Baseball Automatic Strike Rules

baseball automatic strike

In baseball, strikes are primarily called for pitches in the strike zone and foul balls. However, strikes may be called for other reasons before the pitch is even thrown. Read on to learn more about the automatic strike rules in baseball.

What Is an Automatic Strike in Baseball?

An automatic strike in baseball is a strike that is called on a batter who either refuses to take their position in the batter's box during the at-bat, takes too long to take position in the batter’s box, or hits the catcher with their bat. If the batter still refuses to take the batter’s box after being called for an automatic strike, they may be called out. The crew chief umpire has the final say on making this call during a game.

If a batter wants to step out of the batter’s box, they must request “time” from the umpire and get approval before stepping out. During this time, the ball is dead and runners cannot advance bases.


Baseball Strike Zone

In baseball, there are lots of rules for why a strike will be called on the batter. Primarily, the strike zone is used by umpires to call strikes and balls. However, in rare situations, an automatic strike will be called. In these cases, the official scorer will record an automatic putout for the catcher if the batter is called out by a strikeout.

Reasons for an Automatic Strike

Here is a complete list of reasons an automatic strike may be called on a batter:

  1. The batter refuses to take their position in the batter’s box
  2. The batter is not in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with eight seconds remaining on the pitch clock
  3. The batter leaves the batter’s box while the pitcher is in the process of the pitch
  4. The batter unintentionally hits the catcher due to negligent swinging

Batter’s Box Rule

According to the batter’s box rule, a batter must keep at least one foot inside the batter’s box during their at-bat. There are a few exceptions to the batter's box rule, including stepping outside of the box during a swing, a checked swing, when the batter is avoiding getting hit by a pitch, a timeout called during a play, or a wild pitch.

Pitch Timer

If a batter is not in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with fewer than eight seconds left on the pitch clock, they will be charged with an automatic strike. This rule was introduced to the MLB in 2023 in an effort to speed up the game by forcing pitchers and batters to monitor time between pitches. A batter is allowed to call “time” before the pitcher has started their windup, but the timeout is not guaranteed to be granted.

Hitting the Catcher

An automatic strike will be called on any batter who hits the catcher with the bat during their backswing. At the discretion of the umpire, a strike will be called if the swing hits the catcher after their swing has passed over the plate. No runners can advance on an automatic strike.


What are the MLB automatic strike rules?

In the MLB, an automatic strike is assessed for several infractions by the batter. If the batter is not set in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher when the pitch clock reaches eight seconds, an automatic strike is awarded. Leaving the batter’s box during the pitch and unintentionally hitting the catcher with their swing will also result in an automatic strike for the batter.