, a batted ball is considered a sacrifice fly
if the following four criteria are met:
- There are fewer than two outs when the ball is hit.
- The ball is hit to the outfield.
- The batter is out because an outfielder or an infielder running in the outfield catches the ball (or would have been out if not for an error).
- A runner who is already on base scores on the play.
As addressed within Rule 10.09(e) of the Official Baseball Rules, a sacrifice fly is not counted as a turn at bat for the batter, though the batter is credited with a run batted in.
The purpose of not counting a sacrifice fly as an at bat is to avoid penalizing hitters for a successful tactical maneuver. The sacrifice fly is one of two instances in baseball where a batter is not charged with a time at bat after putting a ball in play; the other is the sacrifice hit. However, a sacrifice fly still reduces a player's on base percentage, and a player on a hitting streak will have the hit streak end if he has no official at-bats but he has a sacrifice fly.
The sacrifice fly is credited even if another runner is put out on appeal for failing to tag up, so long as a run scores prior to the third out. In the case of a fly ball dropped for an error, the sacrifice fly is only credited if the official scorer believes the run would have scored had the ball been caught.
The most sacrifice flies by a team in one game is five; the record was established by the Seattle Mariners
in 1988 and tied by the Colorado Rockies
in 2006 and then tied again in 2008 by the Seattle Mariners
Since the rule was reinstated in its present form, Gil Hodges of the Dodgers holds the record for most sacrifice flies in one season with 19, in 1954; Eddie Murray holds the record for most sacrifice flies in a career with 128.
As of the 2007 season, players who have hit 115 or more career sacrifice flies:
- Eddie Murray (128)
- Cal Ripken, Jr. (127)
- Robin Yount (123)
- Hank Aaron (121)
- George Brett (120)
- Rubén Sierra (120)
- Rafael Palmeiro (119)
- Frank Thomas (119)
- Daniel "Rusty" Staub (119)
- Andre Dawson (118)
- Don Baylor (115)
Batters have not been charged with a time at-bat for a sacrifice hit since 1893, but baseball has changed the sacrifice fly rule multiple times. The sacrifice fly as a statistical category was instituted in 1908, only to be discontinued in 1931. The rule was again adopted in 1939, only to be eliminated again in 1940, before being adopted for the last time in 1954.