What Is A Passed Ball In Baseball?

As America’s favorite pastime, baseball is filled with intricate rules and unique plays that contribute to its charm and excitement. Passed balls are one such play that can alter a game’s outcome. A passed ball occurs when the catcher makes a defensive mistake, allowing a baserunner to advance. As a result, a baserunner advances when the catcher fails to handle a pitch successfully that he should have been able to handle with basic effort. 

In this article, we will explore the nuances of passed balls, including their definition, consequences, attributions, and notable baseball moments.

What Causes a Passed Ball?

Passed balls are usually charged against the catcher in the following situations:

Wild Pitch Gets Away

There are times when the pitcher throws a wild pitch in the dirt that the catcher can’t stop. It is often ruled a passed ball rather than a wild pitch if the catcher misses the ball entirely or cannot keep it in front of him.

Foul Tip Dropped

Keeping foul tips in their hands is a difficult task for catchers. Runners on base are deemed to have advanced if the catcher drops a foul tip, which is treated as a passed ball.

Failure of Catcher to Successfully Receive Throw

In addition to their primary role of catching pitches, catchers are also responsible for fielding throws from the pitcher and other fielders in an attempt to prevent base runners from advancing or being caught stealing. If the catcher fails to catch, misses, or mishandles a throw, resulting in the advancement of runners, it is recorded as a passed ball. 

Mechanical Oversight

Certain passed balls occur simply due to the catcher’s error in receiving a routine pitch when there are no runners on base. This can include instances such as dropping a third strike or allowing the ball to bounce off their glove. Despite the absence of base runners, these instances are still considered as passed balls.

Read: What Is A Cycle In Baseball

When is the Passed Ball Charged?

To charge a passed ball against the catcher, certain criteria must be satisfied: 

  1. The umpire must have ruled the ball as a legally delivered pitch. 
  2. According to the official scorer’s judgment, the catcher should have been able to field or stop the ball with “ordinary effort.” 
  3. One or more runners on base must advance due to the catcher’s mistake. Even if the batter safely reaches first on a dropped third strike, it still counts as a passed ball. 

Therefore, the catcher is considered at fault for failing to make a playable catch or stop, and this failure must enable runners to advance. If these two conditions are met, it is recorded as a passed ball.

Is the Passed Ball An Error In A Baseball?

Pass ball is a distinct statistic in baseball that is not considered an error. Unlike errors, which are defensive misplays by fielders that allow batters or baserunners to advance, passed balls are solely charged to the catcher. They occur when catchers fail to handle a pitch that they should have been able to handle with ordinary effort. 

Errors can affect a player’s fielding percentage and overall defensive performance, while passed balls are not factored into a player’s fielding percentage.

How to Avoid Wild Passed Balls?

In order to reduce the frequency of wild passed balls in baseball, catchers can concentrate on various crucial elements of their performance. Below are a few recommendations to prevent wild passed balls:


Ensure that you establish concise and efficient communication with the pitcher. Verify that you both have a mutual understanding of the pitch selection and placement. Create a set of signals or signs that enables prompt and precise communication between yourself and the pitcher.

Correct position

Assume the proper positioning behind home plate in order to present the pitcher with the optimal target. Maintain a low and balanced crouch, ensuring that your glove is positioned in front of you.

Glove methodology

Emphasize the importance of employing the correct glove technique in order to successfully catch the pitches. Maintain a relaxed and slightly open glove, creating an optimal target for the pitcher.

Prompt reactions

Enhance your response time by remaining vigilant and foreseeing pitches. Be ready to adapt your body posture and shift sideways to catch pitches that might deviate from the intended target. Swiftly react to pitches in the dirt by swiftly lowering your body and obstructing the ball with your chest or body.

Blocking method

Developing effective blocking skills is crucial in order to prevent pitches in the dirt from getting past you. It is essential to practice and master the correct technique of positioning your body in front of the ball, utilizing your chest, legs, and arms to effectively smother the pitch and ensure it remains in front of you.

Practice and rehearsal

Regularly practicing receiving various types of pitches, mastering blocking techniques, and honing your overall catching mechanics are crucial for enhancing your catching skills and minimizing the occurrence of errant passed balls.

Anticipate the pitcher’s repertoire.

Familiarize yourself with the pitch repertoire of the pitchers you regularly collaborate with through diligent study.

Stay attentive 

It is of utmost importance to maintain concentration while catching, as even a brief lapse in focus can lead to a ball being thrown off course. To prevent this, it is essential to minimize any distractions and remain fully engaged in the game at all times. It is crucial to remember that becoming a proficient catcher requires dedication and practice. 

By following these suggestions and consistently honing your catching abilities, you can greatly diminish the frequency of wild passed balls and establish yourself as a dependable force behind the plate.

What Happens if a Passed Ball Results in the Ball Going into the Dugout or Stands?

Rule 7.05h states that if the ball goes out of play without any interference, runners are allowed to advance one base. However, if the ball is touched by someone before it goes out of play, then runners are permitted to advance two bases.

Notable Passed Ball Moments in Baseball History

Notable Instances of Passed Balls in Significant Games 1. The Pittsburgh Pirates scored the winning run against the New York Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning during Game 4 of the 1960 World Series due to a passed ball. 2. In a crucial Game 7 of the 2001 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners, a passed ball resulted in a run scored by the Yankees. 3. During Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, a passed ball occurred in extra innings, allowing a runner to score for the Houston Astros against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a pivotal moment of the series.

Wrapping Up

Passed balls are a crucial aspect of baseball dynamics. The catcher is usually held accountable for a passed ball, emphasizing their vital role in-game control. The prevention of passed balls necessitates skill, coordination, and efficient communication between pitchers and catchers. 

Although not classified as errors, passed balls can greatly affect game outcomes, influencing strategies and creating scoring opportunities for runners. Despite advancements in equipment and techniques that have decreased the frequency of passed balls over time, they continue to be a reality for dedicated catchers. 

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