While watching a game of baseball, it's likely that you've come across the term "errors." However, they were likely referred to in a context which you have never heard of before. So what exactly are they, and what is the basis in which they are charged to players?
Although the rules may seem rather intimidating at first, the concept of errors is actually quite straightforward. For instance, they are similar to the idea of penalties in most other sports. However, where errors and penalties vary is that baseball errors do not include unsportsmanlike behavior or the breaking of rules. Instead, a player is charged with an error only if their actions end up benefiting the opposing team in some way, or if their efforts fall short of what would otherwise be expected of an average player at that level. Think of all the times you've watched a hockey or a soccer game, and found yourself yelling at a player for letting in a goal or losing possession of the ball for seemingly no reason. That would be called an error in baseball.
Another way to think about it would be that errors are a statistical way to keep track of a player's skills or technical performance.
Errors are called solely at the discretion of the official scorer. The official scorer is the only individual who can decide whether or not a player's actions warrant an error and has full authority to do so. No one else may challenge or question the official scorer's decision regarding an error.
An error can only be charged to a player in a fielding position - a pitcher, catcher, baseman, shortstop, or fielder. The three most common errors occur while the player is fielding, throwing, and tagging. However, all errors can only be charged if the player's actions directly benefit the other team. For example, by allowing the batter to remain at bat longer, which gives more time for the runner to remain at or advance from their base.
Fielding errors commonly occur when a fielder fails to catch the ball. Some common instances include an outfielder fumbling a fly ball, or an infielder mishandling a grounder. These may prevent the basemen from receiving the ball in time to successfully record an out.
Throwing errors are typically charged to the shortstop for a wild throw. A wild throw occurs when the shortstop throws the ball to a teammate, but the pass ends up "wild" or inaccurate. Errors will also be called if a player throws a ball that hits a base, runner, or umpire, even if it was entirely accidental.
Tagging errors are called when a fielder fails to tag a base or a runner, when, given the circumstances, it would have otherwise been reasonably expected of them to do so. Hence, this is another instance in which a team manages to advance and gain points, not so much by a particularly good play, but rather due to a mistake made by the opposing team.
Errors do not affect the score of the game in any way. A batter who is able to score a homerun solely due to errors by the fielders will still be considered as having achieved a home run and will be awarded the appropriate points for it. However, errors do affect the statistics of the player, and as in any other sport, statistics are a vital factor in shaping the player's career.