Intentional Walk

I know that there have been times where a pitcher has thrown a ball over the plate enough for a hitter to get a hit, and even hit a home run in some cases. My question is more along the lines of:

If he throws one over the plate and in the strike zone, and the hitter does not swing, is it a strike?

Is there anything in the rule book saying that a catcher cannot deke the hitter by standing up and signaling for an intentional walk and then having the pitcher throw a strike?

This would be frowned upon as far as "unwritten rules" go, and someone would probably get hit by a pitch as a result. I haven't seen it happen, but it could be a strategy against a good hitter in a big game (ie- playoffs, world series, etc).

  • Now that intentional walks are given without any pitches being thrown, no. (Before that, yes, if a pitch was a strike, it was a strike.)
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


Indeed, probably the best example of this is with Rollie Fingers of the A's striking out the Reds Johnny Bench in the 1972 World Series.

The situation that allowed it to work was a stolen base during the at-bat. While not common, the empty base made it plausible to walk Johnny even though he had a full count at the time.

Wikipedia: Game 3, 1972 World Series



Currently*, there's nothing special about intentional base-on-balls in the MLB rules, except for noting that catchers must stand in the catcher's box during them or a balk is called (4.03a,8.05j), and a few rules about official scoring. As such, yes, you could throw a pitch while the catcher is standing in the strike zone.

However, I don't see this being an effective ploy. IBBs are almost always done with no strikes on a batter, so it's unlikely a batter would fall for this with 2 strikes on him; and otherwise, you'd not be gaining all that much. On the other hand, with runners on base you have a substantial risk of a wild pitch/passed ball, because it's very hard to catch a 95mph fastball from a standing position that's thrown at the waist or below (and you'd want it fairly low or the batter might easily hit it).

*This is current as of 2014; based on the changes being tested in the Arizona Fall League this may change in the future, if they choose to allow IBBs to be instantaneous.

  • I know it wouldn't be likely to gain much of an advantage. Maybe to get an 0-0 strike on a good hitter in a big situation. Usually the umpire is just as nonchalant as the players, so I wasn't sure if he would be ready to call a strike. Or if it was even legal.
    – diggers3
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 16:04

The catcher stands where he does, for an intentional walk, to give the pitcher a big, fat, easy target so far out of the strike zone that a player could not lunge and hit it with the hope of decent contact without leaving the batter's box. This insures that the batter can't twart the intent of the intentional walk and get a hit, instead.

If the pitcher is sloppy and the batter can reach it, there's nothing that prevents the batter from taking a swing at it. Likewise, there's nothing that would stop the pitcher and/or catcher from changing their minds and throwing strikes.

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