"Baseball is the only place in life where a sacrifice is really appreciated." - Anonymous
A sacrifice hit (also known as a sacrifice bunt, and abbreviated SH) is credited to a batter who successfully advances one or more runners by bunting the ball for an out, or who would have been put out but for an error or unsuccessful fielder's choice. A sacrifice does not count as a time at bat. Many sacrifice bunts are made by pitchers, because the vast majority of them are poor hitters who would be unlikely to advance a runner otherwise.
A squeeze play is a variant of the sacrifice hit in which the object is not only to advance a baserunner, but to have him score from third base. A sacrifice fly is another type of sacrifice play, now considered to be different from a sacrifice hit, although that distinction was not always made (see below).
The exact nature of the sacrifice has varied over time. For most of baseball history the sacrifice has followed essentially the current rule: a sacrifice was awarded only on a bunt that was not an obvious attempt to bunt for a hit. At other times, though, the rules have given credit for other ways of advancing runners with outs. A brief summary of the sacrifice hit rule over time:
- 1889-1893: A sacrifice is credited only with one out, but is awarded for any out or error that advanced a runner. The batter is still charged with a time at bat.
- 1894-1896: A sacrifice is awarded with either zero or one out, but only for bunts that advanced a runner and resulted in an out. Sacrifice hits no longer count as a time at bat.
- 1897-1907: A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter would have been out but for an error.
- 1908: A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter succeeds in driving in a run with a fly out.
- 1909-1919: A sacrifice is now awarded if the batter drives in a run with a fly ball that results in an error but would have driven in the run if the error had not been committed. Although sacrifice flies were included in the sacrifice hit total, they were also counted separately.
- 1920-1925: The scoring distinction between sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies is abolished.
- 1926-1930: A sacrifice is awarded on any fly out that advances a runner, or on a fly ball resulting in an error that would have advanced a runner had the out been recorded.
- 1931-1938: No sacrifice is awarded for a sacrifice fly.
- 1939: Sacrifice flies are again counted as sacrifice hits, but only those that result in a score.
- 1940-present: Sacrifice hits are awarded only on bunts that advance a runner and result in an out, or would have resulted in an out but for an error or unsuccessful fielder's choice.
Because the rules on exactly what constituted a sacrifice hit varied considerably during the early game, sacrifice totals from that period can't necessarily be compared directly with modern ones.
In Major League Baseball, the number of sacrifice hits has been on a steady decline since 1945. The introduction of the designated hitter in the American League in 1973 was a big blow, but the overall trend has been unmistakable, and has even accelerated in more recent decades as analytics have determined that in most situations, a sacrifice bunt results in a net loss of offence (the only exceptions being a tie game in the late innings when a single run can win the game, or with a very weak hitter at the plate, such as most pitchers). Also, in a chicken-and-egg type of problems, bunting skills have declined generally through disuse, so that even when a bunt is called for, it is unlikely to be well executed, further lowering its occurrence. In 1998, there were 1,705 bunts in the majors; in 2020, the number was down to 776, with 55.6% of them being executed by pitchers (and 77% of the total in National League games).
|All Time Leaders|
|Career, by a pitcher||Tom Glavine||191|
|NPB Career||Masahiro Kawai||533|
|NPB Season||Shinya Miyamoto||67||2001|