What Is “Tagging Up” In Baseball? When To Tag Up

The Cubs are infamous for grabbing defeat out of the jaws of victory. They looked ready to do it again in the 7th game of the 2016 World Series. Nor was anyone impressed by some rookie, Almora, pinch-running for Kyle Schwarber’s single. But then Almora went on to tagged-up, taking second, putting himself in a position to score. He did. The Cubs won for the first time since 1908, thanks to a tag-up. 

In baseball, tagging up prevents runners from advancing on a pop fly. Runners must first touch their previous base after the catch before scrambling to the next. Those that don’t can be tagged out. Without the rule, runners would be rounding the bases as the ball hung in the air.

Baseball, like many sports, involves some gambling as part of the strategy. For example, stealing a base is a huge gamble but can come with some mighty fine payoffs. Thus, when somebody hits a potential homer, runners often advance halfway to the next base hoping it will go over the wall or be dropped. But if the ball is caught, their chances of being the next out are high, as they must tag up.

Why Must Runners In Baseball Tag Up?

In 1908 tagging up was put into the baseball rule books. It requires runners to touch (tag up) with their previous base before advancing if a fly ball is caught (the batter is out). However, no tagging up is necessary if the fly ball is dropped or becomes a home run. 

The rule makes the odds fairer between the offense and defense while the ball hangs in the air. In addition, it increases the risk of trying to hit a home run. Otherwise, if a runner is on third with only one out, a batter could hit a pop fly, bringing the runner home before anyone on the field can try to catch it. 

Thanks to the tagging up rule, the runner has to do a risk assessment during a pop fly. For example, if they hang around too close to their current base, they might lose a prime opportunity to advance if the ball is dropped. But if they stray too far from their base and the ball is caught, they risk being tagged out, turning a pop fly into a double play. 

What made Almora’s tag up maneuver so brilliant was his timing. He got himself back to his previous base almost as it was caught, so he was already running in the correct direction before the outfielder could throw it into second. His base strategy is hard to see in the complete play footage, but his timing becomes more evident if you then watch the video where the camera stays on him.

tagging up

Do Runners Need To Tag Up On Two Outs?

Runners don’t tag up if there are two outs. If the fly is caught, that’s out number three, regardless, so they take off like their pants are on fire. 

What’s The Difference Between Tagging Up And Tagging Out?

Tagging up is a move made by a runner. First, they “tag” their previous base, then either hang out there or fly the wind and hope they won’t be “tagged.” 

Tagging out is a defensive move made by players on the field. It is how you get a runner out when it isn’t forced. The fielder has to physically “tag” the runner with the ball rather than just have possession of it and have a foot touching the base as they do with a forced out. 

In August 2022, a video of Bowen Plagge went viral as he “tagged out” two runners out. Plagge ran down a runner on the third-base line and then took off after the next runner, who was racing back to second. 

However, these runners did not have to “tag up” as the batter had hit a grounder, not a pop fly. Their mistake was trying to steal bases when there was no pressure to advance, getting stranded in no man’s land. Oops. 

Is It A Forced Out When Runners Fail To Tag Up?

Runners are not forced out when they’re stranded in no man’s land, between the two bases on a caught pop fly. Instead, they must be tagged out after the catch.  

However, if they haven’t tagged up, the following base won’t be “safe” for them. Even if they’re standing right on it, the fielder can just tag them out. It is only at their previous base they’ll be safe. Once they’ve tagged up, then the previous and next bases will be “safe” for the runner from being tagged. 

tag up

Do Runners Have To Tag Up For A Foul Ball?

A runner must tag up if they want to steal a base on a caught or dropped foul ball. Otherwise, batters would purposely be hitting high foul balls just to bring runners in. Given you don’t strike out on a foul ball unless it is caught, the strategy would be abused, and the game would be far less fun to watch or even play. 

Do You Need Speed To Tag Up And Take The Next Base?

Speed helps when rounding the bases. The only time it doesn’t matter is if you can smash it over the fence, hit after hit. A strategy that works well enough for some until the batter is walked. 

Tagging up to take the next base is also harder than just trying to run after a ground. The runner has to run backward before gaining ground, increasing the distance between bases. So it’s a move that favors the light and swift. 

But big men have successfully pulled off the move. Take Rowdy Tellez, who managed to tag up from first to second, catching Steve Pearce off guard. The heavy hitter was not on the team for his speed. He hustles hard for that base, but nobody would mistake him for Usain Bolt. 

However, Rowdy Tellez’s success is a rarity in the realm of big baseballers. Poor Daniel Vogelbach tried to pull a similar stunt in 2022, only to eat dirt before he was sent off to the dugout. Yet, while many laughed, plenty of fans admired Vogelbach’s attempt. After all, despite being one of the Pirates’ biggest players, he came the closest to scoring. 


Tagging up is one of baseball’s odd little rules. But without it, the batting team would have a massive advantage over the defense, and it would rob fans of many exciting moments. Yes, the rule favors the sprinters, but as Rowdy Tellez proves, even big guys can make their dreams of pulling it off a reality.

Matt Crouch
Scroll to Top