In baseball and softball, a fielder’s choice occurs when a batter reaches base safely even though there are outs from their at-bat. For example, a grounder to the second baseman can toss the ball to second to get the lead runner out even if they can’t perform a double play at first base. That example was a fielder’s choice because they got the lead runner out on a play from a ground ball, and the hitter-runner only got to first base from the choice of the out at the second base.
So, how do scorebooks recognize a fielder’s choice in a baseball and softball game? What is the difference between a fielder’s choice and a double play? Why do defensive players tend to opt for a fielder’s choice on a play?
Here is the complete guide to a fielder’s choice.
Why is it Called a Fielder’s Choice in Baseball and Softball?
It is called a fielder’s choice since the player got to first base safely due to an out at a different base. A fielder’s choice only occurs when there is a base runner on the bases who makes an out via a hit. Since it was the “fielder’s choice” to get an out at a different base, the baserunner gets to first base safely from that defender’s decision. Therefore, there is no hit credit given to the hitter since they did not record a clean hit.
How Do Scorebooks Record a Fielder’s Choice?
The official scorer will put an “FC” on the scorecard to display a fielders choice during a game. The FC is an abbreviation that helps tell the story of what took place via an out. For example, a scorer might mark a 6-4 on an FC play. That 6-4 FC play means that the shortstop got the ball and threw it to the second baseman to get an out. The scorebook will show that the hitter got to first base safely, but only did so via the force play.
Other abbreviations you will see on the card include “K,” which represents a strikeout. An “SB” stands for a stolen base, and a “PO” means putout. Another abbreviation to know about is “HBP”, which means hit by pitch.
What are Examples of a Fielder’s Choice During a Game?
Force Out: With a runner on first and second, a grounder goes to third base. The third baseman gets the ball and tags the base at third base to get the lead runner out. The play at third base was the only out on the diamond, so the hitter received an FC on the scorecard.
Advancing on a Play: A batter hits the ball to the outfield, and the outfielder throws the ball towards home plate to get a different runner out. The batter-runner who hit the ball could take second base on the throw. The official scorer will then mark the play as a single and that they took second base on a fielder’s choice throw. In this instance, a defensive indifference might also occur if the defensive team did not attempt to throw the ball to second.
What is the Difference Between a Fielders Choice and a Double Play?
The primary difference between a fielders choice and a double play is the number of outs that occur. For example, a fielders choice can happen on a double-play attempt. If the infield tries to turn a double play and only gets the runner out at second and not first, it goes in as a fielder’s choice. However, if the throw from the second base beats out the runner going to first, the play is a double play.
Why Do Defensive Players Opt for the Fielder’s Choice on a Play?
An MLB player will opt to get the lead runner out on the basepaths if there is that opportunity on a play. For example, the defensive team might have a batted ball hit softly to the third baseman on a play with a runner already on first, so they are looking to get a least one out. If the defender knows that they can’t turn two outs on the play, they will opt to throw the ball to second base to get the lead runner out of scoring position.
Another reason why teams will opt for the fielder’s choice is when they are trying to hold onto a lead late in the game. For example, one team is up one run in the ninth inning, and there are two runners on base with no outs. A hard hit ball to the right of the shortstop might elect to throw the ball to third base to get them out there, which removes that runner from being 90 feet away from home plate if they got there safely.
Is a Fielder’s Choice an Error?
A fielder’s choice does not count as an error on a play. You can’t assume a double play in baseball, ever. If the fielder bobbles the ball and only gets one out at the second base, it is a fielder’s choice, not an error.
An error could occur if the bobble by the shortstop resulted in no outs in that example. The official scorer can only give the error call at the game. However, it comes down to the official scorer to determine a hit or error.
Does a Fielder’s Choice Count as an At-Bat / Against a Player’s Batting Average / On-Base Percentage?
A hitter who hits into a fielder’s choice counts as an at-bat and goes against their batting average and on-base percentage. For example, a hitter who hits into a force out at second during their plate appearance will technically not record a hit, but it will count as an out against their at-bat since an out took place. That said, hitting into a fielder’s choice lowers the batter’s batting average since it was not a clean base hit and counts against the on-base percentage.
Does a Hitter Get an RBI via a Fielder’s Choice?
As long as there is no error on a fielder’s choice and the baseball player is already running towards home plate, the hitter will get an RBI and go into their slugging percentage. However, no RBI is occurs if the fielder attempts to make a play and an error takes place.
Conclusion: What is a Fielders Choice in Baseball?
In summary, fielder’s choice plays are standard in baseball and softball. These plays occur because a defensive player chooses to get a preceding runner out on the basepaths instead of the runner going to first. Since the hitter did not reach base safely on the play, official scorers mark the play as a fielder’s choice. Therefore, the hitter does not receive a hit on the play. By not getting a hit, it lowers their batting average and on-base percentage.
However, an RBI can occur on a fielder’s choice. An RBI credit can go to the hitter if the runner was already going towards home plate on the play. It is up to the official scorer to determine this call during the game.