As I was writing an article that completely explains the Infield Fly rule for both baseball and softball games, it became obvious to me that many people were wondering why this rule doesn’t exist when there is only one runner on first base. After all, that runner is forced to run to second if the defense misses the pop-fly, so shouldn’t it also apply to this scenario? So I wanted to put together this article to quickly answer the question a lot of people have – why is there no infield fly rule with a runner on first?
There is no infield fly rule with a runner on first because the defense is unable to get an easy double play with only one runner on first base. Either the defense will catch the ball and the batter will be out, or the defense will miss the ball and the runner will be out.
As I was writing this article I could only think of three reasons why the infield fly rule doesn’t apply when there is only a runner on first base and I’ll cover those two reasons in detail below. But if you’re reading this and you can think of additional reasons why the infield fly rule doesn’t exist in this scenario, feel free to contact me and I’ll happily update this article.
3 Main Reasons Why No Infield Fly Rule With Runner On First
1) The Defense Is Unable to Turn an Easy Double-Play
About 97% of the time the defense will get one out when there is one runner on first base and the batter hits a high-fly ball in the infield. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s higher than 97% of the time, but I made that stat up simply to say that the defense will almost always get one out in this scenario.
Either the defense will catch the pop-fly and the batter will be out, or the defense will miss the pop-fly and they will easily get out the runner on first.
Either way, the defense is getting one out. So why bother with adding an additional rule for this scenario when baseball and softball already consist of a flood of rules?
The infield fly rule exists to prevent easy double plays, and there is a very small chance the defense can turn an easy double play by dropping an infield fly ball with one runner on first base.
However, runners can advance on an infield fly at their own risk. But runners shouldn’t be taking big risks in these scenarios because the tag-up rules still apply.
2) The Runner On First Has a Slight Chance Of Being Safe At Second Base
Because there is no infield fly rule when the offense has one runner on first base, the offense actually gets a slight advantage – the runner on first base has a chance of safely making it to second base.
While this advantage is very tiny, it still exists. After all, the infielder could miss the high flyball, which leaves the door open for the runner on first base to make it to second base.
The infielder could boot the ball after it lands, overthrow second base, or the ball could weirdly ricochet off the player’s glove making it difficult to field. Whatever the scenario, the fielder still has to put in effort to get that runner out and that leaves open the possibility of anything happening.
While the runner on first base will almost always be out if the infielder drops a fly ball, that runner does have a small chance of being called safe at second base. The offense wouldn’t have that chance if the infield fly rule was in effect with one runner on first.
3) There’s No Reason To Add Additional Rules
If you’ve ever looked at a rulebook for baseball or softball then you know there are pages upon pages upon more pages of rules that exist. These sports have been around for well over a hundred years and there are already plenty of rules added for really specific, one-off scenarios.
Simply put, why add an additional rule to the sport when there’s no need to?
Whether the infield fly rule exists or doesn’t exist with one runner on first base, the play will result in one out almost every time. There’s no real benefit to either the offense or the defense with an infield fly rule being added for the scenario where there is one runner on first base, so we might as well just let it play out.
The Infield Fly Rule Exists To Prevent Easy Double Plays
The entire reason the infield fly rule was put into place was to prevent the defense from turning easy double and triple plays.
If the infield fly rule didn’t exist, the defense could intentionally drop a fly ball in the infield when there are runners on first and second. This would leave the defense plenty of time to get the force out at any base.
And because there is no threat of turning an easy double play when a high fly ball is hit in the infield and only one runner is on first base, the infield fly rule doesn’t exist in this scenario.