A common complaint about watching a baseball game is that the game is too slow (or worse, boring). The truth is that baseball is, for the most part, actually like any other sport in this regard: the amount of enjoyment derived from watching it is pretty directly proportional to the depth of knowledge about the game that the viewer has.
One of my missions in talking about baseball in the various media in which I now work is to attempt to increase knowledge of the game among viewers. My hope is that the more you know the more you will come to love the game as I do. So, my plan is to devote much of the subject matter in these posts to suggestions about how to watch, and what to anticipate in a ballgame.
When my son was young he would often infuse discussions/arguments with statistics to prove his points. Problem was, most of the statistics he offered he made up. In his honor I am now going to make up a statistic: 80% of a ballgame is comprised of the battle between the pitcher and the hitters. I don’t know, maybe it’s 70%, maybe it’s 90%, but you get my point. In a ballgame there will be some great defensive plays: outfield relays, double plays, great diving catches; some regrettable plays: errors, balks, base running mistakes, etc; but these make up a fraction of the time and action in a game. The great majority of time we spend on a game is watching the pitcher and catcher conspire to get the hitter out, and the hitter’s response.
So…to truly enjoy the game at a higher level it is important to understand and enjoy the fact that each pitch means something to both the pitcher and the hitter and each pitch—if not put in play—changes the strategy for the next pitch for both the pitcher and the hitter and can heighten our anticipation.
Here is an example: a count of one ball and one strike on a hitter is a pivotal one. Whether the next pitch is a ball or strike dramatically changes the dynamic unfolding. From the hitters’ standpoint, the next pitch resulting in a ball makes the count 2 and 1 and puts him in a more aggressive mode. A strike to make the count 1 and 2 puts him in serious defense mode. The 2 and 1 count is important for the same reason: if the count goes to 3 and 1 the hitter becomes ultra-aggressive. 2 and 2 and he must be more defensive again.
Another example: pitchers are demonstrably more successful when their first pitch to a hitter is a strike (provided it isn’t put in play for a hit). I didn’t look up the statistic so I won’t make it up, but the statistical difference across baseball (in batting average) in at bats that start 1 and 0 and at bats that starts 0 and 1 is dramatic.
I will talk a lot more over time about the pitch-to-pitch strategy/battle between the pitcher and hitter, but understand that each pitch a pitcher gets set to throw to a hitter contains a myriad of possibilities for not only the result of that pitch, but what pitch will come next.
And, as always, I would welcome comments and questions about the intricacies of the game, what is going on with the Twins or around baseball in general. Thanks for reading!