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Herge
08-30-2003, 08:46 PM
Why do the pitchers look behind themselves and sometimes nod before they thow the ball?

Why do they play the same tunes at all the games on that old sounding organ?

Why does the hitter seem to not bother swinging at the ball so often?

Why does the guy behind the hitter wear what looks like a bullet proof vest, when the ball doesn't seem to be travelling so fast that it would pose a serious threat to him?

Does the guy behind the hitter play for the pitchers team, and if so, isn't it unfair that he can call strike and get the hitter out?

How is a strike decided?

Mr. Blue Sky
08-30-2003, 08:51 PM
The guy behind the batter is the catcher. He wears the vest (and the helmet and mask, too) because a baseball travelling at 90+ MPH CAN do quite a bit of damage.

Monty
08-30-2003, 09:00 PM
Originally posted by Herge
Why do the pitchers look behind themselves and sometimes nod before they thow the ball?

Unlike the worlds' finest sport (that's Cricket, of course), there are more than two runners in Baseball. The pitcher has to be on the alert for a runner who's already on one of the bases trying to steal (advance to) the next base. Since he's facing the home plate and not the base the potential base stealer is on, he needs to look over his shoulder.

Why do they play the same tunes at all the games on that old sounding organ?

Tradition. Plus, the fans like that stuff.

Why does the hitter seem to not bother swinging at the ball so often?

In Cricket, the batsman is not penalized for taking a swing at a ball and missing the ball. In Baseball, if the batter does swing and miss, then it's a strike. If the batter accumulates three strikes, he's out.

Why does the guy behind the hitter wear what looks like a bullet proof vest, when the ball doesn't seem to be travelling so fast that it would pose a serious threat to him?

Just as in Cricket, the ball can exceed 100 mph and that can hurt!

Does the guy behind the hitter play for the pitchers team, and if so, isn't it unfair that he can call strike and get the hitter out?

There are two guys behind the batter:
The closest is the Catcher, who is quite like the Wicketkeeper. The Catcher plays for the fielding team.
The Umpire. The umpire is the official who determines if a delivery is a ball (what we cricketers would call a wide), a strike (a good delivery which passes through the strike zone & which, presumably, the batter could have hit), or if the batter's swing constitutes a strike or his hitting of the ball is a foul.

How is a strike decided?
Personally, I think a strike is decided pretty much the same way an LBW is: Known Only to God and the Official. But seriously & IIRC, a strike is:
[list] An attempt to hit the ball, regardless of the ball's actual passage through the strike zone, but a miss.
A foul hit if for strikes one or two. A third or subsequent foul tip just counts as foul. IIRC, one can't be put out on fouls. As a young teen, my friends and I would play that four fouls constituted one strike.
Here's another difference between Baseball and Cricket for you: In Baseball the batter gets to advance to First Base if he's hit by the ball!

Lsura
08-30-2003, 09:00 PM
Originally posted by Herge
Does the guy behind the hitter play for the pitchers team, and if so, isn't it unfair that he can call strike and get the hitter out?


This sounds like it's the umpire - when there is a hitter at the plate, you have three people there, the hitter, the catcher (who plays for the same team as the pitcher) and the umpire. The umpire is a referree, and s/he decides - but does not play for either team.

David Simmons
08-30-2003, 09:00 PM
Originally posted by Herge
Why do the pitchers look behind themselves and sometimes nod before they thow the ball?

Why do they play the same tunes at all the games on that old sounding organ?

Why does the hitter seem to not bother swinging at the ball so often?

Why does the guy behind the hitter wear what looks like a bullet proof vest, when the ball doesn't seem to be travelling so fast that it would pose a serious threat to him?

Does the guy behind the hitter play for the pitchers team, and if so, isn't it unfair that he can call strike and get the hitter out?

How is a strike decided?

If there are runners on the pitcher will look behind. The nod usually means that the pitcher agrees to throw the type of pitch the catcher called for.

There is a rubber, or plastic, plate buried level with the surface of the ground. The ball must pass over that plate at a height between the batter's knees and his armpits to be a strike. Otherwise it is a ball and batters usually don't swing at them, although sometimes they do by mistake. Sometimes they don't swing at strikes either. If the ball goes over the plate at the correct height and the batter doesn't swing it is a "called" strike if the batter swings and misses at any pitch it is a strike. Three strikes and the batter is out. That's pretty simplified and there is a lot more but let that do it for now.

The guy behind the hitter doesn't call balls and strikes. The guy behind the guy behind the hitter does that. He is the Umpire and is usually dressed in a blue shirt and dark trousers. Also with a chest protector and a mask.

furt
08-30-2003, 09:03 PM
1. There is probably a opposing runner on second base, and he is checking the runner's lead.

2. Tradition. Baseball is all about tradition.

3. He's "working the count." A smart hitter waits until he gets "his pitch" rather than swinging at whatever the pitcher throws up there. Batters today "take" more pitches than at any time in history.

4. See above. Ask any catcher to show you his bruise collection.

5. The guy that catches the ball is the catcher. The guy in blue that calls balls and strikes is the umpire, and is neutral.

6. Officially, http://www.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/official_info/umpires/strike_zone.jsp (scroll down). In reality, it is what the umpire says it is.

The strike zone as it is called now is smaller than at most times in history, leading to more hitters taking pitches, and a general advantage for the offense.

Herge
08-30-2003, 09:09 PM
Thank you to everyone who replied. You know, its finally starting to make some sense to me now. I sometimes watch baseball on channel five but I never got into it because I didn't understand the rules. Monty is right, I was trying to compare with cricket, because it is the closest thing I could compare with.

Cardinal
08-30-2003, 09:14 PM
Why do the pitchers look behind themselves and sometimes nod before they thow the ball?

He's looking at the runner on base. If the runner has strayed too far, he might throw to the base to try to "pick off" the runner, by getting his teammate to tag the runner with the ball while he's still off the base.
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Why do they play the same tunes at all the games on that old sounding organ?

Tradition, really. A lot of people like the "Take me Out to the Ballgame" singalong at the 7th inning. It's just an old-fashioned thing to do, which baseball fans like. There's a LOT of nostalgia associated with baseball, more than American football.
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Why does the hitter seem to not bother swinging at the ball so often?

The pitch either is not a strike in his judgement, meaning that he's not going to get charged a "bad mark" for not swinging, or even if it is, it was not something he was expecting, or his timing was off, and he was likely to hit the ball badly. A pitch thrown out of the stike zone (see below) is a ball, and at the fourth one, the batter gets a free pass to first. Managers get pretty mad when the "walks" mount in the game, and the pitcher is likely to be replaced.

Remember that getting on base by virtue of your own skill with the bat is tough: even 30% can make you quite a star. The batter might also have been ordered not to swing, because the manager thinks the pitcher is having such trouble that it's much more likely the pitch will be a ball rather than a strike.
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Why does the guy behind the hitter wear what looks like a bullet proof vest, when the ball doesn't seem to be travelling so fast that it would pose a serious threat to him?

Believe me, it ain't bullet proof. There's just some padding in there, and it can knock the catcher backwards if a foul tip misses his mitt and smacks him in the chest at 95 mph.
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Does the guy behind the hitter play for the pitchers team, and if so, isn't it unfair that he can call strike and get the hitter out?

He CAN'T call the balls and strikes, if you're talking about the catcher. The umpire, behind the catcher, does that. The umpire is entirely independent, and is not even allowed to have a home base city during the season, so that he and his crew will not be seen as biased. This contributes greatly to the divorce rate for baseball umpires. Seriously.
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How is a strike decided?

A strike is either a pitch that was swung at and not hit between the lines, or one that passed over the plate and between the pecs and the knees. A "foul ball", batted outside of the lines, is a strike, except if there are already two strikes, at which point the count is held at two strikes.

If the batted ball rolls foul before reaching the base, it is foul. If it goes foul after that, it's still fair, which happens a good amount. For fly balls past the bases, it's where the ball lands first.
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I'm a bit of a baseball geek, so ask away.

furt
08-30-2003, 09:15 PM
I had the same problem when I was living in Asia and watching cricket out of Hong Kong. Still don't understand Cricket, but did become quite the rugby fan...

ftg
08-30-2003, 10:25 PM
Note also, that many pitchers (and other players) have personal quirks. Little routines they go thru. Superstition and all that. Some pitchers just like to move their heads certain ways before throwing.

E.g., Fernando Valenzuela liked to roll his eyes back and sort of look heavenward as he started his pitch.

Batters and their superstitions, tug here, kick there, etc., now consume a considerable fraction of a baseball game.

RickJay
08-30-2003, 10:27 PM
Actually, nobody explained why the pitcher is nodding.

He's confirming the catcher's signal. If you watch carefully, you will see that prior to making a pitch the catcher will make a signal with his fingers, held between his legs. He's signalling to the pitcher what type of pitch to throw (fastball, curveball, slider, forkball, changeup or what have you) and its location. The pitcher nods to confirm he knows the signal; veteran pitchers will sometimes shake their heads to say they disagree and want to throw a different pitch.

Monty
08-30-2003, 11:06 PM
Herge: The padding the umpire wears is pretty thick, but it's not all that substantial; more of a foam cushion. The stuff the catcher wears is thin but more substantial. Actually, I'd say that the padding for both the umpire and the catcher is about as useful as the wicketkeepers gloves' padding is. It's there, but it's not great.

I noticed that a few other posters mentioned signalling. In Cricket, you're not allowed to use secret signals, so you probably wouldn't even have considered that anyone's actually doing that let alone that it's a very key part of Baseball.

R. P. McMurphy
08-30-2003, 11:12 PM
For the most part, the catcher isn't wearing the protective gear to keep from getting hit by thrown balls. He is protecting himself from foul tips off the batter's bat. The catcher pretty much knows where the thrown ball is going. However, when the batter swings and only gets a small piece of it the ball can go anywhere. Being only a few feet behind the batter there is little chance the catcher can react fast enough to a foul tip. Without the protective gear they could literally get killed. Every catcher has had foul tips go off his mask, chest protector and shins many times. Even with the gear they get beat up, particularly things like broken fingers.

Mr. Babbington
08-30-2003, 11:18 PM
Originally posted by Monty
In Cricket, you're not allowed to use secret signals, so you probably wouldn't even have considered that anyone's actually doing that let alone that it's a very key part of Baseball.

Um....Question. If the signals are secret, how do your Cricket officials know if they are being made? Seems impossible to enforce that rule.

Monty
08-30-2003, 11:21 PM
Mr. Babbington: By "secret signals," I mean "signals which the opposing side can see you making but don't know what they mean."

Herge: Yet another addition. Baseball is actually closer to Rounders than to Cricket. If you're familiar with Rounders, I can redo my first posting with that comparison.

Jodi
08-30-2003, 11:56 PM
Why do they play the same tunes at all the games on that old sounding organ?

Since some one already answered this -- [Fiddler on the Roof] Tradition! Tradition! [/Fiddler on the Roof] -- here's a follow up "Did you know" . . . .

Did you know the fans all stand up and sing the same song half-way through the seventh inning of play? It's "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" and it has nothing to do with the particular game or indeed any game. But by golly, at that point in every game everybody just stands up and has a little sing-along.

And IMO stuff like that is what makes baseball fun. Beer, peanuts, sunshine, guys in tight pants, random group silliness -- what's not to like? It's a fabulous game, unless your team is pissing away its lead in the American League West . . . .

Cardinal
08-31-2003, 01:07 AM
Oh, secret signs are WAY big in baseball. If you've ever seen the base coaches touch half the parts of their bodies while looking at the batter, you've seen the signs. They get very complex.

Usually, there are signs for "take the pitch", "swing at the next one", "bunt left", "bunt right", things like that. There is another for "forget everything previous", so that if the opposition is on to one sign, they may spot it, but it would then be invalidated, so that another sign is the real one. Sometimes there is a key sign that means "the next sign is the real one I mean".

Teams have pretty much the same attitude toward stealing signs as countries do about spying. They act really hurt and mad that anyone would steal their signs, and might throw at batters who have been suspected of stealing signs, but it still happens all over, and it's only unfair when it happens to them.

With a runner on second base, even the signals from the catcher get complicated. Runners have been known to flinch in certain ways when they see a call for a curveball, etc, and so the catcher then has to go through a series of signs to mask the real one.

Monty
08-31-2003, 01:33 AM
Didn't one of the Naked Gun movies have a routine based on baseball signs?

Cardinal
08-31-2003, 05:53 AM
Yep.

And even the player's wives let loose with huge squirts of tobacco spit.