Baseball Q - Making an Out at Third?

I’ve long heard that it’s conventional wisdom in baseball that as a runner, you NEVER want to make the first or third out of the inning at third base. Why is it somehow less bad to make the second out there?

My theory is that it has something to do with scoring a run by making outs. If you are at second (instead of third) with nobody out, you can score on a hit or two sacrifices. If you’re at second with two outs, you can score on a base hit, which you can also do from third, so you might as well not run your team out of the inning. But if you’re on second with one out, you can score on a hit (as always), but you can’t score on two sacrifices. Does this make sense? More importantly, is it the correct explanation for this adage?

Your theory is entirely correct. It’s always better to be on third than to be on second, but the differential is by far the largest when there is one out. It’s all a matter of advancing on outs–ground balls when the infield is playing back, or sacrifice flies.

Thanks. This way of thinking does leave wild pitches out of the equation, but I guess the most logical thing to do is play it safe with one out and treat a WP as a gift.

You are essentially correct.

Given the choice between having a runner on second and no outs, or bases empty and one out, you obviously would take the first choice, since it gives you three chances to plate a run, whereas the second option gives you only two chances and no baserunner. Since a man on second is already in scoring position and since there are no outs, the run is highly likely to score. Taking third is an unnecessary risk.

As for making the third out, that obviously ends the inning, and since being on second base puts the runner in scoring position, the advantage of trying to stretch to third is slight.

It is less bad to stretch a hit to third with one out because you can score on a sacrifice fly or squeeze play, since you still have an out to give. In addition, you can score on a passed ball, wild pitch, dropped third strike to the screen, short hit to left, infield hit, or steal of home, none of which are available from second base, where a sharply hit single or better is generally needed.

There are exceptions. If the outfielder has a weak arm, or you’re in extra innings, or a poor batter is due up, maybe you force the issue. Otherwise, you probably play by the book.

I agree with everything so far and want to add one big reason that nobody has mentioned yet. With 2 outs, being on 2nd is almost as good as being on 3rd. This is because the runner at 2nd runs on anything hit. He doesn’t have to check if the ball will be fielded or not. Therefore, it is much easier to score from 2nd with 2 outs than it is with or 1 out.