What is the Dropped Third Strike Rule in Baseball?

What is the Dropped Third Strike Rule in Baseball?

If you are a baseball fan, you must have noticed some weird rules. However, baseball includes a lot of rules for the Major Leagues. In fact, according to the 2019 edition of the official MLB rules, there are 188 pages of rules. 

There are a few rules that occur weirdly in the baseball game in all of these rules. The drop third strike rule is such a weird rule in the game of baseball. 

The dropped third strike rule happens in baseball when a hitter strikes out, yet the catcher can’t catch the pitch in the air. When the ball hits the ground on a third strike, the hitter has to run towards the first base. Once the hitter reaches first base, no out is declared for the defence.

This rule is quite strange, but it doesn’t apply to every strikeout.

What is Dropped Third Strike Rule?

dropped third strike rule

We already have mentioned that the dropped third strike is a peculiar rule. For all baseball matches, the dropped third strike rule gets applied in three circumstances;

  • If the batter strikes out
  • If there are less than two outs
  • If the catcher can’t catch the pitch in the air.

The dropped third strike rule is used in higher levels of competition like the Major League Baseball. In the junior leagues, this rule is not very often. This rule comes from the notion that the defensive team properly and thoroughly executes them out in order to record it. 

The dropped third strike is also known as the uncaught third strike. For this rule, the pitcher still gets credited with a strikeout even if the player makes it to base after the catcher drops the ball. Therefore, the pitcher can record more than three strikeouts in a single inning.

In baseball, when three strikes happen, the player is out. However, it is a significant element of baseball, but there is an odd exception. If the catcher can’t catch the ball on the third strike, and the first base is open, the batter becomes a runner. The same also happens when there are two outs. So, here occurs a question Can You Use Wood Bats in High School? Well check this blog to know the answer.

In such a situation, the catcher blocks the ball, the batter starts to run back to the dugout, and the catcher picks it up and tags the batter. Sometimes when the ball passes, the catcher and the batter run for the first base.

In some exceptional conditions, the drop third strike rule matters. Here the pitcher throws the breaking ball in the dirt. Then the catcher and the batter run after it, and the batter ends up at first base. 

However, it doesn’t happen often. But when it happens, it is special for sure as it can be a game-changer.

However, it is not always easy to see whether the ball has been caught or not. It is a bit difficult to recognize because the entire thing happens behind the batter. 

The batter instantly recognizes the drop and runs first. The base runners have to be aware of the number of outs and pitch count. It lets them decide whether to proceed or stay safely on their current base.

one more rule which is important to know is How to Call a Balk in Baseball? Which will get all the details Balk in baseball.

When Did the Dropped Third Strike Rule Start?

dropped third strike rule

In 1880, a rule was established that the batter gets out if a third strike gets caught legally by the catcher. In 1858 the rule was introduced to permit a batter to run on a missed third strike. Until 1880, when the catcher snagged his third strike on the first bounce or the fly, the batter was considered out. 

Later in the starting of 1880, the catchers moved up to catch the third strike. By 1902, the rule was that the catchers always had to play within 10 feet of home plate.

A dropped third strike occurs when the first base is unoccupied or two outs. The batter is considered a baserunner when the catcher can’t catch the third strike.

The batter must get tagged or thrown out at the first base in such conditions, and it ensures to record the out. 

The batter reaches the first base safely, and the pitcher gets credited with a strikeout. This time, an error or a wild pitch gets charged to justify the presence of the batter on the first base.

This rule is essential for a pitcher to record four strikeouts in an inning. The most notable instance of a dropped third strike happened in Game 4 in the 1941 World Series.

In this match, Mickey Owen, the catcher of Brooklyn Dodgers, allowed a third strike to get past him, and it allowed Tommy Henrich to reach the base and start a match-winning rally in the 9th inning.

Another significant instance was in the 2005 ALCS, in Game 2. Josh Paul of the Los Angeles of Anaheim couldn’t catch the three strikes properly with two outs and A in the match, and A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox reached the base. Later Pierzynski continued to score the game’s winning run.

In 2019, the independent Atlantic League put a variation in the rule. In this upgraded rule, a batter can reach the first base on any pitch that is not caught cleanly. So, the rule is there from the earliest baseball stage, and the drop third strike rule continues from then in baseball.

What is the Purpose of the Dropped Third Strike Rule?

The drop third strike rule is inexplicably random in the baseball match. If you wonder what the purpose of this weird rule is, the answer lies in the very early days of baseball. The dropped third strike and the strikeout; both rules are pretty similar. 

However, in baseball, the strikeout is not very fundamental, and it would grow into a centerpiece of the struggle between the batter and the pitcher. Well, checkout the blog Can a Pitcher Pause in his Delivery? So, the dropped third strike rule existed from the early stage of baseball.

In MLB, if a catcher misses the third strike, the batter becomes a runner and attempts for first base before being tagged out. The first base remains unoccupied to prevent the catcher from intentionally dropping a third strike and getting a double-play. 

If there will be two outs, then the prevention won’t be necessary. The reason behind this rule is that an out requires a successful defensive player and an unsuccessful offensive player. 

The third strike needs to get caught when there will be a foul tip.

Dropped Third Strike Rule With Two Outs

dropped third strike rule

When the drop third strike rule with two outs, the batter run to first on the dropped third strike. It happens even if a teammate already exists on the first base. 

It occurs because the dropped ball is considered live, and the defensive team tries to force an out at any base.

When you notice a dropped third strike rule, you may wonder if a batter can run on the dropped third strike then when the bases are loaded. Well, it happens when there are less than two outs. 

A batter can’t run to the first base on a dropped third strike as the first base is already occupied in such conditions. 

And if there are two outs, the batter can run to the first base on a dropped third strike. In both these scenarios, baserunners can run at their own risk.

The same rules get applied when the bases are loaded. However, if the batter is run to the first base and the bases are loaded, there will be a force out automatically. 

It means that the catcher has to step in to the home plate to record the third and final out.

What is the Dropped Third Strike Rule in Little League?

The uncaught third strike rule is used by the Plate Umpire in the little league when the batter becomes a runner due to the third strike. But before continuing checkout baseball rules for kids. It happen when the batter can’t catch the third strike with the first base unoccupied or two outs. There are four possibilities that result with an uncaught third strike and it includes; No Tag, Obvious, No Catch, and Tag.

What is the Dropped Third Strike Rule in High School?

dropped third strike rule

A dropped third strike or an uncaught third strike occurs when the catcher can’t catch a pitch for the third strike in high school. The pitch remains uncaught when the ball touches the ground before getting caught. It also happens when the ball gets dropped after being caught. 

On an uncaught third strike on the first base, the batter becomes a runner immediately. But here, the umpire doesn’t call the batter out. Some umpires actively signal that there is no catch of the pitch. Then the batter cat attempts to reach the first base, and he must be thrown out.


Baseball players are familiar with the ‘three strikes, and you are out’ rule. So, now all you know are all the details about the drop third strike rule. When the third strike can’t get successfully achieved by the catcher, the batter is not out automatically. 

The Amateur Softball Association defines this rule as the dropped third strike. However, the ruling depends on the number of outs, the batter’s recognition of the situation, and the location of the base runners.

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