Strategic Impact of Fielder’s Choice in Baseball: A Comprehensive Guide

Pat Bloom

fielders choice baseball

In the intricate world of baseball, the term “fielder’s choice” often leaves fans and newcomers alike scratching their heads.

A fielder’s choice (FC) occurs when a batter reaches base due to the defense’s attempt to put out another baserunner, rather than focusing on the batter.

This strategic play, while not calling for an umpire’s declaration, is meticulously recorded by the official scorer.

Understanding a fielder’s choice is crucial for grasping the nuances of baseball statistics. Unlike a hit or stolen base, a fielder’s choice doesn’t credit the batter with a hit or a time on base, yet it counts as an at-bat.

This unique scenario highlights the complexities and strategic depth that make baseball a fascinating sport to follow.

Fielder’s Choice in Baseball

In baseball, a “fielder’s choice” is a situation where a defensive player chooses to get an out at another base instead of the one the batter is running to.

Here’s how it typically works:

Definition and Rules

A fielder’s choice, denoted as “FC” in scoring, occurs when a fielder handles a fair grounder and opts to attempt an out on a preceding runner instead of the batter-runner. According to MLB Rule 2, a batter is officially charged with a time at bat but no hit.

Scenarios include:

  • Preceding Runner Attempt: When the fielder tries to put out a preceding runner while the batter advances.
  • Other Runner Attempt: When a runner advances because the fielder attempts to put out another runner, not due to a stolen base or error.
  • Defensive Indifference: When a runner advances without a play being made, often referred to as an undefended steal.
  • Appeal Play: When a batter initially appears to hit safely but a runner fails to touch a required base and is called out on appeal.

How It Affects Game Strategy

Fielder’s choice plays a significant role in shaping game strategy in baseball, both for the offensive and defensive teams.

Here’s how:

Defensive Strategy

In baseball, defensive strategy is paramount, especially when it comes to fielder’s choice situations.

Here are some key elements of defensive strategy in the context of fielder’s choice:

Decision Making

Fielder’s choice situations require quick decision-making by the defensive players. They must assess various factors such as the speed of the baserunners, the location of other runners on base, and the strength of the batter.

Risk Assessment

Defensive players need to weigh the risks and benefits of attempting to get an out at different bases. Opting for a fielder’s choice might prevent a runner from advancing to a scoring position or scoring a run but may allow the batter to reach base safely.


Proper execution of fielder’s choice plays requires precise throws and quick tags by infielders. Any hesitation or miscommunication can lead to missed opportunities or defensive errors.


In anticipation of potential fielder’s choice situations, defensive players may adjust their positioning on the field. Infielders might play closer to the base to increase their chances of making a play, while outfielders may position themselves strategically to back up potential throws.

Offensive Strategy

Offensive strategy in baseball is multifaceted, and fielder’s choice situations present unique challenges and opportunities.

Here are some key components of offensive strategy in the context of fielder’s choice:

Base Running

Baserunners must be alert and react quickly to fielder’s choice plays. They need to judge whether to advance to the next base or return safely to the previous base to avoid being tagged out.

Speed vs. Power

Offensively, teams may employ different strategies based on the speed and skill of their baserunners and hitters.

A team with fast runners might attempt to force fielder’s choice situations to put pressure on the defense, while a team with power hitters may prioritize hitting the ball deep to avoid potential fielder’s choice opportunities.

Plate Discipline

Batters need to exercise plate discipline and select pitches carefully in fielder’s choice scenarios. They may aim to hit the ball sharply to increase the likelihood of reaching base safely, or they may try to draw walks to advance baserunners without relying on fielder’s choice plays.

Situational Awareness

Understanding the game situation is crucial for both hitters and baserunners. They need to be aware of the score, the number of outs, and the position of baserunners to make informed decisions that maximize their team’s scoring opportunities.

Common Scenarios Involving Fielder’s Choice

Fielder’s choice situations arise frequently in baseball, shaping the flow and outcome of the game.

Here are some common scenarios involving fielder’s choice:

Defensive Decisions and Outcomes

Defensive players in baseball often face split-second decisions involving fielder’s choice plays. A common scenario includes a ground ball hit to an infielder who then attempts to put out a preceding runner on another base instead of throwing to first.

For example, an infielder might throw to second base to try for a force out rather than securing the sure out at first base. If successful, the preceding runner is out, while the batter reaches first safely.

Another scenario occurs when a fielder opts to attempt an unassisted out. If an infielder fields a ground ball near second base, he might step on the base to force out the runner advancing from first.

Statistical Implications for Players

Fielder’s choice situations have several statistical implications for both offensive and defensive players in baseball:

Batting Average (BA)

When a batter reaches base on a fielder’s choice, it does not count as a hit in their batting average calculation. However, it does not count as an official at-bat either. This can affect a player’s batting average, especially if they frequently reach base via fielder’s choice.

On-Base Percentage (OBP)

While fielder’s choice doesn’t positively impact a player’s batting average, it does contribute to their on-base percentage. Since reaching base via fielder’s choice counts as a time on base without an official at-bat, it increases a player’s OBP.

Runs Batted In (RBI)

Batters who reach base on a fielder’s choice can still drive in runs if there are baserunners in scoring position. Even though they don’t get credited with a hit, they contribute to the offensive effort by advancing runners or driving them in.

Base Running Metrics

Baserunners involved in fielder’s choice plays may see their stolen base or extra base taken metrics impacted. Depending on the situation, they might advance a base or return safely to their original base, affecting their overall base running efficiency.

Fielding Percentage (FP)

Fielder’s choice plays typically don’t affect a player’s fielding percentage directly. However, how effectively they execute fielder’s choice opportunities, including making accurate throws and quick decisions, can indirectly impact their overall fielding performance.

Assists (A)

In fielder’s choice situations, defensive players who make the throw to record an out receive an assist in their statistics. This reflects their role in initiating the play that resulted in an out, even if it wasn’t a traditional putout.

Double Plays (DP)

Sometimes, fielder’s choice plays can be part of a double play opportunity. In such cases, defensive players may record both an assist and a putout, contributing to their double play statistics.

Range Factor (RF)

While fielder’s choice plays don’t directly impact a player’s range factor, their ability to cover ground, make quick decisions, and execute plays efficiently in these situations can contribute to their overall defensive range.

The History of Fielder’s Choice

The concept of fielder’s choice in baseball has been a fundamental part of the sport since its inception in the mid-19th century.

While the term “fielder’s choice” might not have always been formally recognized, the strategic decision-making by defensive players and the resulting plays have been present throughout the history of the game.

Evolution in Baseball Rules

The concept of a fielder’s choice (FC) has evolved alongside baseball rules, enhancing the strategic depth of the game. Early baseball rules didn’t formally recognize the term.

Scorers began using it to differentiate between a batter reaching base due to a defensive decision and earning a hit or walk.

The official scorer’s role became crucial in identifying FC, leading to standardized criteria. Over time, additions to the rulebook have refined what situations qualify as a fielder’s choice, such as handling batted balls and defensive indifference.

Important Milestones

Several milestones have shaped the understanding of fielder’s choice in baseball. One key development occurred in the early 20th century, when official scoring began to include detailed categories.

By the mid-20th century, the rules explicitly defined the fielder’s choice, allowing statisticians to accurately record game events.

The introduction of advanced statistics in the late 20th century further emphasized the importance of clear distinctions like FC, providing insights into player performance beyond traditional metrics.

These milestones have collectively solidified the strategic value of fielder’s choice plays throughout baseball history.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a fielder’s choice count towards on base percentage?

No, a fielder’s choice does not count towards a player’s on base percentage (OBP). OBP measures how often a batter reaches base via hits, walks, or being hit by a pitch, but it excludes times reached due to a fielder’s choice or errors.

Why is a fielder’s choice not considered a hit?

A fielder’s choice is not considered a hit because the defensive team chose to put out another baserunner instead of the batter. The batter reaches base, but it is scored as an out for the fielder’s decision, not a hit.

Does a fielder’s choice count as a sacrifice?

No, a fielder’s choice does not count as a sacrifice. A sacrifice occurs when the batter intentionally advances a runner at the expense of their own out. In a fielder’s choice, the batter reaches base due to the defensive decision, not by intentionally making a sacrifice.

Do you get an RBI if you hit into a fielder’s choice?

Yes, a batter can be credited with a run batted in (RBI) if a runner scores as a result of a fielder’s choice. This happens if the official scorer determines that the runner would score regardless of the defensive play.

Are early baseball rules different concerning fielder’s choice?

Yes, early baseball rules did not formally recognize the term “fielder’s choice.” However, scorers used the practice to differentiate between hits and defensive decisions even before modern rules solidified the term’s strategic value in scoring and statistics.

What impact does a fielder’s choice have on the game?

A fielder’s choice impacts the game by affecting base runners’ positions and potential scoring opportunities. It involves strategic defensive decisions, such as putting out a leading runner, which can shift the momentum and scoring dynamics of critical game moments.


Fielder’s choice remains a pivotal aspect of baseball strategy, showcasing the intricate decision-making skills of players on the field.

By prioritizing the retirement of leading runners, teams can effectively manage scoring opportunities and gain a competitive edge.

This nuanced play continues to evolve, reflecting the dynamic nature of baseball and its rich history. Understanding fielder’s choice not only enhances appreciation for the game but also underscores the importance of strategic thinking in achieving victory.

Coaches often emphasize the significance of fielder’s choice during training, highlighting its impact on game outcomes.

Mastery of this play can dramatically alter the momentum, often making the difference between winning and losing.

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Pat Bloom

I lead Washington University in St. Louis' baseball team, emphasizing skill development, strategic play, and sportsmanship. Our rigorous training and competitive spirit cultivate discipline and teamwork, preparing athletes for success both in baseball and academics. We embody the determination and sportsmanship that define our university's athletics. LinkedIn

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