What is Defensive Indifference in Baseball? Things to Know!

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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what is defensive indifference in baseball

Different game scenarios call for different tactics in baseball. For example, depending on the score, teams may employ specific strategies to control the game’s outcome at certain points of a match. Among these is defensive indifference.

What is defensive indifference in baseball? Baseball defensive indifference is a formal ruling to not award a stolen base to the offensive team when the defensive players made no attempt to put the runner out.

If you’re a Mets fan, you’ve probably seen the SNY defensive indifference graphic, which perfectly illustrates this tactic. Read below and learn more about it.

Defensive Indifference vs Steal in Baseball


In baseball, the same act of a runner moving up a base may count as a steal or defensive indifference. A steal happens when a runner successfully advances to the next base by his own effort after a pitch is delivered.

The catcher and defending infielders usually attempt to tag the runner; if they are successful, the runner is put out.

What sets defensive indifference apart from a stolen base is that the catcher and infielders don’t make the same effort to put the base runner out.

Stolen bases earn players a score—that’s why they tend to overdo steals late in the game during lopsided matches. The defensive indifference MLB rule now enables umpires to better distinguish a real steal from one that resulted from the defense not caring too much about the advance.

When to Use Defensive Indifference in a Baseball Game?

Defensive indifference typically happens in the later stages, most often during the ninth inning, when one team is scoring way ahead of the other by at least two runs.

The most common defensive indifference scenario occurs when a runner advances from the first to the second base. In most cases, the offensive team does this to prevent two of its players from being removed.

On the other hand, the defensive team may feel secure in its lead and does not react accordingly to avoid needless mistakes. Or, its infielders are more interested in putting the hitter out.

Another scenario that may call for defensive indifference is a first and third situation. If a runner on first attempts to make a steal, the defense may choose to do nothing lest the other runner on third makes a run for home once the ball is thrown to second base.

Fielders indifference is another term used to refer to defensive indifference. It is indicated in score sheets for defensive baseball stats based on the match’s final assessment.

How Do You Score Defensive Indifference on a Scorecard?

Defensive indifference is marked with a “DI” on baseball score sheets. You may also use the term “FI” instead if you find fielder’s indifference easier to remember.



What’s the difference between a stolen base and defensive indifference?

Defensive indifference and a stolen base have the same mechanics—they both occur when a runner makes a steal and advances to the next base successfully. The difference is in the official ruling of the game scorer.

A stolen base is given when a runner successfully advances to the next base after a pitch is delivered and the defense makes an attempt to put him out.

On the other hand, defensive indifference is ruled during base steal attempts with no effort from the defense to throw out the runner.

Why is it termed “indifference”?

We define indifferences as acts of apathy characterized by the lack of interest or concern over someone or something. There is no better term to describe not doing anything when the offense is attempting to steal a base during baseball games.

When did defensive indifference start in Major League baseball?

Many baseball fans may think defensive indifference is a relatively new rule, since not much attention is given to it compared to stolen bases. However, it has been around since the 1920s.

Defensive indifference is listed in the Official MLB Rules under point 10.07 (g). The base advance is ruled as a fielder’s choice instead of a stolen base.

Can a defensive indifference positively impact the game?

Defensive indifference is not much of a game changer, both in softball and baseball. To begin with, it usually happens during a lopsided match that is about to end.

When the scores aren’t that close during the final inning, the leading team will want the game over at the soonest possible time. They’d rather focus on putting the batter out than throwing the ball back and forth to curtail a base steal.

In this case, a runner advancing to second or even third base won’t impact the game’s outcome as long as hitters are put out.

Is it a stolen base if the catcher doesn’t throw?


It depends. If the catcher simply decides not to throw because it will not matter if the runner moves a base up, the catchers indifference results in a fielder’s choice rather than a stolen base.

Other reasons for lack of throwing, such as the runner being too far ahead, will not invalidate a base steal.

Other instances when a stolen base is not awarded despite a runner advancing are a passed ball and a wild pitch.

Passed ball vs wild pitch

A passed ball and a wild pitch both result in a runner moving up a base. However, they are not the same.

A passed ball happens when a catcher fails to secure a ball that is pitched within range. Meanwhile, a wild pitch is a pitch delivered way off the catcher’s range, making it impossible for the latter to field the ball successfully.

A stolen base is not awarded in both cases—the extra base run resulted from an error committed by either the catcher or the pitcher and not from the runner’s effort.

Is there also such a thing as offensive indifference?

Officially, no. However, some ingenious marketers have created the term and used it on baseball paraphernalia. It refers to the act of a batter letting a pitch go by without hitting the ball.


There are situations in baseball when doing nothing is the best decision. Sometimes, wrong moves can impact the course of a game and alter its outcome. For this reason, every baseball fan should learn about defensive indifference.

We hope this article has given you a clear insight into this lesser-known strategy. A little knowledge will go a long way the next time someone asks you, “What is defensive indifference in baseball?”

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