Sports for dummies: the dropped third strike

Baseball is so weird

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Dropped third strikes are wack, but sweet.

Okay, I am going to try something new. Each week I will pick a sports-related topic to explain to those who do not know anything about sports. I hope to make this a weekly column to help inform those out there that need to be informed.

I do understand that most of this will be forgotten not long after it is read. My goal here is to at least familiarize the readers with some terminology. Heck, maybe the next time a sports-related discussion comes up with your friends you’ll be able to sound smart for a few seconds.

The topic I will be tackling today is the dropped third strike in a baseball game. Before we do that, let’s establish what an at-bat is.

The rules of an at-bat in a baseball game are pretty straight forward. Involved in an at-bat are the pitcher, catcher, batter and umpire.

The pitcher has the ball and starts on the mound, Waiting to catch the ball is his catcher as the batter stands there looking to get something to hit. The umpire is behind the catcher to call balls and strikes.

Each at-bat has something called a ‘count.’ The count is what keeps track of the balls and strikes in an at-bat. In the count, the balls are listed first and the strikes are listed second. If the count is 2-2 or two and two, there are two balls and two strikes. If the count is 3-2, then there are three balls and two strikes. See, that’s not so hard. A 3-2 count can also be referred to as a ‘full count.’

This is all pretty simple, but the ground rules for an at-bat had to be established. An at-bat will typically end in the batter hitting the ball in play, striking out or getting walked. There is also catchers interference to consider or the batter getting hit with a ball but those are for another day.

Now for the dropped third strike. Picture this scenario:

There is a 2-2 count and a pitcher, let’s call him Phil is ready to fire in another pitch. The batter, let’s call him Max does not want to let his team down so he’s ready, he’s locked in. Max sees the ball coming in and he is going to swing no matter what. Max swings as hard as he can. The problem is the ball bounced in the dirt and got past the catcher.

Now what? Well, Max has struck out, but since the catcher did not catch the ball Max can run to first base. If the catcher retrieves the ball he must throw it to first before Max gets there, or tag Max to secure the out. If Max gets to first before this happens then he reached base safely.

This is the dropped third strike. Naturally, it can only happen when their are already two strikes on the batter.

The dropped third strike can be tricky because it is up to the umpire to determine if the catcher caught the ball or not. If the catcher catches the ball when the batter swings and misses on the third strike, then it is a normal strikeout. In most cases it is pretty clear of the ball is caught, but if the pitch is close to the ground it can be hard to determine.

There is an ultra-rare scenario where it is a called strike three that is dropped. This means the pitcher pitched a strike that batter did not swing at, but the catcher still somehow dropped the ball.

The cool part about the dropped third strike is that regardless of whether the batter reaches 1st base safely or not, it still counts as a strikeout for the pitcher. So theoretically a pitcher could have more than three strikeouts in an inning.

This is one of baseball’s weird rules that does not happen very often. When it does happen, it is usually easy for the catcher to secure the ball and either tag the runner out or throw it to first.

Congratulations, you just became a smarter sports fan!

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