Sunday, April 10, 2011

Things to watch at the ballpark

Things to watch at the ballpark

 There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think baseball is boring and those who understand what’s really happening on the field. With a new season under way, let’s zoom in on some of the finer points and the game changers.

Warm-up pitches

The pitcher gets eight pitches between innings to warm up. He doesn’t have to use all of them. He’ll signal to the catcher what he intends to throw by moving his glove. Here’s what happens in these pitches:
-          For a fastball, he’ll flip his glove at the catcher with the palm down.
-          Curve: a glove flip, palm up.
-          Slider: a horizontal sweep of the glove.
-          Change-up: he extends the glove and then pulls it back.

Catcher’s mitt

Once you master the signals of the warm-up pitch, keep your eye on the catcher’s mitt – specifically how much the catcher moves it to catch each type of pitch. A wide movement indicates the pitch is off, while a small movement suggests it’s in the strike zone.

The count

When a pitcher has to throw a strike to prevent a walk, there’s one type he’s most likely to throw. So when the count is 2-0, 2-1, 3-0 or 3-1, you (and the batter) should have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Runner on second, no outs

This is one of the most important battles in a game. The batter needs to get the runner home or at least to third. Besides getting a solid hit, he might do this or at least hit the ball to this side of the field.

Runner on third, less than two outs

This is a tight spot for the defense because the batter has six ways to bring the runner home:

Breaking up a double play

On a double-play ball, watch the runner at first.  A good player will hustle down and slide full speed into the pivot man to disrupt the throw to first.

Defensive shifts

As each new batter approaches the plate, watch how the defense shifts positions on the field. Where the players move is based on two things:

The pitch count

The number of pitches a pitcher throws per inning can help you predict how long he’ll be in the game and who will follow him. If he throws the average number of pitches per inning for seven innings and has a lead, it will get him to his setup man and closer. More than average and the pitcher may fall short of seven, with the game going to a middle reliever.

Watch the fielder, not the fly ball

A pop-up to the infield may initially look like it’s going out, but that’s the time to take your eye of the ball and keep it on the defense. Is the second baseman pounding his glove? Head to the snack bar. Is the outfielder racing for the fence? Get ready for something worth watching.

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