Outs are common in baseball and players can be called out in many ways. A pop-out is one of the most common types of outs in baseball, but it gets easily confused with other types of fly balls. What does “pop out” mean in baseball?
A “pop out” generally refers to an infielder who catches a short fly ball. A “pop out” is a combination of a short fly ball (pop-fly) and an infielder catching the pop-fly before it hits the ground (out).
It’s easy to get confused about what is a pop out because there are similar baseball terms that start with the word “pop” – like “pop-fly” and “pop-up”. Since a pop-out is a consequence of a pop-fly, it is crucial to learn what it is and how it comes about.
A “Pop Fly” Turns Into a “Pop Out” When Caught
When discussing baseball terminology, there are a lot of similarities between the different types of fly balls, but if we’re only wondering what a pop out is, then it’s important to know the process of how a hit ball becomes a pop out.
Once a ball is hit high into the air and it stays in the infield, it is considered a “pop fly” or a “pop up”. When an infielder catches that ball for an out, it becomes a “pop out”.
It’s a small distinction between what is a pop fly and what is a pop out. In fact, I’ve heard many baseball players confuse the two words when discussing plays.
Because a pop fly almost always result in a pop out, a majority of people will not even think twice if you were to use the two words interchangeably when describing a play.
Difference Between a Pop Out and a Fly Out
The main difference between a pop-out and a fly-out is how far the batter hits the ball.
A pop out results from a batter hitting a pop fly, and a fly out results from a batter hitting a fly ball. Therefore, to understand the difference between the two types of outs, you must know the difference between a pop fly and a fly ball.
A pop fly is a ball hit high in the infield, while a fly ball is a ball hit far into the outfield. In both cases, the play usually results in the defense recording an out because a fielder caught the ball.
Once the fielder catches the ball and records an out, a pop-fly becomes a “pop-out” and a fly ball becomes a “fly-out”.
So the difference between a pop out and a fly out is a matter of:
- Height of the baseball
- Distance of the baseball
- Whether the ball was caught for an out in the infield or in the outfield
How do Pop Ups Occur?
A pop-up happens when a hitter hits the ball with a higher launch angle.
Remember, a pop fly is a ball that goes high up in the air and stays in the infield, meaning the hitter hits the ball well below the center, which resulted in a much higher launch angle. The higher the launch angle, the easier it is for defenders to run and catch the ball.
Simply put, a pop-up happens when a batter makes contact with the lower part of the ball and the result is a fairly high launch angle.
Can a Runner Advance on a Pop Out?
If a runner is good at judging a ball’s trajectory, they can run on a fly ball if they believe the ball will safely land in fair territory. However, the runner must return to their base and tag up if the ball is caught. The runner is ruled out if the fielder throws the ball to the base before they get back.
Advancing on a pop fly can be tricky because the ball does not go far from the home base. Instead, the ball goes high in the air, and there might not be enough time to tag up after the fielder catches it for an out.
The tag up rule can be a confusing rule to understand, especially for new players. To learn everything there is about the tag up rule, I recommend reading Baseball Rules: Tagging Up For Beginners.
However, one scenario where runners can advance on a pop out is when the defense accidentally leaves the next base empty. This usually happens when multiple infielders are running after a pop fly and they forget to cover their base.
Once the infielder catches the ball for an out, the runner must make sure they successfully tag up, then they are free to run to the next base. Since nobody is covering that base, it’s usually an easy way for a runner to advance.
Another way to advance on a pop out is to be fast enough to beat the throw. A great example is the video below where Fernando Tatís Jr. tagged up on a pop out and used his speed to score a run.
Does the Infield Rule Apply on a Pop Out?
Remember, a pop out refers to a fly ball that stays in the infield. Therefore, the infield fly rule will apply to a pop out if the conditions are right.
The conditions that need to be true before the infield fly rule is in effect are:
- There are 1 out or 0 outs in the inning
- A fly ball is hit in the infield
- The ball is in fair territory
- The ball can be caught by an infielder without extraordinary effort
- There are runners on first and second or the bases are loaded
If all the above are true, the batter is called out without requiring the fielder to even catch the ball. Therefore, the infield fly rule can sometimes be in effect during a pop out.
The infield fly rule can be confusing because it depends solely on the umpire’s judgment and because there are so many conditions to consider. The main aim of enforcing this rule is to prevent fielders from intentionally dropping a fly ball so the other team can get an out.
If you’re wanting to learn more about the infield fly rule, I recommend reading this article that thoroughly explains the infield fly rule.