Rule Book Edge: Awarding Bases

Today I’m going to cover the number of bases awarded to base runners in balls thrown out of play and other base award situations, and try to debunk the “1+1 base” myth.  There are good learning opportunities where players can take advantage of knowledge of these rules to gain an edge.  For more tips on how learning rules can give you a competitive edge, see https://sites.google.com/site/rulebookedge/

There are 2 different types of base awards:  Immediate dead ball situations, and delayed live ball situations.  Coaches and players should be aware of the differences and the risks involved (specifically that a runner can be called out, even though he has been awarded bases).

Let me start with the live ball situations.  These are the key conditions under which batters and runners can be awarded bases while the ball is live.

1.       Fielder throwing his glove and hitting a batted ball : Rule 7.05 (c) – 3 bases

2.       Fielder throwing his glove and  hitting a thrown ball: Rule 7.05 (e) – 2 bases

3.       Fielder touching a batted ball with a piece of equipment detached from the body such as  catching a fly ball with a hat: Rule 7.05 (b) – 3 bases

4.       Fielder touching a thrown ball with a piece of equipment detached from the body: Rule 7.05 (d) – 2 bases

As an offensive player, the key thing to remember is that the ball is live, and you may try to advance to a further base, but do so at your own risk.  For example, if you hit a ball into the right field corner, and the right fielder throws his glove at it to slow it down and hits it, you will be awarded 3rd base.  If you think you have an easy double, but will probably get thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple, you can go ahead and try without any risk.  If you are thrown out, you will be awarded 3rd base anyways, but the relay throw may be wild and you may end up scoring on the play so there is no risk.    However, if you have an easy triple, and get greedy and try scoring, if you get thrown out at the plate, the out will stand. You were protected only up to 3rd base, then you are on your own.  Another key point to remember is that you must still touch every base.  Let’s say the shortstop throws his glove at a ground ball as it’s going by him and you end up at 1st base.  The umpire will award you 3rd base, but you’d better remember to touch 2nd base on the way, otherwise you will be called out on appeal.   What to do on defense is fairly easy – don’t throw anything at a live ball, and don’t touch a ball with any piece of equipment, other than a glove attached to your hand.   Although this is a rare occurrence, I’ve seen this called on catchers when there is a pitch in the dirt and runners on base:  They  quickly take their mask off, look up to make sure no runners are running, and then casually scoop the ball up with the mask in their right hand.  Always fun trying to explain to the coach why I just awarded every runner 2 bases.

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Key learning points:

Offense:

  • Advance to at least the base you are entitled to.  Force the defense to make a throw, don’t worry about being thrown out before the entitled base
  • Only advance past the base you will be awarded if you’re fairly sure you can beat the throw. Once you get to the awarded base you are on your own
  • Touch every base in the right order just like you would on any other hit.

Defense:

  • Don’t do it!  (In particular, catchers, remember not to pick up a live ball with your mask)
  • If you do it, then finish the play and don’t let the runners get more bases than they are entitled.

The above situations are fairly rare occurrences.  Much more common (and misunderstood) are dead ball situations when a ball is thrown out of bounds

The 3 different scenarios are:

1.       Throw by a pitcher from the rubber (either a pickoff attempt or a pitch): Rule 7.05 (h)

2.       First throw by an infielder: Rule 7.05 (g)

3.       Any other throw: Rule 7.05 (g)

The awarded bases for each of these are:

1.       One base from time of throw

2.       Two bases from time of pitch

3.       Two bases from time of throw

The only thing players really need to know in this situation is to go to the base that the Umpire tells you to go.   Remember to make sure to touch all the bases on the way, and if retouching a base is required (say on a fly ball that is then thrown out of bounds), you need to tag up before going to the awarded base.  The only thing Coaches need to know is to nod their heads and agree that the Umpire has awarded the right number of bases.

To simplify the base awards in each of the scenarios above, other than a pitcher on the rubber the award is ALWAYS 2 bases.  The only question is 2 bases from when?   If it’s the first throw by an infielder it is from the last base occupied at time of pitch.  Otherwise it’s from the last base touched at time of throw.   That’s all you need to remember.

Some examples to illustrate this:

Runner on 1st. On hit and run, batter hits a fly ball that is caught by the right fielder, as the base runner is almost at 2nd base.  Right fielder throws wildly out of play in trying to double the runner off of 1st base.  The runner is awarded 3rd base.  But in going to 3rd base on this dead ball, he must first retag 1st base (since a fly ball was caught), and then touch 2nd on the way to 3rd.

Runner on 1st:  Ground ball to SS, throws to 2nd base for 1 out and relay throw to 1st goes out of play.  Where does the batter end up?  Since it’s not the first throw by an infielder, it’s 2 bases from time of throw.  If the batter was already on 1st by the time the 2nd baseman threw the ball (not likely), he would be awarded 3rd base, otherwise he gets 2nd base as at the time of the throw he had not legally occupied 1st base yet.

Runner on 1st: Bunt slowly to the 3rd baseman and he throws the ball wildly past 1st base.  The runner on 1st had already rounded 2nd and was on the way to 3rd base by the time the throw was made.  Where does the runner end up?  3rd base only.  2 bases from time of pitch, which had the runner at 1st base.

LHP tries to pick off runner on 1st and throws the ball out of play from the rubber.  Award runner 2nd base.

RHP tries to pick off runner on 1st, and steps off the rubber and throws the ball out of play.  Award runner 3rd base.   Only situation where runners get 1 base is when a pitcher makes a throw from the rubber. Once he steps off, he is deemed to be an infielder, and the “2 bases from time of throw” rule kicks in.

Note that none of the situations involve the “1+1” base award that every Coach believes exists in the rule book.  If you do find it, please let me know.  Maybe it’s in the same section that says that the “hands are part of the bat” and “tie goes to the runner” that I haven’t got to yet ;).

Key learning points:

Offense:

  • Touch all the bases you need to, including tagging up where necessary.  Even though it’s a dead ball you must still touch all the bases that have been awarded.

Defense:

  • Watch that the runners touch all the bases.  If they don’t, make sure to request a proper appeal.

Coaches:

  • Don’t ever say “1+1 Blue!”  You will instantly lose any credibility you may have had with the Umpiring crew.

Quick disclaimer:  All these points apply to OBR rules.  Different leagues may have specific variations to these, so make sure you are aware of any house rules in effect for your games.

If you have any questions please post them in the comments below.

Below are the rulebook references (as per OBR rules):

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—

(b) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril;

(c) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a fair ball. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril.

(d) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a thrown ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play;

(e) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a thrown ball. The ball is in play;

Rule 7.05(b) through 7.05(e) Comment: In applying (b-c-d-e) the umpire must rule that the thrown glove or detached cap or mask has touched the ball. There is no penalty if the ball is not touched. Under (c-e) this penalty shall not be invoked against a fielder whose glove is carried off his hand by the force of a batted or thrown ball, or when his glove flies off his hand as he makes an obvious effort to make a legitimate catch.

(g) Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made;

APPROVED RULING: If all runners, including the batter-runner, have advanced at least one base when an infielder makes a wild throw on the first play after the pitch, the award shall be governed by the position of the runners when the wild throw was made.

Rule 7.05(g) Comment: In certain circumstances it is impossible to award a runner two bases. Example: Runner on first. Batter hits fly to short right. Runner holds up between first and second and batter comes around first and pulls up behind him. Ball falls safely. Outfielder, in throwing to first, throws ball into stand.

APPROVED RULING: Since no runner, when the ball is dead, may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled, the runner originally on first base goes to third base and the batter is held at second base.

The term “when the wild throw was made” means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands. The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower’s hand is the key in deciding the award of bases. If the batter-runner has not reached first base, the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners. The decision as to whether the batter-runner has reached first base before the throw is a judgment call.

If an unusual play arises where a first throw by an infielder goes into stands or dugout but the batter did not become a runner (such as catcher throwing ball into stands in attempt to get runner from third trying to score on passed ball or wild pitch) award of two bases shall be from the position of the runners at the time of the throw. (For the purpose of Rule 7.05 (g) a catcher is considered an infielder.) PLAY. Runner on first base, batter hits a ball to the shortstop, who throws to second base too late to get runner at second, and second baseman throws toward first base after batter has crossed first base. Ruling—Runner at second scores. (On this play, only if batter-runner is past first base when throw is made is he awarded third base.)

(h) One base, if a ball, pitched to the batter, or thrown by the pitcher from his position on the pitcher’s plate to a base to catch a runner, goes into a stand or a bench, or over or through a field fence or backstop. The ball is dead;

APPROVED RULING: When a wild pitch or passed ball goes through or by the catcher, or deflects off the catcher, and goes directly into the dugout, stands, above the break, or any area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be one base. One base shall also be awarded if the pitcher, while in contact with the rubber, throws to a base, and the throw goes directly into the stands or into any area where the ball is dead. If, however, the pitched or thrown ball goes through or by the catcher or through the fielder, and remains on the playing field, and is subsequently kicked or deflected into the dugout, stands or other area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be two bases from position of runners at the time of the pitch or throw.

Rule 7.05(i) Comment: The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases. For example: batter hits a ground ball which an infielder throws into the stands but the batter-runner missed first base. He may be called out on appeal for missing first base after the ball is put in play even though he was “awarded” second base.

If a runner is forced to return to a base after a catch, he must retouch his original base even though, because of some ground rule or other rule, he is awarded additional bases. He may retouch while the ball is dead and the award is then made from his original base.

About The Rulebook Guru

The Rulebook Guru is a former baseball coach turned Umpire. His baseball knowledge includes 15 years of coaching youth players, and he has been umpiring since 1997. With the unique perspective of an Umpire who knows what coaches go though, he has set up a website to help educate coaches on some of the finer points of the rules, and how to maximize them for their advantage. You can read his tips at The Rulebook Edge and check out his blog at The Rulebook Guru’s Blog.