Baseball’s official rules for an at bat and a plate appearance can be a bit confusing, especially for something like a sacrifice fly that does result in an out. How is a sacrifice fly scored in baseball? Is a sacrifice fly an at bat, or is it just a plate appearance?
A sacrifice fly does not count as an official at bat, but it does count as a plate appearance. For example, if you see a player is 1 for 3 with a sac fly, that means the player has four plate appearances in the game. The player has three official at-bats but four total plate appearances due to the fact that the sac fly counts as a plate appearance, but not an official at bat.
In this article let’s take a closer look at how a sacrifice fly is scored in baseball. Let’s also discuss briefly how plate appearances differ from at-bats, and why it matters.
Is a Sacrifice Fly an At Bat or Plate Appearance?
Does a Sacrifice Fly Count as an At Bat in Baseball?
As we discussed above, a sacrifice fly does not count as an official at bat in baseball.
If you see a player is 1 for 3 with a sac fly, that means the player has four total plate appearances in the game. The player has three at-bats and four plate appearances due to the fact that the sac fly counts as a plate appearance, but not an official at bat.
Does a Sacrifice Fly Count as a Plate Appearance in Baseball?
Yes, a sacrifice fly does count as a plate appearance in baseball (but it does not count as an official at bat). Because a player is “sacrificing” his at bat in an attempt to score a run, it is not held against the player as an at bat.
A sacrifice fly occurs when a batter hits a fly ball that is caught by a player in the field for an out while there is a runner on third base. That runner on third “tags up” and runs home to score a run before being thrown out.
It is called a “sacrifice” fly because a player sacrifices their own ability to score a run so that another player on their team can score. It is scored and counted similarly to a sacrifice bunt.
Players will often try to hit a fly ball with a runner on third and less than two outs with the sole purpose of scoring the run. If the batter hits the ball deep enough into the outfield, even the slowest runners will have time to score.
If the defensive player drops the ball for an error, the play is still considered a sacrifice fly and does not count as an official at bat. Almost any time you can score a run, it is worth an out, and that is why a sacrifice fly does not count as an official at bat so it does not hurt a player’s batting average.
It does count as a plate appearance for statistical purposes. The batter is also credited with an RBI. However, a sacrifice fly does count against a player’s on base percentage because they do not end up on the base paths.
At Bat and 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?
- Is a hit by pitch an at bat?
- Is a fielder’s choice an at bat?
- Is catcher’s interference an at bat?
As we discussed in this article, a sacrifice fly does not count as an official at bat, but it does count as a plate appearance. But it’s important to note that a sacrifice fly does affect a player’s on-base percentage.