When is a hit not a hit

(Ben Rouse / Brewers Mission 162)

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.

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About Ruben Lipszyc

I write about baseball. I'm a member of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Blogger's Alliance, and I write about my Red Sox and keep Albertans up to date on local baseball happenings at RubensBaseball.blogspot.com. I occasionally also write articles for the Canadian Baseball Network at www.CanadianBaseballNetwork.com.

Posted on November 11, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. One of the toughest jobs for an official scorer in evaluating plays (at times) is determining the value assigned to a play I do submit that a call ought to stand regardless of the context of the game (If it is worth a fielder’s choice after the factors have been weighed at the time of the play, then it ought to be worth that later, or vice versa). Ordinary effort, quoted in 10.05(a)(6), ought to apply on whether the batter-runner would have been out at first had the throw gone there (and making a strong throw to first from one’s knees would seem to be more than ordinary effort). I can understand not wanting score the first hit of the game on an infield hit, but if the batter deserved a hit, than that is the proper call. But if he didn’t deserve a hit, then it would seem to be improper to change it later.

  2. A force play is never a base hit. Even a hit in the outfield which is fired back quickly or due to a mistake in base running which leads to a force at second, third or home is not a base hit. No ordinary effort getting the batter runner at first is required.

    10.05(b)(1) – not credit a base hit when a runner is forced out by a batted ball, our would’ve been forced out except for a fielding error.

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