Baseball Wild Pitch Rules

As a fielder, sometimes you'll make a mistake. An occasional mistake that happens at the professional level is a wild pitch. Keep reading for all the rules of a wild pitch and what makes it different from a passed ball.

What Is a Wild Pitch?

A wild pitch is a penalty that can be dealt to the pitcher in a situation where the pitch is so far outside of the strike box that the catcher can’t control it. A wild pitch can only be called in the event that runners are able to advance onto a new base during the time period before the ball is recovered. Simply put, it occurs when the pitch isn’t caught by the catcher due to the pitcher’s fault, and runners advance as a result.


Regardless of how many runners advance during the play, the wild pitch penalty is only counted against a pitcher once. The only exception to the wild pitch is when there are no runners on base when the pitch is thrown. In this case, it is called a ball. It is also important to know that any pitch thrown which bounces on the ground before reaching home plate is automatically ruled a wild pitch.

In the event that a wild pitch is called after two strikes and the players on base advance but the hitter doesn’t, the play is recorded as a wild pitch and a strikeout by the scorer’s table. If a runner is attempting to steal a base before the wild pitch is thrown, then the play is ruled a stolen base instead of a wild pitch. Lastly, a wild pitch penalty can be averted if the defending team is able to make an out before any of the runners on base are able to advance.


While wild pitches are not technically considered overthrows, they occur when a pitcher throws a baseball that is so far from the strike zone that the catcher is unable to catch it. In this case, runners may advance. If the pitch was the batter's third strike, the batter may also advance to first base.

However, it is not considered a wild pitch if no runner advanced. If the bases are empty and the batter has fewer than two strikes, it is not considered a wild pitch, even if the catcher was unable to catch it. A runner is awarded two bases on any wild ball that is thrown into the stands, based on where the runners were on base.

Wild Pitch or Passed Ball

The difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball can be difficult to identify due to their similarity. Both penalties revolve around the delivery of the pitch to the catcher and the ability of the offense to steal bases. A wild pitch is a pitch that is out of the strike zone, and the catching range of the catcher. Wild pitches are charged to the pitcher, whereas a passed ball is charged to the catcher.

A passed ball is charged when the catcher is unable to catch a legal pitch in the strike zone and it results in runners advancing onto new bases. Similarly to a wild pitch, if a passed ball is called after the hitter’s second strike, then the official scorer records the play as a strikeout and a passed ball.

Wild Pitch Statistics

Wild pitches used to be far more common than the average fan may guess. In fact, the MLB records it as a stat similar to a first or second base hit. The all-time career wild pitch leader is 343 pitches, held by Tony Mullane, who last played in 1896 and over 504 games in a 13-year career. Having a high number of wild pitches may get your name etched in the hall of fame, but not for the right reasons. An increasingly large number of wild pitches on a player's record indicates a lack of control of the ball and low cohesiveness as a teammate.

As these stats tell us, the odds that a wild pitch occurs in a game today is far lower, as the competition and skill level of players in the MLB has dramatically increased over the past 100 years. Yet, in non-professional play, a wild pitch being called is nothing new, so athletes everywhere should know how it affects the game.

Wild Pitch Rules Summary

  • A wild pitch is any pitch that is so uncontrollable that the catcher is unable to catch it, and runners advance.
  • Runners must advance for a wild pitch to be charged.
  • If no runners advance, a ball is awarded to the batter.
  • Wild pitches do not count as errors.
  • A passed ball is charged if the pitch arrives in the strike zone, but the catcher fails to catch it and runners advance.


Is a wild pitch an error?

A wild pitch is not an error. As with passed balls and balks, pitchers are not punished with errors for these actions. Errors are only assessed when the referee determines that a fielder fails to make an out in a situation where an average fielder would have.

What is the difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball?

Wild pitches and passed balls are very similar, but there are slight differences between them. A wild pitch is defined as a pitch that is thrown both outside of the strike zone and is beyond the catcher’s ability to catch. Meanwhile, a passed ball (PB) is a legal pitch in the strike zone which a catcher somehow fumbles or fails to catch when they should have, thus allowing base runners to advance. Like a wild pitch, a passed ball is not an error.