What Are The Weirdest Rules of Baseball
Do you ever watch a baseball game, regardless of level, and wonder what just happened? Well, you're not the only one! While the game has evolved and advanced to fit the modern fan, there remains plenty of traditional rules and regulations that are tough to understand. Whether you're a baseball bonanza (fanatic) or brand new to the sport, there is always more to learn and clarify. We're here today to break down a few of these and help boost your baseball knowledge. Let's get started!
1. Infield Fly Rule
Extremely necessary but somewhat complicated, the Infield Fly Rule is a "fair fly ball that, in the judgment of the umpire, can be caught by an infielder, pitcher, or catcher with ordinary effort when there are runners on first and second or first, second, and third and less than two outs." In other words, with runners on the bases, pop-outs will result in an out, as opposed to a double or triple play. This rule is in place to prevent defensive players from dropping an easy potential out in hopes of getting two or three.
2. The Third Strike Rule
This can happen when the pitcher on the mound was dealing with nobody on base to open the inning, fanned a batter on three pitches. The catch? The ball was in the dirt and went by the catcher, and subsequently, the batter ran to first base. This is called the third strike rule. When the potential "third strike" goes by a catcher's glove (touching the ground in any way), the batter can still reach first base if he beats the catcher's throw. The rule only applies if the first base is open or if there are already two outs.
3. The Balk
No, this is not a "Bark" mixed with a "walk," nor is it a complaint or resistance against an idea. In baseball, a balk occurs when the pitcher makes a deceitful motion on the mound that can fool the runner(s), or potentially the batter. The runners advance to the next base, while the pitch (if it is even thrown) is deemed a dead ball. This rule ensures that pitchers can't outwit runners, preventing or scaring them off from advancing to the next base. What exactly is perceived to be a balk and illegal is constituted by the umpire.
4. Foul Tip
Ever get confused why a player gets called out on a foul ball? You're not the only one. When a batter fouls off a ball, and the catcher subsequently catches it, it is a strike, as if he would have swung and missed. With two strikes, if a foul tip occurs, a batter is called out. The catcher must catch the ball for it to count, otherwise it is a foul ball. Runners may advance following a foul tip, just as they can after any other out.
5. Designated/Pinch Runner
One of the most strategic rules in all of baseball is the designated runner. Say a team is down by one run with just a few outs remaining in the game. They are able to get a runner on base, a potential game-tying run. As a result, they search the dugout for one of the fastest (and smartest baserunners) players to replace the runner on base. Pinch runners can also be in place if a player currently on base is injured or ejected. The player substituted off is removed from the remainder of the game, similar to a substitution in soccer. The player substituted in will then take that player's position and a spot in the batting order for the remainder of the game unless a coach decides to adjust the lineup. For example, say a first baseman is a pinch runner for an outfielder. Seemingly a coach would rotate the defensive lineup and adapt so that the first baseman can still play at first base.
In 2020, the MLB experimented with automatic runners, which were baserunners that would open an extra-inning game on second base. This rule was put into effect to shorten the number of innings playing during the pandemic season.
6. Ground Rule Double
Have you ever seen a player run around the bases, crossing home plate, only to be sent back to second base by the umpire? This occurs during a ground-rule double. If a batter hits a ball into the fair territory but it bounces into the stands, the player is sent to second base. This can be advantageous or disadvantageous to a player, depending on where they are on the basepath before the ball leaving the field of play. In most cases, a ground-rule double is nearly a home run but is cut to a double. Other examples of a ground-rule double include if a ball is hit to a particular area of a ballpark that is unreachable to players (but still in the field of play), such as the ivy at Wrigley Field or sections of the "Green Monster" at Fenway field. All other runners on the basepath are moved up two bases following the ground-rule double.
7. 12-Second Rule
This one doesn't play quite as much as the other rules mentioned above but is still a factor. The increasing length of games has led to a decrease in popularity, which has resulted in the league attempting to shorten game times. In fact, since the 2005 season, games have steadily increased (over the three hour mark), particularly in the playoffs. As a result, the 12-second Rule (and 20-second pitch timer) has been put into play. The rule implies that when no runners are on base, pitchers must toss the ball in under 12 seconds, or a ball. A 20-second pitch timer was also implemented before the 2019 Spring Training games, which affected pitchers regardless of the runners on base.
8. Wild Pitches
These areas straightforward as can be but put all kinds of pressure on both the pitcher and the catcher. If a pitch is thrown outside of the strike zone that a catcher can't control, a wild pitch is issued, and the runners advance. When there are no runners on base, and a wild pitch occurs, it is just a ball. Wild angles are different from "passed balls" as the former is charged against pitchers (their mistake), while the latter is charged against catchers. The runner(s) advance in both situations, sometimes crossing home plate for a scoring run. The rule most importantly encourages pitchers to stay under control when pitching.
Bonus: Savannah Bananas
You thought these rules were as weird as they come; we can do you one better. The Savannah Bananas, a baseball team in the Coastal Plain League that were brought to life in 2016, has changed the game of baseball. The team has reinvented many standard baseball rules (several of which were an issue in the MLB) while providing hilarious entertainment for fans. The players perform choreographed dances every game and are the first baseball team in history to play in kilts. You heard that right. This, along with the "Banana Nanas" and "Man Nanas," a senior citizen and dad dance squad, comprise arguably the unique team in all of baseball. Here are some of our favorite Savannah Banana rules which come into effect in every one of their games:
9. Two Hour Time Limit
If you have watched a baseball game once in your life and said "man, this is never-ending," you are indeed not the only one. Fans across the sport have been campaigning for years to lessen the length of Major League Baseball games, with no justice served. In fact, with the addition of the replay review, it appears that the clock is ticking in the wrong direction. Albeit until a rule put in place by the Bananas, which forces teams to end a game after two hours, or send a game to a showdown tiebreaker in certain circumstances (team scores less than five).
10. "Match Play Baseball"
Ever watch a round of PGA match play? Well, Bananas baseball follows a near-identical format. The rule implies that whichever team outscores the other throughout an inning receives a point to eliminate potential blowouts. The first team to reach five points is the victor. What is the catch? If the home team outscores the away team, the inning is over (the home team bats in the second half of the inning per usual).
11. No bunting
Possibly one of the most strategic yet frustrating moves in all of baseball, the bunt is not allowed when playing the Bananas. Moreover, if a player bunts, they are punished by an out for their team.
12. No Walks
This goes against nearly every baseball statistic and rule, but hey, it sure makes the game more exciting. So, what happens when the count reaches four balls? The hitter sprints first (and continues around the bases) while the catcher must throw the ball to every defensive player on their respective team (aside from the pitcher and catcher) before the ball becomes live. Another fun twist that has baseball diehards scratching their heads or rejoicing in hopes of the MLB following course.
13. If a fan catches a foul ball, it's an out
This one I question, but it is too unique and enticing to dislike. Think about it. For the first time in sports history, fans will have the opportunity to shape the game. Perhaps Banana fans will steer away from catching away team foul balls, providing a juicy home-field advantage. For the player's sake, make sure to bring your best glove to the ballpark!
The traditions and rules that come with a sport as long-lasting as baseball are etched in time as some weirdest in all sports. If you have trouble understanding a play or event that just unfolded, it's ok! Happens to the best of us. Teams and leagues are doing everything in their power to boost attendance levels and keep fans in the stands. Look for rules to continue to innovate in light of the Savannah Banana's amusing and game-changing trends.