In my third article in this series, I’m going to talk about the basic fielding stats. Unlike the hitting and pitching stats, people don’t pay much attention to fielding stats. This is because fielding stats a still pretty horrible. So here we go!
Total Chances (TC)
Total Chances is a very simple stat. It attempts to record how many chances a fielder has to record an out. The formula is assists + putouts + errors. I will get to these individual stats later. The problem with Total Chances is that it isn’t terribly fair. If a fielder makes a diving catch, it counts as a chance but if the fielder doesn’t get to the ball and doesn’t make an error, it does not count as a chance.
You’ve probably heard about assists in a basketball context, but you may not have heard about them in baseball. A player receives an Assist when he touches the ball before a putout is recorded. For example, if there is a groundball hit to shortstop, he would receive an assist if he throws the runner out. Assists can be awarded to multiple people if two or more fielders touch the ball before a putout is recorded. A player, however, can only receive one assist per play.
Outfielders can also receive assists on fly balls. If they catch a fly ball and double-up a player trying to advance, they would receive an outfield assist.
Pitchers cannot receive assists on strikeouts because the ball must be put in play before an assist can be recorded.
Assists are not looked at by themselves, instead, they help to form other stats.
A fielder receives a putout when he is the one who physically records the out. This can be by catching a throw to first base, catching a fly ball, tagging a runner, or catching the third strike. A player will also receive the putout if he is the closest to a runner called out for interference. As you can see, first basemen and catchers have the highest amount of putouts in a game.
If a player fields the ball and takes it to the base himself, he is credited with an unassisted putout and no assist. However, if a fielder fields the ball, steps on the base, then throws to another base for a double play, he receives both a putout and an assist. Once again, putouts are used in more complicated stats.
According to MLB.com, “A fielder is given an error if, in the judgment of the official scorer, he fails to convert an out on a play that an average fielder should have made.” Players can also receive errors for making a poor play that allows baserunners to advance. They can even receive errors for dropping a foul ball. As you can see, the official scorer has a lot of power over this stat.
Errors have an effect on some batting stats. A batter does not receive an RBI for any runners who score because of an error. In addition, the batter is not credited with a hit on an error, but it does count as an at-bat.
For a long time, errors were the most common way to measure a defensive player. But as people realize how poor this stat really is, they’ve begun to only use it in better stats.
Fielding Percentage (FPCT)
Fielding Percentage has been the main stat for grading fielders for a long time. Fielding Percentage attempts to show how good a fielder is by showing the percentage of times he succeeds. The formula for Fielding Percentage is PO + A / TC. As you can see, this is the number of balls a fielder makes a play on divided by the number of balls hit to him.
The problem here is that once again, it doesn’t account for the ground a given fielder can cover. For example, when Derek Jeter was at the end of his career, he couldn’t get to as many ground balls. This led to less Total Chances and less Errors. For a long time, people thought that a higher Fielding Percentage meant a player was better. But in reality, Fielding Percentage should only be used to determine how well a player fields routine plays.