Baseball Batting Rules

baseball batting

What are the Batting Rules in Baseball?

The offense is the team currently at bat in the half-inning. One at a time, following the batting order, a batter comes to the plate to bat against the pitcher.

Batting Order

Baseball Batting Order

Both teams follow a strict batting order that they determine at the start of each game. The batting order is a list of nine batters and their positions on the field. Each player gets a chance to bat and won’t get to bat again until each batter in the order has made a plate appearance. The batting order can not be changed unless a substitution is made, in which the rules of baseball substitutions apply.

At the start of each inning, the batting order continues from the last player to bat in the previous inning. Managers can appeal to the umpire if they believe a batter bat out of turn. However, if a mistake is made and no appeal is made, the game will continue as normal.

Batter’s Box Violation

baseball batters box

When players step up to bat, they stand in the batter’s box, adjacent to home plate. Batters can’t leave the batter’s box once the pitcher begins their pitching motion. If the batter leaves the box, the umpire will call a strike or ball as normal. There are two legal pitching motions in baseball called set and windup. An automatic strike will be called on the batter if they refuse to step into the batter’s box. Batters must keep at least one foot inside the batter’s box while swinging during the at-bat. Batters can leave the box if they:

  • Call time
  • Swing at a pitch
  • The batter falls out of the batter’s box after a pitch
  • A wild pitch occurs
  • After a bunt is faked
  • The pitcher leaves the mound
  • The catcher leaves the catcher’s box

Calling Time

If the pitcher has not started his motion, the batter, another player, or manager on the team can request “time” from the umpire, allowing the batter to leave the batter’s box. Calling time is sometimes used to make a substitution, for injuries, and for taking a break in between swings.

Strike Zone

The strike zone is the area above home plate above the batter’s knee height and below their upper chest. This is the area if a pitch is thrown in, it will be called a strike by the umpire. When watching baseball on TV, there is an imaginary box superimposed on the broadcast to help visualize the strike zone. Any other areas where a pitch goes and is not swung on by the batter will be called a ball.

Strike vs. Ball

Baseball Umpire Strike Signal

It is the home plate umpire’s job to call whether a pitch thrown was a strike or a ball. This determines each batter’s strike count and ball count for every at-bat. Every batter is given up to three strikes for each at-bat; when they record their third strike, they are called out. On the other hand, batters are given up to four balls before they are walked, or automatically granted first base.

Strike: A strike is any pitch that is either in the strike zone, swung on by the batter, or tipped or hit foul by the batter (except for a fouled third strike).

Ball: A ball is any pitch outside of the strike zone that is not swung on by the batter.

When a batter has three balls and two strikes during an at-bat, this is known as a “full count.” This is because the batter has the maximum number of both balls and strikes, meaning the next of either will result in their at-bat ending. When a batter has two strikes, a foul ball will not count as a strike.

Completing The At Bat

The batter finishes the at-bat when they become a runner or are called out by the umpire. As a runner, they must advance to first base to become safe. Here is a list of ways the batter can get out:

  • Three strikes are called
  • The hit goes fair and is caught
  • A foul tip is caught with two strikes in the count
  • A bunt goes foul with two strikes in the count
  • Infield fly rule is called
  • The ball touches the batter-runner while outside of the running lane
  • A fair ball touches the batter before a fielder
  • The batter hits the ball a second time after hitting it once
  • The batter interferes with the ball when running

Illegal Actions

The batter is not allowed to switch the batter’s box they are batting in while the pitcher is throwing. This means switch hitters, who bat both right and left-handed, must choose a side and stay there throughout the entire at-bat. The batter cannot hit the ball with their feet outside the batter’s box. The batter will be called out if they prevent the catcher from making a play at home. Batters are not allowed to use illegal equipment that is not approved by the umpires.

Running To 1st Base

After the batter makes contact with the ball and it goes fair, they become a batter-runner. When running to first base, the batter must stay within the running lane. However, the batter is allowed to exit the three-foot running lane when in close proximity to first base. The batter is also allowed to overrun and slide at first base, but sliding is not recommended.

Dropped Third Strike Rule

The batter will become a runner if a third strike is called but is not cleanly caught by the catcher when there are two outs or first base is not occupied by another runner.

Interference

Batters are not allowed to interfere with play, especially with fielders. Batters will be called out for interference if they:

  • prevent the catcher from making a play
  • change the direction of a hit ball
  • Confuse fielders with an unsportsmanlike action
  • Interferes with a fielder’s ability to make a play

Strikeouts

A strikeout is when a pitcher throws three strikes in an at-bat, resulting in the player being out. A strikeout is recorded as K on the scoresheet for a swinging strikeout and a backward K for a strikeout where the batter does not swing at the last strike, known as a looking strikeout.

Walks

A walk occurs if the batter gets four balls called by the umpire. This means the pitcher must throw four pitches outside of the strike zone that the batter does not swing at. The batter is awarded first base on a walk. Walks are recorded as BB in the stat sheet, which stands for base on balls.

Hit By Pitch

A batter is also automatically awarded first base if they are hit by a pitch, which is recorded as HBP statistically. The pitch must be outside of the strike zone, and the batter may not purposefully move into the pitch to be hit. For example, if a batter leans into the strike zone and is hit by a pitch, the correct call is a strike. If the pitch hits a batter’s clothing, they are still awarded first base, provided their clothing is not illegal or unnecessarily baggy enough to obstruct a pitch.