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“For it’s one. . . two. . . three strikes, you’re out at the old. . . ball. . . game!”
Anyone who has been to a professional baseball game has sung this song in the middle of the seventh inning. It is one of the longest traditions in all of baseball to sing “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch.
The end of the song highlights one of the most basic but most important aspects of America’s Pastime: the strikeout. Anyone who doesn’t know much about baseball likely understands that a batter is allowed three strikes before he is called out and heads back to the dugout.
While striking out is becoming even more common in today’s professional game, fans must understand that outs can be recorded in many other ways.
In baseball, each team must record three outs each inning in order to switch from defense to offense. In a nine-inning game, there are 27 total outs for each team and 54 total outs recorded for both teams combined.
Let’s learn about some of the other ways that defenses can record outs.
How to Record Outs
There are several different ways for teams to record these outs.
- Strikes are called when a hitter swings and misses at a pitch and when he does not swing at a pitch in the strike zone. When a pitcher gets three strikes on a batter, the batter is out and the pitcher is rewarded with a strikeout.
- Any ball that is put in play on the ground is considered a ground ball. If a defensive player fields the ground ball and throws the ball to the first baseman (who is standing on the base) before the hitter reaches the base, the batter is out.
- Any ball that is put in play in the air is considered a fly ball. When a defensive player catches the ball before it hits the ground, the batter is out. Runners are not allowed to advance on flyouts unless they tag up.
- Line drives are batted balls that stay in the air too long to be considered a ground ball but not long enough to be considered a fly ball. When a hitter hits a line drive that is caught by a defensive player before it hits the ground, the scorekeeper records a lineout.
- Force out
- A force out happens on a ground ball or a line drive that is not caught and the lead runner is thrown out before reaching the next base. All the defense has to do in this case is touch the base ahead of the lead runner, and he is out.
- Caught Stealing
- Stolen bases happen when a baserunner advances to the next base on a pitch instead of a batted ball. If the catcher throws the ball to his defender covering the base, and the runner is tagged before reaching the base, he is considered to be caught stealing and is out.
- Instead of throwing the ball to home plate, pitchers can throw the ball to any of the three bases if it is occupied by a runner to try and prevent them from stealing. If the runner doesn’t make it back to the base before being tagged by the defender, he is out on a pickoff.
- Double Play
- Double plays are basically force-outs combined with groundouts. On a ground ball, the defense can get the lead runner out on a force out and then throw the hitter out at first to record two outs on one play.
Penalties Resulting in Outs
In baseball, offensive penalties often result in automatic outs. Here are some of the illegal plays that result in outs.
- When a runner intentionally interferes with the defensive player on a batted ball, the runner is called out.
- Getting hit by a batted ball (as a runner)
- If a ball that is in play hits a runner while he is positioned inside the foul lines, that runner is out.
- Illegal bat
- If a player uses a bat that is illegal according to his league’s regulations, then he is called out. In professional baseball, this sometimes happens when a player uses an excessive amount of pine tar on his bat.
- Stepping out of the batter’s box
- The batter’s box exists as a boundary in which hitters must remain throughout their at-bat. If he puts a ball in play while stepping out of the box, he is called out by the umpire.
- Running out of the baseline
- A baseline is established when a defensive player is attempting a tag on the runner. If in order to avoid the tag, the runner goes more than three feet on either side of the baseline, he is deemed out.
- Passing a runner on the basepaths
- When a runner passes the runner ahead of him, the trail runner is out.
- Two runners occupying a base
- When more than one runner attempts to occupy a base, whichever runner is tagged first is called out. This happens a lot in rundowns where the trail runner attempts to advance while the lead runner is in a rundown.
- Missing a base
- A runner is required to touch each base as he makes his way around the bases. If he does not touch a base and then advances to the next base, the defensive team may appeal the play, and the umpire should call him out.
- Leaving early while tagging up on a fly ball
- On a flyout, a runner may only advance if he stands on his base until the flyball is caught — this is called tagging up. If he leaves the base before the defensive player catches the ball, the defense may appeal the play, and the umpire should call him out.
There are other offensive infractions that do not lead to an automatic out such as getting hit by a pitch in the strike zone and leaving the batter’s box once the pitcher begins his motion.
While it is the goal of any hitter to get on base via hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch, there is such a thing among coaches that they often call a “productive out”. A productive out is what the name says it is: an out that produces some positive result for the offensive team.
For example, if a player hits a ground ball and gets thrown out at first, but the runner at third base was able to score on the play, many would consider that to be a productive out. Although the batter is out, by simply putting the ball in play he allowed his teammate the chance to score.
A sacrifice fly is another example of a productive out. When a player hits a fly ball that is deep enough into the outfield that allows the runner to advance after the catch, many coaches consider that a productive out.
The same can be said for sacrifice bunts. When a player bunts with less than two outs, he is giving himself up and resigning to the fact that he will likely be thrown out at first base, but he does so to move his teammates up a base.
Since outs are just a part of the game, many coaches have taken the approach of praising hitters for productive outs. Many teams have started tracking players’ Quality At-Bats (QAB) which factors productive outs into a percentage that looks a lot like a batting average.
While batting average proves how often a player gets a hit, QAB proves how productive the player is when he steps into the batters’ box. Many coaches argue that QAB is their preferred way to track a hitter’s success at the plate.
How often do MLB players strike out?
In today’s MLB, 24% of outs recorded are strikeouts. This number is higher than it has been in recent years. With a heightened emphasis on home runs and power production, players are starting to swing and miss more than they ever have before.
Is there a stat for recording an out as a defensive player?
Yes, putouts and assists are ways for teams to track the outs that their defensive players make. A putout is recorded when a defensive player catches a ball that results in an out. An assist is recorded when a player makes a throw that results in an out. Catchers and first basemen often lead teams and leagues in putouts because every strikeout and every force out at first base is recorded as a putout.
Fielding Percentage is also another way to evaluate a defensive player. Like batting average, fielding percentage tracks the percentage of the time the player makes a play when given an opportunity on defense.
Why do errors count as outs for a hitter in his batting average?
When it comes to batting average, reaching base on an error is the same as getting out. This is because the player did not earn his way on base. Batting average does not reward hitters for a defense’s mistake. While reaching on an error may not help a player’s batting average, it does help his team as it adds an extra base runner on the base paths.