The force out is one of the most fundamental concepts in baseball and is based on the idea that two base runners cannot occupy the same base simultaneously. A force out is a play when the defense records an out without actually having to “tag” a runner, catch a fly ball in the air, or strike out a batter.
The most common force play occurs when a batter hits a ground ball to an infielder who throws the ball to the first baseman before the hitter reaches the base.
The force out
A force out in baseball happens when a baserunner must try to reach the next base because a runner behind him is approaching his current base. Since the batter becomes a runner and must occupy first base, all baserunners are forced to advance. The force play is recorded when the defender touches an unoccupied base while in possession of the ball before the baserunner reaches that particular base.
One of the most confusing force plays in major league baseball history occurred in 2013, between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Cubs batter hit a sinking line drive to shallow center field. The Mets outfielder charged the ball and appeared to make a shoestring catch, which prompted all three baserunners to return to their respective bases.
But the umpire ruled the ball was trapped, and the throw came into the second base. That forced out the runner who was originally on first base. However, that took the force off the runners on second and third. When the Mets threw to home plate seeking another force out, that did nothing. Here is a video of the play:
Examples of force outs
Baseball’s three most common force out scenarios are single outs, double plays, and triple plays. The defensive team’s objective is to prevent opposing baserunners from advancing to the next base. This strategy helps reduce opponents’ odds of reaching home plate and scoring runs.
Single out scenarios
- A baserunner is on 1B, and there are two outs. The batter hits the ball to the second baseman. He can throw the ball to 2B and force out the runner coming from 1B, or he can throw the ball to 1B to force out the runner who hit the ball.
- A baserunner is on 2B and 3B, with one out. The batter hits the ball to the shortstop. He must throw the ball to 1B and force out the runner who hit the ball since the baserunners on 2B and 3B do not have to advance to the next base.
Double play scenarios
- A baserunner is on 1B, and there is one out. The batter hits the ball to the first baseman. He can throw the ball to 2B and force out the runner coming from 1B, and the shortstop can throw the ball to 1B to force out the runner who hit the ball for two outs.
- A baserunner is on 1B and 2B, with one out. The batter bunts the ball to the catcher. He can throw the ball to 2B to force out the runner coming from 1B, and the shortstop can throw the ball to 1B for another force out to complete the double play.
Triple play scenarios
- A baserunner is on 1B, 2B, 3B and there are no outs. The batter hits the ball to the pitcher. He can throw to 3B to force out the runner coming from 2B, the third baseman throws to 2B to force out the runner coming from 1B, and the 2B throws the ball to 1B to force out the runner who hit the ball for three outs.
- A baserunner is on 1B and 2B, with one out. The batter hits the ball to the third baseman. He can touch 3B to force out the runner coming from 2B, throw the ball to 2B to force out the runner coming from 1B, and the second baseman throws the ball to 1B to force out the runner who hit the ball for a triple play.
How to “remove” the force (i.e., fly ball outs)
The force is removed when the batter is out on a caught fly ball. The baserunners are not required to advance to the next base because the batter does not become a runner who must occupy first base.
The force can also be removed on a baserunner when a runner behind him is put out. If a baserunner is on first base, and the first baseman fields a hard ground ball and touches the base to force out the batter, the baserunner does not have to advance to second base since the force has been removed.
Scoring on force outs
A run cannot score on a force play that results in a third out of an inning, even if the baserunner crosses home plate before the third out is recorded. However, runs can be scored on force outs that do not end an inning. A force play can also end in a tag and is not restricted solely to touching the base before the baserunner reaches it.
Force out vs. tag up out. What’s the difference?
The difference between a force out and a tag up out is that the latter is not a force play. An out on a failure to tag up is not a force out. A baserunner who tags up on a flyout and is thrown out trying to advance to the next base had the option to return to the base he came from.
What base is always a force out in baseball?
First base is always a force out in baseball because the batter must run to first after hitting the ball.
Does a force out count as a hit?
No. The rules state that the official scorer shall not credit a base hit when a batted ball forces a runner out.
Can you force out at a home plate?
Yes. If the bases are loaded and a ground ball is hit to a fielder, he can throw to home to force the runner from third base.
Force outs are a very important part of baseball
Force outs are one of the essential rules in the game of baseball. The force play is also a critical strategy that helps defenses record outs. One of the sport’s best defensive maneuvers – the double play – would be nearly extinct without force outs. Besides assisting the flow of the game, force outs are an integral part of baseball in tactical ways that makes the game unique.
Our apologies if you found this post unhelpful.
How can it be improved? Your feedback is important to us!