po in baseball

What Is A PO In Baseball? (Mastering The Basics)

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po in baseball

Baseball is a game filled with special terms, and “PO” is one that every baseball fan should know. Curious about what PO in baseball means? It’s short for “putout.” If you’re looking to get a clear understanding of this term, you’re in the right place.

This article explores the role of putouts in baseball, explaining who gets credited with a putout and why they’re significant in both strategy and gameplay. We provide a straightforward guide on everything about the term PO, from basic explanations to detailed insights into specific situations, helping fans at all levels deepen their knowledge of the game’s defensive aspects.


What Does PO Mean In Baseball?

If you’ve ever watched a Major League Baseball game, you probably understand what a strikeout or an out means. But do you know about other obscure baseball terms that announcers or commentators don’t mention as often during the game? Terms like putouts, assists, QAB, and immaculate inning.

So what exactly does PO mean in baseball? PO in baseball is a simple concept. The best way to explain it is when a defensive baseball player gets an out themselves. They either caused the out through their action, like catching a fly ball or possessing the ball when the umpire ruled the hitter or runner out. 

putout in baseball

There are four most common ways in which a defensive player can get a putout:

These include:

  • When catchers catch the third strike resulting in an out
  • Catching line drives or a pop fly before it hits the ground
  • If a defensive position player tags a runner while the ball is in their glove
  • Stepping on the base before the runner on a force out

Why Putouts Matter in the Game

Putouts are important for assessing a player’s defensive skills. They are especially important for middle infielders, like shortstops and second basemen, who often have a number of opportunities to make plays.

  • Individual Performance: Putouts are key indicators of a player’s defensive skill, awareness, and contribution to the team.
  • Team Strategy: Putouts provide insights into how teams coordinate defense, create successful plays, and respond to opponents’ offensive strategies.
  • Game Analysis: Tracking putouts helps coaches understand game patterns, player development, and strategic adjustments.

Knowing why putouts are important helps you enjoy baseball more. It’s not just about one play. It’s about how everything in the game fits together.


What Is An Assist In Baseball And How Is It Different From A Putout?

Putouts and assists often go hand-in-hand in baseball, but they’re not the same thing. The player who makes the final action leading to the out receives a putout, while a player who helps make the out but doesn’t complete it earns an assist (or ‘A’).

An assist in baseball occurs when one fielder fields the hit ball and throws it to another player to record the out. For example, if the shortstop throws it to second for the force-out, they earn the assist.

The relationship between these two terms can be illustrated through common plays:

  • Double Plays: Let’s say a ground ball is hit to the shortstop, who throws it to the second baseman, getting the runner out who was advancing from first to second base. Then the second baseman throws to the first baseman, getting the batter out. In this situation, the shortstop and second baseman are awarded assists, while the second and first basemen receive put outs.
  • Multiple Assists Scenario: Sometimes, more than one assist can be involved in a single putout. A good example, is when the left fielder throws the ball to the shortstop, who then throws to the third baseman to tag a runner out. Both the left fielder and shortstop receive assists, while the third baseman gets the putout.

A fielder can earn an assist simply by touching the ball before the out, even if unintentionally. For example, if a line drive bounces off the pitcher and the first baseman catches it for an out, the pitcher earns an assist.

What is an unassisted putout?

An unassisted putout in baseball occurs when a defensive player makes an out without any help from other players. This typically happens when the fielder catches a ball in the air or tags a base or a runner with the ball in hand, leading directly to an out.

Some common examples of unassisted putouts include:

Catching a Fly Ball or Line Drive: When a fielder catches a fly ball or line drive before it touches the ground, it results in an unassisted putout.

Tag Plays: If a fielder tags a runner while holding the ball before the runner reaches a base, it’s considered an unassisted putout.

Force Plays at a Base: In situations where a runner is forced to advance to the next base, a fielder can record an unassisted putout by catching the ball and touching the base before the runner arrives.

Unassisted Triple Plays: This rare event occurs when a fielder makes all three outs of an inning unassisted, often by catching a line drive, tagging a base, and then tagging a runner.

Unusual and Rare Putouts

While many putouts occur through routine plays, baseball also offers a stage for some truly unique and rare putouts.

  • The hidden ball trick, where a fielder deceives a runner into leaving the base and then tags them out.
  • Putouts resulting from obscure rules, such as a batter being called out for stepping on the plate while swinging.

Is A Strikeout A Putout For The Catcher Or Pitcher?

When there’s a strikeout, the catcher usually gets credit for the putout. This happens when the batter either swings at and misses the third strike, or the umpire calls it. If it’s a dropped third strike and the batter attempts to reach first base, the first baseman or another fielder may receive the putout if they throw the batter out.

You might think that pitchers would earn an assist after a strikeout if you understand the concept of assists and putouts. However, the MLB rulebook states that pitchers do not receive an assist after a strikeout.


How Does A Catcher Get A PO In Baseball?

There are a few situations that exist where a catcher earns a putout. For example, a catcher receives a putout when a batter strikes out, as discussed earlier. Catchers also get putout credit for throwing out base stealers, and runners after bunt attempts. 

Other scenarios where a catcher earns a putout:

  • If the offensive player is batting out of order and is ruled out
  • If a hitter attempts to bunt with two strikes and fouls a ball off and the ball hits the ground
  • If the hitter is touched by his own batted ball
  • If there is a play at the plate and an out is made by either forceout or applying a tag by the catcher  
  • A catcher could be credited with an assist on a strikeout if it was a passed ball and they had to throw down to first base

What catcher has the most putouts in MLB history?

As of August 2022, Yadier Molina holds the MLB record with 15,040 career putouts. He passed Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez on June 14th, 2022. Rodriguez previously held the record with 14,864 putouts. 


What Positions Get The Most Putouts In Baseball?

First baseman and catcher are the two positions that record the most putouts in baseball. However, of the top 45 putout leaders in baseball history, only Yadier Molina was not a first baseman. He came in at number 45.

Understandably, these two positions record the most putouts as they touch the ball most frequently. Even if pitchers got credit for strikeouts, they probably still wouldn’t crack the top 45 since they aren’t everyday players. 


MLB Putout Leaders (Career)

RANKPLAYER NAME# OF PUTOUTSDEFENSIVE POSITION
1Jake Beckley 23,7431st Base
2Cap Anson 22,5721st Base
3Ed Konetchy21,3781st Base
4Eddie Murray 21,2651st Base
5Charlie Grimm20,7221st Base
6Stuffy McInnis20,1201st Base
7Mickey Vernon19,8191st Base
8Jake Daubert19,6341st Base
9Lou Gehrig19,5251st Base
10Joe Kuhel19,3861st Base
MLB career putout leaders

MLB Putout Leaders (Single Season)

RANKPLAYER NAME# OF PUTOUTSDEFENSIVE POSITION
1Jiggs Donahue1,8461st Base / Catcher
2George Kelly1,7591st Base
3Phil Todt17551st Base
4Wally Pipp17101st Base
5Jiggs Donahue16971st Base / Catcher
6George LaChance16911st / Shortstop
7Tom Jones16871st Base
8Ernie Banks16821st Base / Shortstop
9Wally Pipp16671st Base
10Lou Gehrig16621st Base
MLB Single-season putout leader

MLB Assist Leaders (Career)

RANKPLAYER NAME# OF ASSISTSDEFENSIVE POSITION
1Rabbit Maranville8,967Shortstop / 2nd Base
2Ozzie Smith8,375Shortstop
3Cal Ripken Jr.8,214Shortstop / 3rd Base
4Bill Dahlen8,138Shortstop
5Omar Vizquel8,050Shortstop
6Luis Aparicio8,016Shortstop
7Eddie Collins7,7162nd Base
8Luke Appling7,543Shortstop
9Tommy Corcoran7,509Shortstop
10Bobby Wallace7,465Shortstop / Pitcher
MLB career assist leaders

MLB Assist Leaders (Single Season)

RANKPLAYER NAME# OF ASSISTSDEFENSIVE POSITION
1Ozzie Smith621Shortstop
2Glenn Wright601Shortstop
3Dave Bancroft598Shortstop
4Tommy Thevenow597Shortstop / 2nd Base / 3rd Base
5Ivan de Jesus595Shortstop
6Cal Ripken Jr.583Shortstop / 3rd Base
7Whitey Wietelmann581Shortstop / 2nd Base / 3rd Base
8Dave Bancroft589Shortstop
9Rabbit Maranville574Shortstop / 2nd Base
10Don Kessinger573Shortstop / 2nd Base
MLB single-season assist leaders

What Is A 5-3 Putout In Baseball?

Before we can answer this question, we want to make sure you understand how different numbers represent different defensive positions in baseball. 

Baseball positions by numbers:

  1. Pitcher 
  2. Catcher
  3. 1st baseman
  4. 2nd baseman
  5. 3rd baseman
  6. Shortstop
  7. Left fielder
  8. Center fielder
  9. Right fielder 

So getting back to the question, what is a 5 3 putout in baseball? If you look at the chart above the number five represents the third baseman and the number three represents the first baseman. So the term is where the third baseman fielded a hit and threw to first base for the out.

Let’s do another example. What is a 3-1 putout in baseball? Looking at the chart again, you’ll see that 3 is the first baseman and 1 is the pitcher.

So, now you’re thinking how this can be possible since the pitcher would have to throw to the first baseman to record the out. Well, how about if the batter hits a ball to first but it pulls the first baseman off of the bag? The pitcher is supposed to cover on plays like this. So if they receive the ball from the first baseman and tag the base, they’d get the putout. 


What Is A 9-3 Putout?

A 9-3 putout is when the right fielder fields a ball in the outfield and throws the hitter out at first base. For this to work, there would have to be a few factors in play. Firstly, the hitter would either have to be extremely slow or they weren’t hustling out of the box.

Secondly, the batter would have to hit the ball pretty hard, and the outfielder would have to be playing somewhat shallow. Throws closer to the foul line have a better chance than those from the right-center gap. A 9-3 putout is rare because coaches usually teach players not to throw to first base from the outfield.

Check out some of these 9-3 MLB putouts

The Term “Pitcher Only” (PO) Explained

People commonly use ‘PO’ to denote a putout. However, it can also refer to the term ‘Pitcher Only.’ Teams often apply this term to a player specifically for their pitching skills, and that player does not play other positions or hit in the lineup. It signifies specialization in the role of a pitcher. It also helps coaches, players, and fans quickly identify the player’s main function within the team.


Final Thoughts

Whether you’re playing or just a casual fan, having this knowledge not only helps you follow the game more closely but also deepens your connection to this sport. As you watch the next game, pay attention to the putouts. See how this newfound understanding adds a new layer to your baseball experience.

Key Takeaways:

  • The player who makes the final action leading to an out receives the credit for the putout.
  • Putouts are connected to other aspects of the game like assists, double plays, and various playing positions.
  • Recognizing the role of putouts is a great way to understand deeper game tactics, strategies, and even the history of baseball itself.

Hopefully, this article helped you better understand the question, of what does PO stand for in baseball and how it differs from an assist. 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Putout (PO) in Baseball?

In baseball, a putout (PO) occurs when a defensive player directly causes an out. This can happen in various ways, such as an outfielder catching a fly ball, or a shortstop tagging a runner.

Can a Relief Pitcher Earn a Putout?

Yes, a relief pitcher can earn a putout, typically by covering first base on a ground ball or catching a popped-up bunt themselves. Their role in putouts, though less frequent than infielders, is an important aspect of their defensive game.

What is an Appeal Play in the Context of a Putout?

An appeal play is a special type of putout that occurs when the defensive team claims a rule violation by the batting team, like missing a base. The umpire can rule the runner out if the appeal is valid.

What is a Dropped Third Strike and How Does it Relate to Putouts?

A dropped third strike occurs when a catcher fails to catch the third strike cleanly. The batter can then attempt to reach first base, and the defensive team has the opportunity to make a putout by throwing the batter out at first.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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