Why is a grounder not a sacrifice?
April 6, 2005 10:45 AM   Subscribe

I, like many others, enjoy keeping score at baseball games. Something I've always wondered: why are you given an official at-bat when a ground ball you hit scores a run (or even moves a runner over)? You aren't given one when a fly ball you hit brings in a run, or when you bunt a runner over at least one base (even if the runner doesn't score).

Also - I do realize that the reason you're NOT given an AB after a sacrifice fly or bunt is simply that - it's a sacrifice, and you're theoretically doing it on purpose. But I can tell you from years of playing ball that a coach always teaches you "grounder to the right side" when you've got someone in scoring position.
posted by ORthey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total)
Don't you get an at-bat if a base hit scores a run? If you don't get an at-bat when your ground ball moves someone along but you're out at first, then it's still a sacrifice, isn't it?
posted by anapestic at 11:10 AM on April 6, 2005

I'm pretty sure you can't bat in a run with a flyball. If you hit a flyball, the runner comes back to the base and tags it after the ball has been caught. Then he runs in. Technically, you didn't bat in the run, the runner stole home base. On a ground ball or bunt you can just run.

That might have something to do with it.
posted by duck at 11:15 AM on April 6, 2005

Response by poster: Duck, that's a very interesting thought, and maybe that's the answer... but then that doesn't really explain rewarding the batter with a non-AB with a fly ball.

Anapestic, you do get an AB when you get a run-scoring base hit, but you also get the base hit, so you're 1-for-1, which is a good thing. 0-for-1 is a bad thing, hence rewarding a batter with the better 0-for-0.
posted by ORthey at 11:30 AM on April 6, 2005

It protects the batter's average. Without the rule, the batter making a sacrifice fly or sacrifice bunt is out so it would be one more at bat without a hit thereby lowering his batting average. Since he wasn't trying to get a hit in the first place a concession is made - no at bat is charged to the batter, thus preserving his batting average. I guess we just haven't integrated the concept of a sacrifice grounder.
posted by caddis at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2005

A groundball that results in an out and a runner advancing is nearly always scored as a fielder's choice (which is also used to score when a runner reaches on a groundball that results in a runner being forced/tagged out). There would be no credit for a hit, but it does count as an at bat.

(You get an RBI for nearly anything you do at the plate - hit, walk, HBP, sacrfice fly, sacrifice bunt, fielder's choice, etc. The exceptions are runs scoring on double plays or defensive errors, but the scorer has a lot of discretion)
posted by milkrate at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2005

Response by poster: I guess we just haven't integrated the concept of a sacrifice grounder.

Right, this is the part I'm wondering about.
posted by ORthey at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2005

No, I'm pretty sure the batter gets the RBI for the fly.

To the original question, it's called a "sacrifice fly", because the assumption is that the batter meant to hit a fly ball which would probably be catchable in order to advance the runner. Same deal with a bunt: if it's done with the intention of advancing a runner while sacrificing the batter, it's called a "sacrifice bunt" and doesn't count against the batter's batting average. But, yes, that's why it doesn't count as an AB -- because it was supposedly "intentional".
posted by LordSludge at 11:41 AM on April 6, 2005

I'm pretty sure you can't bat in a run with a flyball.

Not true.

Man at third. Fly to center. Runner tags and scores. RBI.
posted by justgary at 11:45 AM on April 6, 2005

The question is...why is a flyball to the outfield or a bunt considered "intentional" and rewarded, whereas a groundball is not, when many people do, in fact, hit a groundball intentionally if the situation calls for it.

For instance...1 out, runner on third. If I hit a fly ball and the runner tags and scores, I get rewarded with a non-AB. If I hit a groundball to the right side and the runner scores, I get an AB. In both cases, the result is nobody on base, a run in, and 2 outs. However, I get rewarded for the fly ball (with the non-AB), but not rewarded for the ground ball.

Perhaps it has something to do with a bunt being the best way to score a run with something on the ground (you need it to be slow and soft), and the rules assume that if you didn't bunt, then you didn't mean to hit a slow ground ball. If that's the case, I think it's silly.
posted by mfbridges at 11:58 AM on April 6, 2005

I think a sacrifice grounder is hard to define and determine in play. When is it a sacrifice and when is it a badly batted ball? Sacrifice flies and bunts are a little easier, although I am sure that what gets scored a sacrifice fly sometimes is someone swinging for the seats and coming up short.
posted by caddis at 11:59 AM on April 6, 2005

I guess we just haven't integrated the concept of a sacrifice grounder.

Because more than likely, it's a failed sacrifice-fly (or just a failed base-hit).

Not true.
Man at third. Fly to center. Runner tags and scores. RBI.

It's a RBI, but you're not officially batting in the runner. The runner is stealing home... which is why he's has to tag up. By that point, the play is over for the batter. The question isn't whether it's possible for a man to score on a flyball.
posted by Witty at 12:17 PM on April 6, 2005

poor wording there, sorry
posted by Witty at 12:20 PM on April 6, 2005

caddis is exactly right.

No matter what some LL coach tells you, you'll never rationally choose to hit a groundball. Never. Groundballs with runners on always allow for the possibility of a double play or a tag out of the advance runner. A bunt does not (if fielded and baserun correctly).

Let's assume you aim to intentionally hit a grounder to the right side. You make contact for a well-hit grounder to the right side. Any decent 2B or 1B will look the runner back, then go to first to get the force out. All you've done is waste an AB.

So what if you aim to hit a weak grounder so that the 1B/2B/pitcher has to scramble? Well, you'd be an idiot, because you're still swinging and leaving yourself open to a mishit that results in a harder-than-expected grounder, a pop up, or whatever. If you want a weak hit, you'd choose to bunt instead, where a good bunter won't do any of those things.

A sac fly is just that - you are choosing to swing for the fences in the hopes that if it comes short, you still advance the runner. This deviates from the general "look for good contact" rule of batting, where the ball goes where it goes based on talent/chance/eye. You're choosing to swing with an uppercut instead of "flat across the table."

Witty, unfortunately, you're wrong. If the runner on 3B doesn't get a SB on a sac fly, he's not stealing home (by definition). Remember, it's not a sac fly if the runner doesn't advance. If the runner doesn't advance, it's merely a put out and the batter is charged with an AB.
posted by sachinag at 12:32 PM on April 6, 2005

The reason that you don't get credit for a "sacrifice grounder" is that it's not that much harder to hit a grounder than not. A successful bunt or fly ball is less likely to happen, thus you reward the hitter. A ground ball just isn't seen as that good.

Witty: I would say that you should see a sac fly as batting in the runner. Because it's your batted ball that is allowing him to score. Getting an RBI and all. It doesn't matter that you're already "out" or not. (I'm not even sure if a successful tag up and then advancement is scored as a steal for the base runner. I couldn't find anything with a couple minutes of searching.)

Pretend there's a runner on first. You hit a double or whatever and the runner scores. You're not "forcing" him in because he took one more base than you did. And it doesn't matter if you're put out trying to take second base and he still scores. If your batted ball results in a run scoring without an error (or a couple of other odd ball cases), it's an RBI and should be see as "offically batting in the runner".

After all, even with a "sacrifice ground ball", you still get the RBI even if it counts as an at-bat.
posted by skynxnex at 12:37 PM on April 6, 2005

Well, admittedly, I'm no expert. But I wasn't suggesting that the runner is officially stealing home--that he would be rewarded with a stolen base. I'm saying that if a man on third chooses to stay on third after a pop-fly is caught, the play is over. Anything that happens after that doesn't has anything to do with the previous batter. But I understand that what I SEE happening on the field, what makes logical sense on the field to ME, isn't necessarily how the game is scored. I just consider "batting in the runner" and a sacrifice-fly to be two different things, even though they are both rewarded with an RBI (as they should be).

I'm basically a pile of confusion now.
posted by Witty at 12:50 PM on April 6, 2005

Witty: I understand what you're saying. But remember that just a pop-fly normally won't result in a runner scoring. It has a to be a fly ball deep enough for the runner to score; that's why it's seen as a sacfly and the the RBI going to the batter. And it does have to do with the "previous" better, because if he hadn't hit the ball into the outfield, the runner wouldn't have had the chance to score. It doesn't work perfect, but it's assumed in most sacfly situations, it's assumed that it was the work of the batter that allowed the runner to score--not the skill of the runner alone (the case of a stolen base). Most sacflies that you see would have been successful with even the slowest runners (not all mind you, there are plenty of close attempts).
posted by skynxnex at 1:01 PM on April 6, 2005

I'm with caddis. A sac fly is a judgment of intent and a ground-out RBI is deemed as a failure on the behalf of the batter. Or, if not outright deemed a failure, then at least the batter is not given the benefit of the doubt.

It's pretty arbitrary. I am guessing the thought that if I ground to the right side and score the runner from third, that was more the effort of the speedy runner and that I as a batter failed to 'properly' move him along.

Errors are another area of arbitrary decision making on behalf of the official scorer. It all gets scary and confusing.

I'm still not clear on all the qualifications of save, either. I get that generally it's the protection of at maximum a three-run lead but there seems to be a lot more aspects to it.
posted by xmutex at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2005

Oh, here's the definition of a save: (if anyone cares)


Save: Credit the pitcher with a save when he meets all three of the following:

(1) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his club;

(2) He is not the winning pitcher;

(3) He qualifies under one of the following conditions:

(a) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning; or

(b) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat, or on deck (that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batsmen he faces); or

(c) He pitches effectively for at least three innings.

No more than one save may be credited in each game.

Tough Save: The reliever comes in with the tying runs on base and saves the game. Example: Reliever comes in with a 5-3 lead, two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth.

posted by xmutex at 1:05 PM on April 6, 2005

Sorry for possibly making things more confusing than they needed to be. That wasn't my intention. I really do understand the game of baseball, although I've never actually scored a game... which what this thread is about. So...

*heads out to "explain" a 3-4 defense to the girl at the front desk*
posted by Witty at 1:32 PM on April 6, 2005

No matter what some LL coach tells you, you'll never rationally choose to hit a groundball. Never.

Maybe you were only talking about certain situations, but that sentence in itself is wrong.

A fast runner will many times try to hit the ball on the ground (and we're talking very fast...tim raines fast). For this type player a ground ball or line drive is much better than a fly ball.

Two, if a runner is on second hitting a ground ball to the right moves him to third under normal circumstances. Also frequently done, completely on purpose.

Witty, I've played baseball for 31 years and know the game up and down and you've single handedly made me doubt everything I know about the game. Thanks a lot.
posted by justgary at 1:43 PM on April 6, 2005

If you manage to bat in a runner (supposedly from third) with a grounder, there are basically two categories the situation could fall into:

1) the ball was hit to a difficult part of the field to get to, and the only available play for the defensive player was at first. But this kind of hit is better accomplished by a bunt, as others have said.

2) the fielding team has such an awesome lead that they don't care if a run scores ("defensive indifference"), so they'll take the easy out at first, which as others have said, is the same thing as a fielder's choice.

Perhaps since distinguishing between the two is, for the most part, a judgement call, the de facto score is for an AB to register for the batter. In any case, in any other game situation than the two I've mentioned, the fielding team is going to make sure to hold the runner at third or go for an out at home first. Nobody in their right mind would go after the guy at first if they had a choice, so I think the play being a "sacrifice" is really more a result of the decision by the fielding team, rather than the batter.
posted by LionIndex at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2005

What justgary said. Otherwise, somebody tell Ichiro he keeps fucking up.
posted by yerfatma at 2:53 PM on April 6, 2005

I like to think of it this way: You get credit for an AB if you are selfish.

Here is why: If you strike out you help nobody including yourself (and were probably swinging for the fences right?). If you get a hit you are rewarded in a boost to your average. If you ground out, into a DP, FC, or just an out, you probably didn't intend to do that, but you were trying to get a hit, so AB for you. If you fly out you were swinging for the fences but came up short...AB for you, unless you advanced somebody, then you were trying to help out so we'll take that back. If you reach base on an error, you didn't get a hit, but we won't penalize you for the defensive mistake and you do help the team by getting on base. If you walk or get hit by a pitch you were "taking one for the team" so you get no AB. Same with a "sacrafice" as you give up some chance at glory for the team, thus no AB.

I think it would take a lot of skill to be a pure ground ball hitter and have success, thus I think that is why it is considered an at bat. I consider grounders to be something that hits the ground more than once before leaving the infield. Now I think it is a reasonable option on many playing level as getting the ball into play and forcing teams to field a ball creates lots of chances for errors and base runners. There are some softball leagues where hitting homeruns counts as an "out" so the person who can hit a mean ground ball becomes the better player.
posted by Numenorian at 3:11 PM on April 6, 2005

There are some softball leagues where hitting homeruns counts as an "out" so the person who can hit a mean ground ball becomes the better player.

Interesting... and a neat idea.
posted by Witty at 3:22 PM on April 6, 2005

Response by poster: No matter what some LL coach tells you, you'll never rationally choose to hit a groundball. Never. Groundballs with runners on always allow for the possibility of a double play or a tag out of the advance runner. A bunt does not (if fielded and baserun correctly).

I disagree with a couple parts of this. One, as justgary mentioned, it is common pratice to try to get something to the right side with a runner on second. Two - you see PLENTY of double plays turned when someone doesn't know how to bunt and/or puts down a lousy one, say right at the pitcher, especially when they know it's coming, which is part of the reason you don't see more bunts. And, "looking a runner back" is indeed a common pratice but can't always happen. Grounders to the right side can work wonders.

I've always thought the sacrifice was one of the more interesting aspects of basevall statisitcs, which are, of course, fascinating as a whole and as a practice. I can't really think of any other example in sports where someone is statistically rewarded for "sacrificing" himself for the good of the team.
posted by ORthey at 5:17 PM on April 6, 2005

What justgary said. Otherwise, somebody tell Ichiro he keeps fucking up.

The exception to the rule does not negate the rule. 99 out of a hundred ballplayers almost never "want" to hit a ground ball (excepting the grounder to the right to advance the runner perhaps).

I'd guess even Ichiro doesn't necessarily "want" to hit them either; rather his skills are such that he can swat at and hit pitches most guys would take or miss (or not be able to run out the resulting dribbler). I saw footage of him in Japan taking a pitch that bounced several feet in front of the plate to right field for a single.
posted by jalexei at 5:27 PM on April 6, 2005

The exception to the rule does not negate the rule.

He's not the exception to the rule. The "exception" is a whole class of players who are good fielders and fast but can't hit at the major league level. So they get taught to beat the ball into the ground and try to run out hits, the idea being their speed makes the infielders rush and thus causes mistakes.
posted by yerfatma at 4:11 AM on April 7, 2005

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