If you’ve been around the sport of baseball or softball long enough then you’ve inevitably seen a game end early due to something called a 10 run rule. It may not be a rule in every league out there, but it is a rule that a majority of leagues adhere to. But those who are not too familiar with the rule may be asking “what is the 10 run rule in baseball?”
The 10 Run Rule, also known as the Mercy Rule, is when a game ends early due to one team being up by ten runs or more after a specified number of innings. This rule is in place to prevent one team from running up the score while ensuring the game ends in a reasonable amount of time.
I’ve been on the losing side of that ten-run rule more times than I can count and I’ve learned that not only is it a necessary part of the game, but that this rule varies a bit from league to league.
The Ten Run Rule Explained
Ten Run Rule Takes Effect After a Certain Number of Innings
Each baseball league has its own rules around time limits and how many innings comprise a completed game. Because each baseball league is different, the ten-run rule will be in effect after a certain number of innings that is specified by each league. Typically, baseball leagues will set the ten-run rule to take effect two innings prior to the end of a regulation baseball game.
To see a compressive list of how long games last, both from a time perspective and from an inning perspective, check out my previous article on how long baseball games last by the type league.
In general, most baseball leagues have a ten-run rule, but it’s best to check your league’s rulebook to see what rules there are surrounding the ten-run rule. Some leagues will enforce this rule, some leagues will allow it’s local leagues to determine if the rule is implemented, while other leagues (like the Major Leagues) will not have a ten-run rule at all.
Ten Run Rule in High School Baseball
For one example of when the ten-run rule takes effect, the ten-run rule in high school baseball will be enforced after 5 innings are complete.
Most high school baseball games are scheduled for 7 innings, but in the event one team is up by ten runs or more after 5 innings, the team that is ahead is declared the winner.
This format follows the tradition of the ten-run rule taking effect two innings prior to the end of a regulation ball game.
Ten Run Rule in Little League
In some Little League games for those under the age of 12, games will last a total of 6 innings. For these leagues where games last 6 innings, there is a ten-run rule that will take effect after 4 innings have been completed.
To add on an additional layer to the ten-run rule in Little League, each local league has the option of not implementing the ten-run rule. So even though a majority of Little League games will use the ten-run rule, not all of them have to.
One Team Has to Be Up By Ten Runs Or More
As the name suggests, one team will have to be up by ten runs or more in order to be declared the winners of the game. So, once the specified number of innings has been completed and one of the teams is up by ten runs or more, the game is over and the team that is ahead has won the game.
It’s important to remember that the game needs to be in a specific inning before the game is called. This means that it’s very possible for one team to be ahead by more than ten runs for a majority of the game, but the game wouldn’t end until the specified number of innings has been completed.
If we take high school baseball as an example, the ten-run rule does not take effect until 5 innings have been completed. That means one team could be ahead by ten runs or more for the first 4 innings, but the game wouldn’t end until that fifth inning was completed.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the home team bats last so they will get one more turn at-bat if they are behind ten runs or more. If the home team is ahead by ten or more runs when the ten-run rule takes effect, they will not have another turn to bat and the game will be over.
This means that a high school baseball game could actually end after 4 and a half innings. If the home team is up by ten runs or more after the top half of the fifth inning has been completed, the game is over and the home team has won with just 4 and a half innings played!
Benefits of the Ten Run Rule
Although it can be tough to be on the losing team when the ten run rule comes into effect, there are a few benefits to having the ten run rule be a part of some baseball leagues.
Games End on Time
When one team is clearly outmatched by another team, it can be tough for that team to acquire outs when playing defense. In these circumstances, the game can seem to drag on without end, especially for the team that’s losing.
If the ten-run rule did not exist and these two teams were allowed to play the full length of the game, the game would seem to go on forever because each inning lasts a lot longer than a typical inning would last.
So the ten-run rule helps games end on time by allowing a winner to be declared earlier than a regulation game would allow.
Pitchers Save Their Arms
In a lop-sided game where one team plays defense a lot more than they play offense, the defensive team will need to rely on a lot of pitches.
This can be tough on a pitcher’s throwing arm because they will be required to throw a lot more pitches than normal. So the ten-run rule will end the game early, which means pitchers will not have to throw as many pitches as they would have normally needed to.
Can you imagine how many more pitches and how many pitchers would be needed the ten-run rule wasn’t enforced for some games?
Prevents One Team From Running up the Score
One of the biggest advantages of the ten-run rule is that it prevents one team from running up the score on another team. Although most teams don’t go out of their way to run up the score on another team, it can happen. Especially in a game where the defense is just having a bad day and is having difficulties getting outs.
Losing is no fun, but losing by a lot can be even more devastating to a player. So the ten-run rule helps reduce the number of games where one team scores a substantial amount more than the opposing team.
Is There a 10 Run Rule in MLB?
With as many baseball leagues that use a ten-run rule and with the Major League so focused on cutting down on the amount of time being played, many people might wonder if there is a 10 run rule in the MLB.
There is not currently a 10 run rule in the MLB. All of the players in the MLB are professional players, which means there is always a chance to turn the game around at any point in any inning. Also, most games in the MLB will not end by ten or more runs so that rule would very rarely be used.
Although there is no 10 run rule in the MLB, there is a mercy rule for pitchers that was implemented for MLB Spring Training games. The rule is that when a pitcher has a bad inning, which is defined as 20 pitches or more, the pitcher can elect to end the inning at any time.
In fact, this is the mercy rule that Garret Richard’s used in a Spring Training game while pitching for the Boston Red Sox.