Baseball 101: Basic Fielding Statistics

The next step on the path to baseball literacy comes from defensive statistics. These metrics are used in several ways: assessing a player’s value and efficiency while fielding balls in play and determining which position will maximize that player’s value.

Putout (PO)

A fielder is credited with a putout when he completes the act of recording an out. That can be accomplished by stepping on the base for a force-out, tagging a runner, catching a fly ball, or catching a third strike. Although less common, a fielder can also be credited with a putout if he is the fielder closest to a runner who is called out for interference. Because of the nature of the statistic, 1st basemen and catchers will often have significantly more putouts than any other position.

Assist (A)

Any defensive player who touches the ball, even unintentionally, before a putout is credited with an assist. Players are most commonly awarded an assist when they throw the ball to another player, i.e., the shortstop throwing the ball to the first baseman to record an out. An unintentional assist, for example, can occur when a line drive hits the pitcher, is recovered by the second baseman, and the runner is put out with the throw to first.

Double Play (DP)

As the name implies, a double play occurs when two offensive players are ruled out within the same play. There are several ways a double play can unfold, but the most frequent form is a ground ball with a runner on first base. In this instance, the defenseman will field the ball and throw it to second to record the first out before throwing the ball to first to record the second out.

Fielding Percentage (FPCT)

Have you ever wondered how often a defenseman makes a play on a batted ball? Fielding percentage answers that question using a simple equation: P+A/TC or the total number of putouts and assists awarded to a defender, divided by the total number of chances. This statistic, however, can be deceiving. When comparing players’ fielding percentages, ensure those players are defending at the same position, meaning that a third baseman’s worth should only be compared to another third baseman, etc. The players with the lowest fielding percentage are typically shortstops and third basemen due to the frequency with which they must field difficult ground balls and throw across the diamond. Conversely, outfielders, first basemen, and catchers often have a higher fielding percentage because of the ease of the plays they must make.

Innings Played (INN)

Innings played determines the time a player has spent at a given position. Another simple equation calculates this stat: N/3 or the number of outs in which a player is in the field divided by three. Voters use this statistic, among others, to determine season awards like the Rawlings Gold Glove Award.

Total Chances (TC)

A defenseman’s total chances represent the total number of opportunities presented to record an out. To calculate total chances, use the equation A+PO+E, or assists plus putouts plus errors. While not a common statistic, knowing a defenseman’s total chances is required when calculating their fielding percentage. Like fielding percentage, total chances are an “incomplete” statistic, meaning it doesn’t consider the difficulty of a play. For example, if an outfielder makes a diving catch, that is counted as a chance, but if that same play falls in for a hit, it doesn’t count as a chance for that defender.

By The Numbers

This introduction to defensive statistics should give you a better idea of how a player’s performance is measured. Many more statistics are used in that calculation, but knowing these basics is a great introduction. Watch this space for advanced batting and fielding statistics to become an even bigger baseball nerd. Now go forth and annoy your friends!

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