Rule Spotlight: What’s a foul tip?


Recently, in a couple of online discussions, I’ve seen people get a fundamental baseball rule wrong, and it is MADDENING.  The rule is this:


Let me say that again: A foul tip MUST BE CAUGHT.  If a ball that’s hit not in fair territory is not caught, it is just a foul ball.

Many of the recent comments around foul tips arose from this call by CB Bucknor near the end of the Nationals @ Braves game on April 19, in which Chase d’Arnaud swung at a pitch, which then got away from the catcher, who gathered it up and threw it to first.  The players were leaving the field when they all realized that, hey, that was called a foul ball and d’Arnaud wasn’t out!

Commentary raged about the call, almost all of it referring to the ball as a “foul tip.”  Which it wasn’t.

Bucknor clearly called the ball a foul ball.(1) But the players interviewed afterwards, and the managers, and many of the writers who wrote about the call said that Bucknor called it a “foul tip.” Which he did not, and which it was not.

Why? Because the ball wasn’t caught. Per the rules:

“A FOUL TIP is a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to the catcher’s hands and is legally caught.  It is not a foul tip unless it is caught…”

This is another case, I think, of popular terminology not lining up with the actual language of the rules, like the confusion about what is and is not a base path.  If you watch the video, you’ll notice that the announcers (I believe it’s Bob and F.P. from the Nationals, but don’t quote me on that) actually get the terminology right — they describe Bucknor’s call repeatedly as a “foul ball” — it’s just everybody writing around the situation who gets it wrong.



(1) The call itself wasn’t right — the bat came nowhere near the ball and it should have been a swinging strike three — but that’s not the point here.

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