When is a hit not a hit
A while ago I wrote about why the number of hits a player has is not a good way to measure the player’s offensive performance. Among other things, I ranted about how official scorers use somewhat arbitrary criteria to decide whether or not to credit a batter with a hit. Well, I must confess I’m just as guilty. Here’s an actual situation I was involved in:
Varsity High School level tournament, 7 inning game. The official scorer had to leave and I was volunteered to take over. In the top of the 6th, there was a runner on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs when the batter hit a ground ball in the hole to the right of the shortstop. Looked like a hit for sure, but the shortstop dove for it, got it out of his glove, and fired to second base for the force out. But on a close play, the runner coming in from 1st was safe.
Is it a hit or a fielder’s choice??? Well, it depends.
It is a hit if:
10.05(a)(6)a fielder unsuccessfully attempts to put out a preceding runner and, in the official scorer’s judgment (sic), the batter-runner would not have been put out at first base by ordinary effort
Ok, so it’s a hit if the batter would have been safe anyway if the shortstop threw to first. But there’s another part of the hit scoring rule which says that it is not a hit if:
10.05(b)(4) fielder fails in an attempt to put out a preceding runner and, in the scorer’s judgment (sic), the batter-runner could have been put out at first base;
Some additional information: The batter was not very fast. If the shortstop was able to make a strong throw from his knees across the diamond it would probably beat the runner. If he got up first and planted his feet before throwing, that would likely have taken too long. And finally, there is a comment in Rule 10.05 which states:
Comment: In applying Rule 10.05(a), the official scorer shall always give the batter the benefit of the doubt. A safe course for the official scorer to follow is to score a hit when exceptionally good fielding of a ball fails to result in a putout.
So without being there, but reading the description of the play and the relevant rules, is it a hit or fielder’s choice? Most people I asked informally all said “hit”. I tend to agree but I scored it a fielder’s choice initially (!).
Why? Well, here’s another piece of information I didn’t mention (the reason I didn’t is that it should be irrelevant). The runners on base were the first 2 runners of the game. One was walked, the other was hit by a pitch. Yes, the pitcher was throwing a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings of a 7 inning game. I did not want him to end up with a one hitter, on a ball that didn’t leave the infield, on a play that maybe could have been ruled either way. So, based on this I scored it a fielder’s choice.
The next batter got a clean bases clearing double. And a reliever came in to pitch the 7th. At that point, I changed the scorebook from a FC to a H. And I got a much better appreciation of why official scorers sometimes are influenced by factors external to what actually happened on a given play.