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Unpacking Defensive Indifference in Baseball: Scoring History and FAQs

Defensive Indifference in Baseball: An Overview

Baseball is a game of strategy, and one of the strategies employed by teams is the ability to steal bases. Stealing a base can be a game-changer, it can shift momentum, create opportunities for runs, and put pressure on the opposing team.

However, there is a rule in baseball that can nullify the impact of a stolen base known as defensive indifference. In this article, we will delve into the ins and outs of Defensive Indifference, exploring its history and impact on the game.

Definition of Defensive Indifference

Defensive indifference, as its name implies, is the lack of effort on the part of the defense to prevent a baserunner from advancing. When this happens, the runner is not credited with a stolen base, and no defensive error is charged to the fielder(s).

The case for defensive indifference arises when the result of the game is not in doubt. For example, if a team is leading by ten runs with no outs in the ninth inning and a runner tries to steal second base, but the defense makes no effort to throw him out, the runner is not credited with a stolen base.

The rule is meant to speed up the game and prevent needless overexertion of the players. It also saves the scorekeeper from having to record every little detail of a game that has long been decided.

History of the Rule

The rule of Defensive Indifference was first introduced in 1920 as MLB Rule 10.07. The rule book states that no credit is given for a stolen base that is achieved under the following circumstances – Whose key factor is defensive indifference rather than a baserunning skill exhibited by the runner.

However, this rule has evolved over the years. It now allows game-by-game discretion regarding which runners have benefited from defensive indifference.

This means that the home team scorekeeper has a discretionary role in deciding if the runner should be awarded a stolen base or not. This role is crucial to ensure consistency in calling Defensive Indifference across the league.

Scoring for Defensive Indifference

If Defensive Indifference is called, the runner is not awarded a stolen base, but they are credited with advancing bases. The runner is awarded an advanced base when they are allowed to take a base without stealing.

However, if a fielder makes an effort to throw the runner out, they are then charged with “fielders choice” and no advance base is awarded to the runner. In contrast, if a pitcher allows a hit during defensive indifference, the resulting runs are considered earned.

This is because the pitcher did not put in the effort to prevent the hit. Conversely, if an error is made during defensive indifference, the resulting runs are not considered earned.

Overall, the rules surrounding Defensive Indifference are designed to prevent needless overexertion of players and to speed up the game. It also ensures fairness in scoring, especially in games that are no longer in doubt.

The discretionary power of the scorekeeper ensures consistency in calling the rule across the league.

Comparison with Stolen Base

A stolen base is one of the most exciting plays in baseball. It occurs when a runner successfully advances to the next base on a pitch that is not hit by the batter, and without the help of an error.

In contrast to Defensive Indifference, the runner is credited with stealing a base in this scenario. The process of stealing a base involves a combination of speed, timing, and strategy.

The baserunner must time their steal attempt, taking advantage of a moment when the pitcher is focused on the batter and not paying attention to the runner. The defense tries to prevent the steal by having the pitcher deliver a quick pitch, the catcher making a quick throw, or the fielders being in the right position to make a catch.

The validation of a stolen base is mostly in the official scorer’s hands. The scorer will determine if it was the runner’s speed and technique that helped them advance to the next base or if there was an error by the pitcher, catcher, or a fielder.

Only if an error is committed, the baserunner is not credited with a stolen base. The key difference between a stolen base and Defensive Indifference is the defenses intention.

In the former, the defense is explicitly attempting to prevent the runner from advancing, while in the latter, the defense is simply indifferent to the runner’s actions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wild Pitches and Passed Balls

In baseball, the pitcher throws the ball to the catcher, who is responsible for catching it cleanly. However, it is not uncommon for the ball to get past the catcher, resulting in a wild pitch or a passed ball.

A wild pitch is when a pitcher throws the ball too far from the catcher, making it impossible for them to stop it, and the ball rolls away from the catcher. On the other hand, a passed ball is when the ball is catchable, but the catcher fails to secure it, allowing the baserunners to advance.

The decision on whether a pitch should be scored as a wild pitch or a passed ball is the official scorers responsibility. Depending on the situation, baserunners may or may not be credited with advancing.

The pitcher may be charged with an earned run if a wild pitch or passed ball results in a run scored under certain conditions.

Catchers Interference

In some situations, the batter’s swing can make contact with the catcher’s mitt or glove, disrupting their ability to catch the ball. This interference by the batter is known as catcher’s interference and is considered a violation of the rules.

The rule exists to keep the catcher from getting in the way of the batter’s swing. If the batter’s interference with the catcher’s glove is severe enough to cause the catcher to drop the ball or throw it away, baserunners may be allowed to advance, at the discretion of the umpire.

The umpire usually assesses whether the interference by the batter was intentional before making the decision.

No Throw from the Catcher

On some occasions, the catcher decides not to throw the ball to prevent a runner from stealing a base. This decision is often made when there is a high probability that the runner will successfully steal the base, and the effort of throwing the ball would be futile.

In such cases, the scorer must exercise discretion in awarding a stolen base to the runner. In some situations, the game’s outcome may hinge on this decision.

If the decision is not made according to established rules, it may influence the outcome of the game, leading to potential controversy. As such, the decision of the scorer needs to be carefully considered with the game’s integrity in mind.


Baseball is a complex and strategic game, and the rules governing it can sometimes be confusing. This article delved into the rule of Defensive Indifference in baseball, its history, and how it is scored.

We also explored the differences between Defensive Indifference and the stolen base. Additionally, we tackled some frequently asked questions on issues related to wild pitches, passed balls, catcher’s interference, and the decision not to throw the ball by the catcher.

By understanding these rules, players, coaches, and fans alike can appreciate the beauty of baseball and understand the nuances of the game. In summary, this article explored the rule of Defensive Indifference in baseball and highlighted its evolution, history, and how it is scored.

We also compared it to the stolen base and addressed frequently asked questions related to wild pitches, passed balls, catcher’s interference, and the decision not to throw the ball by the catcher. Understanding these rules is crucial for players, coaches, and fans alike, as it helps to appreciate the subtleties of the game and maintain its integrity.


– What is a stolen base in baseball? – How is a stolen base validated in baseball?

– What is the difference between Defensive Indifference and a stolen base? – What is the difference between a wild pitch and a passed ball in baseball?

– What is Catcher’s Interference in baseball? – What happens when a catcher decides not to throw the ball in baseball?

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