Team sports have assists wherein athletes of a specific team perform feats to increase their chances of winning games. Baseball is no exception as assists are one of the many important elements for winning. But what is an assist in baseball?
An assist is a defensive move awarded to a player that fields or touches the ball. However, the ball needs to come from a hit from the batter to count as an assist. Baseball analysts also refer to assists as baserunner kills as of late.
Is there a difference between a putout and an assist? What is an outfield assist in baseball? Also, who are the assist leaders in the MLB? Find out the answers to these questions as you take a deep dive into the main topic through this article.
A fielder is awarded an assist (denoted as ‘A’ in score sheets and data reports) when he touches the ball prior to a putout reaches another fielder. The point goes to a fielder when he throws the ball to another player. However, a fielder can also receive the assist when he touches the ball, even if the move was unintentional.
Take note that only one player can receive an assist per out. Therefore, if a player touches the ball twice in a rundown, regardless of intention or lack thereof, and the runner is called out, the individual who touched the ball will be the player credited with the point. Furthermore, pitchers won’t receive assists establishing strikeouts.
A fielder can also gain an assist point if a putout would occur. This event can happen if the fielder commits an error. For example, the shortstop fields or throws the ball. However, the first baseman fumbles and drops the throw. In this scenario, the first baseman receives the error but the shortstop will gain the assist point.
What is an Outfield Assist in Baseball?
As the name implies, an outfield assist (denoted as OFA) is a move then an outfielder throws the ball into the infield, resulting in an out. Most assists are outfield assists and are results from the ball being thrown to a base directly. Additionally, this type of assist can happen without the assistance of an infielder.
Take note that an infielder needs to cut the throw off or that player cuts the throw off for the outfielder to gain the assist point. Another instance is when an outfielder throws the ball to the infield, resulting in an out, wherein another outfielder already touched the ball beforehand. In that specific scenario, both outfielders gain assist points.
What is the Difference Between a Putout and an Assist in Baseball?
Don’t confuse a putout (denoted as PO) with an assist. The former is credited to a fielder who successfully outs an offensive player, as per scoring rule 10.09, which states:
On the other hand, a fielder gets an assist if the athlete contributes to outing an offensive player.
Players can get automatic putouts during certain scenarios. Here are some examples:
Who are the Assist Leaders in MLB?
Some MLB players excel in assisting their teammates more than others. These athletes help put the ‘work’ in ‘teamwork.’ With that said, here are some of the top assist leaders in MLB history.
1. Rabbit Maranville
This list wouldn’t be complete without baseball’s assist king. Walter James Vincent ‘Rabbit’ Maranville was the shortstop for the Boston Braves from September 1912 to September 1935. His MLB career allowed him to play for and with the Braves, albeit he also played alongside the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Brooklyn Robins.
Maranville garnered 8,967 assists throughout his 23-season professional baseball career, which makes him the undisputed assist king at the time of writing. Additionally, he was able to score over 2,600 hits with a batting average of 0.258.
2. Ozzie Smith
Born in December 1954, Osborne Earl ‘Ozzie’ Smith is a former shortstop in the MLB. He only played for two teams: the San Diego Padres and the St. Louis Cardinals. Smith played in the professional baseball scene for 18 years. However, he was able to gain 8,375 assists in his career.
Smith isn’t an unknown entity when he steps into the field. Many fans know him as ‘The Wizard’ because of his magic-like defensive plays. Additionally, Smith also holds a record for one of the most number of double plays by a shortstop in MLB history.
3. Cal Ripken, Jr.
Calvin Edwin ‘Cal’ Ripken, Jr. is a retired shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. Unlike many of his peers, Ripken only played for that team in his entire professional baseball career. With 8,214 total assists throughout his 20-year period in the MLB, he was able to win awards because of his fantastic defensive plays. These awards include being a two-time Gold Glove Award winner and an eight-time Silver Slugger Award holder.
Ripken Jr. (nicknamed the ‘Iron Man’) is also one of the best shortstops in MLB history. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches, this professional baseball player is taller than most shortstops, allowing him to acquire feats than many other athletes in the league.
Aside from these three players, other notable assist leaders are:
An assist is a defensive tactic in baseball that results from a fielder throwing the ball. In turn, a runner gets an out. Many scenarios can lead to players getting assist points. It’s also important to know the difference between putouts and assists to understand the sport better than before.