Even though it’s one of the most popular sports and is often referred to as the American pastime, baseball can sometimes get a bit confusing.
The rules of the game are rather intricate and to an outsider, they may seem baffling at times.
Even when you feel that you fully understand everything that’s going on, there’s always a caveat to the rule you’re familiar with.
Sometimes, its implementation can completely alter what’s happening on the field.
For example, even the casual fans know that a batter’s turn at bat ends after a maximum of three strikes or four balls.
However, you’ve probably noticed that sometimes a better one hits numerous foul balls and still doesn’t get sent out.
So, it’s logical to ask the question how many foul balls can you get in baseball?
I’ll answer this question below and explain how foul balls work in baseball.
How Many Fouls Can You Get In Baseball?
The reason you sometimes see batters hit numerous foul balls in a single at-bat is that they’re, basically, allowed an unlimited number of foul balls.
What this actually means is that a batter will not be called for a third strike on a foul ball.
Still, the first two foul balls while the batter is at bat will be classified as strikes.
So, if he already has two strikes, he can limitlessly foul off pitches on the third strike without striking out.
The logic behind this rule exists is that the foul balls are rarely intentional.
Every time a batter swings at a thrown pitch, his main intention is to get the ball in the play and help his team score a run.
So, the foul balls occur when the batter accidentally doesn’t connect with the ball as he wants to, rather than as a result of his intention.
Can A Batter Ever Strikeout On A Foul Ball With Two Strikes?
Although in most cases batter has an unlimited number of foul balls, there are ways for a batter to strike out a foul even if it’s the third strike.
The first one is if a foul ball is caught by one of the players on the field. In that case, the batter is instantly out.
The second instance when this rule changes and when the batter doesn’t have unlimited fouls is if he bunts the ball.
For the first two strikes, all foul balls are treated the same.
However, things change when a batter bunts a foul ball while already on two strikes.
Every bunted ball when the batter has two strikes must be fair. If the bunted ball goes foul, the dead ball is called and the batter is out.
This rule was introduced to prevent batters from continuously bunting balls foul in order to tire the pitcher.
What Is The Record For Foul Balls In MLB?
The rule that batters can hit unlimited foul balls on the third strike has led to some incredibly long at-bats.
Although the strategy of hitting foul balls can be risky and we rarely see more than a couple of them, occasionally we witness a mini-marathon while the same batter is in the box.
The data on this dates back only to 1988, the year MLB began to record accurate pitch counts.
In this period, the record for most foul balls in a single at-bat belongs to former Giants’ first baseman Brandon Belt.
During the Giants’ 4-2 win over the Angels, Belt worked a 21-pitch at-bat. In a battle against Angels’ pitcher at the time, Jaime Barria, Belt hit 16 foul balls.
Eventually, his turn ended with a fly ball to the right field. His whole plate appearance lasted nearly 13 minutes.
In the whole game, Belt hit 22 foul balls.
How Are Fouls Counted In Baseball?
To understand how the foul balls are counted, you should first know what qualifies as a foul. In baseball, fouls are called in four different scenarios.
The first case is when the ball falls in the foul territory between home and first or third base.
Secondly, if the ball bounces and travels past first and third onto or over the foul territory.
The third instance is when the ball first lands in the territory beyond the first or third base.
Lastly, a foul is called if a ball touches a player, umpire, or any other foreign object while on or traveling through the foul territory.
Normally, a foul will result in a dead ball, strike, or strikeout. One foul ball is counted as a strike, but only on the first two strikes.
As mentioned above, a foul is not a strike if the player swings and already has two strikes.
What Are The Origins Of The Foul Strike Rule?
The Foul Strike Rule detailing which foul balls are counted as strikes against the batter was first introduced in 1901.
Initially, it was only implemented in the National League, with the American League following in 1903.
This is why the AL had much better offensive numbers in 1901 and 1902.
The Foul Strike Rule was an adjustment of the original rule saying that the batter is charged with a strike if he hits a foul ball only on the first two strikes.
At first, some players took advantage of the rule to foul off pitchers to force a walk. Roy Thomas was famous for doing this.
This situation led the league to alter the rule to charge batters with the strike if they bunt foul balls even on the third strike.
The Foul Strike Rule is one of those items in the baseball rulebook that not everyone is familiar with.
However, it makes the game much more interesting and exciting.
The reason for introducing the rule that says that a foul ball doesn’t count as a strike when the batter already has two strikes is to level the playing field.
In general, pitchers are always at an advantage over batters, as the fact that more than 60% of pitches are missed shows.
This rule makes things fairer for everyone and evens the chances in the battle between the pitcher and batter.