó the society's Tom Ruane determined the rate at which players reached on miscues per out on balls in play (the percentage of times the defense muffed a chance it should have handled). He then compared that rate to the league average for each season.
In the full seasons for which data was available, 1960 through 2005, fast runners led the pack: Derek Jeter was first (71 percent higher than expected) and Otis Nixon second (69 percent). But how were Stanley, Horner and Joe Girardi ó who had no wheels to speak of ó in the top 10 with them?
Further research revealed an explanation: Other skills besides running fast play a large role in reaching on errors. Those who are good at it typically put the ball in play frequently by not walking or striking out. They are usually ground-ball hitters from the right side who put the ball more often in the hands of third basemen and shortstops, who make more infield errors because of their longer throws.
And to a lesser extent, players who bat with many men on base, when errors increase, reap the benefits.