Why do pitchers have to only get three strikes but batters need 4 balls to walk?
By - Baybears
The rule for a walk was originally:
**Prior to 1863:** None
**1863:** Nine balls
**1880:** Eight balls
**1884:** Six balls
**1886:** Seven balls
**1887:** Five balls
**1889:** Four balls
Also, the definition of what is a ball (or “unfair pitch”) changed dramatically. Initially there was no defined strike zone, and it was the umpire’s discretion as to what was a “fair ball”.
From 1871 to 1886, the batter could request a “high” (above the waist) or “low” (below the waist) pitch, and a ball would be called if it wasn’t.
In 1872, a sort of strike zone was established: it was a ball if it was over the batter’s head, if it hit the ground in front of home plate, if it was on the other side of the plate, or if it came within a foot of the batter. However, other pitches could still be called balls if the umpire decided they were “unfair”.
The strike zone more or less as we know it today was adopted in 1887.
I went to an 1863-rules game in my town on Saturday, and this is exactly what was on the flyer they passed out to spectators. It was a hoot, if you ever get a chance, go to one of these games.
[This one’s for you, Nell!](https://youtu.be/GS39vMhag-A)
Man I love this skit. Apparently one of Conan's favorites as well.
He has said he wants this skit on his tombstone.
I did yell "that was a cooling breeze, please cool me again" at one guy
had to be done
That sounds so cool, how did you find out about it?
Theres a small league of vintage baseball teams in the midwest. St louis has a couple different teams, I see there are at least 4 in Wisconsin too.
Town facebook post. Here's the parent league page : https://mavbbl.com/
woah thats awesome. I'd love to go to one of those
Might be a bit late in the season, but search for "vintage base ball teams" and you might find something going on nearby. With NYY flair, you could be anywhere, but this league might cover you if you're in the tri-state area - https://mavbbl.com/
Very interesting stuff! Thanks.
Imagine how much this sub would complain if it was around back then. Just thinking about those ump scorecard threads…
Dudes would be hitting 100 homers a year, any breaking pitch could be called unfair.
Any breaking ball thrown to Hunter Dozier should still be ruled unfair. Come on, give him a chance
Pitchers would probably be burned at the stake if they threw a breaking pitch in 1871
Also of note, for the 1887 season only, a strikeout took four strikes, so a full count was 4-3
Edit, [here's an umpire indicator](https://www.baseballhistorycomesalive.com/1887-umpire-indicator-with-5-balls-and-4-strikes/) from 1887
Apparently the early version of the game took forever to play, because the pitcher would deliberately throw unhittable pitches, far outside what we consider the strike zone today, in an effort to get the batter to lose patience and finally swing at a bad pitch just to put the ball in play. If you had a stubborn batter and a stubborn pitcher, one at bat could take a half an hour.
Manfred’s head exploding
I’m I the only one questioning why they went 9-8-6-7-5-4?? Like why did they try 6 balls before 7 balls? Ended up trying both anyways but makes more sense to just keep decreasing by one…ugh..
They had a chance to finish the sequence as 8-6-7-5-3-0-9 and didn't. Shame on 19th century mlb
Just imagine it. Infinite walks. Games would never end.
I tried to call you out before but I lost my nerve
It should have been ny-e-ine. Ball ny-e-ine.
jenny finch, i got your
Bring back 7 ball walks
“Hmm 6 balls just isn’t enough. We need 7.”
Sheesh - so the rule back then was basically "you've got to throw balls that the batter might have any chance to hit. If you dawdle around and keep throwing pitches they probably couldn't possibly hit, eventually we might give them first base maybe."
I was wildly confused bc I initially thought all those dates said 1900 instead of 1800
That didn’t answer his question at all. He’s asking WHY is it only 3 strikes vs 4 balls…
As to why it’s three strikes, that’s one of the oldest rules of all. There’s a book from 1796 called *Ball mit Freystäten (oder das englische Base-ball)* (“Ball with safe places, or the English base-ball”) describing a game very much like but not quite baseball, and it has three strikes. So the answer for why three strikes is pretty much “because it always has been”.
MLBWSP - Major League Ball with Safe Places
From Chris Landers article from Cut4 in 2017
> "Three strikes you're out" has been a foundational rule of baseball since the very beginning -- it was even codified in the 1845 Knickerbocker Rules, thought to be some of the very first written rules of the game. For everything else, though, it's been a long and winding road.
> Again, baseball's primary objective in the mid-19th century was to let batters put the ball in play as much as possible. So, naturally, those batters were given plenty of chances to make that happen. And we do mean plenty: Initially, called strikes didn't even exist, and when they were instituted in 1858, they came with caveats -- the first pitch couldn't be a called strike, and umpires were required to warn each batter that a certain pitch would be called a strike in the future.
> Initially, called strikes didn't even exist
lol, seems like it would take about 3 minutes of playing to realize what a dumb rule that is, even in 1850.
You just know there'd be some dick who refused to swing at anything and took 30 pitches.
*Glares at the people who take walks in my slow pitch softball league*
I'm on a kickball team now, and you can actually walk in this league. I get so pissed when I see guys up there taking walks. Especially the ones in soccer cleats.
Yeah, you need to miss the plate by a lot for me to walk.
Man, I remember being at a big slo pitch tournament in the early 2000's where a full on riot broke out over this haha.
This particular tourney had a rule that if you walked a guy and there was a girl hitting behind him, the girl got an automatic walk as well and the guy went to 2nd. This one team purposely set their lineup guy/girl/guy/girl/guy/girl/guy/girl and the guys would not swing at literally anything hoping to draw a walk. It was the most obnoxious thing I have ever seen. Every game they played was just a shit show/borderline fight.
That team showed up to the cabaret/dance/concert/whatever-you-call-it the night after the first day of games and it just went totally off the rails. Fist fights everywhere, dudes were getting bottled, the stage got lit on fire (although I heard that was an unrelated thing). the cops eventually shut the whole thing down.
I don’t wanna overreact but it sounds like they deserved it!
dumbest rule ever
Yeah, i get the intent behind it though. it was basically to stop those try-hard teams from just intentionally walking guys to get to a girl (who are generally worse hitters) everytime and ruining the game for everyone. I guess the organizers didn't expect a team to be such gigantic douches about it.
Why mix th teams in the 1st place
Just dumb all around
Never fault a team for exploiting th rules, it's imperative
slo pitch teams are always mixed. I have literally never seen a game that wasnt.
So glad all the slow pitch games I've played didn't allow walks and strikes had to visibly hit a rubber plate placed behind home. Strikeouts we're always just a young kid or a girl who didn't have the timing down and the ball almost always ended up in play.
It makes more sense when you remember that in the beginning, it was a children's game about baserunning and fielding, so both teams were trying to get the ball in play. The pitcher wasn't trying to keep the runner from putting it in play, so there was no reason for him to try to get the batter out by pitching well. The pitcher was just supposed to lob it in there.
Interestingly though, they did realize that it sucks to sit around and wait for the batter to get a hit, so one of the earliest rules is that if the batter couldn't hit the ball in three tries, the ball became live and he could try to run to first before the defense forced him out. So the "dropped third strike" rule actually predates the strikeout.
Incidentally, there's the similar English game rounders (still popular in schools, non-existent professionally) where this is the case for every pitch: no such thing as strikes, if you swing and miss, you still have to run. You'd think this would lead to a lot of easy outs, but with kids playing, the catchers are about as useless as the hitters so it evens out.
> non-existent professionally
You just gave washed up celebs an investment idea
In 1850, baseball wasn’t played for 9 innings—it was played to 21. While these rules might make for bloated, absurdly high scoring games now, it allowed faster paced competition then.
3 strikes youre out at the old ball game
I can’t believe they made an entire sport based on that one song and it got this popular
The song is also the reason why fans root root root for the home team, rather than cheering on the visiting team.
The absence of peanuts and cracker jacks is disconcerting. Damn anaphylactic allergies.
At least the people still don't care if they never get back...
A baseball team needs to do this as a promotion. Ticket to the game, never have to leave the ground (never get back).
However, food and drink cost a thousand bucks
This is why I cannot attend away games for my team. Rules are rules.
Unless you're the Pirates, that is.
I always contend it’s the world’s most well-known waltz. Seriously, it is a waltz
DO do do DO do do DO do do
Oh wow, you're right.
It SERIOUSLY broke my brain when I figured out that TMOTB is a waltz. My anxious brain was excited for baseball this season and during spring training I was just walking around Home Depot and humming the song and it was just a eureka moment
I think Christoph waltz is more popular worldwide.
I give that title to the [Blue Danube](https://youtube.com/watch?v=fHzhDKwYP2s)
Whatever old man https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAGnKpE4NCI
What constitutes one
Essentially a waltz is a piece written in 3/4 time with an emphasis on the first beat of every measure emphasized. If you’re not as musically inclined, every third beat is emphasized, which happens in both the lyrics and organ accompaniment
3 4 time what
Explain if you want
So 3/4 time tells you that each measure (small division of a piece) has 3 beats and each beat is notated by a quarter note in music. [visual aid](https://www.pinterest.com/pin/287104544974387289/)
I laughed out loud on the subway, thank you!
What do they say at the Trop when it's root root root for the....
Apparently, when the game started, there was no such things as balls or called strikes.
Because of that, batters would often wait … and wait … and wait for a pitch to be of their liking, until the problem got so bad that some batters would see 40-50 pitches PER AT-BAT. Indeed, Landers writes that “in one 1860 game between the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Brooklyn Excelsiors, 665 pitches were thrown … over three innings.” Yikes (talk about pace-of-play problems).
With no balls or called strikes in the rules, games would routinely be called for lack of light. So, in 1863, called balls were brought into the game, but it’s not the “balls” you’re used to. At the time, only every third “unfair pitch” was called a ball, meaning that a batter could only walk after nine pitches out of the strike zone. As time went on, the rule was dropped to eight balls, then seven, and so-on until four balls were settled on by the league in 1889. Pretty crazy, right?
If I remember right, the 3 strike rule was among the original rules set up by the Knickerbocker Club in 1845. The three-strike rule in 1845 takes this form: “Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught, is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and the striker bound to run.” I imagine over time, the rule evolved to “called strikes” for the sake of pace of play.
God baseball must have sucked back then.
Just sitting around in the hot summer sun and 1890s Adam Dunn is just sitting there for 30 minutes waiting for the right pitch.
I bet they threw 3 or 4 pitches a minute back then.
That's a machine gun compared to some dudes.
If they wanted the ball in play so much, they should have had someone from the same team do the pitching.
Or a Tee
Rob Manfred just died reading that.
What was the pacing of those pitches? 40-50 pitches seems insane now but I doubt batters were calling time every pitch and pitchers didn’t take their time with each pitch
Let’s say the pacing was 10-12 seconds between pitches. A 40-50 pitch at bat could run 6-8 minutes on the fast end and 8-10 minutes on the slow end. If you get 3 in the top *half* of an inning, you’re looking 30-36 minutes.
Bases on balls went from 9 to 8 to 6 to 5 to 4 balls over the course of many early rule changes. Its always been 3 strikes though what counted as a strike changes a bit. The first 50 years of baseball was constant rule changes until the basic pitching rules got sorted out in the very late 1800s.
Because the strike zone is a small box, the "ball" zone is the rest of the planet, so statistically speaking it is much more likely to throw a ball than a strike, this makes it so it is more even, trust me I did the math
[How baseball was invented](https://youtu.be/H8gGXAOkbfI)
More people need to see this documentary.
Gonna tell my kids this is Ken Burns’ Baseball
Ken Burns’ Baseball (abridged abridged abridged edition (as remembered by a guy who was on his phone))
What is this from?
This is the only bit worth watching.
It’s from the movie The Ridiculous 6
Because the batter has more ways (7,walk, HBP, hit, catcher's interference, error, fielders choice, dropped third strike) to get on base than the pitcher has to get a batter out (2, strike out/put out)
George Brett: "hold my beer"
I mean, "put out" is generalizing several ways into one. Popup, flyout, groundout, lineout, and unforced errors like getting tagged out, not tagging up, hit by a batted ball, passing a runner, etc.
In the same way, you could generalize the 7 ways for the batter as "reaching base".
And strikeouts have putouts as well, so you could really categorize everything as a put out. There are a lot of ways to get out and I doubt this has anything to do with why it’s 4 balls and 3 strikes lol
People are citing history for why it is and that's probably why.
The way I see it, throwing a strike is harder than throwing a ball so it makes sense that a walk requires more balls than a K requires for strikes.
DAD JOKE OF THE DAY: What do you do to a rhino with three balls? >!Walk him and pitch to the elephant. !<
Thats cool how do you do the blackout thing?
>! Text !< with no spaces
>!does this work!<
> how do you do the blackout thing?
Play Twins in game 163
When you make a reply to a post in the bottom portion of the field if you hover your cursor over the icon with the ! inside a diamond you will see the 'Spoiler' feature.
“Confucius say baseball all wrong; Man with 4 balls cannot walk”
WALK WITH PRIDE, MAN! WALK WITH PRIDE!
Because otherwise the song wouldn’t make any sense
Strikes are harder to throw, so they give the pitcher the benefit maybe?
The defense has to record 3 strikes prior to 4 balls, and is trying to record 3 outs before a runner can advance four bases, it all works out pretty cool!
How can you not be romantic about baseball?
There used to probably be a gentlemen's agreement that the pitcher would throw hittable pitches. Then guys would probably try to throw anything but meatballs to the better hitters, so they kept having to reduce the ball count. It's kind of amazing it went through all of those changes and has settled on 4 for so long.
Because a batter with three balls would be goofy?!
So that games won't last 5 hours
Although, you can just shorten the innings total then
I wouldn't be surprised if baseball goes to 3 pitch walks, but 7 inning games in the future
In b4 manfred changes it to 2 strikes and 3 balls