Baseball
Softball
Baseball Rules and Regulations

How many ways can a batter reach first base?

Answer

Wiki User
04/03/2012

1. Hit

2. Walk

3. Hit by Pitch

4. Fielder's Choice

5. Reached on Error (includes MLB Official Rule 7.05 i)

6. Dropped Third Strike

7. Catcher's Interference (hindering the batter while in the batter's box)

8. Fielder's Obstruction (hindering the batter while he is running to first base)

9. Going in as a Pinch Runner (most often in the late innings)

10. Overturned Out Call

11. Balk (Made by Pitcher)

Some other suggestions:

  • Runner's Interference (batted ball hits a runner in fair territory. The runner is out, and the batter is awarded a hit). This is not a separate item in the list since it's included as a Hit.
  • Certain illegal pitching actions are penalized by adding a ball to the count. This may result in a walk, which is already on the list.

There are exactly eight ways, as stated above. Other methods listed in this discussion (see below) are incorrect, in that they either do not apply, or are an incorrect double-counting of a way to reach base. Here are some of those incorrect answers, with commentary:

A) Inserted as a pinch-runner

Come on, that's not what the question is about. It's "How does a BATTER reach base?"

B) 7.05(h) wild pickoff throw into the stands

Does not affect batter.

C) 7.05(h) wild pitch that goes into the stands

Does not affect batter unless the pitch is Ball Four or Strike Three. If ball four, batter reaches on a walk. If strike three, batter reaches on a dropped third strike. Either way, this situation is already covered.

D) 7.05(i) pitch lodges in umpire's equipment

Same rules apply here as in the example D above: if a pitched ball gets past the catcher and lodges in his equipment, it must have been a wild pitch or passed ball to even get to the catcher, and that is what is is considered. "Umpire's Interference" is different, and it only applies when the umpire impedes the catcher while he is making a throw, and in no case can such a ruling cause the batter to be awarded first base.

E) 3-ball count balk

Batter can never reach base on a balk. Balks only impact the runners on base. Additionally, a pitcher cannot ever technically balk with the bases empty.

F) Differences in 3rd strike scenarios

All of the scenarios listed are scored the same way: credit both the batter and pitcher with a strikeout, but record no putout. This answer counts only one time.

G) Fan Interference

Cannot reach base on this. You can be awarded additional bases or possibly be called out due to fan interference, but reaching base is not provided under fan interference rules. However, even if this were the case, there is no such scoring as "Fan Interference." Such plays will always be scored as a single.

H) Batted Ball hits a runner

In this situation, the batter gets first, the struck runner is out, the ball is dead, and the putout goes to the nearest fielder. However, the play is scored as a single. So again, this is already dealt with in the list of eight.

I) 4 illegal pitches

An illegal pitch is a ball. Four illegal pitches equals a walk. So again, already dealt with.

J) Pitcher fails to deliver the pitch within 20 seconds

Called a ball; see above.

K) Reach on a double play

Scored as a fielder's choice.

An Argument About 11 Ways to Reach First

Notes in italics indicate opposing commentary.

I once heard 21 ways, but that included the variances such as there are 4 different types of hits (single, double, triple and home run) and the different kinds of errors (fielding, throwing, dropped ball, etc.) that allow you to get to first base and beyond. Also that list of 21 may have been how can a "player" reach first base which would then include pinch running.

I count 11 distinct ways to reach first base:

1. hit

2. base on balls/walk

3. hit by pitch

4. reach on an error

5. catcher's interference

6. passed ball on strike 3

7. wild pitch on strike 3

(6 & 7 are both dropped third strike.) 8. sacrifice

9. double play

10. fielder's choice

(9 is an example of 10.) 11. runner interference (certain situations)

To refute an argument from a previous post, Nos. 6 and 7 are different. A passed ball and a wild pitch are two separate and different things and thus each situation is scored differently (K-PB or K-WP). A passed ball is the catcher's fault. A wild pitch is the pitcher's fault. (By that logic, you could say that a double and a home run are two different things, since they're scored differently.)

From the fielder's perspective, these plays are scored differently. However, for the batter, it is still scored as reaching on a strikeout. Splitting hairs very finely may cause someone to include this item twice, once as a K-WP, once as a K-PB. However, the onus of this question is on the batter. ("How does a BATTER reach first base?") In this sense, the batter reaches on a misplayed strikeout. He still gets a SO charged to him in the scorebook either way. But since a WP is technically a pitching statistic, and a PB is a fielding statistic, a hyper-critical examination could lead to you treating these as two distinct plays. However, even in this case, we are only up to nine ways, certainty not 11, 15, 23 or any other strange concoction of plays.

About runner interference, the batter does not always get awarded first base such as when a runner goes out of the way to break up a double play. In that situation both the runner and the batter are declared out.

Where is the situation where a batter is AWARDED first because a lead runner interfered with a fielder? Yes, a batter can certainly be called OUT because of runner's interference. However, please explain to me the situation where the runner is automatically SAFE because of it. What kind of play would be listed in the official scorer's book as "safe on runner's interference"?

There is no such thing as a balk with no runners on base. The balk rule is in place to prevent pitchers from deceiving base runners. No base runners, no balks. It's not uncommon to see a pitcher do a balk movement with no one on base.

Umpires do not enforce any rules requiring a pitcher to pitch within 20 seconds anymore, if they ever did. I believe the actual rule states that any pitch not conforming to the rule about timing of pitches will be called a ball. I may be wrong though.

Any illegal act performed by a pitcher will not get a batter to first base. If it is an illegal pitch, the pitch will be ruled a ball and most likely the pitcher will be ejected. The only exception I can think of would be if the hitter got hit by the pitch and then it would just be an HBP with the pitcher then being tossed.

Fan interference of a fly ball results in the batter being called out. Fan interference of a fair ball results in a hit, typically a ground-rule double (most seen when a ball hit in the OF corners is interfered with).

As for the the whole rain-postponed, player traded, etc. nonsense. If a player gets to first and the game is postponed (If a game is postponed, none of the stats of the game count, and it starts again from scratch. I think that you mean "suspended.") and then the player gets traded before the game is completed, his replacement enters the game as a pinch-runner (substituting for a runner already on base) and does not reach base as a batter. This is the same game that just happens is being played over two days.

Also, in the cases of postponed (suspended) games, when play does resume with the runner on first base (and it's the same guy), he was already there by whatever means got him there before the postponement. It's the same game.

If a fair batted ball strikes an umpire, it remains in play and can be fielded and the batter and runners advance at their own risk. The batter receives no special benefit unless the ball ricochets away from the fielders and he gets a hit out of it. A foul ball striking an umpire in foul territory remains a foul ball.

Sacrifice: Sometimes a hitter will reach base in a sacrifice situation and still be credited with either a sacrifice or sacrifice fly even though it may be accompanied by an error or a fielder's choice.

Exactly. The batter will still be changed with an SF or SH, but he does NOT reach first on the sacrifice itself. This is impossible. The batter only reaches first base on the SUBSEQUENT action, namely a fielder's choice or an error. He can never reach on a sacrifice, but he can reach on a FC or error that happens AFTER he has sacrificed himself. These plays are always scored as such.

An Argument About 23 Ways of Getting to First Base

Notes in italics indicate opposing commentary.

According to Eric Enders, a researcher with the Baseball Hall of Fame, there are 23 legal ways to get to first (but 2 fewer ways for a batter to do so); Some of these may be scored similarly, but they are all apparently distinct ways to get to first.

1. walk

2. intentional walk [this is now scored separately from a walk, and records are kept; Barry Bonds just broke his old season record a few weeks ago]

Incorrect. This is still scored in the BB column. Now, it is ALSO scored in the IBB column, but it is still just a walk, varying only in degree. This is the same reason we don't count doubles, triples and HR as separate ways of getting on base. All of these are still base hits; they just also have a special additional designation. A double is scored in both the H and 2B column, but it is still just a hit for the purposes of this discussion.

3. hit by pitch

4. dropped third strike

5. failure to deliver pitch within 20 seconds [yes, it might be scored as a ball, but it doesn't involve throwing the ball outside the strike zone and violates a different rule]

Incorrect. This is scored as a ball. Batter never reaches first on this unless it is ball four, and then it is scored as a walk.

6. catcher interference

7. fielder interference

Incorrect. There is a misconception about interference and obstruction. They are two different things. Fielders do not interfere with a baserunner, they obstruct. Now, fielder's obstruction IS a correct answer to this question, but it is already listed below at #12.

8. spectator interference ("the act of a spectator touching a live ball by reaching out of the stands or going on the playing field")

Incorrect. If a spectator interferes with the ball, the batter will reach whatever base the umpires felt he would have reached, and the play will be scored as a hit (single, double, etc.). There is no official scoring for "spectator interference"; it shows up in the boxscore as a hit.

9. fan obstruction [truth be told, I have no idea how this differs from spectator interference]

Incorrect. This is the same as #8 above.

10. fair ball hits umpire

Incorrect. An umpire in fair territory is considered part of the playing field, so if the ball ricochets off of him, it is the same as taking a bad hop. There is not official scoring for "umpire interference".

11. fair ball hits runner

Incorrect. In this situation, the batter gets first, the struck runner is out, the ball is dead, and the putout goes to the nearest fielder. However, the play is scored as a single.

12. fielder obstructs runner

13. pinch-runner [does not apply to batter]

Incorrect. Come on, now. It is "How does a BATTER reach first base?" A pinch-runner is not a batter.

14. fielder's choice [which may not result in an out anywhere]

15. force out at another base

Incorrect. This is the definition of a fielder's choice, which is already dealt with in #14. If a fielder throws to another base and does not attempt to get the batter out, it is always scored as "reached on fielder's choice".

16. preceding runner put-out allows batter to reach first

Incorrect. Again, this is still a fielder's choice, and again, already covered in #14.

17. sac bunt fails to advance runner [I would have thought this was just a fielder's choice]

Incorrect. Once AGAIN, this is a fielder's choice. The play went to another base. Just because they do not actually get the runner out at second does not mean the batter reached for any other reason than a FC.

18. sac fly dropped [I would have thought this was just an error]

Incorrect. The batter here reaches on an error. Now, it is ALSO still listed as a sac fly, but the manner in which the batter reached based was on the error.

19. runner called out on appeal

Incorrect. How in the world can a batter reach first base when a different runner is called out on an appeal? This has no bearing on the batter reaching first. An appeal play happens after the initial play is over, so the batter would have already been either on first base, or out.

20. error

21. four illegal pitches [yes, scored as balls, but again, not necessarily involving 4 pitches outside the strike zone]

Incorrect. An illegal pitch is scored as a ball. Batter never reaches first on this unless it is ball four, and then it is scored as a walk.

22. if a game is suspended with a runner on first and that player is traded prior to the makeup, another player can take his place [does not apply to batter, and I imagine this would apply if the original runner was not available for other reasons, such as illness, injury, etc.]

Incorrect. Again, come on! This player would STILL be a pinch-runner! This applies to all of the goofy "player ejected, player traded during a suspended game" scenarios that have been listed here.

23. hit

Discussion: Double Play vs Fielder's Choice

Opinion 1: A double play and a fielder's choice are two distinctly different things.

A double play always results in two outs. Even when a rundown is involved and the final result is two outs, it is considered a double play and counts that way in a team's double play totals.

A fielder's choice does not always result in an out. Runner on third, batter hits a ground ball to short, shortstop fires home to get the runner from third but the throw is late and the runner scores. The batter just reached first via a fielder's choice.

All a fielder's choice says is that the fielder chose not to get the sure out at first base. He may have instead gotten a force out at another base or it could have been something like the scenario I described above.

They are different situations and are thus scored and recorded differently. I realize that in a lot of case, it's just shades of grey but if you want to be completely accurate they are two different things.

If they were the same things, then triple plays are the same as double plays and fielder's choices.

Opinion 2: Reaching on a double-play IS a fielder's choice.

You reached because the fielder could have retired you at first but chose to retire runners instead. It makes no difference if no runners or one runner or two runners were retired this is all the same fielder's choice.

Sidebar: Balking With Bases Empty

It is impossible for a pitcher to balk with the bases empty. According to the legendary Tigers catcher, Jim Price, "You can fake a throw anywhere you want, except to home." Upon further review, a throw to first base must be completed, UNLESS the pitcher steps off the pitcher's plate first. Mickey Lolich was the master of circumventing the balk rules. He was the best I've ever seen at the second base pickoff. The accepted norm is, the pitcher's front foot must be in front of a perpendicular line drawn from the rubber to the first base line on throws to first.

Opinion: A Pitcher CAN bulk with bases loaded

To say it is impossible for a pitcher to bulk with bases empty is incorrect. Just because a runner isn't on doesnt mean the pitcher can do whatever he would like on the mound (i.e A right handed pitcher throwing from the wind-up cannot step off the rubber with his left foot -- this would be a bulk -- as he would be starting his pitch and then stopping). I know people will say this is an illegal pitch, but this is a bulk, as he did not through the pitch.

Fan Interference

Spectator Interference (colloquially called Fan Interference, and also INCORRECTLY called Obstruction) is a rule within baseball. If a fan were to throw something on the field and hit the batter in the middle of a pitch or run out and tackle them... it is interference.

Illegal Pitch on 3-Ball Count

This is basically a balk with no one on base and when a batter has a 3-ball count. The runner is awarded the base without a pitch being thrown. Not a base on balls. I saw this happen while attending a game in 2004. Reggie Sanders was the batter for the Cardinals against the Pirates. (Wrong. Sanders WAS in fact credited with a base on balls.)

Catcher's Balk

There's an incorrect perception that a batter is awarded first base if the catcher does not return to the catcher's box before signaling and receiving a pitch. This is not true. If the pitcher pitches while the catcher is outside of the catcher's box, a balk may be called, but this would result in the runners advancing (as with any other balk), not with the batter being awarded first base.

Other suggestions

  • Umpire interference (already covered)
  • Force out at another base (fielder's choice)
  • Preceding runner put-out allows batter to reach first (fielder's choice)
  • Intentional walk (A bit different from Walk, the opposing team WANTS you on base) (still a walk)
  • Passed ball on third strike (includes MLB Offical Rule 7.05 h)
  • You're out at 1st but the 1st base umpire commits a monumental boo-boo and calls you safe! This actually happened in the 6th game of a world series, bottom of the 9th, 2 outs!
  • Intentionally dropped and CALLED "infield fly." The batter is out, except for the "if fair" clause. Runners on first and second, or first second and third AND less than two outs. Must be a way to get on base there somewhere. (That's a bad example since the batter is out and does not reach first.)
  • Roof/speakers interference in a dome (This would be covered in that field's ground rules. Some places may play that if a ball hits an overhead item, it's a foul ball, and some may consider it a hit. But if it is called a hit, it is just that - a hit. The official scorer does not write down 'reached on roof interference.')

There are only eight ways for a batter to reach first base. 1. hit 2. reach on error 3. base on balls 4. hit by pitch 5. catcher's interference (also scored as an error on the catcher) 6. fielder's obstruction 7. dropped third strike 8. reach on fielder's choice

A catcher's balk is ruled against the pitcher. (It's the pitcher's responsibility to pitch when the catcher is in the correct position.) In a balk, only baserunners advance. A batter cannot reach base on a balk.

Reaching base because of fan interference counts as a hit.

Umpire's error. For example a three-ball walk is accidentally awarded.

ANOTHER WAY TO GET TO FIRST

There's one more way for a batter to reach first base: Umpire Award. Although the odds of such an event taking place are low, Rule 9.01c specifically states that each umpire has the authority to rule on any point not specifically covered by the rules. This could include awarding a batter first place for something unusual - perhaps crazy antics by the pitcher or opposing dugout.

NOW, it would seem as if we have a difference in interpretations of "ways to get to first base." On the one hand, you have people giving different examples of an event or occurrence that would result in the player getting on base. But on the other hand, you have people trying to show different examples based on the box score outcome. Now, either way you do it poses some problems (mainly leaving out certain important events like illegal pitches and such), but one thing is certain: Getting to first is a lot easier said than done.

Based upon my research, there actually are 9 statistically valid ways for a player to reach first base:

1) Hit

2) Walk (base on balls): Rule 6.08 (a)

3) Hit-by-Pitch: Rule 6.08 (b)

4) Error

5) Strike Out: When a third strike is not handled by the catcher and touches the ground before the play is completed with less than 2 outs and first base unoccupied or anytime there is 2 outs, allowing the batter to become a batter-runner and to reach first base safely. According to rule 10.13, this play should be officially scored as a strikeout and passed ball, a strikeout and wild pitch or a strikeout and a fielder's choice. The last option occurs if the dropped third strike results in a force out at a base other than first base.

6) Fielder's choice

7) Interference (When by a fielder on a batter, this will most frequently be as a result of catcher's interference when the bat touches the catcher's glove during the swing. But, this category accounts for any kind of interference that allows the batter-runner to reach first.) Rule 6.08 (c): "Rule 6.08 The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when-"... "(c) The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference."

8) Fielder's Obstruction (of a runner): (Rule 7.06 (a) is the one everyone seems to be missing so far.) "If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, if there had been no obstruction."

9) A Sacrifice (see Note (C) below)

Notes of discussion:

A) Number 7 and 8 above are listed separately because they are generally different in how they are ruled, as well as in the status of the player being interfered with/obstructed. Number 7 (in the case of catcher's [or possibly any fielder's] interference) involves interference of the player while he is still deemed to be a batter and number 8 involves the player after he has become a runner (denoted as the batter-runner until he reaches first or is out). The rulings are different in that in number 8, the play is called dead immediately and in number 7, the play is allowed to continue and the manager of the interfered player can be allowed to opt to accept the play instead of the interference penalty, if desired. I could easily see an argument for counting interference and obstruction items in one category as similar items. But, for the reasons noted, I am counting them as separate ways for a batter to reach first base.

B) There are many plays (odd or regularly occurring) that can result in the batter becoming a batter-runner and reaching first. But, each would be officially scored as one of the 9 ways listed above. I've seen some answers on here list double, triple and home run as separate items. Yes, the batter becomes a batter-runner and does technically reach first base (and beyond) with these. But, these ways (2B, 3B or HR) all officially count as a hit. There are also times when a ball hits a runner or an umpire in play which allows the batter-runner to reach first base safely. But, this also counts officially as a hit or the ball is ruled as still in play. Rule 6.08(d) states that "The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when-"..."A fair ball touches an umpire or a runner on fair territory before touching a fielder. If a fair ball touches an umpire after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, or having touched a fielder, including the pitcher, the ball is in play."

There are many other examples of odd plays that some might consider as a different way for a batter to reach first base. But all of them have to be ruled as 1 of the 9 methods that are listed above in this answer.

As an additional thought in regards to note (B), I would like to specifically address some other listed items in other answers that I have seen here and elsewhere subsequent to my writing this answer. One answer lists interference by another runner and umpire interference separately, even though a general category for interference is already listed. Interference is interference. Rule 10.02(a)(1)(iv) and 10.02(a)(15) only requires the official scorer to account for times when a runner reaches first because of interference or obstruction. Another item mentions thrown equipment as a separate item. If a fielder throws their equipment at a ball in order to stop it, this would merely be a hit. There is no statistic for thrown equipment. At the most, an argument could be made to count it as a form of interference, for which a category also already exists.

C) Sacrifices specifically addressed-- It seems odd that a sacrifice can be counted as a way for a batter to reach first because, by definition, a sacrifice means to give up your at-bat as an out in order to move other runners along. However, rule 10.08 allows for ways that a play can be officially scored as a sacrifice even though the batter-runner actually reaches first base. Rule 10.08(a) states that "An official scorer shall:"..."Score a sacrifice bunt when, before two are out, the batter advances one or more runners with a bunt and is put out at first base, or would have been put out except for a fielding error". And, rule 10.08 (d) states that "An official scorer shall:"..."Score a sacrifice fly when, before two are out, the batter hits a ball in flight handled by an outfielder or an infielder running in the outfield in fair or foul territory that"..."(2) is dropped, and a runner scores, if in the scorer's judgment the runner could have scored after the catch had the fly been caught." A further notation regarding rule 10.08 (d) (2) states: "Rule 10.08(d) Comment: The official scorer shall score a sacrifice fly in accordance with Rule 10.08(d)(2) even though another runner is forced out by reason of the batter becoming a runner." So, it is true that a batter-runner can reach first base on a play that is statistically scored as a sacrifice.

In my answer, I have listed the various statistically valid ways for a batter-runner to reach first base safely. Again, many, many odd plays could be listed. For example, a batted ball touches a fielder and deflects into the stands, a batted ball gets lodged in ivy or rolls under a wagon gate. There are no statistics for these specific things. They would just be a hit or an error. We could list the seemingly limitless number of ways that a hit, an error, a fielder's choice, interference, obstruction, etc. could occur. But, it would still be a hit, an error, a fielder's choice, interference, obstruction, etc. in the statistics. So, where do we draw the line? In my answer, I chose to draw it at all of the different official scoring categories for which a batter can reach first base safely.