In baseball, a foul tip is defined as "a batted ball that goes sharp directly from the bat to the catcher’s hands and is legally caught. A foul tip is considered a strike and the ball remains "in play."
A foul tip is not the same as a foul ball, although many people mistakenly use the term to refer to any pitch at which the batter swings and makes slight contact, regardless of whether it is caught by the catcher. However, the rules are very narrow: it is not a foul tip if the ball touches anything else on the way to the catcher's hand or glove or if it is not legally caught and held. Any thing else is technically a foul ball, including if the ball is caught after popping up into foul territory.
The rules treat a foul tip as equivalent in every respect to a pitch at which the batter swings and misses.
- A foul tip is always a strike, regardless of the existing ball-and-strike count.
- The ball remains alive and runners may advance or be thrown out on the bases.
In contrast, a foul ball is not always considered a strike. Specifically, a batter with two strikes against him or her who hits a foul ball is not automatically out.
The foul tip is roughly equivalent to caught behind in cricket except that whereas in cricket a batsman caught behind is immediately out, a caught foul tip only counts as one strike so a batter would only be out from a foul tip if he was already on two strikes. Caught foul tips are rarer than caught behind in cricket for two main reasons. The round shape of a baseball bat means that slight deflections are more likely to deviate significantly making it more difficult to catch compared to edges from the flattish edge of a cricket bat. Also a baseball catcher must take position immediately behind the batter meaning that he has less time to react to a tip. There are no restrictions as to where a cricket wicketkeeper stands and can often be as much as 15 yards behind the batsman giving him more time to react to edges, especially when facing fast bowlers. Furthermore, it is not unusual for there to be extra fielders beside the wicketkeeper called slips who can catch bigger deflections. Extra fielders behind home plate are not permitted in baseball and would probably be of little use anyway.
- "Major League Baseball: Official Info: Official Rules: 2.00 Definition of Terms"., see under FOUL TIP.