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In MLB, if a Catcher drops or misses the third pitched strike, the batter becomes a runner and can attempt to reach first base before tagged out or forced out at first.

6.09 The batter becomes a runner when -- (a) He hits a fair ball; (b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out; -- Official MLB Rules

What is the reasoning behind this rule? Why does it only happen if first base is unoccupied, and what's with that crazy extra exception of two outs?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The exception about first base being unoccupied is to prevent a catcher from intentionally dropping a third strike and then getting a double-play. If there are two outs, that prevention isn't necessary.

As for the reasoning behind the rule itself, I can't find a definitive resource, but speculation is that an out needs a successful defensive player and an unsuccessful offensive player to occur.

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Ah, of course! Hadn't thought the first-base occupation through. Your speculation sounds right, too, and I noticed a similar guess on the wikipedia article. –  Thomas Shields Apr 29 '12 at 16:35
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So why can't the pitcher who threw the strike be considered the "successful defensive player"? –  JoelFan May 3 '12 at 3:52
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@JoelFan: Maybe it should be "successful defensive play" and "unsuccessful offensive play" instead of player. –  Jacob G May 3 '12 at 12:43
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@JoelFan Rule 6.05(b) states a batter is out when "A third strike is legally caught by the catcher;" so it appears that on third strike the catch is a requirement. –  Leatherwing Sep 17 '13 at 15:20
    
Also there is a general rule that in cases of "indirect outs" (i.e. outs due to penalties) the "closest defensive player" gets credit for an out. Clearly the catcher is closer to the batter than the pitcher is. –  JoelFan Sep 17 '13 at 16:34

The reason it exists is the third strike has to be caught when its a foul tip so it has to be caught when its not a foul tip too.

Also the Catcher gets the PO on a strikeout so he is duty bound to actually catch it.

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