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3rd Strike Passed Ball

Reference:
Rule 6.09 (b) 
The batter becomes a runner when the third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied or (2) first base is occupied with two out. 

What does it mean? 
  • If on a pitch which is called strike three (whether swung at or not), the catcher does not catch the ball (including if it bounces before he catches it), the batter is not automatically out. He can try to run to first base before the catcher either tags him with the ball, or throws the ball to first. 
  • An exception to this is if there is a runner on first base already. (This is because that runner would then have to go to second, and the defense could try and get 2 outs on the play. To prevent that from being able to happen, a batter is automatically out on strike 3 if the catcher drops the ball, when there is a runner on 1st) 
  • An exception to this exception is if there are already 2 outs, then the batter is not out even if there is a runner on 1st. (Since he’d be the 3rd out, the runner on first can try to advance to second, and the batter go to first,. Note that this is a force play on both bases. Also if there is a runner on 1st and 2nd, they both need to advance, and if the bases are loaded, they all do). 

What Should Players do in this Situation? 

Batter: 

On a third strike, always start running to 1st base! 
  • If the catcher did not catch the ball, you already have a running start towards 1st base. He cannot just tag you now, he needs to throw the ball. 
  • If the catcher did catch the ball, there is no harm. 
  • Even if there is a runner on 1st base, run anyways, because the catcher may forget the situation, and throw the ball. If he makes a bad throw and it ends up in the outfield, the runner(s) can advance. (You as a batter are out anyways, but keep running until the umpire tells you that you are out – the defense may try to make a play on you which will allow the base runner(s) to advance more bases.) 
  • Remember that the ball is live if the catcher does not catch it, or if the ball bounces before it gets to him. Keep this in mind, if you swing at low pitches with 2 strikes on you. 

Base Runners: 

Always know the situation prior to the pitch! 
There are 2 key things you need to be alert for: 
1 – know whether or not you have to run 
2 – be alert for a wild throw where you can take advantage and take an extra base 

The different actions the runners should take, depending on the outs and base runners are described below: 

Less than 2 Outs: 

Runner on 1st Base 
    Other baserunners: Do not matter 
  • Do not be fooled into running to second because you see the batter running to first. He is automatically out, and you do not need to go to second. 
  • If the catcher does try to throw the ball to 1st base, stay alert for a wild throw. The ball is alive and in play. If the throw isn’t caught by the 1st baseman, you may be able to get to second base or further. 
Runner on 2nd Base 
    Other baserunners: First Base. 
  • Do not be fooled into running to third because you see the batter running to first. He is automatically out, and you do not need to go to third 
  • If the catcher does try to throw the ball to 1st base, be alert! If you have a good secondary lead, you may have a chance to get to 3rd base. 
Runner on 2nd Base 
    Other baserunners: None 
  • The catcher needs to throw the ball to first base to get the batter out. 
  • Take a few steps to make the catcher be aware of you, and hesitate before throwing to first base. Do NOT go so far that he’ll get you out instead! 
  • If you have a good lead, and he does throw through to first base, go to 3rd base if you think you can make it. MAKE SURE he does throw to 1st, and not just pump fake and then get you out easily. 
Runner on 2nd Base 
    Other baserunners: Third 
  • The catcher needs to throw the ball to first base to get the batter out. Watch what the baserunner on third base does. If he commits to home plate, you should go to third base. Careful that you do not get fooled by him. If he runs halfway home and gets back to third base, you need to ensure you can get back to second base safely.

Runner on 2nd Base 
    Other baserunners: First and Third 
  • Do not be fooled into running to third because you see the batter running to first. He is automatically out, and you do not need to go to third. 
  • If the catcher does try to throw the ball to 1st base, be alert! Watch what the baserunner on third base does. If he commits to home plate, you should go to third base. Careful that you do not get fooled by him. If he runs halfway home and gets back to third base, you need to ensure you can get back to second base safely. 
Runner on 3rd Base
    Other Baserunners: None, or Second only
  • The catcher needs to throw the ball to first base to get the batter out. 
  • Take a few steps to make the catcher be aware of you, and hesitate before throwing to first base. Do NOT go so far that he’ll get you out instead! 
  • Take a few steps towards home after the catcher throws the ball (CAREFUL! Do not be fooled by a pump fake). 
  • If the first baseman does not cleanly catch the throw, you can score if you think you can beat the throw. 
  • If the first baseman catches the throw cleanly, get back to 3rd base. 
Runner on 3rd Base
    Other Baserunners: First, or First and Second 
  • The batter is automatically out. Stay alert in case the catcher does throw the ball, and makes an errant throw. 
With 2 Outs: 

Runner on 1st Base 
    Other Baserunners: Does not matter 
  • Run. In case this isn’t clear, RUN! 
  • The defense can retire the side by throwing to 1st base and getting the batter out, or throwing to second and getting you out. 
  • To recap: RUN! 
Runner on 2nd Base 
    Other Baserunners: First, or First and Third 
  •  See the instructions for runner on 1st base (or RUN!) 
Runner on 2nd Base
    Other baserunners: None 
  • The catcher needs to throw the ball to first base to get the batter out. 
  • Take a few steps to make the catcher be aware of you, and hesitate before throwing to first base. 
  • If you have a good lead, and he does throw through to first base, go to 3rd base if you think you can make it. MAKE SURE he does throw to 1st, and not just pump fake and then get you out easily. 
Runner on 2nd Base
    Other baserunners: Third 
  • The catcher needs to throw the ball to first base to get the batter out. Watch what the baserunner on third base does. If he commits to home plate, you should go to third base. Careful that you do not get fooled by him. If he runs halfway home and gets back to third base, you need to ensure you can get back to second base safely.
Runner on 3rd Base 
    Other Baserunners: First and Second 
  •  See the instructions for runner on 1st base (RUN!) 
Runner on 3rd Base
    Other Baserunners: None, or First or Second, but bases not loaded 
  • The catcher needs to throw the ball to first base to get the batter out. 
  • Take a few steps to make the catcher be aware of you, and hesitate before throwing to first base. 
  • When he does throw the ball to 1st, take a few steps towards home, in case it’s an errant throw and you can score. 

Catcher: 
  • Always know the situation prior to the pitch! 
  • Know if you need to get the batter out or not. 
  • Remember that you can avoid having to throw the ball, by tagging him, if you can 
Less than 2 Outs: 

Runner on 1st Base
    Other Baserunners: Does not matter
  • The batter is automatically out. Do not waste any time trying to tag the batter. Be alert to see what the runner on 1st is doing. Often, they will get confused and think they have to run to 2nd, but were not doing a steal, so you have an excellent chance of getting him out. (Usual carefulness if there is a runner on third base applies). 

Runner on 2nd Base
    Other Baserunners: none 
  • Try to tag the batter without making a throw. If you cannot, then look the runner at 2nd back to the base before throwing to 1st. Note: In general, it is more important to get the out than worry about giving up the base. If you do not have time to look the runner back, get the out at 1st for sure! 

Runner on 3rd Base
    Other Baserunners: 2nd or none. 
  • Try to tag the batter without making a throw. If you cannot, then look the runner at 3rd back to the base. If the runner has fairly large lead, pump fake to first, and then look over to 3rd again. If that runner has started to come home, then get him in a rundown. Note: ONLY do this if you are fairly sure that you can get the lead runner out. If the baserunner is holding tight to the bag, throw to 1st, and get ready for the first basemen to throw back to you for a potential double play. 
With 2 Outs: 

Bases Loaded 
  • There is a force play at every base. All you need to do is step on home plate, and the inning is over. 
Bases not loaded 
  • Throw to first base. Do not worry if there is a runner on third base, as if the batter is out at first base, no run can score on the play. 

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