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Every player or fan who loves tense moments in baseball dreams of the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, full count scenario. It is arguably the most pressure-filled situation in all of sports.
But what makes that moment so tense is not the fact that it is late in the game and there are two outs. It is the full count that has both the hitter and the pitcher backed into a wall. Dedicated baseball fans may understand this, but many casual fans do not.
In baseball, when the pitcher has thrown three balls and two strikes in an at-bat, it is called a full count. If he throws one more ball, then the result is a walk. If he throws one more strike, then the result is a strikeout.
Continue reading to understand more about a full count and what it means for both the hitter and the pitcher.
What is the Count in Baseball?
If you are watching a baseball game, you will hear several references to the count. The count is common knowledge for many die hard baseball fans, but it may be confusing for casual fans.
In baseball, the number of balls and strikes in the current at-bat is called the count. The first number represents the number of balls, and the second number represents the number of strikes.
The home plate umpire is responsible for keeping the official count. He typically shares the count with the pitcher and everyone else in the field by holding up the number of balls on his right hand and strikes on his left.
This may appear to be backwards to fans sitting behind the umpire, but to the players in the field, it reads from left to right as normal. In full count situations, the umpire usually holds up both fists to represent that the count is full.
When watching a game on television you can see the count located somewhere on the digital scoreboard. It is usually somewhere near the number of outs.
It is represented by two numbers with a dash in between them. For example, if there are two balls and one strike, then the count on the scoreboard will read 2-1. If it is a full count, it will read 3-2.
The same goes for games that are attended in person. Fans can look at the scoreboard to find the count. In most Major League stadiums, there are multiple places in the stadium where the count is displayed so that every fan can have an easy view of the count.
What are Advantage Counts in Baseball?
A full count can be one of the most exciting moments in baseball for fans because they know something will happen after the next pitch.
Advantage counts tell which player typically has the advantage. Even counts or counts with more strikes than balls are often considered advantage counts for pitchers. Counts with more balls than strikes are often considered advantage counts for hitters.
Some people use the term ahead in the count to refer to being in an advantage count. When pitchers are ahead in the count, they may be more aggressive and are more likely to mix up their pitches to try and fool the hitter who may feel as if his back is against the wall.
When hitters are ahead in the count, they are typically more patient waiting for the pitch with which they feel they can do the most damage.
A full count is not considered an advantage count for either the pitcher or the hitter. Both have little margin for error which amps up the pressure in those situations.
In full count situations, pitchers typically stick with throwing a fastball – or whatever pitch they have the most confidence in throwing for a strike – while hitters sometimes choke up and swing at anything close.
Why Do Baserunners Always Run on a Full Count with Two Outs
Baserunners should always be aware of the count and the number of outs because there are certain situations where it is more advantageous to steal than others.
When the count is full and there is a runner on first, first and second, or the bases are loaded with two outs, the runners begin running when the pitcher begins his motion because they will end up advancing to the next base regardless of the outcome.
If it is a ball, then the hitter walks and the runners move up to the next base. If the ball is put in play, then the hitter will attempt to make it to the next base anyway. This allows runners to get a good jump on a hit and hopefully get extra bases out of it.
This is not necessarily considered a stolen base attempt because there is no way for the runner to get thrown out. Therefore, most runners don’t worry about getting a great jump to make sure they don’t get picked off.
Sometimes pitchers, especially left-handed pitchers, will attempt pick off moves on a full count to see if they can catch the runner leaning. Coaches often remind their runners in these sitautions to make sure the pitcher goes home so that they don’t get picked off.
What Does “Base Hit, Ball Four” Mean in Baseball?
When the count is full, you will sometimes hear coaches and teammates tell the hitter, “Base hit, ball four.”
The saying, “Base hit, ball four” is just a statement of encouragement to the hitter stating that he will likely either get a hit or walk.
Obviously, there are two other possibilities, an out or a strikeout, but the goal when saying this to the hitter is to eliminate the negative possibilities in his head. In pressure situations, some hitters tend to think about the bad things that can happen rather than the good.
Encouragement in these situations is the best approach from coaches and teammates, and that is why you will sometimes hear them say “Base hit, ball four” when the hitter is faced with a full count.
What Happens on a Foul Ball with a Full Count?
In baseball, when a hitter hits a foul ball, it is considered a strike unless he already has two strikes, then it does not count for anything. The same is true for a full count.
If a hitter hits a foul ball with a full count, he gets to continue his at-bat just like in any other two strike count.
Pitchers generally don’t like it when hitters foul off pitches in a full count because it puts them right back in the same stressful situation as the pitch before. Also, it gives the hitter another chance to see what will likely be another fastball.
Another person who may not be too happy on foul balls with full counts – but for completely different reasons – is the runner on first base who was running on the pitch and must return to first to do it all over again.
As the hitter fouls off more pitches in a full count, he slowly starts to gain an advantage over the pitcher because too many pitches in stressful situations can really wear down a pitcher.
Can Pitchers Throw Offspeed Pitches in a Full Count?
Yes, pitchers can throw offspeed pitches in a full count. However, fastballs are the most popular pitch to throw in a full count because pitchers tend to have more control of them. A pitcher who can control an offspeed pitch in a full count will certainly fool a lot of hitters.
Why is it Called a Full Count?
The count is considered full because there is nothing left to give in that at-bat. The pitcher cannot throw another ball or else he will walk the hitter, and the hitter cannot take another strike or else he will strikeout.
Are There Other Names for a Full Count?
Full count is definitely the most popular term for a three ball two strike count, but it is sometimes referred to as a full house. That term is most commonly used in softball.
Does the Strike Zone Widen or Shrink in a Full Count?
The strike zone stays the same no matter the count; however, some argue that some umpires widen the strike zone with two strikes even though they are not supposed to do so. This is why most coaches teach their hitters to swing at anything close with two strikes.
What is a Two Strike Pitch (or Waste Pitch)?
When the count is 0-2 or 1-2, pitching coaches often encourage their pitchers to throw what they call either a two strike pitch or a waste pitch. This is a pitch that is normally outside of the strike zone with the hopes that the hitter, being aggressive, will chase it.