Monday, October 15, 2007

Thinking About Baseball

I'm still sort of adrift in the baseball world, ever since the Expos were decimated and eventually moved to Washington I've had no team to call my own. But this Summer I started watching a few Braves games on TBS, just because it was more interesting than anything else on TV on a given night. And I am finding that I still enjoy baseball a lot even when I'm not emotionally invested in a single team.

It's the same right now as I'm sitting here back watching the Cleveland Indians leading the Boston Red Sox 4-2 in the 8th inning of tonight's game. Instead I seem to be, at the gut-level, cheering against whoever is batting at the time. I have always appreciated good fielding, and an exceptionally good pitcher would become the complete hilight of any team or series. A hit feels like the pitcher lost the duel, and since I'm watching the pitcher do his work all game, from his perspective, facing the batter, I seem to identify with him more than with the batter. A no-hitter would be much more exciting for me to watch than a blowout.

Watching Matsuzaka pitch with his huge repertoire of pitches he can throw is like watching a hero face down a series of challengers. (Though I'd still rather see Cleveland win and go on to the World Series, a good pitcher is my favourite part of the game.)

This reminds me of the old question I used to ponder in times past: If you could build robots and teach them to play perfect baseball, who would have the advantage, the pitcher or the batter? My guess would be the batter, where any robot that could accurately judge if a pitch was a ball or a strike should be perfectly capable of hitting the ball in such a way as to get a hit, if not a home run. So this makes the position of pitcher a little more daunting and more of a heroic fight against the inevitability that the batter will eventually learn how to hit whatever you throw at him. You have to fight the edge of physics to get a certain rotation or change in speed, and all he has to do is swing the club at the right time to beat you.

Of course there are other nights where I would be writing a post romanticizing the relationship between baserunners and coaches and the cat and mouse game of trying to steal a base, but tonight I'm particularly admiring good defence.

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By al - 11:05 PM |

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