This might be something new for some baseball fans and readers, but how many here know what a walk-off in baseball is. Not many of you, I imagine, and there is nothing with not knowing about this. Essentially, a walk-off happens during the bottom of the ninth inning (or extra-inning) when the home team scores the winning run.
Moreover, there are multiple kinds of walk-offs in baseball, and each happens in different ways, so just knowing about one won’t do you any good. Also, there are rules and exceptions related to walk-offs that you will need to know about. That is why I am writing this article to educate you on all you need to know about one of baseball’s lesser known hits.
Table of Contents
What is a walk-off in baseball?
As I have stated above, a walk-off in baseball happens during the bottom of the ninth innings or bottom of any extra innings. During that time, the home team will score the go-ahead or the winning run. The run could be singles or home runs which are the most common. But other runs such as walks, errors, or batters hit by pitches could also result in a walk-off in baseball.
Now you might be wondering why it is that only the home teams are the ones who can hit a walk-off. It is because, over the last 100 years, MLB rules state that home teams will always hit last. We will be getting into why that is later on. Therefore they will be the only ones to win by walk-offs.
Here is something extra about walk-off. If you are the hitter who hits the walk-off run and there is a runner on the second or third base, you don’t need to touch any other bases except for the first one. In fact, the other base runner can just run home, and you can ‘walk-off’ after touching the first base.
Types of walk-offs in baseball
As you already know, walk-off runs are usually singles or home runs, but there are other types of walk-off runs that aren’t as common. Yet these special kinds of runs for walk-offs in baseball have happened, and we need to tell you about them. For your benefit, we will ensure that the types talked about are kept as simple as possible.
Here are the types of walk-offs I have the most amount of experience with:
- Walk-Off Hits
- Walk-Off Home Runs
- Walk-Off Wild Pitch
- Walk-Off Hit by Pitch
- Walk-Off Grand Slam & etc
Walk-off hits cover all kinds of hits by the batter, including singles, doubles, and even triples, but most of the walk-off hit is singles. In the case of a walk-off single, all that batter needs to do is hit a walk ball and take a single base. Of course, the batter doesn’t need to take the base themselves.
One of my most memorable walk-offs was a single where I was on the third base, and my teammate was at-bat. I knew getting a walk-off home run was impossible, so my teammate hit the ball towards the left-field wall where they had an opening and ran like greased lightning. I slide into home plate at full speed just as the catcher caught the ball, getting the walk-off win for my team.
Walk-Off Home Runs
This type of walk-off makes it the game highlight most of the time and the one type of walk-off that everyone will be familiar with. The home team batter at-bat during the bottom of the ninth or extra inning will hit a home run, and the game will end. Even though they won, the batter still needs to go around the bases, as is the formality.
As far as awesome was to end a baseball game, a walk-off home run will take the cake for me. However, hitting a home run isn’t as easy as it sounds, and there will always be the fear of a walk-off loss if the ball doesn’t fly over the wall. Regardless of making it fly high and far, you will see batters hitting home run walk-offs in every league, both Major and Minor.
Walk-Off Wild Pitch
This is one of those weird walk-off runs that is uncommon and happens purely by chance. A walk-off wild pitch will be when the pitcher pitches a ball, and the catcher cannot catch it. Failing to catch the ball can be because the pitch was too high, too low, or too wide.
As a catcher, there is no greater shame than being unable to catch a pitch and leading the opponent team to a walk-off victory. And I am saying this as a catcher who had to experience this brand of humiliation. This walk-off rarely happens at the pro or MLB level since all the players are professionals.
Here is how it will go down:
- The pitcher pitches, and the catchers fail to catch it
- Next, the baserunner or the batter advances.
- The runner or batter must touch a base before the ball is recovered and thrown.
Additional rules need to be met before we can accept the failed catch as a walk-off wild pitch.
Walk-Off Hit by Pitch
Like the wild pitch, a hit by pitch can lead to a walk-off win since a batter hits a pitch will result in the batter and runners on base advancing one base. Unlike a walk-off wild pitch, the runners or batter doesn’t need to worry about the ball being caught and thrown because a hit by pitch means an automatic base advancement.
As far as I am concerned, a hit by pitch walk-off is truly the greatest disgrace for a pitcher since they just handed the home team a win. You might be surprised, but a walk-off hit by pitch happens even in the Major Leagues. Since it’s a pure coincidence and not a mistake of the pitcher so you can’t just go about blaming the pitcher.
Walk-Off Grand Slam
If you are looking for the holy grail of baseball hits, you have found it. For those that don’t know, simply put, a baseball grand slam is when a hitter hits a home run while all the bases are loaded. This leads to the hitter’s team earning four points instead of one if there weren’t any baserunners. Now imagine this happening in the bottom of the ninth or extra inning.
According to Baseball Almanac, from 1887 to 2023, there have been 200+ instances of walk-off grand slams. So say, for example, there have been only 200 walk-off grand slams in that time (137 years), meaning there were only 1.45 of these walk-offs every season. So you see why we call this grand slam the Ultimate Grand Slam in baseball.
How to get a walk-off in baseball
I have given you the definition of a walk-off in baseball and the types of walk-offs there are in baseball. However, we haven’t discussed the process through which some of them come to be. Just understanding the definition won’t be enough. You will need to know the process of a walk-off.
Also, many people always ask if a walk-off automatically ends the game. And that is what we will be talking about in this section. Using a sacrifice fly to score a walk-off has happened. To do this, the batter needs to hit a fly ball with less than two outs so that a third-base runner can reach home plate and end the game.
Another unorthodox walk-off method would be stealing to home plate, but we haven’t seen this happening since 1997. Furthermore, a walk-off due to the fielders’ choice is a possibility. To pull this off, there needs to be a runner on third and a batter with less than two outs. The batter hits a ground ball which the infielder tries to throw.
However, the runner beats the throw and scores. Under normal circumstances, it would have been a normal out. It goes down as a fielder’s choice, and the batter won’t be credited with the hit.
Exceptions to walk-offs in baseball
The official rule of MLB states that a match can end in just three ways, which are:
- The visiting team ends their innings, and the home team is ahead
- Visiting team is ahead after ending their last innings
- The home team scores the winning run during their last inning
The second rule is talking about walk-offs in baseball, but there are exceptions to every rule. When talking about home runs to end a game, MLB has a rule that outlines how it needs to go down. The rule states:
“If the last batter in a game hits a home run out of the playing field, the batter-runner and all runners on base are permitted to score, in accordance with the base-running rules, and the game ends when the batter-runner touches home plate”MLB Rulebook [Rule 7.01(g)]
While reading this rule, you might be wondering what happens if the batter-runner misses a base during a walk-off home run. This has happened a few times in big leagues, with one of the most memorable ones happening during the 1999 National League Championship Series (NLCS) between the Mets and Braves.
The Met’s Robin Ventura hits a walk-off grand slam, but it resulted in just a single. This happened because the crowd and players were so excited that they mobbed him, and Ventura could only touch the first base. The Mets could win because other runners reached home plate. If Ventura didn’t reach home plate, who would have gotten called out.
Walk off and WHIP in baseball tend to follow very strict rules so that they can measure a player’s skill accurately.
Best baseball walk-offs
Enough talking about the technicalities of baseball walk-offs. Let’s now talk about some of the historic walk-offs in baseball. Each of the players mentioned below is noteworthy by themselves. Still, the walk-off each of them pulled off makes it even more impressive.
This happened in 1988 when Gibson hit a pitched ball in the bottom of the ninth innings as a walk-off home run. The game until that moment was extremely dramatic, with a lot of suspense. As Gibson went around the bases, the fans and watchers shouted his name after that home run. Watch the video below to better understand how it went down.
This is another home run walk-off during the 1951 NL Playoff between the Dodgers and Giants. During Game 3, Dodger’s Branca faced Giant’s hitter Thompson. His shot, called the “Shot heard ’round the world’” resulted in a two-run home run.
During Game 6 of the 1993 World Series between Jays and Phillies, Carter hits a ball pitched by Phillies pitcher Williams. That hit went over the left-field wall, and Carter scored a walk-off dinger. He also has a high RBI in baseball.
I have saved the best for last because if you want to learn what might be the all time best game winning home run, even then, look no further than the 1960 World Series. This was between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees, where Mazeroski hit a home run walk-off that helped the Pirates beat the seemingly unbeatable Yankees in one fell swoop. But me just talking about it isn’t enough. You need to see it for yourselves to properly appreciate it.
What is a Walk Off Error in baseball?
During the bottom of the ninth, if the pitcher, catcher, or even the fielders fail to out a hitter or runner due to an error, then we call that a walk-off error. An error can happen in a number of ways, and I have seen many of them happen to both the visiting and home teams.
One example I remember hearing about quite a few times was the sacrifice thrown by Herbie Moran in the 1914 World Series between the Athletics and Braves. Due to that throw, Bush, who threw to third base Les Mann, could touch a plate and get a single due to a walk-off error.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
The term was coined when Oakland A’s reliever Dennis Eckersley referred to walk-off home runs as “walkoff pieces” in a newspaper story in 1988. The “home run that wins the game and the pitcher walks off the mound” was Eckersley’s definition of a walk-off piece.
Regarding most walk-offs in baseball, the first place belongs to Jim Thome with 13, and the second place belongs to multiple people. Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial, and Frank Robinson all hit 12 walk-off homers.
A walk-off isn’t all that uncommon in baseball simply because there are multiple ways to get it. From singles to dingers, you can hit a walk-off many ways when it’s the bottom of the ninth or extra inning.
Since 1916 there have been 250+ walk-off grand slams during MLB’s regular seasons and only one during the postseason. So you do the match. There have, on average, been only 2 grand slams per season. The most recent one was by Paul Goldschmidt of the St. Louis Cardinals against the Toronto Blue Jays in May 2022.
A walk-off in baseball happens during the bottom of the ninth or extra-inning when the home team scores a go ahead run and thus wins the match. The run or walk-off run can be anything such as a single or a home run which are the most common. There is nothing more exciting to see other than a walk-off by your favorite team.
Since it can happen soo many ways, you are always on the edge of your seat when it’s the last innings for your team. Hope you have learned about walk-offs in baseball properly and understood all its intricacy. When it comes to baseball stats we have a number of articles that might interest you such as what is ERA in baseball.