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In Baseball, What Is Batting out of Turn?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
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Before a sanctioned baseball game begins, both teams must supply the head umpire with a written batting order. This list of eligible players is also shared with the media covering the game, the game announcers and the players themselves. Under rule 6.01(a) of the official baseball rules, this batting order must be strictly observed unless team managers notify the head umpire of legal substitutions. Violating this rule is known as batting out of turn or batting out of order.

The act of batting out of turn can be the result of a miscommunication between a player and the team manager who established the batting order. The head umpire's list is considered to be the official order, but sometimes the unofficial list in the players' dugout is accidentally transposed. Fortunately, under the rules any player batting out of order can be recalled by the batting team if a mistake is discovered. The proper batter simply takes his place and assumes the strike and ball count.

A player may also assume he will be batting in the same order as previous games and inadvertently step up to the plate out of order. Again, if the error is discovered in time by the batting team, the player can be replaced with the proper batter in the order. If the improper batter does get a base hit or home run, however, then a complicated set of penalties can be applied.

It's these potential penalties which can make the "batting out of turn" rule very confusing to fans and players alike. Ordinarily, a batter who bats out of order, but is not noticed by either team is considered a legitimate batter and play continues, as long as the defensive team pitches a ball to the next batter or makes any other defensive play, i.e. a pick-off. The defensive team must object to the improper out-of-order batter before the next play starts or else the batter is allowed to remain on the base or is credited with a home run.

If the defense does ask the umpire for a ruling, a number of things can happen. If player A is improperly followed by player C and the defense objects, player C can be removed from the bases and any scoring runs due to his efforts would be nullified. The proper batter who should have followed player A, player B, could be declared out before ever stepping up to the plate. In an ironic twist, the next proper batter in the order would be player C, the same batter who caused the problem by batting out of turn in the first place. Player C would actually be at-bat twice, although the team would be penalized an out.

There is a significant amount of strategy built into the batting order, with stronger hitters going first and weaker hitters batting last. The first batter is generally a strong base runner with a good batting average but not generally a power hitter. The best power hitter generally bats third, with a clean-up power hitter in the fourth spot. Strategically, batting out of order may be to a batting team's advantage if bases are loaded and a power hitter may be able to clear the bases with a home run. Considering the penalties of batting out of turn, however, the benefits may not outweigh the risks.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Sports n' Hobbies, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon344199 — On Aug 06, 2013

I see "anon293154 / Post 3", and my response is that you keep going through the batting order. If you've batted around (all nine batters have come up, assuming no batting out of turn) and haven't ended the inning yet, the batter who led off will come up for the second time in that inning.

By anon336390 — On May 28, 2013

For situation BOT no. 6: Yes, No. 8 was out of turn, but was legalized when a pitch was made to No. 9, so No. 8's single counts and No. 9, already at bat, became the proper batter. So no appeal was possible for No. 9's double and No. 8's run. After No. 9, the next (proper) batter is No. 1, but No. 2 came up instead and took ball 1. The appeal came at that time, so No. 1 replaces No. 2 at bat and assumes the ball/strike count of 1-0.

(The sentence in the answer should say "No. 9, already at bat, is the proper batter, and his double and No. 8's run count, with no appeal possible.")

By amypollick — On Apr 09, 2013

@coach147: As I understand it, if the player was subbed, even for the defense, in the previous inning, he would have batted in the order where the player he subbed was.

Look at it this way: in the National League, where pitchers take their turn at bat, then if a pitcher gets in trouble in the top half of the inning, and is pulled out of the game, then the pitcher who took his place will be up the next time the starting pitcher's turn at bat comes up, assuming the manager doesn't put in a pinch hitter for him, intending to use a third pitcher for the next inning. As I understand the rules, that's how it goes.

By coach147 — On Apr 09, 2013

During the bottom of the fifth inning in a recent game, my score keeper mentioned a batter not being reported by the offensive team. I that this batter had been entered into the game in the top of the prior inning, however he was not reported to the umpire nor to me or my score keeper. We decided to let him bat, and he hit a double.

We reported him as an improper batter to the home plate ump, who was dumbfounded and sought input from the field ump. They concluded that, since he went in defensively for the proper batter the prior inning before that, he was not improper, but proper. There was no challenge to be made as they had both made up their minds.

Was the player proper or improper? If he played the defensive inning before, was he eligible to bat for the person he was defensively subbed for. Confused? I am.

By amypollick — On Sep 24, 2012

@anon293154: O.K. Let's say the lead-off hitter pops up and is called out. Then, let's say the pitcher just goes completely out of control and the next batters start getting hits, getting walked, etc., and there's still only one out.

While it's doubtful the same pitcher will still be in the inning, the same lead-off hitter can indeed come back up, after the rest of the lineup has been up to bat in order. It's called going through the order and I've seen it any number of times when a pitcher loses his mind and bad things start happening. The team at-bat keeps sending batters up until they get three outs. Doesn't matter if one or all of them has been up in the inning already.

By anon293154 — On Sep 24, 2012

Are batters allowed to take a second turn in the same inning after getting out? Or do they have to wait for the next inning?

When a better is out, is he out for that complete inning or does he come back again to bat until three out are completed by defense?

Please tell me the rule because I was unable to find one in the MLB official rule.

By anon66955 — On Feb 22, 2010

In SITUATION BOT #6, try this for the answer:

No one is out. Pitching to No. 9 legalized No. 8 improper batter status and made No. 9 the proper batter, so the double and the run count. Batter No. 1 is the proper batter just after No. 9, and No. 2 is an improper batter who had not completed his time at bat. Therefore, No. 1 replaces No. 2 at bat and assumes the 1-0 ball/strike count.

By JerseyJoe — On Aug 02, 2008

Who’s (really) on first?

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, a comedy team from the 1940s, featured a classic routine about a mythical baseball team’s line up. The skit had Abbott, the team manager, identifying to Costello and confusing him with illogical player names. For example, Who was the first baseman, thus, the routine was titled, “Who’s on first?” Many of today’s baseball managers and fans who deal with the batting out of turn (BOT) rule may feel about as confused as Costello. Nevertheless, what was a comedy routine and being confused was all part of Costello’s shtick.

Let us begin to explore the BOT rule by asking a question: When is a player out for batting out of turn? The answer is NEVER and this is the crux for much of the confusion in dealing with BOT, MLB Rule 6.07. When the rule is properly appealed, many think it is the improper batter who is called out. On the contrary, it is the proper batter who is called out for failing to bat in the proper order. Furthermore, many times invoking the BOT rule results in the improper batter being the next proper batter who bats again. For this reason, the defensive manager should weigh his options on whether invoking the BOT appeal is best for the situation.

Terms you must know:

A BATTER is an offensive player who takes his position in the batter’s box.

BATTER-RUNNER is a term that identifies the offensive player who has just finished his time at bat until he is put out or until the play on which he became a runner ends.

The PROPER BATTER is the player who, according the umpire’s line up card is the legal batter.

The IMPROPER BATTER is any player who bats in the place of the PROPER BATTER.

The latter two terms are important. When a player bats out of turn (order), MLB Rule 6.07 clearly provides guidance for umpires to correct the situation. Here are the main points to remember the sequence for applying the rule for batting out of turn (BOT):

Proper Batter (PB), as listed on the plate umpire’s line up card. When properly appealed, the PB is ruled out for failure to bat in the proper order.

Improper Batter (IB) is any player who bats in PB spot. This is an appeal play and the umpire cannot act until the defensive team appeals. When properly appealed, the IB time at bat is nullified and all associated direct actions.

Appeal BOT period begins when the IB bats in PB spot and expires when a pitch is made to a subsequent batter of either team or any play or attempted play.

The defensive team Appeals the IB: (Select only one option per example)

A. – Immediately.

Action: No rule violation as the IB has not completed his time at bat; the umpire directs the PB to replace IB and the PB assumes same ball-strike count. Nullify any runner advances caused directly by IB actions.

B. -- After IB completes his time at bat.

Action: Declare PB out; nullify any runner advances caused directly by IB actions.

C. -- Before a pitch to a batter of either team or any play or attempted play.

Action: Declare PB out; nullify any runner advances caused directly by IB actions.

D. -- After a pitch to a subsequent batter of either team or any play or attempted play.

Action: Too late for an appeal, legalize IB turn at bat. Next PB listed on line-up card follows legalized IB.The batting order is restored and the sequence begins anew with the next IB.

Review: Improper batter bats in proper batter’s spot.

1. There is no rule violation until the IMPROPER BATTER completes his turn at bat

2. No penalties are assessed unless the IMPROPER BATTER completes his turn at bat and the defensive team properly appeals.

3. BOT is an appeal play. The defensive team must appeal before the umpire can take action to restore order to the batting line-up.

4. Once a pitch is delivered to a subsequent batter of either team or any play or an attempted play, the right to appeal expires and the preceding batter, even though he batted out of order, is designated as the PROPER BATTER.

SITUATION BOT # 1: When a manager juggles his line up, changes in the batting order often lead to a mix-up. For example, in the first inning, improper batter No. 6 bats in proper batter No. 5 spot and fouls off the first pitch. Immediately the defensive manager appeals to the umpire that the wrong man is batting. Is the batter out?

ANSWER: No. Appealing the improper batter’s time at bat too soon is a common mistake. There is no rule violation until the improper batter (No. 6 in this case) completes his turn at bat. Then, depending upon circumstances, the defensive manager may decide that it is not in his team’s best interest to appeal the improper batter. In BOT # 1, if the opposing manager appeals to the umpire, improper batter No. 6 is replaced by the proper batter No. 5 who then assumes No. 6 ball/strike count of 0-1. In retrospect, the defensive manager has nothing to loose with improper batter No. 6 completing his turn at bat. If batter No.6 hits safely or otherwise gets on base, there is still time to appeal BOT, and thus nullifying his time at bat.

SITUATION BOT # 2: No. 3 is the proper batter; however, improper batter No. 4 bats in his spot and triples. Then No. 3 comes to the plate. The pitcher delivers one pitch for a ball before the defensive team appeals. Who is out?

ANSWER: No one. The appeal of improper batter, No. 4, was made too late, as it had to be made before a pitch was delivered to a following batter of either team. Therefore, the pitch to No. 3, legalized No. 4’s triple (6.07c). Because No. 4’s time at bat was legalized, the (next) proper batter is No. 5 thus restoring the batting order. POINT; The instant an improper batter’s actions are legalized, the batting order picks up with the name following that of the legalized improper batter (6.07(d) (1

SITUATION BOT # 3: With the bases, loaded, improper batter No. 7 bats instead of proper batter No. 6. On the first pitch, the runner on third steals home. The pitcher then balks, advancing the runners to second and third. Improper batter No. 7 then hits a home run whereupon the defense appeals claiming No. 7 has batted out of turn. Who is out and how many runs count.

ANSWER: Score one-run since it was not the result of any act by the improper batter, as the runner’s steal of home would have scored regardless of who was batting. Proper batter No. 6 is ruled out and improper batter No. 7 home run with two runners on is nullified.

SITUATION BOT # 4: Batter No. 1 pops up. The batting (offensive) team manager then informs the umpire that No. 9 was the proper batter. Should the umpire recognize the appeal?

ANSWER: No. Only the defensive team may appeal batting out of order. To allow the offensive team to appeal BOT would invite chicanery. (6.07b)

SITUATION BOT # 5: No. 4 is the proper batter. With a runner on second base, No.5, an improper batter walks and reaches second base when a fourth ball eludes the catcher. Meanwhile, the runner on second base advances to third base. The defense appeals. What is the ruling?

ANSWER: Proper batter No. 4 is ruled out for failure to bat in the proper order. Improper batter No. 5 time at bat is nullified and the base runner is returned to second base, since the advance resulted from the play on an improper batter. Had the runner stolen third base on the pitch, his advance would have been legal and separate from the actions of improper batter No. 5.

SITUATION BOT # 6: No. 7 is the proper batter. No. 8, an improper batter, bats in his spot and singles to right field. No. 9 bats and doubles to right field, advancing No. 8 to score. Amid the confusion, No. 2, an improper batter, bats next and takes a pitched ball one. The defense appeals improper batter No. 2. Who is out and how is order restored to the line up?

ANSWER: No one is out. No. 9’s at bat legalized No. 8 improper batter status. The scheduled batter is No.9, however, since he is all ready on base, skip over his name in the line up. No. 1 the proper batter follows Batter No. 9 in the line up. Therefore, Batter No. 2 is an improper batter who has not completed his time at bat. No. 2 is replaced by No. 1 the proper batter and assumes No. 2’s ball/strike count of 1-0.

In summary, these fundamentals govern the batting out of order (BOT) rule:

-- When a proper appeal is made before the improper batter completes his time at bat. ACTION: Replace the improper batter with proper batter who assumes the ball/strike count of the improper batter.

-- When a proper appeal is made after the improper batter completes his time at bat. ACTION: Declare the proper batter out and nullify any runner advances that were a direct result from the improper batter’s actions.

-- Once a pitch is delivered to a subsequent batter of either team or any play or an attempted play, the right to appeal expires and the preceding batter, even though he batted out of order, is designated as the PROPER BATTER. With the batting order restored, the sequence begins anew.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to Sports n' Hobbies, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
Learn more
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