Baseball is a game of tradition, so if you find yourself at the plate and a pitch is thrown right where you’re looking, don’t be surprised when the umpire yells “swing” and you hear more than one person yelling at you from the outfield. So, can a batter refuse a hit by pitch in baseball?
It might make sense to turn down that hit because it would be an out in many other contexts, but in baseball, your first responsibility is to stay alive on deck for as long as possible.
Summary of Content
- Can a Batter Refuse a Hit by Pitch in Baseball?
- What Are The Other Circumstances When A Batter Is Not Awarded First Base?
- When Is A Batter Awarded First Base?
- Do Hit By Pitch Rules Favor The Batter Over The Pitcher?
- What Are The Different Kinds Of Hit By Pitch?
- How Often Does a Batter Get Hit by a Pitch?
Can a Batter Refuse a Hit by Pitch in Baseball?
There is no specific rule regarding this matter. Often an umpire will call a batter out if they not only swing but also miss the ball in spite of an obvious strike. In this case, the umpire is simply enforcing one of the unwritten rules that are handed down from generation to generation.
This is commonly understood by players and fans alike, so no one really needs a specific rule regarding this matter. It will always be up to the discretion of the umpire and there’s not really any possible way for the umpire to enforce this rule while still making it seem like everyone’s getting a fair shake. So, it’s just accepted not to swing at certain pitches, as well as expected you’ll swing if something really looks hittable.
So, is there someplace that says “when in doubt take a strike?” Not exactly, but Rule 8.03(b) says that the batter is expected to strike at every pitch unless he has a reasonable doubt as to whether or not a pitch is a strike. As such, if there are two strikes on the batter in this circumstance, that would be it.
And there is nothing more frustrating than seeing someone swing at the first ball they get their hands on thinking it’s a strike when it is not and then walking away with nothing on the ball.
What Are The Other Circumstances When A Batter Is Not Awarded First Base?
The umpire might not award the batter first base when the ball is not hit into fair territory, if any member of the defensive team touched the ball or interfered with it in some way, or if there is some other reason that they believe to be a negative for allowing the batter to reach first base. In this case, the umpire would call “Time” and stop play.
This is where it gets a little complicated. Most people assume the batter is always awarded first base if they are hit by the ball, but that’s not actually true. There is a time when the batter will be awarded first base and that time is when the ball is hit cleanly into fair territory. So, if you’re on first base when a ball directly hits you, but not into fair territory (and it’s not a foul ball), then you are out. That’s just what happens.
If the ball is hit cleanly into fair territory and the batter is out of the box on his feet, he will be awarded first base. Otherwise, the batter would be out if he swung and missed. But, if other members of the defensive team touched or interfered with the ball in any way, then they are likely to get called out for obstruction. If so, then the umpire would end play at that point because of interference.
So, a batter is NOT awarded first base when:
- The batter is hit by a pitch, but the ball is not hit into fair territory
- The batter is struck on or over foul ground
- The batter is struck by his own batted ball
- The batter swings and strikes out on a strike that isn’t a strike
- The batter swings and hits a foul ball (unless there are runners on base, in which case it can be caught for an out)
When Is A Batter Awarded First Base?
A batter is awarded first base in the following situations:
- If the ball is hit into fair territory (even if the batter was HIT by the pitch)
- If the bat hits the ball and it goes foul, IF there is no interference and no runners on base
- If a batted ball strikes any member of the defensive team or umpire; or if a member of the defensive team has interfered with it unless, in either case, another member of his team catches such batted ball
- If “Time” is called for interference.
- If the ball is touched by the pitcher before it reaches the batter
- If a member of the defensive team strikes at and touches a ball which is in play and has not passed an infielder, before any member of the offensive team shall have touched it; or if such ball be struck at by a batsman, in the act of swinging at a pitched ball, and missed; or if he steps or falls into such baseline; provided no base runner shall run out of his base path to avoid being touched with the ball.
Do Hit By Pitch Rules Favor The Batter Over The Pitcher?
In short, the answer is that they do not. And there is no evidence to suggest that the use of hit by pitch rules favored the batter rather than the pitcher in any way.
But unlike a lot of baseball rules that can be interpreted this way, there is actually a rule backing up this logic related to certain situations: Rule 2.00: Well-hit Bats In Contact Sports. This rule is the reason that there is a rule against interference. It’s also the reason you can’t touch a runner on the bases, why you can’t intentionally throw at a batter, and why you can’t run into an opponent (if you can do one of those things, then it opens up all sorts of issues).
What Are The Different Kinds Of Hit By Pitch?
There are a couple of different ways that you can be hit by the ball in baseball and these are the rule interpretations for each of those:
- You can be hit “intentionally” or on purpose. This is considered a balk under rule 8.05 and thus results in an immediate dead ball and the batter will be awarded first base automatically.
- You can be hit “unknowingly” by a member of the pitching team who was on the rubber. The umpire will award you first base and then immediately call a balk under rule 8.05 while the pitcher is attempting to deliver the ball to the batter.
- You can be hit by an “accidental warm-up throw” from another player or coach on the field, even if that player is not directly involved with fielding or pitching at that moment.
- You can be hit by a pitch on a swing which misses the ball. In this case, you are still out but you are not awarded first base.
- You can get hit accidentally after making contact with the ball (like if you accidentally put out your hands in an attempt to make a catch). Under this one, it’s just like being hit “unknowingly” except that there will be no dead ball and the umpire will not immediately call a balk under rule 8.05. You may also be awarded a base(s) by the umpire if he deems that you were safe on the play.
How Often Does a Batter Get Hit by a Pitch?
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Hit by pitch occurs about 1 out of every 10 to 15 plate appearances. But, when a batter gets hit on the arm or hand, this increases their rate of HBP because those parts are closer to the ground than other parts of the body like your back and chest.
In Major Leagues, batters hit by pitch get hit almost twice as often on their hands and arms as they do on other parts of their bodies. In the minor leagues, batters get hit by a pitch more frequently on the hand and arm than their hands and arms than they do any other part of their body.
To conclude, it is a good idea for hitters to keep their bats out of the way of pitched balls and not swing at pitches that they can’t get a hit off. Just make sure that you do this in such a way that doesn’t interfere with the pitcher or the defense. And, being aware of the HBP rule can help you to prevent a bad situation from developing if it happens.