In a baseball game, the chances of each team scoring are limited by outs. An out in baseball is when a batter or base runner is retired or taken out of play. A regular baseball game has nine innings, and each inning has six outs, three for each team. However, there are a lot of factors that can influence how many outs are in a baseball game.
As a general rule, a baseball game has a total of 54 outs. A regular baseball game lasts nine innings with each inning consisting of 6 outs (3 outs for each team). However, additional outs may be needed to play extra innings and fewer outs may be needed for games that are cut short.
Therefore, a baseball game with nine innings will have 54 outs, 27 for each team. However, baseball has a variety of rules, and the number of outs can change depending on the number of innings or extra innings in the game. In fact, there are 7 ways to end a baseball game.
For the rest of this article, let’s dive into all the different factors that can lead to baseball games not having the standard amount of 54 outs.
Factors That Determine the Number of Outs in a Baseball Game
1) A Complete Game Consists of 54 Outs
The most common number of outs that are played in a baseball game is 54.
In a complete game of baseball, 9 innings are played. Contained within each of those innings are 6 outs because each team gets 3 outs per inning.
So when we break that down, 9 innings times 6 outs per inning equals 54 total outs in a baseball game.
While 54 outs may be the most common number of outs played in a baseball game, there are plenty of additional factors that can either extend a game beyond 54 outs or end a game sooner than 54 outs. Keep reading to learn all about those factors!
2) The Home Team is Leading After the Top Half of the 9th Inning
When the home team is already leading after the top half of the final inning, there is no reason for them to come up to bat again. Therefore, the last 3 outs of the game are unnecessary.
When a home team is leading after the top half of the ninth inning is complete, a baseball game will be played with 51 outs. The visiting team will have had 27 outs while the home team only needed 24 outs.
3) Mercy Rule Ends a Game Early
The mercy rule, also known as the ten-run rule, exists in most baseball leagues outside of professional baseball.
I recommend learning more about what is the 10–run rule in baseball because the rule can vary from league to league, but the gist of the rule is that the game will end about 2 innings early if one team is up by ten runs or more.
Additionally, some leagues even have a 15-run rule where the game can end 3 innings early if one team is up by 15 runs or more.
Depending on the rules of your league, a baseball game can be cut short by up to 18 total outs if the mercy rule is in effect. That can bring the total number of outs being played from 54 down to 36.
4) Weather Ends a Game Early
All baseball leagues have a policy around what happens when a game is unplayable because of the weather.
In the case of Major League Baseball, any game that is halted because of weather will end early if at least 5 innings have been played. In fact, a baseball game can end after 4 and a half innings if the home team is already winning in the bottom half of the 5th inning and the weather is preventing teams from playing.
This means that a minimum of 4 and a half innings are needed for a game to be complete, which means that any baseball game needs a minimum of 27 outs to be considered complete (4.5 innings times 6 outs per inning equals 27 total outs).
5) Extra Innings Are Needed to Determine the Winner
When a game is tied after all scheduled innings have been completed, a game will be extended into extra innings to determine a winner.
In professional baseball, there is no limit to how many additional innings can be played. So theoretically, a baseball game could go on forever.
However, the most innings ever played in a Major League Baseball game is 26, which happened on May 1, 1920, between the Brooklyn Robins and Boston Braves. This game means the most outs ever played in a professional baseball game is 156 outs (26 innings times 6 outs equal 156 outs).
6) Some Baseball Games Are Scheduled for Fewer Than 9 Innings
Some baseball games are scheduled for 7 innings. This is fairly common in college baseball when there is a doubleheader. Scheduling 7 innings games was also common in Major League Baseball for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, during the pandemic.
Whenever games are scheduled to be fewer than 9 innings, then fewer outs are needed to complete the game. So a 7-inning baseball game would contain a total of 42 outs (7 innings times 6 outs each inning equals 42 total outs).
7) Forfeited Games Can Result in No Outs Being Played
No team ever wants to forfeit a game, but it does happen on occasion. If a team were to forfeit the game prior to the game starting, then the other team would win the game without needing to play a single out.
What is an Out in Baseball?
A baseball “out” is when a player at bat or a baserunner is taken out (aka “retired”) by the defensive team. There are 19 common ways a player can get out in a baseball game, which include the following:
- Force out
- Caught stealing
- Pop Out
- Illegal bat
- Running out of baseline
- Getting hit by a batted ball
- Stepping out of the batter’s box
- Missing a base
- Two runners occupying a base
- Passing a runner on the base
- Running out of the baseline
- Tagging up on a fly ball and leaving early
Some outs in the above list result from penalties by the offense and lead to automatic outs during the game. Whenever one of the above scenarios occurs, the offensive team is charged with one of their three outs in any half-inning.