Running up a winning average

Q. In baseball, how is a pitcher's earned run (ERA) calculated?

A. In the Official Rules of Baseball, rule 10.18 states: An earned run is a run for which the pitcher is held accountable. In determining earned runs, the inning shall be reconstructed without the errors (which includes the catcher's interference) and passed balls, and the benefit of the doubt should always be given to the pitcher in determining which bases would have been reached by errorless play.

Rule 10.22 (e) states: To compute the Pitcher's earned-run average, multiply the total earned runs charged against his pitchings by nine, and divide the result by the total number of innings he pitched. An example: Six and one-third innings pitched and three earned runs is an earned run average of 4.26 (3 ER x 9 61/3 = 4.26).

As can be seen the purpose of this statistic is to calculate the number of earned runs a pitcher gives up per the nine innings of a regulation- length game. To qualify for the league leadership in the category, the pitcher must be credited with at least as many innings pitched as his team is scheduled to play, i.e. in modern major league baseball 162 innings. The lower the ERA the greater, generally, the pitcher's proficiency. In 1994 only four pitchers in the National League with the requisite number of innings, and only three in the American League had sub-3.00 ERAs. - Patrick Carroll, Crewkerne


Q. Nigel Mansell's imminent Formula One comeback prompts the question: which sportsman or woman has retired the most times? - A Brodkin, London N2

Q. I notice that the first seven names on Blackpool's teamsheet a fortnight ago all began with the letter B. Does anyone know of any team who have bettered this? - Miss K Brown, London W10

Q. In February 1988, during an FA Cup fifth-round tie, Arsenal's Nigel Winterburn taunted Brian McClair after the Manchester United player missed a penalty. Arsenal won 2-1. Two months later, Winterburn missed a penalty in the League Cup final against Luton Town, who won 3-2. Are there other examples of such poetic justice? - Neale S Smith, Luton

If you know the answers to any of these questions or have a sporting question of your own, write to Q&A, Sports Desk, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Fax: 0171-293 2894