What is a Fielder’s Choice in Baseball?

- September 5, 2023

In baseball and softball, a Fielder’s Choice is most commonly referred to as FC in scorebooks. It occurs when a ground ball is fielded by a defensive player and, instead of getting the batter out at first base, decides to get a baserunner out that is advancing to another base or home plate. The base runner that the fielder chooses to make is said to have been forced out.

A baserunner can be “tagged out” as well on a play where the baserunner isn’t forced to run but tries to advance an extra base on the ground ball. In either case, the scoring is an FC since it was the fielder’s decision or “choice” as to who to attempt to get out.

Defensive moves like this can prevent the offense from scoring a run. Allowing a runner to reach first base and getting a man out heading to second or third base is usually a wise decision.

After all, it only takes a single for a fast runner on second to score, and if there are less than two outs, a moderately hit fly ball, some ground balls, a wild pitch, a passed ball, or an error will score the runner from third. 

There are some cases where it’s wise to take the out at first and leave a runner on second. This is when the baserunner on second is slow, and the man on first is a speedster, or when you want to intentionally walk the next man to set up a double play.

Does a Fielder’s Choice Count as an At-Bat?

Yes, the batter that hits into a fielder’s choice is recorded with a plate appearance and an at-bat, represented by (AB). Even though the batter reached first base, he is not awarded a hit, but it does count as a time on base if the lead runner is thrown out.

Does a Fielder’s Choice Affect Batting Average?

Unfortunately for the batter, the fielder’s choice lowers the batting average because it counts as a time at-bat without recording a hit. It also doesn’t help with on-base percentage. The rationale behind this thinking is that had the fielder chosen to make the play to first base, the batter is assumed to be out.

There are times when a ball is hit deep into the hole, and in the eyes of the official scorer, there is no chance to get the batter out at first base. The fielder may choose to try to get the lead runner out. If no out is recorded, the scorer could give the batter an infield single.

Does a Batter That Hits into a Fielder’s Choice Get an RBI?

In most cases, when a run is scored on a fielder’s choice, the batter is credited with a run batted in, also known as RBI. There are some exceptions, such as if a run scores on an error. According to the official rules of Major League Baseball, an RBI should not be given to any hitter when a run is scored by holding the ball or by committing an error or throwing to the incorrect base.

Examples of a Fielder’s Choice (FC)

Suppose there is a runner on first base with one out. The batter hits the ball to the second baseman, who attempts to turn a double play by throwing the ball to the shortstop covering second base. The shortstop relays the throw to first base in an attempt to get the last out of the inning at first.

At the very worst, barring no errors, there is a second out of the inning and a man on first. This is, in many cases, better than a man on second base and two outs. The batter that reaches safely at first has been said to hit into a fielder’s choice.

Now suppose there is a runner on first base and two outs. The runner is running with the pitch, and the batter hits the ball to the shortstop. He feels there isn’t time to get the runner heading to second and chooses to throw to first to try to retire the batter. If the batter is thrown out, the inning is over, and it is just ruled as a ground out.

Suppose the shortstop still attempts to throw the baserunner out at second. If he is successful, the scoring is a fielder’s choice (FC), but if the runner is safe, the official scorer may give the batter a single if he determines the fielder could not have thrown at the batter at first.

In many cases on defense, the fielding team will choose to go for a fielder’s choice instead of throwing to first for an out. This often happens with two outs and a man on first. If a ball is hit to the shortstop, the throw is much easier to second base than first base.

If a ball is hit up the middle in the same scenario and the second baseman fields the ball, it’s much simpler to flip to the shortstop for the force than to spin and throw off-balance to first base.

Another example is a ball hit to the third baseman with runners on first and second or with bases load. It may be simpler to just run to the base and choose the force out at third than risk throwing the ball away to second base or two first base.

Use of the Fielder’s Choice in Commentary

The Yankees have runners on first and second base with one out in the eighth inning, trailing the Red Sox, 3-1. Judge hits a hard ground ball up the middle, but Bogaerts makes a diving stop and flips to second for the force. There is no chance to double up Judge, who reaches first on a fielder’s choice. The Yankees now have runners at the corners who two out.

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