All About the Passed Ball in Baseball: What is It, Who Has the Most, and More


What is a Passed Ball?

A passed ball is any pitch that is not successfully caught, determined by the official scorer to have been the catcher’s fault, and also allowed a runner to advance one base.

How is a Passed Ball Different Than a Wild Pitch?

The end result of a passed ball is very much the same as a wild pitch: the baseball is not caught, and at least one runner advances at least one base.

However, there are a few differences:

  • Catchers are charged with passed balls, whereas wild pitches are charged to pitchers.
  • Runs scored on a passed ball do not count against a pitcher’s earned run average (ERA)
  • A pitch ruled a strike and not caught is going to always be a passed ball, whereas there can be some ambiguity with all other unsuccessfully caught balls
Passed Balls Wild Pitches
What to Look For Was the pitch called a strike? Did the ball hit the ground before reaching the plate?
Are runs charged against the pitcher? No Yes
Does the batter receive an RBI? No No
Is someone charged with an error? No No
Does the runner receive a run scored? Yes Yes

You can read more about wild pitches and passed balls over at Baseball Prospectus.

Does a Passed Ball Count as a Steal?

No.

A player cannot earn a stolen base on passed balls, wild pitches, or catcher indifference.

What Happens if a Passed Ball Results in the Ball Going into the Dugout or Stands?

There’s a rule for that!

Rule 7.05h states:

When a wild pitch or passed ball goes through or by the catcher, or deflects off the catcher, and goes directly into the dugout, stands, above the break, or any area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be one base. One base shall also be awarded if the pitcher while in contact with the rubber, throws to a base, and the throw goes directly into the stands or into any area where the ball is dead.

If, however, the pitched or thrown ball goes through or by the catcher or through the fielder, and remains on the playing field, and is subsequently kicked or deflected into the dugout, stands or other areas where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be two bases from position of runners at the time of the pitch or throw.

In summary: if the ball goes out of play without further interference, then runners may advance one base. If someone touches the ball before it goes out of play, then it’s two bases.

Who Has the Most Passed Balls in a Single Season (since 2000)?

Woe to the catcher having to receive a ball from a knuckleball pitcher. Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey are single-handedly responsible for several entries on this list. The rest, let’s just say, needed some improvement in their receiving skills.

Chart Showing Players with Most Passed Balls in a Single Season Since 2000. Jarrod Saltalamacchia with 26, Wilin Rosario with 21, Jason LaRue with 20, Geronimo Gil with 19, Russell Martin with 19, Ryan Hanigan with 18, Jorge Posada with 18, Gary Sanchez with 18, Josh Thole with 18, Josh Thole with 17, Tyler Flowers with 16, Yasmani Grandal with 16)
Data courtesy of Baseball Reference

Video Compilations of Passed Balls

Do you like watching professional athletes fail at their job? Or you just are not sure what a passed ball is? Either, way these Youtubers have you covered:

Sporting Videos:

Made the Cut:

MLB Global13:

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