There are no “productive outs.” When a runner is out, he is dead. He cannot score. Yet, time after time, when a batter hits a ground ball and is out, his teammates slap him on the back. For making an out? What would you rather have? Men on first and second with nobody out – or a man on second with one out? “Productive outs” are a myth.
Billy Beane wisely proclaimed, “Outs are sacred. You have only 27 of them. Therefore never give them up.”
Joe Garagiola concurred. “What gets me,” he said, “is this thing they call the productive out. A guy hits a ground ball to second base, and they give him a pat on the back. I spent my entire career hitting ground balls to second, and that’s one reason I went into TV.” Earl Weaver, long-time Baltimore manager, expressed his disdain as follows: “I hate giving away outs. I dont care what the official playbook says the batter should do, there are only 27 outs in a baseball game. Your most precious possessions on offense are your 27 outs and the opportunities that go with them. The cost of giving away outs early always exceeds the benefit. If you play one run, that’s all you get.”
Think about this. Ask someone about a productive out. They might say, “Yeah, he didn’t hit into a double play, and he advanced the runner, although he made an out.” So a productive out means it could have been worse? Do ball players really believe in productive outs? How many ball players walk up to the plate, not looking for a hit, but an out? How many think, “I would love to ground out to second to move the runner to third”?
Come on, if your hitters are approaching the plate, hoping for a productive out instead of a hit, why are they even playing? Even if a batter is hitting .250, there’s a one out of four chance he will get a hit. Why make him give up that chance, and give the other team an out?
Back to Mr. Beane’s point. Sure, you may ground out and move the runner up, but how productive is that? You have used up 33% of your outs for that inning, and actually lowered the chances of getting a man home.