An at-bat in baseball is an occasion for a batter to be up in the batting order and take their turn, with each turn being called an inning. This means that there are 9 innings in a game of baseball. The goal of the at-bat is to get on base so you can score runs.
Here, we’ll talk more about what an at-bat is and what you need to do to succeed in one.
Definition of an At-bat in Baseball
In baseball, an at-bat or time on the batter’s plate is a player’s turn to bat against a pitcher. It is different from making their plate appearance. The at-bat is a critical component in baseball statistics, including the player’s batting average.
An official at-bat is charged for each turn at batting to compute a player’s batting average and slugging percentage. This is expected when:
- The Player Walks
- Is Hit by a Pitched Ball
- Hits a Sacrifice Fly or Bunt
- Is Interfered With by the Catcher
At bat is the sum of hits, outs (except for sac flies), and times reached on an error. With these, the batting average is calculated.
How is At-bat Compared with Plate Appearance?
When talking about at-bats and plate appearance, you must be educated about the difference to be accurate. This is because the two are not the same.
At-bat is the time when a batter steps into the box, gets ready to hit, and either fails to get on base or does not get put out before reaching first base. When a player reaches base on an error or hit, this is considered to be the official at-bat.
When talking about at-bats in a game, as a result of injuries, absences, and strolls, it’s difficult to calculate an average. In one game, a player must get three at-bats at least to go through a game, and the team must achieve nine outs three times.
A plate appearance, on the other hand, is when a batter steps to the plate. If a runner is thrown out on the bases while he’s at-bat, or if the game-winning run scores due to an error by another player then there will be no plate appearances for that batter. A plate appearance refers to each time a batter completes a turn at-bat, regardless of the outcome.
A plate appearance is recorded for each time a player bats during his turn. When a player is put out or becomes a runner while completing his turn batting, he has completed a plate appearance. This is by Rule 5.04(c) of the Official Baseball Rules.
The rule 9.22(a) of the Official Baseball Rules makes an exception to allow for a player’s batting, slugging, or on-base percentage title if he produces at least 502 plate appearances.
When is an At-bat Not Official?
There are circumstances under which an at-bat can be negated.
These are likely to happen:
- When a pinch-hitter comes in to bat with two strikes and strikes the game.
- When the batter is granted first base due to interference or obstruction.
- When a batter is struck by a pitch.
- If a batter walks on four balls, it is considered to be walking on the “sweet spot” of home plate.
- When the bat hit was a sacrifice fly or bunt.
What is a Sacrifice Fly?
A Sacrifice Fly is defined as the case where a fly ball is caught in flight within the first two batters of an inning. If there are two outs, the batter may advance to second base.
If there are no outs, the batter is out and runners on first and second will continue their journey around the bases.
The batter who hits the Sacrifice Fly is not eligible for a base on balls in the current inning.
What is a Bunt?
A batter may attempt to sacrifice himself forward by bunting the ball. If he successfully makes contact with the pitch and puts it into play without an error or wild pitch, then he has achieved a bunt hit. A bunt hit is in between a K and a base on balls. It scores the batter from first but eliminates the possibility of additional runs in the inning.
The rules were created so that batters can’t abuse their at-bats by constantly sacrificing themselves forward to advance runners without risking an out.
- When an at-bat ends with a sacrifice fly, the batter is credited with a fielder’s choice, making the advancement of runners on base automatic.
- When an at-bat ends by any other circumstance than a regular hit, the result is considered an error with no advancement of runners.
With these and other rules in mind, it becomes apparent that an official at-bat is a lot more complicated than what meets the eye.
Why is a Walk Not Considered an At-bat?
A walk is not the same as an at-bat. In regards to a batter’s batting average, a walk is considered an offensive statistic and not a time-at-bat.
There are two main reasons why a walk isn’t considered an at-bat:
1) it takes more than one pitch that the player does not swing on for a walk to occur, and
2) the batter cannot swing at a pitch and still receive first base.
A player must have four balls thrown outside the strike zone for an umpire to give him/her a walk. In other words, if a player doesn’t swing at any of the pitches within the strike zone, he/she is given the walk. If the batter swings at a pitch and misses it or hits it where there are no fielders (i.e., foul ball), then it’s still not an automatic first base because if they attempt to bunt on the third strike, they are out.
The player has to attempt to make a play at the ball for it to qualify as a time at-bat. Because a player who walks must receive four balls before he/she can legally walk, the walk is not considered an official swing therefore not an official time at-bat.
Why is a Strikeout an At-bat?
A non-sacrifice out in baseball is an official At-Bat, and strikeouts are included in that category since they were not on purpose to advance a runner. They are not even considered an out at first base.
That being said, if a player hits both a home run and a strikeout in one game, he will have had two official at-bats because of the home run. In effect, his strikeouts cancel each other out as far as the counting of at-bats is concerned.
That also means that if a player gets on base three times in one game with a single, a double and a walk, he will have had four official at-bats by virtue of the single and the double, but only three official plate appearances because of the walks. If he were to be walked on his next appearance on base, his fourth plate appearance would be his fifth and final official at-bat of the game.
In the case of a pitcher records all three out by strikeout, those strikeouts are considered an official at-bat.
Why is a Sac Fly Not an At-bat?
A sacrifice fly is considered only an out and not an at-bat because the batter did not receive a pitch to hit. If the bases were loaded, nobody was on base and he struck out swinging – it would be considered an official at-bat – but not if all three runners score due to his actions.
For this same reason, a sacrifice hit (typically referred to as a “sacrifice bunt”) is not an at-bat.
Why are Home Runs Treated Differently?
When a batter hits a home run, it is counted as an “at-bat,” but only one. The reasoning behind this is that the batter did not swing at any of the pitches and did not receive four chances to hit the ball.
If he had struck out or grounded into a double play, it would be considered his third and final at-bat. But since he hit a home run, his time at the plate is considered to be one official at-bat.
In addition, a home run is not counted as a plate appearance. If the player hits two homers in one game – each of them considered an at-bat – he will have had three official at-bats and four plate appearances.
Why Are Strikeouts Treated Differently?
As stated earlier, a strikeout is treated differently because it is not considered an out at first base. It’s also why walks are treated differently since they’re the only other official time at-bat that doesn’t result in an out (the third reason being that it’s never caused by the batter swinging and missing).
When a player records all three outs via strikeout, each of his strikeouts will be considered an official at-bat.
What is At-bat “Reached on Error Count”?
An error does not register as a hit, but it is treated as an at-bat for the batter if the scorer believes that the batter would possibly reach first base safely but one or more of the further bases reached was due to a fielder’s mistake. If an error is made on the batter’s final batted-ball of the at-bat, it will usually be an exception to this rule.
The criterion for reaching first on an error is largely discretionary with the official scorer. If the fielder fails to touch a base due to his misplay, or drops a fair fly ball that he could have caught with ordinary effort, the batter has generally reached first base due to an error.
A fielder’s choice that results in a runner being put out does not usually count as a “hitless” error if the runner would have been safe anyway, but it is treated as a hitless error if another baserunner would have scored if the runner had been safe.
An at-bat is a plate appearance for the batter. If he does not put the ball in play, it is considered an at-bat. Walks and strikeouts are also considered at-bats, but home runs are only counted as one. The official scorer has the discretion to decide what constitutes reaching first base on an error.