What is the Infield Fly Rule in Baseball/Softball?
The Infield Fly Rule is a rule that was created to prevent easy double and triple plays from occurring on a pop-fly within the diamond.
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The Infield Fly Rule is a tough rule for youth baseball players to wrap their minds around. Heck, some high schoolers have trouble with it as well.
You end up having all of these questions, like when can I advance? Can I tag up? What happens if the ball goes in foul territory?
We’re here to answer all of them and set you straight. First, the rules, from a former pitcher in the MLB.
Rules of the Infield Fly
- The batted ball must remain in fair territory.
- There must be less than two outs at the time of the at-bat.
- Runners must be on first and second base, or, first, second and third (bases loaded).
- The ball must be a pop fly. Line drives don’t count. Same goes for bunts.
- The umpire must assess that the ball will be caught with an “ordinary effort.”
What is the purpose of the rule?
The purpose of the Infield Fly Rule is to prevent an easy double play or triple play from occurring. Because of the force play rules that go into effect on a fly ball, the defense could simply let the ball drop and double up the runners that are on base.
This rule creates an automatic force out for the batter and allows runners to use their best judgment on whether or not to advance.
Can you advance when the Infield Fly Rule has been called?
Yes, runners can advance once the Infield Fly Rule has been called, but only at their own risk. If a defensive player catches the pop-up, then all runners must return to their previous base prior to advancing.
How a runner plays the Infield Fly Rule would certainly be different depending on which side the ball is hit to and whether or not they are standing on First Base, Second Base or Third Base.
A speedy runner standing on Third Base could make an attempt to score at Home Plate if the First Baseman and Second Baseman somehow bump into one another in an attempt to catch the ball and the ball falls to the ground. The rationale here is that the runner could retain a sizable lead since they don’t need to tag up.
Watch John Jay of the Cardinals tag up on an Infield Fly to shallow Left Field against the Cubs.
Will Infield Fly be called on a Foul Ball?
No, the rule should not be called on an obvious foul ball, as Baseball rules dictate that it should only be called on a fair fly ball.
That said, there are times when the rule will be invoked as a ball goes up in the air and it drifts into foul territory. But overall, it shouldn’t be an obvious foul ball. For example, a foul ball that ends up near a dugout should not become a rule book issue.
Can the Infield Fly Rule be called on a bunt or line drive?
No, the Infield Fly Rule should not be called on a bunt or a line drive. While what is considered a line drive can be mildly subjective due to angles and perspectives, an attempted bunt should be visibly obvious to any umpire at any level.
Does the Infield Fly Rule apply to Softball?
Yes, all of the same rules apply to softball. The number of innings played may be different, but in general, baseball rules are softball rules. Baserunners still advance in all of the same fashion. Invoking the rule on an infield pop-up is still at the judgment of the umpire. And so on and so on.
The Famous MLB Playoff Braves/Cardinals Infield Fly
With St. Louis leading Atlanta 6-3 in the Bottom of the Eight, a batter hit what would normally be considered a pop-up to the Left Fielder with the ball dropping in (instead of being caught). The Braves runners all advanced. However, an umpire had invoked the Infield Fly Rule which changed everything.
It’s true that once an Umpire calls something that it can’t be overturned (unless it’s reviewable by replay). But this one should have been, as the ball lands uncaught something like 70-80 feet out into Left Field.
You can see on the replay where it bounces and how making an Infield Fly Call there would be an absolute joke. Freddi Gonzalez, the manager of the Atlanta Braves, put the game under protest after that.
This wasn’t any game though, it was a Major League Baseball playoff game (Wild Card) where it happened. And, it was a ball that was clearly hit all the way out to the outfielder. This was not an Infield Fly situation. It was a poor judgment call.
Heck, the shortstop (Andrelton Simmons) takes 12 steps out into the outfield grass. That’s probably just as many as Matt Holliday took coming in to try and catch the fly ball. At the end of the day, the baserunners on first and second advanced to the next base and the hitter was out.
If you’re a Braves fan, watch the video at your own risk.
Would a hitter get credit for RBIs on an Infield Fly?
This is a tricky question. Yes, a batter would receive credit for a run batted in if a runner scored as a natural result of the play. For example, if the ball lands and a runner from third takes off and successfully scores, then yes, that's a RBI for the hitter. Same goes for a runner on third who tags up when the ball is caught.
However, neither go down in the books as a sacrifice fly. The batter is still docked points on their batting average. Any run scored as part of an error on the play does not credit the batter with a RBI.
Check out our batting average calculator if you need help figuring out your BA.