tagging up

Tagging Up in Baseball: Ultimate Guide For Smart Baserunning

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tagging up

On a sunny day, an eager 8-year-old dashed from second base, eyes on third. But as the ball was caught in the outfield, he realized his mistake. He’d forgotten to tag up. Just like that, he was out. Such moments highlight the importance of understanding baseball’s nuances. Tagging up in baseball isn’t just a rule. It’s a strategy and sometimes a tough lesson learned on the field. Let’s get into this important play and ensure you’re always in the know.

Understanding Tagging Up in Baseball

The Basic Concept of Tagging Up

Tagging up is a strategy in baseball that involves a baserunner re-touching or “tagging” the base they were on when a fly ball is hit. Baserunners use this tactic when they anticipate a fielder catching the ball but want to advance to the next base immediately after the catch. The idea is to gain a positional advantage while ensuring the runner doesn’t get called out for leaving the base prematurely.

Tag Up Rule in MLB

According to MLB regulations, if a fielder catches a fly ball, baserunners must tag up and re-touch the base they were occupying before they can legally advance to the next base.

If they leave the base before the ball is caught and the defensive team notices, an appeal can be made, and the runner can be called out. This rule ensures that baserunners don’t receive an unfair head start and rewards fielders for their defensive skills.

Role of the Runner and Fielder

Runner’s Responsibilities

When a runner is on base, their main objective is to advance around the bases and score a run. However, they must also be aware of the fielder’s actions and react accordingly.

Considerations and responsibilities for runners’ tagging up

  • Runners’ speed
  • Knowing the number of outs and the situation of the game.
  • Being ready to leave the base as soon as the ball is hit.
  • Deciding whether to advance to the next base or stay put based on the position of the fielders and the trajectory of the ball.
  • Depth of fly ball
  • Situational awareness
  • Third base coach – The third base coach plays a crucial role in the runner’s decision to tag up. They have a better view of the outfield and can signal to the runner whether to advance or stay.

Multiple Tag Ups

In baseball, there are situations where more than one runner is on base, and a fly ball is hit. Each of these runners must make a decision to tag up or not. If one runner decides to tag up and advance while another doesn’t, it can lead to confusion on the basepath and potential outs. It’s very important for runners to be aware of their teammates’ decisions and communicate effectively to avoid being caught off base.

Impact Of The Baseball

When it comes to tagging up in baseball, the ball itself plays a crucial role. The type of hit affects how quickly it can be caught and thrown, which can impact the decision to tag up or not.

Fly Ball and Line Drive

A fly ball is a ball hit high into the air, giving outfielders time to get under it and make a catch. A line drive, on the other hand, is hit hard and low, making it more difficult for outfielders to catch. The depth of the fly ball also matters. Balls hit deeper into the outfield give runners more time to tag up and advance.

When a fly ball is hit, runners must carefully judge the distance and trajectory of the ball to determine if they can tag up and advance to the next base. If the ball is caught, the runner must quickly return to the previous base to avoid being doubled off.

Similarly, a line drive can be a risky play for tagging up. If a fielder catches the ball, the runner might not have enough time to return to the previous base or advance to the next one.

Influence Of Outs On Tagging Up

Understanding Two Outs

When there are two outs, the situation is different. The runners are going on contact no matter what. They aren’t making judgment calls on whether or not to tag up because if the outfielder catches the ball, the inning is over anyway. If the ball manages to drop in for a hit, the runner is already in a good position to score easily.

If the runner is on second and the hit happens to be a little blooper, the third base coach may elect to hold them at third if he thinks they will be thrown out at the plate.

Tagging Up With Less Than Two Outs

When there are less than two outs, the batting team has more flexibility. They can try to advance a runner by hitting a fly ball or a ground ball, knowing that they still have another chance if they make an out. The fielding team also has to be more careful, trying to prevent the runner from advancing while also trying to get the out.

The number of outs can also affect the strategy of the batting team. For example, with a runner on third base and less than two outs, the batting team may try to hit a fly ball to the outfield, hoping that the runner will be able to tag up and score. However, with two outs, the batting team might prefer to hit a ground ball, aiming for a base hit to keep the inning alive.

Tagging Up – The Role of the Outfield

Tagging up might seem like a simple play, but it stems from deep strategy and anticipation. Outfielders are not just catching the ball; they’re playing a mental game, predicting a series of events and positioning themselves to make a play.

  • Type of Pitches Being Thrown: Outfielders are also very familiar with their own pitchers and what they throw. A fastball down the middle might result in a deep fly, while a curveball or changeup might produce a short pop. Outfielders adjust their positioning based on the pitch they anticipate.
  • Wind Conditions: The flight of the ball can change dramatically with the wind. On windy or rainy days, outfielders need to be even more alert, making real-time adjustments to their positioning to compensate for the wind.
  • Hitter Tendencies: Every hitter has a pattern, and seasoned outfielders will study these tendencies. Knowing if a hitter often goes opposite field or tends to pull the ball can be invaluable information when preparing for a potential tag-up situation.
  • Game Situation: The inning, the score, and the stakes of the game all play into the outfielder’s strategy. In a close game, for example, the outfielder knows that every run is crucial, so they might play more aggressively.

Outfielder’s Catch

The outfielder’s job is to catch the ball or at least keep it in front of them. They need to also catch the ball in a way that allows them to make a quick throw to the infield.

To catch the ball cleanly, the outfielder must position themselves correctly. Once the outfielder catches the ball, they must quickly transfer the ball to their throwing hand and make a throw to the infield. The outfielder’s throw must be accurate and strong enough to reach the intended target.

The outfielder’s arm strength can deter runners from attempting to tag up. Some outfielders are known for their ability to throw out runners from deep in the outfield.

Umpire’s Decision and Tagging Up Appeal

Umpire’s Role

In baseball, the umpire is responsible for making decisions on the field. This includes calls on whether a runner is safe or out. Umpires are trained to make quick and accurate calls (unless you are Angel Hernandez), but they are not perfect. In some cases, they may miss a call or make an incorrect call.

When a runner is attempting to tag up, the umpire must determine whether the runner left the base early or whether the fielder caught the ball before the runner left the base. If the runner left the base early, the umpire will call the runner out if the team appeals.

Understanding the Appeal Play

In the appeal play in baseball, the defensive team asks the umpire to make a call on a play they initially didn’t call. This can happen when a runner does not tag up properly or when a runner misses a base.

In an appeal play, the umpire will listen to the defensive team’s argument and then make a decision. If the umpire determines the runner didn’t tag up properly or missed a base, they will call the runner out.

It is important to note that the umpire’s decision on an appeal play is final. The offensive team cannot argue the call or ask for a review. However, if the umpire determines that the defensive team’s appeal is not valid, the call on the field will stand.

Advantages and Strategy of Tagging Up

This section will discuss the advantages and strategies of tagging up, and how it can create scoring opportunities, improve situational awareness, and allow players to take chances.

Scoring Opportunities

Tagging up can create scoring opportunities for the team. When a player tags up, they are able to advance to the next base, which can put them in scoring position or even score a run from third. Here is an exciting video of Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran scoring from second on tag up.

Situational Awareness

Tagging up requires situational awareness from the player. They need to be aware of the position of the ball, the positioning of the fielders, and the speed of the ball. By having this awareness, they can make a quick decision on whether or not to tag up. This can be especially important in close games, where one run can make a big difference.

Often, a runner’s choice boils down to a gut feeling. If they sense that an outfielder might not catch that fly ball, they might take the bold step of advancing without tagging up. While this can provide a game-changing edge, there’s a ton of risk involved. If that ball lands securely in the outfielder’s glove, the runner is in prime position for a double play.

Taking a Chance

Tagging up can also allow players to take chances. By tagging up, a player is taking a risk, but it can pay off if they are able to advance to the next base. This can be a way to put pressure on the defense and create scoring opportunities.

Tagging up isn’t always the best decision though. The situation, the number of outs, the position of fielders, and even the specific game scenario can influence whether a runner should tag up. For instance, if a team is trailing by several runs in the last inning, runners might take more risks. On the other hand, if the game is tied, they might play it safe.

Tagging Up Drills

To help players improve their tagging up skills, coaches can incorporate specific drills into their practice routines. One such drill is the “Fly Ball Tag-Up” drill. This drill aims to sharpen players’ instincts on when and how to tag up during fly balls effectively.


  • Position three outfield players and line up the baserunners at the initial base.
  • The coach should be stationed at the home plate, equipped with a bat and balls.
  • Baserunners will be trained on tagging up techniques from the first, second, and third bases.


  1. The initial baserunner stands ready at the first base.
  2. The coach hits or tosses a fly ball to the outfield.
  3. The baserunner starts with a short lead, extending it once the ball is in the air.
  4. If an outfielder catches the ball, the baserunner goes back to the bag. If the ball isn’t caught, the runner can go to second.
  5. The drill is then reset: the initial baserunner moves to the second base, and the subsequent player lines up at the first base.
  6. Repeat the above steps, now with runners on both the first and second bases. In this scenario, the runner on the second has the option to tag up for fly balls directed towards the right field.
  7. For the final setup, position the baserunners on the second and third bases, with a new player starting at the first base.

Guidance for Coaches:

  • Aim for catchable balls. This ensures baserunners grasp the essence of tagging up.
  • Advanced Variation: Before initiating each play, specify the number of outs, the current inning, and the score. This helps baserunners discern when to take risks and when to play it safe.
  • Simplified Version: For young teams, the coach can gently toss balls to the outfielders from a closer distance, such as near the second base.

In-depth Analysis of Baseball Rules

Understanding Sacrifice Fly

In baseball, a sacrifice fly is a term used to describe a situation where a batter hits a fly ball that is caught by a fielder, but allows a runner on base to tag up and advance to the next base. The batter isn’t credited with a hit, but is credited with a sacrifice fly, which counts as a run batted in (RBI) if a runner scores from third.

For a play to qualify as a sacrifice fly, it will typically meet some of these conditions:

  • There must be less than two outs in the inning.
  • The batter must hit a fly ball that is caught by a fielder.
  • The fly ball must be hit deep enough to allow a runner on base to tag up and advance to the next base.
  • The runner must score or advance as a result of the fly ball.

Force Out and Doubled

A force out refers to a situation when a runner must advance to the next base because the batter has become a runner. For example, if there is a runner on first base and the batter hits a ground ball to the shortstop, the shortstop can step on second base to force out the runner on first base.

A double play refers to a situation when the defense records two outs on the same play. This usually occurs when there is a runner on first base and the batter hits a ground ball to the infield. The infielder can step on second base to force out the runner on first base, and then throw the ball to first base to force out the batter.

In both cases, the defensive team is credited with an out, and the inning is over. If there are runners on base, they do not advance and the offensive team loses an opportunity to score.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does tagging up mean in baseball?

A base runner stays on their base until someone catches the fly ball, then attempts to advance.

What are the consequences of not tagging up?

If the runner doesn’t tag up and a player catches the ball and throws it to the runner’s base before the runner returns, the runner is out.

When is tagging up required?

When a player catches a fly ball and the runner plans to advance.

Can you tag up from first base?

Yes, a runner can tag up from any base.

Is a tag up needed on an infield fly?

No, runners aren’t forced to tag up on an infield fly.

Can you tag up on a foul ball?

Yes, you can tag up on a foul ball. However, if you catch the ball, you need to return to your original base before trying to advance.

What happens if you leave early while tagging up?

If a runner doesn’t tag up after a caught fly ball, the fielding team can appeal the play by touching the base the runner left early. If the appeal is successful, the runner is out.

Is failing to tag up a force play?

No, failing to tag up is not a force play. A force play occurs when a runner must advance to the next base because the batter became a runner.

Final Thoughts On Tagging Up In Baseball

In baseball, knowing the ins and outs of tagging up is super important. It’s not just about touching a base. It’s about making smart choices on the field. While it might seem simple at first, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. Whether you’re deciding to advance to the next base or watching how the ball is hit to the outfield, tagging up adds a cool layer of strategy to the game. It’s just one of the many things that make baseball so awesome to watch and play.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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