Putouts Vs. Assists in Baseball – What’s the Difference?

July 6, 2024
Putouts and assists in a baseball game with batter, pitcher, and catcher.

Digging into defensive statistics might not sound as flashy as counting home runs, but they're crucial for those who want a fuller understanding of the sport. These stats shine a light on the fielders—baseball’s often overlooked players whose skills and quick thinking are key to turning the tide in tight games.

Today, we're zeroing in on two such stats: putouts and assists in baseball. Whether you're a seasoned fan or new to the stands, knowing these stats will transform your viewing experience, making each game richer and more exciting.

Ready to dive deeper into the game? Let’s unpack these stats and discover why they matter so much.

Decoding Putouts

A putout occurs in baseball when a defensive player directly contributes to the recording of an out during play. Anytime a player catches a ball that leads to an out, that’s a putout. 

Examples of Putouts

  1. Tag Plays: Imagine a runner sprinting towards second base as the shortstop receives a throw from the catcher. The shortstop tags the runner before they can touch the base—this is a classic putout.
  2. Force Outs: When a batter hits a ground ball and a fielder throws it to first base before the batter arrives, that’s a force out. 
  3. Fly Balls: One of the most iconic plays in baseball is the outfielder leaping at the fence to catch a deep fly ball. Successfully catching this ball results in a putout.
  4. Appeal Plays: Appeal play occurs when a fielder throws the ball to a base a runner failed to touch properly. 

Additional Putout Scenarios

  1. Strikeouts: A catcher often gets a putout on a strikeout, especially if the third strike is caught.
  2. Automatic Outs:
    • Bunting Foul on Third Strike: The catcher is credited with a putout.
    • Illegally Batted Ball: If a batter hits illegally (e.g., using the wrong part of the bat or stepping out of the box), the catcher earns a putout.
    • Interference and Batting Errors: When a batter interferes with the catcher or bats out of turn, the catcher is credited with a putout. 
  3. Infield Fly Rule: If an infield fly is not caught, the fielder who should have made the catch is given the putout.
  4. Running Errors:
    • Hit by Batted Ball: If a runner is hit by a fair batted ball, the putout goes to the fielder closest to the ball.
    • Running Out of the Baseline: The fielder who the runner tried to avoid is credited with a putout.
    • Passing Another Runner: The fielder nearest to the passing incident records a putout.
    • Runner Interference: If a fielder is interfered with by a runner, they are credited with a putout, unless they were throwing the ball.

Breaking Down Assists

In baseball, an assist is credited to a fielder who helps make an out but isn't the one who actually completes it. Whenever a fielder makes a throw that results in an out at any base, excluding a strikeout, they record an assist. 

Different Faces of Assists

  1. Infield Assists: These are most common and often involve short, quick throws. 
  2. Outfield Assists: Outfield assists happen when an outfielder throws the ball back into the infield to prevent a runner from advancing or to catch a runner off base. 
  3. Relay Throws: Relay throws involve an outfielder throwing to an infielder, who then throws to another base to complete an out. 

Additional Points and Exceptions for Assists

  • Assists Despite Errors: A fielder receives an assist even if another player’s error results in no out during the play.
  • Deflections: If a ball is deflected off one fielder to another who then makes an out, both fielders can be credited with an assist. 
  • Limitations in Rundowns: During a rundown, if a fielder throws the ball multiple times, they are only credited with one assist for the entire play, regardless of how many throws they make.
  • Exclusions for Pitchers: Pitchers do not receive assists on plays involving strikeouts or caught stealing. 
  • No Assists on Wild Throws: If a fielder makes a wild throw that indirectly leads to an out, the fielder who made the wild throw does not receive an assist.

Seeing Stats in Action

While it's easy to assume these stats paint a complete picture of a player's skill, they're often more about the situation than sheer ability. They're essential for understanding specific plays, but they don't always tell the whole story about a player's defensive prowess.

To fully appreciate what putouts and assists contribute to the game, consider these insight:

  • Fielding Percentage and Range Factor: These are stats often thrown around in discussions about player performance. While fielding percentage gives an idea of error frequency, range factor looks at how much ground a player covers. 

Next time you catch a game, pay closer attention to the putouts and assists. See who’s making the plays and how they’re setting up or finishing them. Dive into more complex stats like fielding percentage and range factor if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of defensive play.

About the author 

Nate McCallister

Nate is one of the co-founders of Baseballcentric.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
Subscribe to get the latest updates