Major League Baseball

It's time for MLB's dropped third strike rule to change

May 5

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

For the third time this year, a pitcher threw a no-hitter that included zero walks and zero errors.

The first two pitchers, Joe Musgrove of the Padres and Carlos Rodón of the White Sox, each lost his perfect game bid on a hit by pitch.

On Wednesday, though, Baltimore Orioles pitcher John Means threw a no-hitter while being absolutely perfect. 

The lone baserunner in the game came in the third inning, when Sam Haggerty of the Mariners swung and missed at a ball in the dirt and then reached first base on a dropped third strike by catcher Pedro Severino.

A strikeout. That’s what ruined Means' perfect game.

Zero hits, zero walks, zero hit batters, zero errors — that's perfection.

Perfection, that is, aside from this dumb rule that allows a batter to run to first base after he has already struck out.

I’m over it. This rule is outdated, and it makes absolutely no sense.

Not only did the dropped third strike rule prevent Means' outing Wednesday from being considered a perfect game, but it has also caused some great moments in baseball history to become just plain awkward.  

The most obvious example in my mind happened in 2019, with my brother on the mound.

In September of that year, the Astros' Justin Verlander notched his 3,000th career strikeout on a pitch that got away from the catcher, and that allowed the batter to reach first base.

3,000 strikeouts.

That's a milestone only 18 players in MLB history have ever reached. It happened on the road against the Angels, and even the home crowd stood up and cheered for the incredible feat.  

When asked about it, Verlander said, "If I can make a pitch that’s so bad that the catcher can’t catch it, but you still swung at it, you probably shouldn’t get to go to first base."

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Another example that comes to mind happened in the 2005 ALCS between the White Sox and Angels. A.J. Pierzynski of the Sox reached base on a dropped third strike in the bottom of the ninth and went on to score the game’s winning run.

I hate this rule, and it has been changing the course of baseball games since the beginning of time.

To get to the bottom of where and why this began, I took a deep dive into the rule book.

In the earliest days of baseball — I’m talking back when Abner Doubleday invented the game — a third strike was considered a ball in play and therefore was to be fielded like any other batted ball.

That rule has remained in effect ever since, even though basically everything else about the game of baseball has evolved and changed.  

Batters used to be able to request a high or a low pitch. That’s gone.

It used to be that fly balls could be caught on a bounce. That’s gone.

Pitchers used to be required to throw underhand. That’s gone.

Those rules have come and gone, yet somehow, the dropped third strike rule remains.

And on Wednesday, it cost John Means a perfect game.

The at-bat in question didn’t go in the boxscore as a hit or a walk or even an error. Because of this rule, it went in the boxscore as a strikeout for the Orioles' pitcher.

I repeat: The pitcher struck out the only baserunner of the game.

Baseball, man.

How is it that you can have a no-hitter with no walks and no errors and no hit-by-pitches that isn't considered perfect, and you can have a perfect game that includes errors as long as those happen in foul territory?

No matter what, today is about one thing: how dominant John Means was on the mound.

He was incredible — perfect, even.

Tonight, he’s celebrating. His team is celebrating. Everyone around him is celebrating.

But there is a conversation that we need to have in baseball: Why does this weird rule still exist?

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Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the "Flippin' Bats" podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.


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