HEY, KIDS! Baseball is like life. If you know the rules and make the most of your opportunities, you’re going to be OK.
I watched a Washington Nationals–New York Mets game recently and at times I thought I was seeing Little Leaguers in Major League uniforms.
At one point, Washington had three guys converge on a shallow outfield pop fly and let it drop. Then all three grabbed for the ball, as Little Leaguers would, and the guy who came up with it threw it way past the third baseman, as a Little Leaguer would.
An inning earlier, the Mets had runners at first and second and one out. The batter struck out swinging on a pitch that went over the catcher’s head. That’s bad enough.
After swinging and missing, the batter started for first as the runners already on base started to move up on the wild pitch. The runner at second made it to third, but the runner at first just stopped halfway between first and second and stood there. He was tagged out.
Instead of runners at second and third and two out, it’s a double play, the inning is over and a potential rally is quashed, all because the runner at first didn’t think or was ignorant of the rules.
With first and second base occupied and less than two out, the batter cannot legally run on a swinging third strike, so the runner at first did not have to head for second.
But both runners could have moved up on the wild pitch, running at their own risk. So why did the runner at first just stop and stand there? He later said he thought the pitch had been fouled but more likely he saw the batter/runner coming to first and thought he had to move up. It looked like the Keystone Cops out there.
Two days earlier, I watched three Washington runners get picked off base in the same game.
There are guys who have been playing baseball since they were 5 years old and are now getting paid hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars to perform. How can they make such mistakes?
I get so tired of hearing “rookie mistakes.” From T–ball to the Major Leagues, the rules are basically the same. If you’re 22, you’ve been playing baseball for 17 years. Haven’t some of these rules sunk in during that period?
Defensive shifts bother me, too. No, not the shifts themselves, but the fact that batters won’t take advantage of them. If there are four infielders on the right side of the diamond, then why not try to hit the ball to the left side?
Oh, it’s not that easy? Before baseball minds changed during the past three decades, hitters went the other way for 125 years. If those guys could do it, why can’t modern players?
Hard heads! Hitters refuse to change. They will not adapt. You beat the shift enough and they will stop shifting.
If they are going to give you a hit, take it. If you get 600 at bats and collect 150 hits, your average is a mediocre .250. But if you get 180 hits in 600 at bats, you are hitting .300, which maybe gets you into the Hall of Fame.
Thirty extra hits in a season. Sounds like a lot, but in reality it is only 1.25 more hits per week, hits the defense is handing you on a silver platter. Remember that, high school ballplayers.
Here’s another thing that bugs me, something high school pitchers should note. The guy on the mound gets the hitter in the hole 0–2 (no balls, two strikes for you non-baseball readers) and then starts to fool around.
The first thing he does is throw a waste pitch, one two feet outside or in the dirt. Why? Most hitters aren’t going to swing at that. Now its 1–2 but the hitter is still in the hole. The next pitch is six inches outside and the batter doesn’t bite. Suddenly it is 2–2 and the pitcher’s advantage is lost.
Now the pitcher tries to overthrow one and it is 3–2, a distinct advantage for the batter.
Don’t waste a pitch, no matter what your manager says. Don’t throw an 0–2 pitch down the middle, but get the ball over the plate. The batter is now in a defensive mode and most likely he’ll ground out or pop up. Remember, there are seven fielders behind you. Also remember that batting averages go way down on 0–2 and way up on 3–2.
There is another reason not to waste pitches—today’s pitch counts. Making a hitter commit early in the count saves you a good two pitches per batter. If you face 20 batters, that’s a savings of 40 pitches.
In an era where managers are so focused on analytics, the two aforementioned numbers have been all but lost. One more hit a week can make you a .300 hitter and not wasting pitches can keep you in the game longer.
Remember kids, know the rules but don’t overthink the game. It’s not that complicated. As Willie Mays said, “They throw it, I hit it. They hit it, I catch it.”
You can’t get much simpler than that.