August 8, 2023

Batting Out of Turn

The "Batting Out of Turn" rule that can be difficult to understand

Batting Out of Turn

I recently received this question from a coach. What should we do if we notice that an opposing player has batted out of turn?

That’s a good question and one that is difficult to understand even among the best baseball minds.  Let’s explore the Batting Out of Turn Rule 6.03 (b) and apply it for the purpose of playing Ruleball. 

1. To begin with the lineup card handed to the plate umpire before the start of the game is official. The lineups posted in the dugout or on the scoreboard are unofficial. If an umpire notices an error on the lineup card, he has the right to correct it before the start of the game. Likewise, whoever brings the lineup card to the plate before the start of the game, can correct an error on his lineup card at the home plate meeting. It’s a good practice for the plate umpire to verbally go over the lineups with each team representative.

2. The title of the rule, “Batting Out of Turn” is misleading because the player who bats out of turn is not normally penalized. Instead, the batter who fails to bat in turn is the one who is penalized, if appealed.

Let’s see what happened on July 4, 2016, in Milwaukee where the Brewers batted out of order in a game against the Dodgers.

The official Brewers lineup card given to the umpires and Nats’ manager Dusty Baker had Jonathan Lucroy batting third, Ryan Braun in the No. 4 slot and Aaron Hill batting fifth. In the bottom of the first inning, Braun, incorrectly batting in Lucroy’s number 3 spot collected a two-out single off Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer. Baker then emerged from the dugout to appeal the batting out of order snafu. The umpires properly called Lucroy out, for failing to bat in turn for the third out. Braun batted in his proper No. 4 spot to lead off the second inning and grounded out. Again, notice it was the player (Lucroy) who did not bat in turn that was called out, not the player (Braun) who batted out of order.

Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell took the blame for the lineup card mix-up. “I screwed up,” Counsell said. “I was going with some different lineups — with Ryan in and out of the lineup — and it was just my mistake. It was just a screw-up, completely my mistake. I gave Joe a couple lineups, and my mistake.”

Patience Is Important When Appealing a Batting out of Order Situation

In most situations it is not wise to appeal when an improper batter makes an out.  The Dodgers and Phils played in Philadelphia on May 4, 1980. The Dodgers lineup had Ron Cey in the No. 5 slot and “Dusty” Baker in the No. 6 slot.  But “Dusty” batted out of turn in the top of the first inning when he batted fifth in the order and flied out to Phils’ catcher Bob Boone with runners on first and second and one out. Phils’ manager Dallas Green appealed that “Dusty” batted out of turn and Ron Cey, the proper batter, was called out.  Baker, by rule, walked back to the plate and batted in his proper No. 6 spot and delivered a three-run homer to lead the Dodgers to a 12-10 win. If Green had waited, it’s possible he could have had an ace in the hole for later in the game assuming that the Dodgers never corrected the batting out of turn error which a team can do even though they batted out of order the first time around.  One thing is certain, Baker wouldn’t have hit a three-run homer in the first inning. Since the Dodgers won the game 12-10,  Baker’s home run proved critical.

(3)  When an improper batter becomes a runner or is put out, and a pitch is made to the next batter of either team before an appeal is made, the improper batter is legalized and the batter who follows him becomes the proper batter. Let’s see what occurred in the Sept. 1, 2008, game between the Blue Jays and Mariners.

Toronto had Aaron  Hill in the No. 6 spot, Lyle Overbay No. 7 , Greg Zaun, No. 8, and John McDonald No. 9.  In the bottom of the second, Overbay batted in the No. 6 hole (Hill’s spot) instead of his No. 7 position. Overbay flied to left. If appealed, Hill would have been called out for failure to bat in turn and Overbay would have batted again. But because Overbay made an out, there was no reason for Mariners’ manager John McLaren to appeal.  Hill, batting out of turn, then followed with a double. As soon as one pitch was thrown to Hill, it legalized Overbay’s at bat and Zaun, the No. 8 batter, should have been the proper batter.  At that point, McLaren appealed that Hill had batted out of turn. The umpires properly removed Hill from second base, but incorrectly called him out instead of Zaun, the No. 8 batter, who failed to bat in turn. And because of that, the No. 9 batter, McDonald, should have been the next batter, not Zaun.

A Little Levity

Let’s end with this amusing anecdote. The “Batting out of Turn” rule can lead to a player hitting two home runs in the same at bat.

Well almost!

In 1956, Joe Pignatano played in the Texas League for Fort Worth. In a game against Shreveport, “Piggy” was listed No. 8 in the batting order behind Maury Wills. During the game, Pignatano improperly batted in Wills’ No. 7 slot and hit a home run. Shreveport manager Mel McGaha appealed the batting out of turn faux pas and Wills was called out for failing to bat in turn. Pignatano, then batting in his proper No. 8 spot, homered again.


  1. The lineup card given to the plate umpire is official. What is posted in the dugout or on the scoreboard is not official. Therefore, teams have to be very careful when making out the batting order which I believe is mostly done electronically today.  It’s a good idea to have a back-up check on the individual assigned to make out the order and to ensure that the duplicate cards handed to the umpire and the opposing coach or manager all coincide.
  2. When double-switches are made, managers need to be very careful that the switches are properly communicated. It’s a good idea to repeat the switches a second time to the umpire or have the umpire repeat the switch and the proper slots in the batting order.  
  3. If an improper batter is at bat, the manager of the offensive team can insert the proper batter during the middle of the at bat if he becomes aware of the mistake or if the defensive manager appeals the batting out of order.  The proper batter simply inherits the count of the improper batter. There is no penalty.
  4. The manager of the defensive team should not appeal the improper batter until the at bat is completed and the improper batter had a productive at bat. If the improper batter makes an out, it’s best to wait and see if he continues to bat out of order as the game progresses.  If he does so and has a productive at bat, that’s the time to appeal.
  5. When the defensive manager appeals a batting out of turn violation, he must do so before the next pitch or play.
  6. If a team bats out of order, it can be corrected at any time during the game. For example, a team can bat out of order in the first inning. But the next time around, or any time during the game, the order can be corrected. It’s a myth that a team must stay with the batting order that was used the first time around.

Rich Marazzi

Rules consultant/analyst:  Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.  

Have a question or comment for one of our experts?

Don't strike out!

Become a part of the largest baseball rules community in the world!

Get free access to baseball forums, rules analysis and exclusive email content from current and former Major League Baseball players and umpires.