What is a Fielder’s Choice in Baseball?

Here's What You Need to Know About Fielder's Choice
Written by Mark Bailey
Last updated on

What is a fielder’s choice in baseball? This question has been asked by many people who are new to the sport. A fielder’s choice occurs when a defensive player decides which baserunner to put out, depending on the circumstances. This can happen in different ways, but it usually happens when the defense has several options to choose from. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting play in baseball!

KEY
POINTS
  • A fielder’s choice is when a defensive player fields a ground ball and chooses whom to put out.
  • The official scorer has determined that they have only reached base safely because the defensive player chose not to put them out.
  • It is called a fielder’s choice because the defense has made the decision to put out a runner–it’s not simply a force out but a deliberate choice that the fielder makes.
  • Scorebooks record a fielder’s choice with the designation FC, followed by the number of positions in which he completed a play.
  • In addition, the at-bat still counts as an official at-bat for statistical purposes–meaning that this play can have negative consequences for batters in terms of their batting average.

Sometimes your player reaches base by luck. Actually, it probably wasn’t luck. Instead, they may have reached base because of what is called a “Fielder’s Choice” (FC). There are a few different scenarios where this can happen. When the official scorer determines how to score a play, sometimes it is determined that the fielder had a choice of who to put out. 

What is a fielder’s choice?

So what, specifically, is a Fielder’s Choice? A fielder’s choice is when a defensive player fields a ground ball and chooses whom to put out. When this choice is presented, the defender can only put one runner out, not both. If both runners were retired, that would be considered a double play.

However, if one runner is retired and the other runner is able to reach base safely, it is ruled an FC. In this case, the batter is not credited with a hit. The official scorer has determined that they have only reached base safely because the defensive player chose not to put them out. 

Why is it called a fielder’s choice? 

It is called a fielder’s choice because the defense has made the decision to put out a runner. It’s not simply a force out but a deliberate choice that the fielder makes. It may also be the case that the fielder chooses indifference to a runner or batter because they are more interested in getting a different runner out.

In some cases, the scorer may rule that a play is a fielder’s choice, but the defense may fail to record an out. It simply means that a runner or batter made it safely because a fielder chose not to attempt to put them out. If there were no other runners, the defense would have retired the batter or runner that advanced safely. 

How do scorebooks record a fielder’s choice?

Scorebooks record a fielder’s choice with the designation FC, followed by the number of positions in which he completed a play. For example, an FC 6-4 is when a shortstop fields a ball and makes a throw to the second baseman to record an out. 

It is important to note that when recording these plays, the hitter is not credited with a hit if it is ruled a fielder’s choice. In addition, the at-bat still counts as an official at-bat. Therefore, a fielder’s choice play can have a negative effect on the batting average of a hitter. 

What are examples of a fielder’s choice during a game?

The following scenario is the easiest example of a fielder’s choice during a game.

There is a runner on first. The batter swings and hits a chopper to the shortstop. The shortstop has two options to record an out–throw to second or throw to first. The shortstop chooses to make the short throw to second and records an out when the second baseman catches the ball and steps on second.

The second baseman does not attempt to make a throw to first. The batter-runner reaches first. This is a fielder’s choice. The shortstop could have chosen to throw out the runner at first instead. That’s why it’s called a choice—the defender has options. 

What is the difference between a fielder’s choice and a double play?

The biggest difference between a fielder’s choice and a double play is the number of outs. In a fielder’s choice, the defender has to decide which player to put out. In the case of a double play, there is no choice–both players will be retired.

Why do defensive players opt for the fielder’s choice on a play?

There could be several reasons why a defensive player opts for a fielder’s choice on a play. Probably the biggest reason they will opt for a fielder’s choice is that they are not convinced they can turn a double play. Depending on the number of runners on the bases and where they are, it may be a better option to get the “safe out” and not throw the ball around.

Sometimes, when defenders attempt a double play, it can afford a different runner on the bases an opportunity to advance or score. So by choosing one out and holding the ball, the defense could save a run from scoring. 

Does a hitter get an RBI via a fielder’s choice?

Whether a hitter is awarded an RBI on a fielder’s choice will depend on where the runner was. If they were on third and were headed from home on contact, then an RBI may be awarded. Otherwise, it is unlikely that an RBI will be recorded. 

Does the fielder’s choice affect the batting average?

Yes, a fielder’s choice can negatively affect a batter’s batting average. A true FC will not earn the batter a hit, but it will cost them an official at bat. Since it counts against their official ABs, but they don’t get credited for a hit, it will cost them points on their batting average. 

FAQ

Why is the fielder’s choice not a hit

Generally, an official scorer will not award the batter a hit. The reason behind this is that the scorer is essentially ruling that the fielder could have chosen to throw the batter out instead of the runner. In this case, the batter didn’t reach safely—they just weren’t chosen to be retired. 

Does a fielder’s choice always result in an out?

No. Sometimes, the fielder’s attempt is unsuccessful. For example, in the previously mentioned scenario, if the shortstop chooses to make the long throw first and the runner beats the throw, both runners could reach base safely—only because of the fielder’s choice. 

Is a fielder’s choice an error?

No, a fielder’s choice is not considered an error. However, errors can occur when a fielder makes a choice. 

Does a fielder’s choice count toward OBP? 

No, FC does not count toward OBP.

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