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Baseball Strike Zone

What is the strike zone? How does the umpire use the strike zone to calls strikes and balls? Get ready to learn the rules of strike zones in baseball.

Strike Zone

The strike zone is an invisible rectangle right above home plate that is the width of home plate and extends from the batter's knees to his chest. It is used to by the Umpire to determine if a pitch is a ball or a strike. It is up to the Umpire to create a mental picture of the strike zone in his mind when calling a pitch.

The strike zone is considered a hittable area; that is, pitches that are within the strike zone are considered pitches that the batter can realistically hit. This is important to note because it defines the strike zone's purpose. If the batter does not hit a pitch that can be realistically hit and is in the strike zone, he is punished with a strike. Getting strikes ultimately lead to getting out. If the pitcher throws a pitch that cannot be reasonably hit and is outside the strike zone, the batter is awarded with a ball, which can later lead to a walk.

baseball strike zone


When a pitcher pitches the ball to home plate to the catcher, the pitch will be called as either a strike or a ball by the Umpire. It's all determined by an imaginary zone at home plate called the strike zone. If the batter gets three strikes they are out - called a strikeout.


This term can be confusing, since up until this chapter we have used the word ball to refer to the physical baseball. We've tried our best to use the word baseball instead of ball to describe the equipment. In the context of this baseball concept, balls refers to a pitch that is outside the strike zone that the batter does not hit at. Balls can only be called if the batter does not swing, since they are determined by the pitch's location relative to the strike zone, and the strike zone is automatically disregarded if the batter hits.

To understand this better, imagine if the concept of balls (the count) did not exist. Pitchers would throw pitches way above the batter's head or out of reach of the batter's bat, and no one would hit or score any runs. Balls keep the pitcher in check, preventing him from throwing too many unreasonable pitches, and allowing the batter a fair chance to hit the pitch.


If the pitcher throws four balls during a batter's at-bat, the batter is automatically entitled to first base. This occurrence is called a walk or a base-on-balls. If a base runner is already on first base when a batter draws a walk, that runner advances to second base. If strikes are like a punishment to the batter for not hitting a reasonable pitch, balls are like a punishment to the pitcher for not having good aim and throwing a pitch that the batter cannot reasonably hit.

The Umpire's Role

As stated before, the strike zone acts as a guide in determining whether a pitch is a strike or a ball. The home plate umpire ultimately makes that decision though. He stands behind the catcher and tracks the path of the pitch as it travels from the pitcher's mound to the catcher's glove. If he sees that the pitch was inside the strike zone, he will call it a strike. If he sees that the pitch was outside the strike zone, he will call it a ball.

Human Error

However, umpires are human and humans are not perfect. Fans, players, and coaches become upset if they feel that an umpire has wrongly called a pitch or has an atypical strike zone. While ideally an umpire's call is correct every time, a pitch that is inside or outside the strike zone will not always be called as such. Human error of the umpires is an important aspect of baseball, and it affects many areas of the game -- including the strike zone.

Checked Swings

In some situations, the outcome of the swing will determine if the pitch is a strike, ball, or foul ball. Swinging at the pitch means that the batter did not move his bat as the pitch went by, or that the batter performed a check swing. Check swinging is when the batter begins his swing, but the bat does not cross home plate. Check swinging counts as not swinging at all. On a checked swing, the umpire will call a strike, ball, or foul ball based on the strike zone. The first base umpire and third base umpire can help the home plate umpire decide if the pitch was a check swing. If the batter does swing his bat, the strike zone is not used and the outcome of the pitch is determined by the outcome of the swing.

Strike Zone Chart

Below is a chart that describes example situations that could happen in a baseball game and if they result in a strike, ball, or foul ball. You can refer to this table when you watch your first game.


Strike, Ball, or Foul Ball

A pitch ends up in the batter's strike zone and is not swung at by the batter.


The batter attempts to swing at a pitch and misses. This is called a swing and miss.


The batter already has less than two strikes and hits a foul ball.


The batter tips the ball with the bat and it lands in foul territory.

Foul Ball / Strike

The batter has two strikes and hits a foul ball.

Foul Ball

The pitch is thrown outside of the strike zone and the batter chooses not to swing.


The batter checks his swing and the pitch is thrown outside the strike zone.


The batter swings and the pitch is thrown outside the strike zone.


The pitch is thrown outside the strike zone and the Umpire makes a mistake calling it a strike.


The pitch is thrown in the strike zone and hits the batter.


Strike Zone Terminology

Here is a list of recommended strike zone terms to help you better understand it.

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