Top 10 Baseball Rules

top baseball rules

Baseball has many unique rules, several of which have been added over time to improve the quality, safety, and pace of the game. Most people know the basic rules, but there are many important rules that even longtime fans are unfamiliar with. Keep reading for a list of the most important rules to know for both enjoying watching and playing baseball.

What Are the Most Important Baseball Rules?

  1. Uncaught Third Strike
  2. Tie Goes to the Runner
  3. Infield Fly Rule
  4. Balk
  5. Automatic Strike
  6. Pinch Hitter / Pinch Runner
  7. Tagging Up
  8. Ambidextrous Pitcher Rule
  9. Video Replay Review
  10. Ground Rule Double

1. Uncaught Third Strike

baseball Uncaught Third Strike

The uncaught third strike, sometimes called the dropped third strike, is a rule in baseball involving the catcher. If the catcher fails to make a clean catch on a pitch that is a recorded third strike (the batter swung and missed the ball or the ball was in the strike zone) and the ball touches the ground, the runner may run to first so long as there is not a baserunner already there. The batter must be either tagged out or forced out by a throw to first base.

In the case of a runner on first base with two outs, an uncaught third strike results in the batter becoming an active runner as well. Regardless of the result of an uncaught third strike, the pitcher and batter both record a strikeout. If a batter does not realize an uncaught third strike has occurred and steps out of the dirt circle surrounding the batter’s box, they are called out.

2. Tie Goes to the Runner

baseball Tie Goes to the Runner

Though not technically a rule in itself, tie goes to the runner is a very popular interpretation of the out rules in baseball. In baseball, a runner is called out if they or first base is tagged with the ball before the runner reaches the base. In close-play scenarios where it appears that the runner and the ball reach the base at the same time, umpires generally give an advantage to the runner. This interpretation of the rules is often widely discussed among baseball officials.

3. Infield Fly Rule

Baseball Infield Fly

The infield fly rule is a controversial rule that allows the on-field umpires to call a batter or runner out if they hit a fly ball in the infield with players on base. In this situation, the batter who hits the ball is automatically out, while the players on base can remain on base. The infield fly rule is never called with two outs, and the fielding team must record the third out, either by catching the fly ball or tagging a runner.

This rule is in place to protect the batting team. For example, the player fielding the ball could purposely drop the ball, then throw the ball to second for the start of a double play. However, many dislike this rule as it results in a guaranteed out when the fielder playing the ball could drop the ball, which would result in the batter being safe at first if an infield fly were not called.

4. Balk

Baseball Balk

A balk occurs when a pitcher performs an illegal motion, usually pretending to pitch the baseball without actually performing a pitch. If a pitcher performs one of these motions, which includes pretending to throw the ball but holding it instead, unnecessarily delaying the game, pitching away from the batter, or throwing to a fielder who is not on a base, then a balk will be called.

A balk results in an immediate dead ball. If there are any runners on base, they advance one base forward. The batter stays at bat and maintains the same count. Balks rarely occur but can happen when a pitcher gets into a stressful situation that may cause them to make a mistake.

5. Fair / Foul Balls

baseball fair or foul ball rules

In baseball, there are both fair and foul balls. Fair balls are batted balls that land inside the first and third base foul lines. These types of batted balls allow runners to advance and for the fielding team to attempt to record outs.

Meanwhile, foul balls are batted balls that land outside of the two foul lines. These batted balls are counted as strikes against the batter (but cannot count as strike three). Typically, either the first or third base umpire is tasked with determining whether a ball is fair or foul, depending on which side of the field the ball was hit to.

6. Pinch Hitter / Pinch Runner

The “pinch” substitution rule is one that is fairly unique to the sport of baseball. At any time, a team may substitute a player currently in the game with another player who is not in the game. This includes substituting the current batter with a pinch hitter or a baserunner with a pinch runner.

Unlike other sports, the player being subbed out of the game cannot re-enter the game at any time. The player being subbed into the game assumes the role of the player being subbed out, which includes their spot in the batting lineup and their fielding position. Of course, this can also be swapped when a manager discusses the change with the head umpire.

7. Tagging Up

Baseball Tagging Up

Tagging up is an extremely important rule in baseball and plays a key role in how teams run the bases and record outs. Whenever a ball is hit in the air, a base runner must go back and “tag up” (touch the base). From there, they are unable to advance to the next base until after the ball has been caught. If a base runner takes off for the next base before the ball has been caught, the fielding team can throw the ball to the original base, and the batter will be called out.

8. Ambidextrous Pitcher Rule

baseball Ambidextrous Pitcher

The ambidextrous pitcher rule was added when pitcher Pat Venditte joined the MLB. Venditte is an ambidextrous pitcher, but umpires had a difficult time determining what to do when Venditte faced a switch-hitter. The batter did not want to bat on the left side if Venditte was going to pitch left-handed and vice-versa. The MLB declared the ambidextrous pitcher rule, in which the pitcher must declare what hand they’re going to pitch with. The batter may then decide which side of the plate they’re going to bat from. The pitcher may not switch hands until the at-bat is complete, when they may switch hands before the next batter after notifying the umpire.

9. Video Replay Review

baseball video replay review

Similar to football and basketball, Major League Baseball has a video replay review system in order to review certain types of calls. If a video replay review is called, the umpires will confer with an MLB representative in New York City who will review the play in question from a variety of angles and provide their best answer regarding the correct call.

The types of calls that can be subjected to video replay review include:

  • Whether a base runner is safe or out
  • Whether a ball was fair or foul
  • Whether a fly ball is a home run or not
  • Whether or not a ball was caught on the fly
  • Whether a baserunner tagged up properly or not
  • Whether or not a batter was hit by a pitch
  • Whether or not there was runner interference on a double play
  • A variety of baserunning calls, including passing the lead runner, scoring before the third out, and whether or not a runner touched a base or not

10. Ground Rule Double

Baseball Ground Rule Double

A ground rule double occurs when a ball is fairly hit and lands in the field of play but then leaves the field of play without interference from a fielder. This occurs most often when a batter hits the ball near the warning track and bounces over the wall. It can also happen if the ball gets stuck in an unplayable area of the field, such as in the outfield wall. In case of a ground rule double, the batter and all baserunners are awarded two bases.


What are the basic rules of baseball?

The basic rules of baseball state that each team must have nine players and that the team that scores the most runs after nine innings is the winner. Other key rules include: each team gets three outs per inning, three strikes earns an out, and four balls earns a walk.