Baseball for Dummies: Batting, Throwing and Stealing Averages?
Never been taken to the ball game before? Ever had to guess what your buddy meant when he said his batting average was better than Ty Cobb? Have you been more obsessed with America’s true favorite pastime than its “boring” sibling? Well, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon before baseball season resumes in order to prove to your friends that you actually know what a strike looks like and not just what the umpire says.
The origins of baseball have been debated among scholars, but they largely agree that the sport was a combination of activities played in Britain and other neighboring countries. However, the name of the game was not invented in the United States until 1845, when a group of men in New York founded a baseball club. Alexander Joy Cartwright proposed a new code of rules that laid the foundation for modern baseball. Old regulations such as anchoring players with balls when running between bases were abolished and replaced with safer practices including three strikes, foul lines and the classic diamond shape of the field. Men were the sport’s predominant players largely until World War II, when stay-at-home women took the positions and eventually became the founders of softball.
But baseball progressed in its early days and adapted to the invention of advanced technology, the production of new equipment, and even the increased use of steroids by players. Baseball is a much faster sport than its sibling cricket, but it mainly focuses on player form and technique to make it interesting and close to cinematic. There are three key aspects of baseball that every player must know and learn before they really get to grips with the sport.
So now, let’s get well-versed and good enough to jump in the field. You might get kicked out for not belonging, but at least you’ll know if you managed to steal a base or not. Seems like a good place to start: stealing a base. There are four bases on a diamond – first, second, third and home – and almost all of them can be stolen. The only exception is the first base, which must be achieved either by “walking”, getting hit, or successfully hitting a ball in play. From there, the world is your diamond. Flying requires extreme patience and exceptionally developed timing skill. Baseball players can take a few steps off base before the pitch as a sort of cheat to the next sack, but beware, an easy out becomes available if the pitcher decides to knock the runner down. If the pitcher continues play, a runner may attempt to advance to the next base as soon as the ball is released from the pitcher’s hand. To steal successfully is to get to the next base without being tagged by another player; typically this is done by sliding down a rider’s behind or dipping down a rider’s chest. Basically, prepare to get dirty.
Then you might be wondering what happens if you’re slow as a turtle and overall not very efficient on the basics. Well, you might want to get really good at hitting home runs or balls that go through gaps in the field; essentially, improving your batting average. A batting average is the percentage of successful hits compared to the number of times a player has been at bat. Baseball players typically range between .250 and .270, which means they safely make it to one of the bases between 25 and 27 percent of the time. Each time they fail to make it to a base, it impacts their average.
Knowing the types of pitches you’re going to throw and how to acclimate your swing to hit the ball often helps to hit successfully. If you’re completely unaware, a pitch is what the ball thrown from center field is to the guy holding the bat. In baseball, there are ten different pitches that can be thrown: 4-seam fastball, 2-seam (lead) fastball, cut fastball, slider, curveball, slurve, switch, split finger, and knuckleball. The 4-seam throw is the basic everyday pitch that most people learn to throw when they first start playing and it travels in a straight line. One of the 2 seams, the sinker, is gripped differently by the pitcher and drops a bit when thrown, but moves straight to the plate. The cut fastball is similar to the 2-seam but it moves less and doesn’t have as much depth. A slider crosses the plate with an angle and downward motion and moves about 4-12 mph slower than the seam at 4. A curve ball should be pretty self-explanatory and it breaks quite drastically as it crosses the plate. The slurve has a less dramatic curve and has a looped shape. The change is supposed to have the same spin as a fastball but should be between 8 and 15 mph slower. Split fingers can be thrown hard or soft and will fall very late when thrown. A knuckleball will go into the batter with almost no spin or spin and will be thrown fairly slowly. If you think these seem easy to hit and spot while waiting in the batter’s box, then you should know that you’re already set for most of them to arrive at speeds of 90 mph. But don’t worry, I’m sure you can do it.
The next time your friends tell you they want to go see a football game, maybe to watch their favorite team in a big city or even the local college boys, you’ll know what to look for in a good player and a good game. Maybe if they give the chance to throw a quick throw, you’ll pull off one of those moves and impress those cap-wearing boys.