Tag up

What is the Definition of Tag Up?

A tag up in baseball is a critical rule that every player and fan should understand. This occurs when a baserunner is on base and the batter hits a fly ball that is caught in the air by a fielder before it bounces on the ground. In order to advance to the next base, the runner must first touch the base they currently occupy – this process is known as tagging up.

While the process may seem simple, tagging up can significantly impact the strategy of a baseball game. Baserunners must be alert and ready to react quickly in order to avoid being thrown out by the fielders after a fly ball is caught. Meanwhile, the umpires play an instrumental role in observing and enforcing this rule, ensuring fair play.

Key Takeaways

  • A tag up occurs when a baserunner touches the base they’re on before advancing, following the fielder’s catch of a fly ball.
  • The tag up rule affects game strategy, as baserunners must be attentive and act fast to avoid being thrown out.
  • Umpires play a crucial role in enforcing the tag up rule, ensuring fairness in the game.

Tag Up Rule Basics

In baseball, the tag up rule is an essential aspect of base running that players must understand. Tagging up is when a runner returns to touch the last base they occupied before they can advance to the next base. This action is required anytime a fielder catches a ball in the air before it bounces on the ground, including balls caught in the infield, the outfield, and in foul territory.

The purpose of this rule is to prevent base runners from advancing bases while the baseball is flying through the air. It is particularly important for base runners to be aware of this rule when there are fewer than two outs, and a batter hits a fly ball, which is a baseball hit high and into the outfield.

According to the MLB rulebook, the tag up rule is defined as “He fails to retouch his base after a fair or foul ball is legally caught before he, or his base, is tagged by a fielder. He shall not be called out for failure to retouch his base after the first following pitch, or any play or attempted play. This is an appeal play” (Rule 5.09 (b) (5)).

A tag out, on the other hand, occurs when a fielder, while holding the ball in their hand or glove, touches a base runner who is not safe on a base. The result is an out, the base runner is removed from the field, and an out is recorded for the defense. If the base runner steps off the bag at any point, they are considered unsafe and can be tagged out.

By understanding the tag up rule and tag outs in baseball, players and fans alike can appreciate the game’s nuances and strategies, improving their overall experience and knowledge of the sport.

Instances of Tagging Up

Fly Ball

In baseball, tagging up is primarily utilized during a fly ball scenario. When there are fewer than two outs, and a batter hits a fly ball high into the outfield, the baserunner must retreat to the base they started from. The runner cannot advance until the ball is caught by a fielder. After the ball is caught, the baserunner may tag the base, ensuring they have made physical contact, and then attempt to advance to the next base. This strategy allows the baserunner to capitalize on the momentary disarray of the fielding team following the catch, increasing their chances of successfully reaching the next base.

Wild Pitch

While it is less common, tagging up can also come into play during a wild pitch. In this situation, the baserunner is not required to tag up before advancing to the next base. However, if they feel that the wild pitch has been inadequately controlled by the fielding team, they may choose to tag up and take advantage of the confusion to advance further along the base path. This decision is left to the discretion of the baserunner and their awareness of the fielders’ positioning.

Ground Ball

Tagging up during a ground ball situation is less frequent, as it requires specific circumstances to be advantageous for the baserunner. If the ground ball is hit while there are fewer than two outs, and it has not been fielded by an infielder, the baserunner may choose to tag up and advance. However, if the ball is fielded quickly by an infielder, the baserunner should stay on their base and avoid trying to advance, as the risk of being thrown out is much higher.

Sacrifice Bunt

A sacrifice bunt is a strategic play in which the batter intentionally bunts the ball, knowing they will likely be thrown out at first base. However, this sacrifice allows baserunners to advance to the next base without tagging up. Since the batter’s primary intention is to advance the runners, it is a high-risk play that can result in advancing runners into scoring position. It is essential for baserunners to understand the sacrifice bunt situation and be prepared to swiftly react to capitalize on the opportunity to advance.

Effect on Baseball Strategy

Offensive Tactics

Tagging up is an essential part of a baserunner’s strategy in baseball. When a fly ball is hit and caught, the runner needs to return to the last base they occupied before they can advance to the next base. This approach allows a player to take advantage of any potential error made by the fielders. If a fielder drops the ball or makes a weak throw, the runner can advance to the next base more easily.

Additionally, tagging up allows a runner to gauge the fielder’s throw. The longer the throw, the higher the likelihood of a fielding error, which might provide an opportunity for the runner to advance. A baserunner should always be prepared to tag up, especially in situations with few outs in which scoring a run is crucial.

Defensive Tactics

On the defensive side, tagging up creates an opportunity for fielders to make a potentially game-changing play. After catching a fly ball, the outfielder is more aware of base runners who could advance to the next base. An accurate and strong throw to the intended base can get a runner out on a tag-up attempt.

In order to prevent runners from advancing, infielders should shift their positions, cover their bases, and communicate effectively with their teammates. The pitcher should also be prepared to back up the base to which the outfielder is throwing, in case of an overthrow. The focus and teamwork of the defense can help to prevent the offense from capitalizing on tagging up opportunities.

Umpire’s Role in a Tag Up Play

The umpires in baseball have specific responsibilities when it comes to a tag up play. In general, the umpire’s role is to make sure the players follow the rules and adhere to the proper conduct during the game.

During a tag up play, the plate umpire and field umpire usually make decisions jointly. One key responsibility of the umpire is to determine whether the baserunner has tagged up correctly and from the appropriate base. If the runner fails to do so, the umpire has the authority to call the player out.

The umpire should observe the baserunner and make note of their actions before and after the ball is caught by the defensive player. They must also ensure that the defensive player exhibits secure possession of the ball. It is crucial for umpires to be in the right position during the play to make an accurate call.

In addition to assessing the baserunner’s adherence to the tag-up rule, the umpire should watch out for any interference, obstruction, or other rule violations that may occur during the tag up play. This is to ensure that proper penalties are applied, and the game proceeds fairly.

Maintaining a clear line of communication between umpires is essential, as it helps coordinate their efforts in making the right calls in a tag up play. This collaboration between the plate and field umpires helps keep the game running smoothly and minimizes the potential for errors and disagreements.

Controversial Tag Up Plays

Tagging up in baseball is a crucial strategic play that can lead to intense debates and controversies. The tag up rule requires a baserunner to retouch or remain on their starting base until after the ball is first touched by a fielder. Controversial plays often arise due to close calls, potential rule violations, or disputed decisions by umpires.

Notable Examples

One controversial play occurred in the 2013 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. In Game 3, a potential game-winning tag up was called obstruction by the third base umpire. The ruling was hotly debated by fans and analysts, as it ultimately led to the Cardinals winning the game.

Another famous example is during the 1975 World Series, in Game 6 between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox. A baserunner tagged up and appeared to have scored the winning run, but controversy arose when the ball was ruled caught due to fan interference. Today, video replay has been implemented in Major League Baseball to help resolve contentious plays and clarify tag up situations.


Tagging up in baseball is a crucial aspect of the game that requires a balance of awareness, timing, and decision-making skills from baserunners. When a fly ball is hit, baserunners must remain on or retouch their starting base until the ball is first touched by a fielder. This rule prevents baserunners from advancing too early while the baseball is in the air, potentially leading to a double play if the fielder catches the ball and throws it back to the original base.

Understanding the intricacies of tagging up enables players to make informed decisions on the field. It’s important for baserunners to evaluate the situation, such as the number of outs and the likelihood of a catch, in order to determine whether to attempt an advance or stay put. Keep in mind that a successful tag up can significantly impact the game by advancing runners into scoring positions or avoiding outs.