Thursday, March 25, 2010


A friend and baseball fiend* keeps trying to stump me. And not with trivia like "how many innings are in a normal game?" Nope, he asks questions that involve ERAs, RBIs, and other acronyms, statistics, and scenarios I just don't understand yet.

The other day he grilled me on the number of ways a player could reach first base without getting a hit. Talk about a collegiate question for someone who would go home empty-handed from the baseball edition of "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

Maybe he is just confident in my internet research abilities, but even with google and wikipedia this one is a doozy.

I am starting to realize that there are two realities in baseball - what you actually see and the way it is scored - so I warmed up my search engine with "hit". To a pinkhat simply observing a game, a hit occurs anytime a player makes contact with the ball. To a pinkhat that knows her stuff, a hit occurs when a player makes contact with the ball and gets on base. But to a bluehat, there are the obvious caveats. For example, if a player tries for a double or triple and is tagged out, it's a hit.

So, Jon, here are your eight ways a player can reach first base without getting a hit. Pinkhats, note that some of the ways include a ball physically being hit by a bat, but scored as something else.

1. Walk- The pitcher throws four balls, and the batter automatically goes to first base.

2. Hit by a pitch- The pitcher hits the batter with a pitch, and the batter automatically goes to first.

3. Error- A fielder mishandles the ball, resulting in the batter reaching first base. The at-bat is credited as an out for the player's batting average, but it is not actually an out for the game. See what I mean about dual realities?

4. Strike out/ crappy catcher (or pitcher)- If there are less than two outs and no one on first or if there are two outs regardless of first base status, and if the ball hits the ground before being touched by the catcher, the batter automatically goes to first.

5. Fielder's choice- I have heard Dave use the words fielder's choice in many a heated baseball debate, and I was hoping not to go there this early in the season. Turns out it's not as scary a concept as he makes it seem. If a fielder chooses to throw out another runner, allowing the batter to reach first, it is not scored as a hit.

6. Interference- If a catcher interferes with the batter, usually the catcher's glove touching the bat, a player may automatically progress to first base. If a play follows the interference, such as the batter hitting a double, the offensive team's manager can choose to decline the interference. (Did I spoil your next trivia question, Jon?)

7. Fielder's Obstruction- If a fielder gets in the way of the batter on his way to first base, the batter is automatically safe at first.

8. Sacrifice- When a batter hits a sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly but then makes it to first base due to a fielding error it is not a hit. This is different than Number 3 because it is scored as a sacrifice not an error. It's that parallel universe thing again.

Did I miss any? What about when a runner or umpire is hit by a ball? The batter would get on first base (unless there were alredy two outs and the runner was hit), and I don't think it would be considered a hit, but is it scored differently then the list of eight mentioned above? This isn't mentioned on any of the sites I read, so if I'm right, I might officially be a bluehat before the season even starts.

Is there other trivia you need me to feed into wikianswers, look up in Jerry Remy's "Watching Baseball," or pester Dave about?** Do your best to stump this pinkhat in the comment section.

And for the record, there are typically nine innings in a baseball game, and I didn't need the internet to answer that one.

*This friend happens to be a Yankee fan. Do I need to drop him before I can become a Red Sox bluehat?

**Dave is playing sports on the XBox, so his answers, although peppered with "are you kidding me?"s, are refreshingly concise.


  1. Hey Pinkhat(with shades of blue),
    very nice post, and i am honored to be the inspiration for a post so early in the year.
    one comment about number 4: third strike and the ball hits the ground. when you say "the batter automatically goes to first" remember that it is very different than when the batter gets struck with the pitch (number 2). in that situation he does get to go to first no matter what. he can take his time, dust him self off, charge the mound or whatever and then trot down to first. just like a walk (base on balls) there is no way to stop him. with the third strike being dropped it is not an automatic base. it is more like the ball is in play and the runner has a chance to make it to first. if he gets there before he is tagged or first base is stepped on he is out and does not get to stay on first. you will often see the catcher tag the batter before he is even out of the batters box and has even tried to move.
    again, i enjoyed your post.
    keep them coming.

  2. You did a great job with those 8 ways to get to first base without getting a hit. I was asked that by my know-it-all blue hat of a dad when I was 12 and came up with maybe 4 or 5.
    For your next trick, you should try to explain the "infield fly rule". That is a fun one.

    Great post and keep up the good work. By the can have yankee fan friends but you are not allowed to talk baseball with them. just makes things easier if you talk about something less controversial like religion or politics.

  3. You officially know far more than I do. And I'm laughing at the above comment about "less controversial" topics...Man, do I miss the East Coast passion about sports!

  4. I did not know any of this stuff! Good for you! Let's get together soon :) I can't wait to see Vivian again!

  5. this is great!! its good to have other fans razz you, but way to step up to the plate, pardon the pun.

  6. Nickolas in MontanaMarch 28, 2010 at 8:07 PM

    I like your blog a lot; I've been a baseball fan for years (sox of course), but no one else in my house could explain the ins and outs, so while i understand a lot of the game, i'm definitely picking up great tidbits from your writing, so thanks! here's a question: when a trade includes "a player to be named later," what keeps a team from choosing an allstar to pick up or a crummy minor league-er to send away? (this is not a quiz, im genuinely interested) Thanks!

  7. You know, I think the confusion is in how the play could be scored. differentiates between a walk and an "intentional" walk, so it seems that there are ten the ways to reach 1B without a safe hit - according to the scorer, not the reality of the play on the field.

    1. Walk
    2. Hit-by-Pitch
    3. Error
    4. Dropped third strike - reaches first before throw
    5. Passed ball on third strike
    6. Wild pitch on third strike
    7. Fielder's choice
    8. Catcher interference
    9. Fielder's Obstruction
    10.Sacrifice (with fielder’s error)

    Again, some of these depend on the judgment call of the scorer and/or the umpire. Regardless of whether the call is a passed ball or wild pitch, or if the ball is handled by the catcher and dropped, the reality is that the ball got by the catcher. But the same play can be scored three different ways.

    Hope this helps.