One of my teammates made the last out of the inning at third base by trying to turn a double into a triple. I could hear a player on the other team try to bait us into an argument by repeating baseball’s golden rule “Never make the first or third out at third base!” Our team ignored the bait attempt and got ready to play defense, but that also got me thinking about that unwritten rule – Why should you never make the first or third out at third base? I could think of two reasons right away.
Players should never make the first or third out at third base because there is no advantage for base runners. When a runner is on second base with no outs, there’s a good chance they’ll score. When a runner is on second base with two outs, they’ll be running on contact which gives them a good chance to score.
The main goal of this golden rule is to help a team score runs, but it’s much easier said than done. Keep reading to learn why you should never make the first or last out at third base. I’ll list a couple of reasons why I also think it’s a dumb rule.
- 3 Reasons For Never Making the First or Third Out at Third Base
- Why It’s a Dumb Rule To Never Make the First or Third Out at Third Base
- Is it OK to Try For Third Base With One Out?
3 Reasons For Never Making the First or Third Out at Third Base
Obviously, you never want to make an out, but there’s also a “golden rule” in baseball where you never want to make the first or third out at third base. This golden baserunning rule assumes the baserunner has easily made it to second base, but they also have a chance of making it to third base.
There are 3 main reasons why you want to be aware of this scenario when you’re on base.
1) The Runner Will Most Likely Score When They Are on Second Base With No Outs
When there is a runner on second base with nobody out, there’s a good chance that baserunner is scoring.
The worst-case scenario is that the baserunner doesn’t score. The next worst-case scenario is the offense needs to use two outs to score the runner. After all, two groundouts will score a run.
And once that baserunner makes it to third base, they can also score on a sac fly or a wild pitch.
But, if that baserunner tries advancing to third (either by turning a double into a triple or by stealing), they risk getting thrown out. If they get thrown out, they can’t score. If they stay on second base, there’s a good chance they’ll score.
When the game is close and every run matters, there’s no point in risking getting to third base with no outs. If runners stay on second base with no outs, chances are good they will score.
2) Baserunners Will Be Running on Contact When There Are Two Outs
When there are two outs, baserunners will not need to tag up. Because runners won’t need to tag up, there’s very little difference in runners scoring from third and runners scoring from second when a hitter makes contact with a pitch.
When a hitter makes contact with the pitch, the runner on second base can instantly take off for third and potentially score. If the hitter placed the ball in the outfield there’s a good chance the runner on second base is scoring.
Base runners on second base are already in scoring position, but when you combine them being in scoring position with a good lead and not needing to tag up, there’s very little upside in a runner trying to make it to third base. Especially when the potential risk is getting thrown out at third base and ending the inning.
3) Making the First or Third Out at Third Base Can Kill a Rally
One effective way to kill a rally is to make the first or last out at third base.
If your team is on a roll, chances are you’re going to see a hitter crush a pitch to the wall. If that player rounds second base to turn a double into a triple, your team’s rally will be killed if they end up getting thrown out.
The same thing applies to a player on second base who tries to steal third. If that steal attempt results in your teammate making the first or last out of the inning at third base, your team’s momentum changes, and the rally is killed.
Why It’s a Dumb Rule To Never Make the First or Third Out at Third Base
Just to be clear, I don’t think the golden rule is dumb 100% of the time, but I also think this golden rule probably applies to roughly 50% of scenarios. There are some cases where it should be followed, but there are also some cases where it’s not that important.
1) There’s An Assumption the Game is Always Close
When a game is close and every run matters, it’s very important to never make the first or third out at third base. You want that run and obeying this golden baserunning rule can help you add another run.
However, not every baseball game is close. This is especially true in non-professional leagues, where games can end by the 10-run rule.
While some games are decided by a few runs, there are plenty of games where one team wins by a landslide. If your teammate makes the first or third out at third, then how much did it really hurt the team if you’re down by 15 runs?
Sure, you never want to make an out from a baserunning error, but it also doesn’t cost your team the victory when one team is already up by a lot.
If you get thrown out at third to end the inning then at least you can learn from that mistake without worrying about how that same mistake cost your team the game.
2) Teaches Players to Not Be Aggressive
Coaches love players that are aggressive on the base paths. However, aggressive baserunning also comes with some risks of being thrown out.
If you follow this golden rule then you’re limiting a player’s ability to be aggressive on the base paths.
3) Standing on Third Base Has to be Better Than Standing on Second Base
I’ve seen some answers to this question where people point out statistics of scoring from second base as opposed to scoring from third base. Those answers usually point out how there’s not much of a difference between scoring a run when comparing a runner on second and a runner on third with no outs or two outs.
But I don’t need statistics to tell me that standing on third base is better than standing on second base.
At least when a runner is on third base, they can score on a past ball or a wild pickoff throw. Or in rare cases where the runner sees no one is paying attention, they can steal home. You can’t do any of that from second base.
Is it OK to Try For Third Base With One Out?
If you’re following the golden rule of never getting thrown out at third base for the first or last out of an inning, then you might be wondering if you’d be violating that rule with one out.
Most coaches are okay with runners attempting to advance to third base with one out.
If players are successful then that runner can score from a sac fly or a groundout. If players are unsuccessful then coaches typically chalk it up to aggressive baserunning.