The unbelievability of a sacrifice fly

At least the batter is not charged with a time at bat,

Dear Matthew Alice: Let’s talk baseball. I cannot bring myself to buy the concept of the “sacrifice fly.” Personally, I believe they are all failed home run attempts, though you’d never get a true believer to admit it. How many times have you heard, “It’s going back, back, to the warning track.... And the center fielder brings it down. What a beautiful sacrifice fly!” Hang-time is not an issue, because the runner can’t tag up until the ball is caught, so it’s depth that counts. With that in mind, I find it difficult to accept that a batter would deliberately hit one high and deep for an intentional out and not put that extra 20 feet’s worth of juice on it and go for the tater. What deliberate, conscious effort is different from swinging for the fence when hitting an (alleged) sacrifice fly? — John Weisgerber, Reality

I gather you see a sac fly as a very clever and deliberately planned offensive strategy — the coach swats the batter on the fanny and sends him to the plate saying, “Now’s the perfect time for that high fly right into the center fielder’s glove like you’ve been practicing all week.” Weeeeell, no. Probably not. The batter would likely love to slam a tater at that moment or even a long single, but, baseball being what it is, the odds are against him. So a sac fly is probably the second choice of outcomes in most instances, but at least the team benefits in some way from the out because the runner advances. The difference between a homer and a fly-out is a lot more than just power; if pure physical exertion made the difference, there’d be a whole lot more home runs hit every season. As a consolation prize for falling on his sword, the batter who hits a sacrifice fly is not charged with a time at bat, so his average doesn’t fall. It’s actually the official scorer who rules on what is or isn’t a sacrifice fly (and a sacrifice bunt, too, which is more likely to be a deliberate offensive strategy and usually a harder call for the scorer).

“MATT FOR A DAY” CONTEST: Hope you’re all diligently working on your entries. In case you missed the announcement last week, in response to a barely perceptible demand, I’m giving everybody a chance to be a know-it-all in print. Give us 150 or 200 (entertaining) words that answer one of the following questions. Cleverly shoveled B.S. is almost as good as the truth (as usual). You have until mid-June.

Question 1: Matt: There’s a champagne glass in downtown San Diego that is as tall as a building, but it’s not as visible as it used to be. Where is it, exactly?—Patrick Lockwood, San Diego Question 2: Matt: I’m continually amazed at the number of left-handed people in San Diego! It’s like the Twilight Zone!! What’s the actual percentage of left-handed people in San Diego, and how do we compare to other cities in the U.S.? — Feeling Left Out, San Diego

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