Baseball 101: Balls & Strikes Explained


Now there will be those of you who don’t agree with this but lets face it, you’re wrong and you know it. Arguing whether or not a particular pitch was a ball or strike is the height of futility and could only be described as an exercise in moral management in that the only possible positive outcome would be (if achieved) an improvement in the general mood of your team. There is also a case to be made that the umpires future calls could be swayed by a good brow beating…its possible but if it were me those wouldn’t be going the way of the old guy’s team who just sprayed spit all over me.

Simply put, a pitch does not become a ball or a strike until it is declared to be one or the other by the home plate umpire (blind as he or she may be). The actual position of the pitch (vertically and horizontally in space as it passes by the batter) has only a correlation (not a causation) on the outcome. I can hear the chorus of half-baked argument rising already…”then why sir, do we define a ‘strike zone’?”. Simple, the strike zone is in fact nothing more than a guideline (like speed limits and tax codes) so the Pitcher, Batter and Umpire have some general concept of where a pitch could, or should be thrown.

The pitcher throws the ball (and in doing so births a brand new baby we name Pitch every single time). The umpire then declares the baby Pitch to have been either a ball or strike based entirely on his or her arbitrary interpretation of what constitutes a strike (before you start, since when do any umpires of any sports actually bother to read the rules of the game anyway).

The moral of the story, for all the young batters and old coaches is this: As a pitcher, you have to ‘find’ the zone the umpire of the day has pulled from his hat. As a batter, you simply have to swing at pitches you can hit and pay only passing attention to what they get called. If the umpire is consistent then noting a pitches location relative to it being called a strike can be extremely useful. All parties should always know the count but don’t get to wrapped up in the numbers…in the end it’s about smacking that little sucker out in the field so some other official has a chance to blow a call that’s not completely arbitrary.

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One Response to “Baseball 101: Balls & Strikes Explained”

  1. Spot on, spot on.

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