Baseball’s official rules for an at bat and a plate appearance can be a bit confusing. A fielder’s choice can add an extra layer of confusion since the batter reaches base despite an out being recorded. How is a fielder’s choice scored in baseball? Is a fielder’s choice an at bat, or is it just a plate appearance?
A fielder’s choice does count as an official at bat and it also counts as a plate appearance. It does not, however, count as a hit. If a player hits a ground ball to the shortstop during his first at bat, and the shortstop throws a runner out at second, even if the batter reaches first safely, he would be 0 for 1.
In this article let’s take a closer look at how a fielder’s choice is scored in baseball. Let’s also discuss briefly how plate appearances differ from at-bats, and why it matters.
Does a Fielder’s Choice Count as an At Bat or Plate Appearance?
Is a Fielder’s Choice an At Bat in Baseball?
As we discussed above, a fielder’s choice does count as an official at bat in baseball.
A fielder’s choice occurs when a batter reaches base after putting the ball only because the defense “chose” to attempt to throw or tag out another base runner. Even if the defense is unsuccessful in making the out on the base runner, the play is considered a fielder’s choice if a reasonable assumption can be made that the play should have resulted in an out.
A fielder’s choice is a very common occurrence in a baseball game. In baseball, if you can get the lead runner out, it is a much better play for the defense and can save runs. Because of that, the defensive player will often take the risk to cut down the lead runner, which results in a fielder’s choice.
Is a Fielder’s Choice a Plate Appearance in Baseball?
Yes, a fielder’s choice does count as a plate appearance in baseball (and it also counts as an official at bat).
It’s important to understand that even though the batter reaches base on a fielder’s choice, it does not, however, count as a hit. If a player hits a ground ball to the shortstop during his at bat, and the shortstop throws a runner out at second, even if the batter reaches first safely, he would be 0 for 1.
Not only does the batter not get credit for a hit, reaching base on a fielder’s choice also does not positively impact on base percentage. In fact, it negatively impacts it because it is considered to be the equivalent of an out.
At Bat vs Plate Appearance in Baseball
A plate appearance refers to a batter’s turn at the plate regardless of the outcome as long as that appearance is completed. For instance, if a player is thrown out on the base paths to end an inning while the batter is still up, it does not count as a plate appearance.
Similarly, if a balk or wild pitch scores the winning run of a game, the player at the plate also does not get a plate appearance. Any other time a player gets up to bat and completes, whether with an out or by reaching base, his time at the plate, he has had a plate appearance.
Plate appearances are statistically important because it is the measure that allows players to compete for year end awards or lifetime achievements. For instance, if a player has had 20 plate appearances during a year, and had nine hits and two walks, his batting average would be higher than any other player’s in history.
However, to qualify to be in contention for a batting title, which is given to the player with the highest batting average each year, that player must have at least 502 plate appearances. When average out for an entire year, that means a player must average 3.1 plate appearances per game for an entire 162-game schedule. Other than qualifying for year end and career awards, plate appearances do not have as much meaning as official at bats.
An official at bat occurs when a player reaches base on either a hit, fielder’s choice, or error, or when a batter is put out on a non-sacrifice fly/bunt play. Official at bats do not mean as much for awards, but they are the standard of record keeping.
Any time you are watching a game in later innings and you see that a player is 1 or 3, that means that player has had three official at bats that game. Official at bats are used more often and spoken about more often than plate appearances.
To read about other scoring issues in baseball, visit our articles linked below:
- Is a walk an at bat in baseball?
- Is a hit by pitch an at bat in baseball?
- Is a sacrifice fly an at bat in baseball?
- Is catcher’s interference an at bat in baseball?
A person’s batting average is calculated by dividing the number of hits that player had with the number of official at bats during a season. As we discussed in this article, a fielder’s choice counts as both an official at bat and a plate appearance in baseball.