Why Does Baseball Have Rain Delays?

I remember being seated in my spot at a Major League baseball game, sipping on my cold soda. The skies had been grey all day, but the weather forecast predicted only light rain. 

To everyone’s surprise, it started pouring heavily. The Umpire declared a suspended game due to a rain delay, every baseball player ran off the field, and I didn’t get to watch my match that day.

With many other games, such as football, the game goes on if it rains. So why are there rain delays in MLB baseball games if there aren’t in other sports?

The reason for “rainouts” is that in rain, players are endangered and their performance is impacted. In addition, their equipment gets damaged, and there is a significantly higher risk of injuries.

Rain delays in baseball are very important. Let us understand why these delays are much needed, and why it could be both dangerous and unfair for a regulation game to be played in the rain. 

Major League Baseball Rules For Rain Delays

Major League Baseball Rules state that if a baseball game has to be stopped midway through because of rain, it can continue later. A future date will be decided on, at which point the match will carry on with the same scores.

This makes it fair for both teams, so that they can continue the game later with the team in the lead having the same advantage.

In the past, this was not the case. If there was heavy rain, the match would be rescheduled and start from the beginning, 0-0, all over again. 

The rain delay rules can still vary for non-official games. However, if it is an “official game” in the major leagues, then the standard rain delay rules apply. 

A game is official if the visiting team makes at least 15 outs when the home team is winning, or if the home team makes at least 15 outs. 

The rules also say that if the match is a tie, it will be picked up again after the delay due to inclement weather.

In many cases, if the game is not a tie and has passed the fifth inning, then the results are called there and then. The game is considered an automatic win for the leading team.

Reasons For Rainouts

There are various reasons why a baseball game will be delayed if there is heavy rain. Here are some of the most important reasons why it doesn’t work well to play baseball in the rain. 

The offense has a disadvantage

The team playing offense has a huge advantage when it rains. This gives the opposing team, whoever happens to be playing defense when the rain starts, an unfair disadvantage. 

Rain impacts the speed of a pitcher’s throw, slowing it down. This lets the hitter have an easy shot. 

Pitchers also have trouble getting a firm grip on the ball and are not able to throw well. High winds can also affect the trajectory of the ball, possibly resulting in an illegal pitch that is entirely not the pitcher’s fault.

A wet ball will also be slippery and heavier, making it difficult to grip. Baseballs can retain a lot of water, so a waterlogged baseball is always removed from a game. 

Additionally, it is difficult for fielders to play in the rain. Often, fielders have to look upwards to spot a ball, and visibility is drastically affected when it’s raining steadily.

In looking up they’re likely to get rain in their eyes and miss the ball or, even worse, get hit by a fly ball.

The field is affected

When the baseball field is wet, it becomes extremely slippery and playing conditions can be dangerous for both teams. The well-traveled base paths get especially muddy when the game is played in the rain, because water often pools in these tracks and around the bases. 

This can make the paths run by the baseball players extremely dangerous. Playing and running on a wet field poses a major risk of slipping and falling, and one could twist or even break an ankle in the damp mud.

The wet ground, from the dirt of the infield to the grass in the outfield, will not help players maintain solid footing. Also, since speed is important in baseball, players can easily injure themselves trying to move quickly on the wet field.

Major League Baseball games use tarp covers to protect the infield whenever there is a suspended game due to heavy rains. The tarp is used to keep water from seeping into the infield. 

If the rain slows down, then the game can be continued on that same field.

Particularly, they aim to protect the batter’s box and the pitcher’s mound, as these are the most dangerous spots when wet.

Lightning And Darkness

The other weather conditions during rain can be a real problem.

With rain sometimes comes lightning, and an open field is a dangerous place to be during a lightning storm. This could be life-threatening to the players.

The lightning can also be distracting and may cause players to lose sight of the ball during the flashes. 

Rain also means heavy clouds. These clouds make everything on the field darker, which can obscure the ball.

The equipment gets damaged

The baseball gets wet, slippery, and heavy. Pitchers, batters, and fielders would have trouble using such balls. 

Such balls will also not roll properly on the wet grass.

The bat is also affected. A wet bat is difficult to get a good grip on. 

The hitter would not be able to handle his bat properly, and will thereby have a disadvantage.

Conclusion

We can conclude that rain delays are primarily for players’ safety and for fairness to both sides. Damaged equipment, puddles, wet mud, lightning, and poor visibility are seemingly small things that could turn dangerous quickly if games were not delayed due to the rain. 

A player can very easily injure themself. For these reasons, it makes sense that it is the Umpire’s decision whether to continue play or call a rain delay in a regulation game to both protect the players and ensure a fair game.

FAQs 

Here are a few commonly asked related questions.

When is a Rain Delay called?

If rain is in the forecast, the home team, never the visiting team, decides when a rainout is declared. It is usually called before the first inning or before the game even starts. 

If the game has already begun and the teams have played baseball for a while when it starts raining, the Umpire decides if a rain delay should be called. The home team no longer has a say. 

If they think that the baseball field conditions will compromise the safety of the players, they call a rainout and reschedule the game for a later date.

They can also cut the game short and declare a win for the leading team. This only happens if the game has already been played for long enough and is not tied.

Similar rules apply for snow delays in the MLB.

Will A Game Be Canceled Even During Light Rain?

It is usually the Umpires who decide whether to postpone a baseball game because of rain. If they think that the rain is heavy enough to put the players in danger, they will cancel it.

However, their goal is not to postpone the game, so they will consider the intensity of the rain and whether or not it looks like the weather will soon improve.

Official MLB rain delay rules say that the head umpire will first delay the game by 30 minutes if it rains. If the rain continues or gets worse, they postpone or cancel the game; if the rain stops, play resumes. 

In some cases, they use the existing scores to declare a winner. However, if they think the rain will slow down, the game may continue after 30 minutes.

Thus, you cannot judge how much rain is enough to have a rain delay declared. The decision relies on many factors and is entirely up to the umpires.

Can Baseball Be Played In The Snow?

It is possible to play baseball during a light snow. However, in heavy snow, a snow delay may be called. 

Here, too, the Umpire decides when the game must be put to a halt.

Snow also impacts player safety and makes it risky to play. It is even more difficult to see the ball in snow as the white ball is camouflaged.

Additionally, snow means freezing temperatures, which would make baseball very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for players.