Earned Runs

I’ve been reading up on earned run rules and came across a strange situation.

Can a substitute pitcher face one batter who hits a home run, and have no errors committed, without that pitcher being charged with an earned run? Surprisingly to me, the answer is ‘yes.’ Here’s the sequence of an entire inning:

  1. Pitcher 1 starts the inning.
  2. Batter A singles.
  3. Pitcher 2 replaces Pitcher 1.
  4. Batter B singles, and A is forced at second.
  5. Pitcher 3 replaces Pitcher 2.
  6. Batter C homers, scoring B & C.
  7. Pitcher 4 replaces Pitcher 3.
  8. Batter D strikes out.
  9. Batter E strikes out.
  10. Batter F strikes out.

One earned run is charged to Pitcher 1, one earned run is charged to Pitcher 2, and no earned runs are charged to Pitcher 3!

Pitcher 1 is responsible for one runner when he leaves the game. Because A is out as the result of a batted ball (as opposed to being caught stealing or picked off), it does not reduce the number of runners for which Pitcher 1 has responsibility. Pitcher 2 allowed a single, so he’s responsible for one. When the home run scores two, those runs go to Pitchers 1 & 2, one apiece.

This might not be the only way it could happen, but I can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

The funky part of the sequence is #4, where there’s a single and a force out on the same play. How can this happen? The batter sends a line drive to shallow center. The runner on first believes it will be caught, so he stays close to first. The center fielder plays it on one hop and fires to second to get the force out. It’s rare, but it happens.

Now, if Batter B had grounded into a normal force play, Pitcher 2 would not be responsible for any runners, and when Batter C homered, the two earned runs would have been charged to Pitchers 1 & 3.

* * * * * *

If you allow an error, then it’s easy for a pitcher to give up a homer to the only batter faced and not be charged with an earned run. You just need a muffed foul ball error with two outs before the home run.

Incidentally, it doesn’t matter how many times the third out should have occurred but for errors before Pitcher 3 entered the game. Rule 10.16(i):

When pitchers are changed during an inning, the relief pitcher shall not have the benefit of previous chances for outs not accepted in determining earned runs.

Runs that score under such conditions will be earned for the substitute pitcher but not for the team.

One thought on “Earned Runs”

  1. The scenario is incorrect. Batter B can’t be credited with a hit (single) when an out is made on the play (force play at second). Just because it’s a line drive to an outfielder that drops in doesn’t make it a base hit. It’s no different than a one hopper to an infielder or a grounder for that matter. Can’t credit a base hit when runner is forced and he is out should have been out (error).

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